Introduction: Make the Best Tweezers Around

Picture of Make the Best Tweezers Around

How many times have you gotten a splinter or metal sliver stuck in your finger while working on your car or handling a piece of wood? You try to get it out using the tweezers that your wife, mom, girlfriend, or whoever has in the medicine cabinet. But, those cheap tweezers just won't get to the tiny splinter that you swear is a 3" nail in your finger. Most tweezers I have seen, have big fat blunt ends and cannot dig around a tiny splinter to grab it. Some do not even meet at the ends!

This is a very simple Instructable that will show you how to make your own pair of tweezers and will be MUCH better than any you can find in a drug store or a big box store. It also works great for working on tiny little parts that are hard to pick up. These will be the best pair of tweezers you have ever used.

Step 1: Gather Your Material

Picture of Gather Your Material

A large cotter pin (1/8" x 2" in this example)

Short piece of wooden dowell rod (I used 3/8" dia.) larger than the cotter pin

Needle nose pliers


A drill

A drill bit slightly larger dia. than the cotter pin

Safety goggles

Bench grinder (or some way to safely grind metal)

You might also want to have a cup of water handy.

Step 2: Prepare the Cotter Pin

Picture of Prepare the Cotter Pin

Put on your safety goggles and grind both legs of the cotter pin to the same length if they are different like the one in the picture. Some cotter pins have equal length legs and others have a sharp little bend on the end. Just end up with both legs straight and the same length. Then grind the cotter pin to a point by turning it around as you grind. You can make the point really sharp like a large needle or or round it off a little bit if you like. The picture above will give you a good idea of what you want it to look like. Try to hold both legs together while you are grinding. Sometimes they want to separate a little while you are grinding them. While you are grinding, you might need to dunk it into a small cup of water to keep it cool.

Grinding very gently will produce the smoothest surface.

The easiest tool to use for this step would be a bench grinder, but you can use something as simple as a mounted stone on a drill.

Step 3: Shape the Cotter Pin

Picture of Shape the Cotter Pin

Now that you have a nice sharp point, take you screwdriver and separate the legs slightly. Spread the legs by putting screwdriver about 1/2 way up the length of the cotter pin and give it a little twist. This will separate the legs enough so there is about 1/8" - 1/4" gap between the points when you remove the screwdriver. If the legs spring back together, give it a little more twist. You want the separation to stay open so you will have enough space between the tips to grab that annoying splinter. This might take a couple of tries to get it just right, but you can always squeeze it back together and try again. You can always bend this around a little later if needed.

Step 4: Complete the Tweezers

Picture of Complete the Tweezers

Leave the screwdriver between the 2 legs of the cotter pin about 1/2 way up the length of the pin. With your pliers, very slightly bend the ends of the legs together. You don't want them touching, just far enough apart so you can grab that nasty splinter. I have made several of these. I keep one in the house, in each of my tool boxes, and one in each car's glove box. So, that does make this a real Glovebox Gadget.

As a safety factor, before you start digging around in your finger, you should to sterilize the tweezer with some alcohol.

Step 5: The Finishing Touch!

Picture of The Finishing Touch!

Since the points will very sharp and will also very easy to loose in a tool box or glove box, it would be a good idea to make a holder for your new tweezers. It's no fun if you stab your finger when reaching in your glove box.

To do this you will need a drill bit just a little larger than your cotter pin and a piece if wood slightly longer than the pin.

The length is not really important, but I found it easiest to use a round dowell rod about 1/8" longer than the pin.

Drill a hole in one end of the dowell almost through its length - just deep enough to slide the tweezer in and allow the spring action of the tweezer to keep in in place.

In the pictures above I made one out of a 3/8" dowell rod and one out of a piece of cocobolo wood.

This makes a great little pair of tweezers that are much better than you can buy.

If you like this Instructable, please vote for it in the Glove Box Gadget contest. A 3D printer would be a great addition to my "shop toys". One of the first things I would attack would be to try to improve the design and print some of the flimsy leg clamps that I broke on my tri-pod while taking pictures for this Instructable.


