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Make Leaf Springs For Your Pliers
Article © MAIL User: Pfeiffer

As a mailler, modifying and maintaining my own tools is essential because it is not often possible to buy exactly what I need for our craft. This article will describe how to replace or add leaf springs to your favorite pliers. The procedure is rather detailed and takes a few days for two gluing phases, but the finished product is well worth it if you take your time and follow along.

Here is an example of pliers with a leaf spring:
Image: 01_start_broken_springs.jpg
The plier on the right has a single leaf spring. The plier on the left has no leaf spring (they are broken and will be fixed in the photos with this article).

In order to work along with this article, you will need the following items:
- Pliers that need new springs (see photo above)
- Hammer and something to hammer on (anvil, vise, piece of steel, concrete may work)
- Bench vise
- Power drill with grinding bit
- Chisel or flat screwdriver for prying
- Ruler (for measuring)
- metal snips (I am using my Knipex bolties in this article, Weiss Aviation snips might work)
- 2-part epoxy, something to mix on (scrap of cardboard, bottom of soda can etc), and a toothpick
- File
- Sand paper
- Electrical tape
- Piece of spring steel to make the leaves from (this is discussed in detail in the article)
- Piece of hose from the hardware store (see photo directly below)
Image: 31_cut_tubing_for_grips.jpg
Credit to ZiLi for giving me the idea of using hose for grips.

Begin by removing the old grips from the pliers by cutting and pulling off.
Image: 02_cut_away_old_grip.jpg
Image: 03_remove_old_grip.jpg
Your pliers may be different. Find a way to strip the plier arms down to bare metal. Don't worry about destroying the old grips in the process. You are going to add new grips made from hose at the end. Some pliers have thick plastic grips that slide off and back on (called "ergo" grips). If this is the case for you, by all means, slide them off without cutting them and save for reuse later.

These pictures show the pliers with the grips removed. The second picture below shows the offending piece of broken leaf spring that was the impetus for this article.
Image: 04_original_springs_(one_broken).jpg
Image: 05_original_spiring_(broken).jpg

Next, you need to use the drill with a grinding bit to remove the welds and broken metal from the old leaf springs. You will also roughen up the handles all around to accept glue in later steps of this article.
Image: 06_Grind_away_old.jpg
Image: 07_rough_up_to_accept_glue.jpg

Now you need a source for spring steel to make the new leaves from. The picture below shows metal spring clips from an old picture frame (they hold the glass in place). Another source of spring steel is a stainless steel ruler. Also, sometimes lumber for a new house is bundled with spring steel bands. You need to be creative here, but there are sources around to be had. It is very important that the metal strip you use is SPRING HARD. If it is soft or medium temper steel, the spring won't work well.
Image: 08_alum_pix_frame_springs.jpg

Chances are the spring steel material you find will not be exactly the right size. The next few steps explain how you cut it down to size. First, hammer it flat and use metal snips to cut it roughly to size. Careful, spring temper steel is hard to cut! Just get the length right. I will show you how to cut it lengthwise next.
Image: 12_cut_to_length_for_pliers.jpg

Now comes the hard part, you need to cut the spring steel down, making it narrower. You will find it is too hard to cut lengthwise with either bolties or Weiss snips. Besides, you need a fairly clean smooth cut since you will be touching this while you work with these pliers later. To cut in half lengthwise, start by making a little snip at either end where you want the full cut to be.
Image: 13_snip_ends_to_start_fold.jpg

Now, you need to fold the metal lengthwise between the snips. This can be done in the jaws of your bench vise. If you happen to have a sheet metal break around, that would be the tool of choice for this. Position the metal in the vise, with the snip just above the jaws. This is where the fold will be. Crank the vise jaws closed as hard as you can with your bare hands.
Image: 14_position_in_vise.jpg

Use a scrap of metal or wood along with your hammer to get the fold started.
Image: 15_start_the_bend.jpg

Finish a crisp fold with your hammer. It should look like this still in the vise when you are done.
Image: 17_angle_from_spring_steel.jpg

Now you need to fold the metal angle totally flat. Use your hammer and/or the vise to do this. It should look like the picture below when you are done.
Image: 18_finish_flat_with_hammer.jpg
Notice how the metal is starting to break along the fold? This is very important. If you have good spring steel, this will be the case. If it doesn't crack along the fold, your metal is probably too soft.

Carefully use a chisel or flat screwdriver to pry the fold open. It should break cleanly into two pieces. Use the vise and your file to smooth off the sharp edges.
Image: 19_various_pieces.jpg

Test fit the cut piece you want to use against the pliers. If the leaf spring is still too long or too wide, make additional cuts to it as necessary.
Image: 20_final_fit.jpg

After you have the overall size right, you need to roughen up the back using the file or sandpaper. This will help the glue hold better in later steps.
Image: 21_roughen_with_sandpaper.jpg

Once you have the length and width right, you need to put a little shape on the springs before gluing them in place. About 1/3 from one end you need a gentle curve. I was able to do the one in the picture below with just my fingers. Then you need a small sharp bend in the other direction, right at the end of the spring. I used my pliers to facilitate this bend. The finished shape should look like the photo below.
Image: 22_bend_to_shape.jpg

Now you are ready to glue the new leaf spring into place using epoxy. Mix your epoxy according to the directions.
Image: 23_two-part_epoxy.jpg
Image: 24_ready_to_mix.jpg
Image: 25_mix_well.jpg

Using a toothpick, spread a layer of epoxy onto the plier in the place where the spring will connect. The entire spring does not get glued.
Image: 26_put_onto_plier_arm.jpg

Position the spring in place. You will have a chance to adjust the position of the leaf spring in a minute, when you use the electrical tape.
Image: 27_set_spring_into_the_glue.jpg

Now take the black electrical tape and wrap the leaf spring and plier handle tightly. You need to actually stretch the electrical tape as you wrap with it. If you do it correctly, you will have good compression on the glue which will make a nice strong joint when it dries. If you need to make minor adjustments to the position of the springs, you can do it now with the tape in place (just wiggle the spring to move it a little).
Image: 28_wrap_tight_with_elec_tape.jpg

Let the glue dry well overnight. You can see, even with just tape holding it together, the springs are working properly. Resist the temptation to "test them out" until the glue is TOTALLY dry!
Image: 29_rinse_repeat.jpg

Once the glue is dry, remove the tape and test the movement action. They should be easy to squeeze closed and spring open as soon as you release the squeezing pressure.
Image: 30_remove_tape.jpg

Last step is to put the hose pieces on to make new grips. Cut with a knife or razor blade as needed. This should be straightforward. Glue the grips in place using Gorilla Glue, which expands like a foam as it dries. It will fill the void spaces inside the hose to make a nice solid grip.
Image: 32_ready_to_use.jpg

Once the gorilla glue is dry, your pliers are ready to use!
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