When making round holes in soft materials such as fabric, canvas, leather, or plastic, you should have it in mind that the edges of the holes can get torn or frayed quite easily. This is a common issue with button holes and holes for laces or ropes, especially under tension. Thankfully, you can prevent this from happening by reinforcing the circular holes with grommets.
Grommets are rivet rings that reinforce the edges of round holes to prevent tearing or fraying. You need a grommet tool to attach them and grommet pliers are the best for installing small grommet rings.
In this article, I focus on grommet pliers and how to use them (with video demo). I also share some of the best grommet pliers kits on the market.
Table of Content
What Is a Grommet?
A grommet is a metallic circular rivet with a washer for reinforcing circular holes in different materials such as fabric, leather, plastic, and canvas. When installed properly, a grommet encircles the hole to provide reinforcement and prevent the material from tearing. Grommets also make it easier to feed through ropes and ribbons for tarps and other camping gear.
Grommets come in various sizes including 1/4″, 3/8″, 3/16″, 1/2″ 3/4″, and 1″. The most common sizes for most applications are 1/4″ and 3/8″.
There are many ways to install grommets. You can use a grommet setting tool with a hammer, grommet press machine, or grommet pliers. In this article, we shall look at grommet pliers.
What Are Grommet Pliers?
Grommet pliers is a tool with a stepped circular mold on one jaw (a.k.a grommet setting tool) and a round anvil on the other. This picture on the side shows the two parts of grommet pliers. The grommet setting tool punches a grommet against the anvil to secure it in place.
Grommet pliers work more or less like the grommet tool kit except that you press down the grommet flange by squeezing the pliers instead of hammering.
Grommet pliers are among the best tools for putting small grommets. They are the easiest grommet tool to use and make putting grommets through different materials simple and hassle-free.
Some grommet pliers also cut the hole and install a grommet in one go. You don’t need to use a separate hole cutter as with other tools for attaching grommets.
Why Are Grommet Pliers The Best For Installing Grommets?
As I mentioned, there are many tools you can use to mount grommets on materials but grommet pliers are the best, IMO.
One of the reasons I think they are the real deal is the fact that you don’t have to keep track of multiple tools as with a hammer, anvil, and grommet setting tool kit. Grommet pliers are a 1-piece tool set for attaching grommets.
Another reason is that grommet pliers are lightweight and easily portable, unlike the heavy and bulky grommet pressing machines.
The third reason is that grommet pliers are easy to use. So long as you use the right size grommet and washer and set them properly on the jaws, you are good to go. All you will need is a firm hand squeeze on the handles to properly attach the grommet.
Lastly, attaching grommets with grommet pliers does not generate distracting noise as tapping with a hammer. Also, grommet pliers can double up as hole punch on soft materials such as fabric and vinyl.
The only downside of these pliers is that they might not generate enough pressure to crimp very large grommets (above 1/2″) to a nice smooth finish. But they are the best for putting through small and medium size grommets.
Grommets vs Eyelets, Are They The Same Thing?
One of the challenges many people have is to differentiate between grommets and eyelets. Although they may look similar at first sight, these rivet rings are quite different.
First, an eyelet is a single piece with a scored edge on the barrel whereas a grommet has two pieces: an eyelet and a washer. Furthermore, while both types of rivets serve the same purpose, eyelets are mostly used on small holes such as in leather belts and shoe laces. In contrast, grommets are for heavy-duty applications and are mostly used in large holes such as on camping gear like tarps, tarpaulin, and tents. They are also used on curtains.
Another notable difference between grommets and eyelets is how they are installed. For eyelets, the scored barrel spreads the fins around the hole for anchorage whereas the grommet barrel rolls over the washer to secure it in place.
How To Use Grommet Pliers
As I mentioned, grommet pliers make it easy to put grommets through a material. You only need to set the grommet and washer on the respective jaws, put the setup where you want to make a hole, squeeze the handles really well, and viola! the grommet is set.
This is a step-by-step guide on how to go about installing grommets.
- Step 1: Identify where you want to install the grommet rivet and mark. You can mark with chalk.
- Step 2: Install the grommet and washer on the pliers. The grommet goes on the pointed jaw and the washer on the anvil. Put the grommet with the barrel facing outward and the washer with the smooth side down. Make sure the grommet is the right size for the pliers. Otherwise, you will have an undesirable outcome.
- Step 3: Place the workpiece between the jaws where you want to make a hole. Make sure the grommet is on the front side of the material and the washer on the backside.
- Step 4: Squeeze the pliers’ handles to punch the hole and install the grommet. You can rotate the pliers quarter a turn and press until the rivet ring is properly set.
However, when the material is too hard such as thick leather, you might have to punch the hole beforehand with a hole cutter tool, knife, scissors, or leather punch pliers. But for soft fabric, the pliers will punch a hole through pretty easily.
Video: How to Use Grommet Pliers; Paxcoo Grommet Pliers Kit ReviewThis is how to install grommet eyelets with grommets pliers. In this demo, I am using the inexpensive Paxcoo grommet pliers kit.
Best Grommet Pliers
There are not many grommet pliers to choose from but these are some of the best options.
Preciva 2-in-1 Grommet Pliers Kit
The Preciva 2-in-1 kit comes with two interchangeable heads for 1/4″ and 3/8″ grommets. These are the most common grommet sizes. The heads are magnetized to hold the eyelet and washer in place as you set the workpiece.
These pliers open and close smoothly. They have a labor-saving ratcheting mechanism that enables you to progressively squeeze the handles to crimp the grommet to a nice smooth finish. The handles have molded cushion grip material that makes them very comfortable for the hands.
The Preciva grommet pliers kit comes with 200 sets of 1/4″ grommets and 200 sets of 3/8″ grommets. It is a nice starter tool kit for making putting grommet rivets on tarps, tents, leather, tarpaulin, etc.
ZONGLAN Grommet Tool Kit
The ZONGLAN Grommet Tool Kit is easy to use, works well, and makes uniformly finished grommets. The pliers feel solid in the hands and have a nice black finish. They work with 3/8″ grommets.
The ZOGLAN kit comes with 500 sets of 3/8″ grommets, which is more than you would need for a project. There is also a hole punch for precutting holes when the fabric is too tough to punch through with the pliers.
Like the Preciva, ZONGLAN also has magnetic heads for holding the steel rivets in place before punching. My favorite feature of the ZONGLAN grommet pliers is the weight. This tool is so lightweight you can use it all day long without causing fatigue. The handles are aluminum.
Although you can operate the pliers with one hand, you will get better results when you squeeze the pliers with both hands.
Grommet pliers set is a nice tool to have on hand. It is easy to use and works so effectively at installing grommets. You can use it to put grommets on virtually anything including garments, tablecloths, tents, canvas, banners, vinyl, leather products, and cardboard.
If you love camping, you should reserve a spot for these pliers in your camping toolbox because you will need them for attaching grommets to tarpaulin, camping tents, and hammocks among other items. Preferably, you can get different sizes or pliers with interchangeable heads for versatility.