Lazarov (author)2016-02-22

Looks like a sturdy tweezer. But for tiny splinters I still think the victorinox army knife tweezers are the best.

JonCub (author)2016-02-11

Fills a real need, is ingenious and simple. Clearly described. Thank you!

jimrittenour (author)2016-02-10

Colloquialism takes care of the issue. You say this, I say that. The point is whether the understanding is made. I know what a bonnet of a car is, and alternately, what the hood of a car is, as they are the same (right?) The English also call the trunk of a car the boot, correct? I love language differences, let's not spoil the fun.

As far as French is concerned, the English language stole nearly every French word with an "ette" attached to it:D Go Froggies!

jimrittenour (author)2016-02-10

Colloquialism takes care of the issue. You say this, I say that. The point is whether the understanding is made. I know what a bonnet of a car is, and alternately, what the hood of a car is, as they are the same (right?) The English also call the trunk of a car the boot, correct? I love language differences, let's not spoil the fun.

As far as French is concerned, the English language stole nearly every French word with an "ette" attached to it:D Go Froggies!

jeanniel1 (author)2016-02-09

scabbard idea is ideal, too

jeanniel1 (author)2016-02-09

So awesome! I hate tweezers that are in stores, and this one is so easy to make and actually useful! Thanks for posting!!! The

jeanniel1 (author)2016-02-09

So awesome! I hate tweezers that are in stores, and this one is so easy to make and actually useful! Thanks for posting!!! The

JUANKERR (author)2016-02-07


Isn't this a splitpin?

thinkdunson (author)JUANKERR2016-02-07

a split pin IS a cotter pin.

gdriver (author)thinkdunson2016-02-07

English, French, German, Italian, and AFAIK all other languages except American, differentiate between split pins and cotter pins. Translation dictionaries (most of which are U.S. English) have to redefine "cotter pin" as either "split pin" or "tapered pin" in order to accommodate the two words in the foreign language. Why use one word for two related but different items? Why do americans feel the need to correct the errors of others in CAPITALS?

spark master (author)gdriver2016-02-08

Pardon me, but the French do not use other people's words so readily. They have a piece of the government that is JUST there to make upa word that "IS" French it is called the "Academy of the Language" or at least they had one in the 70's when I endured 3 years of the wretched language. They can not have an automobile or a car, they must have a la voiture, they can have an Autobus, not a bus. There are other languages that do not adapt other peoples ways of naming things. So variation is part of life. If you need a sip of plain old water in NYC you can ask for a water fountain, or a drinking fountain. Ask for a Fountain in Boston and you may be directed to an outdoor water installation. A BUBBLER is what you want or like down south a public drinking fountain.

but reality is who cares!

gdriver (author)spark master2016-02-09

In reality I care. Someone said it was a split-pin, an American said he was wrong because it WAS a cotter pin (they being the same thing), another said he was pulling a stunt, and was deranged. Outside the US he would be correct, making a valid point and probably not deranged...

As for the Academie, I fear that like most Anglo-Aaxons you mistake its function. It is not primarily a defence against Americanisms, clearly not since it predates the USA by a good century, but is an example of the French love of logic, order and codification. The words the Academie invent are usually logical, and unambiguous (and definitely not Anglo-Saxon, but hey parochial is French as is bureaucracy). They are also often clumsy and so are ignored by the populace - "un telephone portable" is de plus en plus "un mobile".

Anyway back to the point. I cannot see how anyone can defend the use of the same word for these two items. When you go to the shop , oops, store (you see I do speak American), for what do you ask when you want a cotter-pin? Have not cotterless cranks have always been at least half cotter-less as they were secured by cotter-pins not cotter-pins? or maybe they are now doubly cotter-less as they have neither type of cotter-pin? If some perverse (French, foreign) person were to invent a crank secured by a "groupille fendue" would it be cotter-less internationally (US useage implied) but cottered in the US?

