Some call them a wrench, others call them spanners, but one thing is clear: It’s one of the most popular and widely-used hand tools in human history. The first patent wasn’t registered until the mid 1800s, but people have been yanking on wrench-like lever tools for centuries, making light work of grabbing onto all sorts of fasteners, nuts and bolts to tighten and loosen them.
But what exactly is a modern wrench? The open or closed-end ones that are found in every toolbox? The adjustable wrench that will complete the work of an entire wrench set all by itself? How about the Allen wrench with its hexagonal socket-ends? The plumber’s favourite pipe wrench? Or one of the dozens of other often highly specialised wrenches designed to cover the tasks of every single industry on the spectrum?
But in this piece, we’re not taking a deep dive into differentiating one wrench from the next, but rather to guide the busy professional into getting the most out of the wrenches they need every day. For that, the busy professional needs wrenches that are:
1. Good quality
As with every professional tool, ‘you get what you pay for’. But while some may tell you that they have been using a cheap wrench for decades, it’s not just longevity that’s important but how well it performs when it’s really being torqued to the max. For maximum performance and precision, the best quality wrenches are made of the best metals and specialist alloys that fit precisely, do not bend, slip or distort, and hold the fastener with an iron grip.
2. The right size
The headline benefit of a wrench is its power of leverage, but that won’t matter much at all if the fastener isn’t grabbed and gripped with extreme precision. The ‘jaws’ of the wrench need to make full and complete contact with the fastener, which requires extreme size precision both in tool selection and the manufacturing process.
3. Pulled, not pushed
The skilled professional will always tell you to pull a wrench – never push. First, the pulling action is simply more efficient for human dynamics and musculature, maximising both balance, control & power. And in the event that the tool slips on the fastener, your knuckles and body position are going to be best protected if you’re pulling over the top of the work area rather than forwards onto trouble.
4. ‘Cheater bar’-free
If you’re having trouble achieving the required leverage with the existing wrench handle, resist the temptation to follow the advice of the grapevine by using a ‘cheater bar’. That’s the term for something like an extra bit of pipe slid over the existing wrench handle to achieve more leverage, even if sometimes you’ll get away with it. At other times, you’ll only damage the tool or even the fastener – as precision wrenches carefully balance the performance capabilities of the head with the corresponding lever. And if the cheater bar slips completely, damage to the user is also common.
But the real secret to safely and effectively using a wrench is to choose wisely, perfectly matching the specific tasks with precisely the tool that has been designed and manufactured for purpose. With dozens of wrench types competing for sales in an intensely cluttered and competitive market, it’s always best to consult with an experienced industry professional prior to making the selections for your enterprise’s critical operations.