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If you look in any tool catalogue you will probably see pliers and cutters with 'cantilever' or 'parallel' actions. What do these terms mean?

Although all pliers pivot in some way, there are several different ways of transmitting the force from your hand to the jaws of the pliers.
 
regular
parallel
cantilever

Regular pliers and cutters have two sections that pivot on a central point like a pair of scissors, while parallel pliers have jaws which move parallel to each other - the advantage of this may not be immediately apparent unless you've experienced the annoyance of trying to grip a thick wire with a pair of straight nose pliers only to find that the scissor action makes the wire slip out of the pliers the more you try to grip it. Parallel pliers grip evenly along their entire length, solving this problem, and also make it much easier to grip several lengths of wire at the same time. It's possible to buy parallel action pliers with a range of different jaws, but the most common are straight nosed with smooth or serrated jaws. Bolt cutters often have a cantilever action - they have multiple linkages between the handles and the blades to amplify the power of your hand - resulting in greater cutting force for less effort.

 

With regular pliers, the best kind have box joints - these are stronger and tend to last longer than the cheaper lap jointed pliers.
box joint
lap joint
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