I find that Americans in general have more difficulty with British/American inter-operability than do the British and are more defensive about it. A US tourist asking for directions to a "drug-store" in UK would be directed without a pause to a retail chemist shop ; God knows what happens to a UK tourist asking for a "chemist". I once asked for "string" in Staples - blank looks all round - I understand I should have asked for "twine". I speak in general terms of course, they say that travel broadens the mind and many US citizens do have passports and indeed some have ventured outside the contiguous 48.

Vive la difference as they say, however when confusion is posited a wry smile or a Gallic shrug would be a better response than insisting that the rest of world is wrong, obsessional and insane.

BTW most of this IS a joke.............

spark master (author)gdriver2016-02-09

Hi, I enjoyed your post. As usual it is something that sent me to wikapedia and other sources for info, (information, chuckle). It took too long. If you wanted one of these items, any of them, you go to a store or a shop (either works, but store is a more common usage in NYC area), if you wanted a simple cotter pin as shown, they have no issues if you described any of the others , and it was a "hardware" store, the person would most probably find you what you wanted and then explain the actual proper name for them.

It is America the melting pot and people's natural way of abbreviation that gives rise over time of misused words. The F**K word, many would call it a curse, others say it is foul or corse language. And while it may be used in a sentance that is a curse, it is not a curse. A curse calls on "The Gods" to do your bidding, (may god infest your eyebrows with flees mosquito's and maggots! good one eh?), foul offensive crude language is another matter.

This series of posts taught me what the name for "thingie" that in a European bike hold the pedals on the cranks of my bike. American coaster bikes of my youth did not have them as the crank arm main sprocket were one piece and sat in bearings and held by a nut. see

When 10 speed bikes becameavailable the Euro system was used.

I might ask for a speed bore bit, you might call it a spade bit and others call it a butterfly bit, Speed bore may be a brand long since gone, but as many many electricians in NYC call them that, that is what I call them.

The French "Academy" surely can be of service , but my French Pen Pal corrected my literal translation of Rock and Roll to Pop. Excpet rock(and roll) is different then Pop music, I never corrected him, as there was no point, plus I was much too young to really understand it properly. (he corrected my French and I corrected his English) The Academy may be found wrong for shear arrogance, Like some American Tourists. Remeber if the natives do not understand , just say it louder!

I like crossword puzzles, not very good at them, but this is where you learn the answers. Silly banter over arcane words or terms with others !

Now I need to go and reread the entire section on Cotter Pins and the like.

gdriver (author)thinkdunson2016-02-07

Only where american is spoken.

DavidJ11 (author)JUANKERR2016-02-07

Yes. A cotter pin is a slightly tapered truncated cone, typically used on a bike to attach the pedals to the main sprocket.

Cayotica (author)DavidJ112016-02-07

they're also nice for keeping the wheels on automobile axel

Poppy Ann (author)Cayotica2016-02-07

we use wheel nuts to keep wheels on, but we also use these split/cotter pins to keep the castle nut from turning on the axle.

DavidJ11 (author)Poppy Ann2016-02-08

‘England and America are two countries separated by the same language’: George Bernard Shaw.

jvandeyacht (author)DavidJ112016-02-08

Throwing in a little 'Promethius' there are you?

Cayotica (author)JUANKERR2016-02-07

I suppose that would depend on where you learned English "My wife is in hospital this weekend (pneumonia). Tom I will see some of her friends friends at the hospital".

Different ain't it?

atroiano2 (author)Cayotica2016-02-08

I think "in hospital" sounds better and will make people feel inferior. Win.

Cayotica (author)Cayotica2016-02-07

reply to myself it's not Tom, it's tomorrow. I have no idea of what happened to the rest of the spelling.

bigpig (author)JUANKERR2016-02-07

You pulled this same stunt a year ago. What is your problem?

slamonella (author)bigpig2016-02-07

Read his comment history, he's just a troll. Ignore him.

Jfieldcap (author)2016-02-08

Nice! I've kinda been wanting some nice small-pointed tweezers for electronics work. Might give this a go!

Cayotica (author)2016-02-08

Promethius? As in the greek titian or the graphic novel guy that speaks to doodles?

