Unscrewing Pills and Switches: preferred tools?

What do yous guys use to unscrew pills and switches which have those 'dimples' or small drill-holes in them? Needle-nose pliers aren't so needle-like, and my 2 pair can't even get close to getting in most of those.

I've been using various tweezers, and damaging them. That's the only thing my needle-nose pliers are good for, actually: bending the tweezers back. So far I mainly have cheapo soft metal Chinese ones, primarily from Meritline when they go on sale, but DX sells them too. I got a USA-made stainless steel pair from Lighthound for $5, and it is the strongest I own, but it's so small it's barely useful for flashlights. I originally assumed he sold that as a flashlight tool; now I realize it's mainly for hiking use, such as for removing ticks.

I read about "split ring pliers", and did a search on them, but they are odd-shaped, with one jaw usually being bent in a weird direction.

So what are the preferred tools, and prices/recommended models or sellers?

I've tried to file down my needlenoses, but they don't work too well;I use them to open up switches for the first time, after that, I use my decent Stainless steel ones I got in a computer fix-it kit thing.

Sears craftsman sells a precision stainless steel pliers set. One has very long needle like jaws that has never failed to turn dimpled driver pills or tailcaps. Because they're SS, you can put a lot of tongue on them as compared to the regular tool steel set. (I have both).

They look like these but craftsman brand:


Sorry I couldnt find them with sears crappy search engine.

I've also gone through several very expensive sets of large surgical tweezers, one of which had serrated carbide tips... damnit! Never again...

Flashpilot, do you have to buy the whole set just to get the one?

I took a look on Ebay... I saw some which look like the one that you posted a pic of [thanks for ferreting that out]... but it's hard to tell exactly how small the tip is, whatever you're looking at. Some as low as $5 delivered. Many have the keyword 'jewelry' also bundled with them.

I do not have a link, but these tweezers have helped me open overly tightend pills and switches. You can get these at Rite-aid

Snap ring (circlip) pliers work better.


An alternative is a watch case opener


I'm using my wife's (now mine) pointed La Cross brand tweezers until I get the proper tool. They are stainless steel and don't damage the rings at all unless you slip, which I do pretty much every time I do it.


Thanks, Don, I've never heard of these before :)

But I think that although these are good for both internal and external rings, the pills are sometimes deep inside the flashlight tube, so a longer nose is needed...

such as these:



(can probably be purchased cheaper from another source)

But round nose pliers may also be ok, I don't know - this should arrive soon, I'll know better: http://www.suntekstore.com/round-nose-pliers-hobby-craft-beading-jewellery-making-tool-black.html

(hmm... maybe I should've bought these instead: http://www.lightinthebox.com/F-D-129-Long-Nose-pliers--yellow-handle_p103658.html)


cheap snap ring pliers all the way, never had a problem using those.

ebay is loaded with those:


I however use DX stainless steel tweezers. Bought 2 pairs for very cheap. Did not manage to destroy one yet but it will not last forever...

I had the same problem until I bought me a round nose plier from walmart for 3 bucks. It works great for removing switches in the tailcap. Look for it arts and hobbies department. Some seem to have a smaller tip then others so find one that has the smallest/sharpest tip.

I use a small stainless steel artery clamp. The scissors-like eye rings make it very easy to control and it doubles as a pair of micropliers.

Source: ask your local hospital. It's amazing how many useful instruments gets sorted out if the quality management is taking its job seriously. This one had a faint rust film on it (that I easily buffed away)

Well, I settled on Round-Nose Pliers from Wal-Mart. Thanks to daguy80 for the tip. They were $5 in the crafts & jewelry-making section. There was a 3-piece pliers set on the same rack by the same company for $8, but it didn't include round-nose pliers.

Mine look very similar to these, only with violet handgrips:

Mine are "Cousin" brand. Although I think I'd like slightly sharper tips (looks a little sharper in the photo), I tried it briefly in a switch and it did grab the dimples (unlike my so-called needle-nosed pliers).

The round nose is supposed to be to allow bending metal wire into loops without kinks. So... perhaps it could also be used on springs.

A lot of great suggestions here. Almost did the DX snap-ring pliers (maybe should've), but they're actually more expensive, plus the wait.


Here is the exact item. Cousin model 4458

Amazon link ($12 + 6 shipping, yikes):


Google Shopping has them as low as $3, but over $5 shipping in each case where it's listed.

Like Huny74, I use surgical forceps. There are a bajillion different sizes and shapes, they're usually made from high-quality carbon steel, since they're meant to be sterilized and re-used repeatedly and they work well, in my experience. There are some forceps that are supposed to bent if you use excessive force and even some padded ones, whereas some are meant to be sturdy. As for how much they cost, I have no idea. My wife gets them for free but can't use them at her hospital but I understand they can be very expensive. I suspect eBay may have discarded ones for next to nothing though.

Sometimes they are sold as "haemostats" which is, I believe, the official name for the things.

I guess you learn something new every day. Thanks. :)

There are a dozen or so in one case that all look virtually identical to my untrained eye but, apparently, they're all different enough to warrant having their own names. All of which I promptly forgot, of course, except for the bulldog forceps. And that's just because I find the thought of having someone with literally a decade of medical training ask for "bulldog forceps" during surgery somewhat amusing. What can I say? Sometimes I'm easily amused. ;)