There are a variety of small hand tools that we use around Peeper Hollow Farm throughout the year, but none is as important or as frequently used as a simple pair of nippers. This handy tool, pictured here, goes by several names—diagonal cutters, wire cutters and diagonal pliers. Basically it is a pliers with two blades, used for cutting rather than squeezing or holding. We use them daily and go through at least a dozen every year!
That doesn’t mean that a dozen of them are destroyed over the course of our yearly work. Rather, because we use them so often, we keep one in our pockets and in every barn. Everywhere you go, you’ll find a pair of nippers, just in case. When our teenage helpers visit, they each get a pair of nippers to keep with them until they leave. Eventually, many of these are misplaced and lost. It is much more common for us to lose a pair than to find a pair, and I’m not sure why that is, since one would think that we would eventually run across all of those that were lost. Yet when we do find a pair—and that isn’t very often—they are usually rusted beyond use. We have thereby come to consider them disposable.
We go through so many nippers each year that we have stopped buying high-class cutters and now buy the cheapest we can find in the correct size. I mention the size only because the smaller ones are cheaper, but I’ve found that the really small ones are annoyingly tiny. The blades are so small that I can hardly cut the twine on the hay bales without two nips per, and that’s just wasting time. Through trial and error, we’ve found that the ideal size for us is the 7” cutters, usually priced at $2.29 at our local home improvement center. That size cuts what we need in one snip, they don’t get lost as easily as the 4” models, and they aren’t too heavy to carry in a pocket. Those 7-inchers are, for us, essentially perfect!
You might find yourself wondering exactly what we use this incredible tool for. Well, you just never know when you might need them! As I mentioned, I use them daily for cutting twine on the bales I feed out, and I have also used them to cut a sheep free from prickly vines, or to cut the plastic wrap from a salt or mineral block. I’ve used the edge of the blade as a screwdriver and have found that the handles make for a great rubber mallet since they are coated with a cushy material. Granted, sometimes I break them while exploring these innovative uses, but on the other hand, they only cost $2.29 each—where else could I find such a multi-use tool for such a low cost?!
Over the years, our son has tried to convert us from using nippers as a multi-tool to using a real multi-tool, like those that you get from Gerber or Leatherman. I know these are a definite step up from our plain old nippers, but they are also quite a bit heavier and require a bit of assembly to get the exact tool needed at the moment. Besides that, they cost quite a bit more, so losing them is a major hit in the pocketbook! My nippers have none of these issues. I simply pull them out of my pocket and use them on whatever project I face. It’s simple and convenient. Our son has had a difficult time converting us, but he is still trying, bless him. He is nothing if not patient!
I ended up writing about nippers because just recently we had a new helper at the farm. Usually it takes several visits for a new volunteer to remember to return the nippers at the end of their workday. By the time they remember, they’ve usually accumulated quite a collection at home that they eventually may return to the work bench in the barn. Our new kid handed us his nippers on his first and second visits as he entered the truck for the ride home! It was such a surprise that it sticks with me still! I suspect that this particular helper might work out very well for us. At least we won’t go through so many nippers before we break him in!