Cayotica (author)2016-02-08

atroiano2 British grammar is so wonderful.... Makes me wonder what the British think of American grammar.

bjaunarajs made it! (author)2016-02-08

Made these in about 1 minute. Could be even nicer with a little more time dedicated to it. They are so easy to make you can do 10 of them in just 15 minutes. Great idea. Thanks!

atroiano2 (author)2016-02-08

Brilliant and simple. Someone without a grinding tool might chuck the cotter pin into a drill and spin it on sandpaper or a stone.

JustinaF (author)2016-02-08

Estupenda idea!!!!!

ch5 made it! (author)2015-12-20

Thanks a lot!

That was one of those rare tips that perfectly combine simplicity and maximal efficiency.

I made a small paracord keychain for mine.The color is supposed to be bright orange, but it seems the camera has trouble picking that up.

A small piece of shrink tubing on the inside allows for easier insertion without catching the threads.

ch5 made it! (author)ch52015-12-28

With such a nice pair of tweezers around, I needed an excuse to get some metal shards embedded in the fingers.

So I made another kind of holder for them.

Thanks again for the idea!

Lee Wilkerson (author)ch52016-02-07

Wow, man! Where did you get that sleeve?

ch5 (author)Lee Wilkerson2016-02-08

Made it on a lathe from a short piece of 6mm brass rod.

With a bit of filework for the rounded top.

wr72 (author)ch52016-02-07

Very nice!

mjackson42 (author)2016-02-07

Thanks for this instructable. Really great idea. Number of times I have needed decent tweezers and never thought of making my own. Thanks for waking me up.

ChrisvN12 (author)2016-02-07

Very nice, thank you.

redrooster (author)2016-02-07

This is an excellent instructable mate! Youve got my vote for sure.

cue.cello (author)2016-02-07

thanks for posting rich as for grammer police go join another site. or hang out with my old English teachers I'm sure they have some litter boxes you can clean for them.

studleylee (author)2016-02-07

I like this!!!!

Teemus43 (author)2016-02-07

Here is an easier solution to removing that troublesome splinter or tiny metal shard from your hands. Go and get a piece of frosted-transparent tape and place it on the object to be removed. Press down to ensure adequate adhesion and then remove the tape in the opposite direction from which it went into your finger. Just like that it will be gone with little or no pain. Don't forget to wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, then apply an anti-bacterial cream and a band aid.

getoffamycloud (author)Teemus432016-02-07

if it sticks out skip all the "tricks" and just pull it out with your fingers! lol

only reason for tools is if it's too deep in there and tape won't help with that........

jurneemoon (author)2016-02-07

I lost my favorite tweezers yesterday, I will be making these tonight. thank you

JUANKERR (author)2014-09-30

That is a split pin NOT a cotter pin!

Cayotica (author)JUANKERR2016-02-07

In England it is a split pin but in the United States it's a cotter pin, so knock it off guys!

poorjohnn (author)JUANKERR2016-02-07

Must be a Yankee

tjk1939 (author)JUANKERR2014-10-01

You must belong to the "comment police", they have been called cotter pins all my life, and that would be a long time. Besides what difference does it make, you knew exactly what he was referring to. It is a nice Instructable, very simple and usefull.

nolan.kriegel (author)JUANKERR2014-09-30

Cotter pin may refer to:

In U.S. usage:

  • Split pin, a metal fastener with two tines that are bent during installation used to fasten metal together, like with a staple or rivet
  • Hairpin cotter pin, more commonly known as an "R-clip"
  • Bowtie cotter pin, a vibration-proof type of R-clip that is shaped like a bowtie
  • Circle cotter, a ring-shaped cotter pin
Lazy Glen (author)nolan.kriegel2014-10-01

Thank you Sir! I've never seen a Bowtie cotter pin and I can see how useful they would be. My Dad is constantly loosing cotter pins from his 3 point mower, and has resorted to using wire ties as keepers - which means he needs a pair of cutters and a new wire tie to make adjustments. This might be the answer!

Now, where to buy them.... Oh Google!


Why did you leave out the 'cotter key'?

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm retired and have always liked to tinker. I have restored a couple of old cars and have a couple more in line. My ... More »
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