Pliers are considered an ancient invention, and no one can be sure when they were first created. They are believed to have developed from tongs and worked with a pincer action, with two blade-like pieces joined with a flexible strip. It is thought they were first used for holding objects in fires – for instance, when people began smelting and forging metals.
The modern design of pliers, with two levers joined at a pivot point for cutting and gripping, is thought to have been invented by the ancient Romans. This basic design has not changed much since then.
The lever itself is an ancient simple machine: a mechanical device which can amplify or change the direction of a force. The idea of simple machines began with the Greek philosopher Archimedes around the third century BC.
Now, pliers come in many shapes and sizes, often with added features. Combination pliers combine a standard gripping tool with a cutting tool. Other pliers may have specialist functions, like wire stripping pliers, or round nose pliers designed to create neat circles when bending materials like wire.