A Video Tour Inside the Channellock Pliers Factory

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I recently visited the headquarters of Channellock, Inc. in Meadville, Pennsylvania for my second tour of their production facilities. The family-owned, family-run company has proudly made pliers in the USA since 1886 and from the looks of their bustling production floors, they are ready for another 128 years of making tools for the worldwide market. Channellock, Inc. is most famous for its trademark tongue and groove pliers, almost universally called “Channellocks” by generations of tradesmen, but they manufacture about 120 varieties of pliers here. The company also sells wrenches, screwdrivers and other hand tools, but only the pliers are produced domestically. This video and the photo sequence below follows along the process of how pliers are made.

You’ll notice, this is not a light duty drop forge machine!

Starting with a glowing billet of North American-sourced 1080 steel, both pliers halves are forged simultaneously between top and bottom dies in a massive drop forge machine. Nine tons of hammering force shakes the floor vigorously even though the machine has a suspension system and sits on its own foundation set below the building’s floor to isolate the vibration.

channellock drop forged
While this looks like a scene from Star Wars, we assure you it’s just red-hot steel.

The die faces have a few different shapes sunk in to accommodate the steps needed to go from a cylindrical bar, to a flattened bar, to a bent bar, to the final parts. You can see that the forge operator moves it into different positions on the die as it is hammered.

channellock pliers forging and trimming
This pegboard display shows the stages of the forging and trimming process for the pliers to the right.

The forged pliers halves are punched loose from the excess steel surrounding them with a trim press, then run by conveyor belts into separate bins to cool.

Punch presses and various milling processes then prepare the forged pliers components to be joined into a single precision tool.

Here the long slot is punched out of tongue and groove pliers components. Note the safety cables attached to the operator’s wrists that retract before the punch press slams down. They make sure that hands could not be positioned in harm’s way.

Twin machining operations cut the teeth into the face of pliers halves. More detail for this step is seen in the video.


Along with the teeth, the grooves of these tongue and groove pliers are also cut in with a machining operation since their angled shape can’t be formed by forging. These special undercut grooves are the key to making the pliers’ halves hold themselves together tightly without applying outward force on the tool’s rivet while the pliers are being used.

Select robots help out periodically too!

This robotic station was undergoing maintenance work during my visit so I didn’t see it in action this time. But when it is in operation, the robot arm picks up a part and runs it across two different grinders to form both sides of a tool’s cutting edge before setting it down on a conveyor belt that moves the part on down the line.

Finished parts are run through a continuous annealing furnace and then dipped into a liquefied salt bath for heat treating to harden the steel.

The cutting edges and tips of the pliers’s teeth are further hardened with a laser heat treatment that I was not allowed to photo-document.

Once the mating joint surfaces, teeth, and cutting edges of the pliers are in proper shape and the parts have all been heat treated, the pliers halves are then joined with permanent riveted connections.

Grinding handles smooth – let the sparks fly!

Finish grinding with giant belt grinders removes forging ridges and puts a smooth finish on the parts of a tool a user will handle. Here pliers handles are ground above where the tool’s plastic grip will cover.

Heads of pliers being ground smooth. These practiced operators make the work look almost like a dance between man and machine.
The blades of cutting pliers are checked by cutting fibrous twine.
If the cutting edges don’t sever all the fibers cleanly across, they are hand filed until they do.
After assembly, pliers are checked for proper alignment and rivet tension and are hand tuned if necessary. Here long-handled oil filter pliers are being tuned up.


After being fitted in racks, the pliers go through a series of baths before finally being dipped in Channellock blue Plastisol—essentially liquefied PVC.

Once completed and inspected, the pliers are ready for plastic handles. The thicker Code Blue plastic handles are slid onto tools individually but the traditional PVC grips are dipped.

Then after a final inspection and packaging, the pliers are off to the stores and into your tool boxes and kitchen drawers.

Photo of author

About Michael Springer

Craftsman and former tool magazine editor Michael Springer specializes in testing tools and covering the tool industry for construction and woodworking professionals. Based in Boulder County, Colorado, but going wherever the story takes him, Michael crisscrosses the country yearly visiting tool manufacturers and industry personalities and attending trade shows. He also treks to major manufacturers in Europe to stay apprised of the newest tool developments and track the design influences that shape many construction tool products long before they reach our shores. When not out sleuthing or at the shop or job site running the kilowatts through the latest power tools, Michael enjoys unplugging and getting his hands on his collection of antique and new wood shaping tools. He enjoys nothing more than a day of rustic woodworking, starting with a log and making the chips fly with chain saw, axe and adze.

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2 thoughts on “A Video Tour Inside the Channellock Pliers Factory”

  1. Very cool article! I kept telling my dad, Phil, who also writes for HF and has a property not too far from Meadville, that a write-up on a tour of this facility would make for a great article…looks like you beat him to it! Thanks for the inside look! It’s great to see quality manufacturing still takes place in the USA!


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