Short, narrow pliers?

Hi folks. I’m looking for some slightly unusual pliers. The jaws should be narrow, less than 3/16" or so wide. The jaws can be short, and I’d prefer that, for better gripping strength.

Specifically, they would be used for pulling up puncturevine, an invasive weed that creates those awful goatheads that puncture bike tires and create no-go zones for dogs. They grow from a taproot. I’m looking for something to stab into the soil an inch or two, grab the taproot and pull it out.

Ordinary forged needlenose pliers become clogged with dirt before they can grab the root, because they’re too wide. Also their grip isn’t great. Multi-tool pliers work okay, except the jaw shape makes it a difficult to grab the root at the right point in the jaws (much of the jaws don’t meet when closed.) Those pliers made of stamped sheet steel from Xuron or Hakko don’t have stiff enough jaws.

Something with a profile like an ordinary slip-joint pliers, but less than half as thick, would work, I think.

Any ideas? Thanks in advance!

First off I’d consider looking at different weeding tools. I am not an expert on them but I have seen many specialized weeding tools in garden catalogs that seem to be designed for exactly what you want: extracting narrow tap roots with minimal effort.
If you don’t find anything there why not just do what your final statement suggested: get some slip-joints and then grind them down so they’re narrower.

You also might consider chemical methods. In my area we don’t have puncturevine but we do have grassburrs. I tried to pull the plants on my property but it was a never-ending chore. I asked around and the local farmers pointed me to a product called Pendulum, which is available as a spray concentrate or granules. It doesn’t kill the plant but it does prevent it from germinating, and I have found it shockingly effective. It also has minimal side effects and does not affect lawn grass, garden plants, etc. Perhaps there is a similar product for Puncturevine? I would ask your local Ag extension agency.

Thanks, but I haven’t seen any similar tools. There’s something called Lawn Jaws, a specialized needle nose pliers with what looks like shark teeth instead of serrations, but they’re too wide so the teeth get packed with dirt. The reviews aren’t good. Do you know of any other tools?

Chemicals aren’t an option. Nether are weeding torches.

In case anybody’s interested, I ended up buying a Cresent 4" “needle-nose” pliers, in a set along with a “cutter.” They’re make of stamped steel, like Xurons or Hakkos, but maybe a bit bigger than the ones I’d used before.

I’m using them to pull up puncturevine while I’m wallking around my neighborhood. It’s not always clear whose property it grows on (the city’s or the property owner), so that’s why chemicals are out. And if I’m stopped by the police, it’s easier to explain a small pair of pliers than a large weed-pulling tool (which don’t work as well anyway.) I’m not really trespassing (much) and anyway I’m doing the property owner a service, but still, it’s nice to have a low profile.

(For people who don’t know, puncturevine is an invasive weed that creates seeds known as “goatheads,” these awful, incredibly sharp, thumbtack-sized things that land point up no matter how they fall. They’re murder on bike tires, dog’s paws and children’s knees, feet, hands, etc. The plant tends to grow in disturbed soil, sand, gravel, crushed rock, or otherwise poorly maintained areas, such as around parking lots, construction sites, apartment buildings, etc. Left unchecked, it can turn entire lots into no-go areas.)

Puncturevine has to be pulled up by the taproot, or it just regrows. The dedicated weed-pullers I’ve seen don’t grip the root tightly enough. Often they just have a V like a claw hammer. The weed just slips out of the V.

But these little needle-nose (actually short-nose) pliers work pretty well. You just stab them into the ground below the crown and yank.

I also carry around a pair of impact-resistant gloves, with plastic “armor” on the outside of the knuckles, because the goatheads will penetrate leather. The armor at least provides some distance for the spines to travel before they reach my tender flesh.

I don’t recall any names. Like I mentioned this is outside my area of expertise. But I have a very good memory and I can recall seeing them in catalogs. They were not necessarily plier-types, some had long slender tines that went down around the root.
I found many things similar to what I recall from catalogs by doing a google image search for “stand up weeding tools” and “claw weeder”. Again, I have no personal experience with these but I figure they might be worth looking at.

And something that looks like a trash pick-up stick is going to attract a lot less attention than crawling around on the ground with pliers on some random stranger’s property.

Thanks again, MechaMan.

Puncturevine has very narrow roots and stems. I think anything that doesn’t actually grab the root won’t work well. Or at least, the few weeding tools I tried didn’t work well.

And I can’t carry around long stand-up tools in my bag. I think they would attract less attention as you say if I looked anything like a grounds maintenance guy, but I don’t. And going around on hands and knees isn’t so odd. One person told me he thought I’d lost my keys or something. And to be fair, I’m not really entering other people’s property. This is a very urbanized area, and I’m standing on the sidewalk and pulling weeds near the sidewalk. Anyway, the owners of parking lots and such don’t care. But a few times I’ve taken a bunch of puncturevine to show to a store manager, and they started taking better care of their little patches of earth. :slight_smile:

If you happen across a tool which works well please do share. I’ve largely won my battle with 3 acres of grassburrs thanks to Pendulum but there are still some stragglers I want to pull by hand so it won’t be long before I’ll be looking for some kind of claw-type weeding tool which can get a narrow root, though I’d prefer one I can use while standing up.
I see “grandpa’s weeder” recommended often but I have my doubts about it grabbing very narrow roots in my extremely sandy soil.

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Right now I’m using the Cresent 4" pliers I mentioned above. I thought I’d try them just because they’re cheap, but they work pretty well. They’re bigger than the little Hakkos I tried before. I was worried that the plastic handles would slip off the metal legs, because pulling along the legs isn’t something these pliers are really designed for. But so far they’re holding up.

But you have to get on your hands and knees, sorry.

My brother has a “grandpa’s weeder,” with the jaws and a lever to grab weeds. But the tool is long and heavy, and the jaws are pretty big, and meet only at the tips. And they’re forked, so narrow roots will slip right between. They’d be good for things like dandelions, but for puncturevine they wouldn’t do.

There are some pliers that are sold specifically for weeding:

The Stanley 75-410 (UPC 076174754100) was 6.5 inch long - ssems to have been discontinued.

The Law Jaws LWJ-JAW-580 (UPC 670541192580) - may not sell well either - but is still for sale:

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Thank you sir! I understand those pliers wouldn’t work well for me, because the jaws become packed full of dirt when you try to grab a root underground. Pliers with jaws of stamped sheet steel would work better. Those Crescent needle-nose pliers I mentioned above work pretty well. They’re stamped sheet metal, and also the jaws are pretty short for needle-nose pliers.

The discontinued Stanley weed pliers had slim SS Jaws. They might have worked for you

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