Review of Tronex 521 Electronic Technician PC/Computer Tools Made in the USA – Part 2
Tronex 521 needle nose pliers compared to other brands.
Photo ©2011 by Larry Neal Gowdy
Copyright ©2011-2021 - updated June 04, 2021
Over the years I have likely owned over half of every brand of tools available, and the Tronex brand stands out as simply pushing all the right buttons for me.
The three needle nose pliers in the photo are good examples of the differences between different brands. The blue handle pliers are the Tronex® model 521, the red handle pliers are from a new Belkin® computer repair kit, and I have used the Klein® yellow handle pliers for more than twenty years.
The Klein pliers lost a tip shortly after I bought them, caused by a 240 volt 'oops' when removing terminals from a control that should have had the electricity turned off (never trust the labels on a breaker panel!). I ground down both tips to be of a similar length, and since the pliers are primarily used for electrical wiring and not for electronics, they have worked well enough without the tips. The box joint has a lot of slop due to the pliers having been used for so many years, and while the pliers do give the appearance of having survived a few too many major battles, they continue to get the job done. Klein is the brand of choice by many electricians, and the quality is good enough to last a lifetime for most electricians.
Aside from the Klein's not so wonderful yellow grips — which are good enough and allow for frequent cleaning — the jaws have sharp edges that nick copper wiring and could cause wiring to break if the nicked area is not protected from vibration. Too, there is no spring to open the handles, which again is fine for electrical work with 10-16 gauge wire, but not so good with small delicate electronics.
The Belkin pliers have serrated teeth plus exceptionally sharp edges, which could be useful for small hardware and automotive work, but they are fully unacceptable for electronics work. The Belkin pliers have a small spring to open the handles, and although the spring works well enough, it is much too weak for prolonged use. The cutter edges do not close well enough to cut all the way through wire, and generally speaking, the Belkin pliers are simply an inexpensive 'throw away' tool that might be useful for one or two jobs and not used again.
The Tronex pliers have rounded edges, spring steel springs, comfortable grips, and no serrated teeth, the very things that an electronic technician wants and needs. It is easy to find fault in most tools, even the more popular brands, but for the life of me I cannot find anything bad about Tronex. Good fitting grip, properly sized handles, smooth functioning joint, surfaces finished to suit the intended job, and I very much like the industrial quality construction and materials.
In recent months I tried to use the Kleins when soldering a small power supply's stranded cable, which was not much easy, and it reminded me how much time can be lost even on simple jobs when the wrong tool is used. While doing basic repairs of a Cat5 cable, the Belkin pliers required some minutes to properly complete a job that took only a few seconds with the Tronex pliers. I do know of at least one employer that prefers for his employees to use low quality tools, because he charges customers by the hour. For the rest of us, however, we want a tool that is easy to use and gets the job done quickly and accurately.
To my knowledge the only countries that offer quality tools are Germany, Switzerland, and the USA, and in my opinion Tronex is the first choice of all.
Please visit Tronex for more information and a list of their tools.
(Note: Desco Industries is reported to have bought Tronex in 2019, but the Tronex tools are still made in the U.S.A..)