Wrenches are extremely useful tools that give users a grip and mechanical advantage for turning objects like rotary fasteners, nuts, and bolts. Although the first patent wasn’t given until 1835 to Solymon Merrick, wrenches have been in use for centuries, and they are an essential part of any toolkit. Generally, wrenches are made from a chromium-vanadium alloy that prevents them from rusting. There are several different types of wrenches, each with their own uses. Here’s a closer look at a number of wrenches.
The adjustable wrench, also known as the crescent wrench, is definitely one to pick up if you’re just starting your collection. Only one side of the wrench has a head, typically angled at 22.5 degrees, and a handle that can be flipped to give the user two different gripping positions. It has a fixed jaw on one side and an adjustable one on the other, making it useful for dealing with nuts and bolts with a variety of fastener sizes.
Open-ended wrenches have heads that open into a U-shape on both sides, though each one is a different size. They are used for loosening or tightening by placing the flat jaws around nuts and bolts. Their flat shape makes them ideal for tight spaces or where the length of a shaft or pipe gets in the way and are generally considered the quickest and easiest to use.
Instead of the open shape of the open-ended wrenches, the box-ended wrench features closed loops of differing sizes on both ends. The loop is normally a hexagonal shape, though some are designed with a square shape. Box-ended wrenches step in when open-ended wrenches can’t do the job and when the user wishes to avoid rounding off at the edges.
The combination wrench is the melding of the open- and box-ended wrenches. They have the same size on either end, but one side is open while the other is a closed loop. Their main purpose is unfastening nuts and bolts using the box end and then separating them quickly with the open end.
Socket wrenches are the best tool for the job when you have lots of fastening to do. The wrench is equipped with a head that fits entirely around the nut or bolt, an inbuilt joint, and a handle. A ratcheting mechanism on the head allows the user to switch out the head socket and attach a variety of different sizes on the square nub. There are both metric and SAE fasteners in almost every size possible, and a good starter socket wrench to buy is one with a 3/8-inch-square driving mechanism and a set of six exchangeable hex sockets.
Also known as hex keys, Allen wrenches are hexagonally shaped steel bars that are bent into L-shapes. The shorter end is referred to as the head and the longer end is the handle. Both ends can be used on openings in the tops of bolts or machine screws for tightening and loosening.
The pipe wrench is a type of adjustable wrench that features saw-like jaws on the head. They are designed so that when the handle is pulled forward, the jaws tighten. Pipe wrenches are most often used for plumping purposes on soft iron pipes and rounded fittings. If aesthetics are important, be aware that serrated jaws are prone to leaving scratches on surfaces.
The lug wrench features two crossed handles and sockets in four directions. It is also known as a wheel brace and is most often used for automobile-related purposes.