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Get to Know Your Wrench

Wrenches are tools used to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts (fasteners) by applying mechanical torque to the handle or shaft. While there are a variety of standard wrenches (discussed below), there’s also specialty wrenches for plumbing, cars, bikes, and even opening tinned fish!

Types of Wrenches

Adjustable: An open end wrench that has a movable jaw, allowing it to be used with different sizes of fastener heads. 

Basin: An essential for plumbing work, the basin wrench has an extra long shaft, rotating head, and t-handle for extra leverage. The head is specially designed for ease of use in tight spaces (like under sinks and behind toilets) for jobs like tightening nuts that hold faucets to sinks and connecting the water supply to faucets.

Box: Have closed ends to accommodate both hex and square nuts. A 12 point box wrench will fit over both a 6 point and a 12 point fastener, making it the most convenient choice if you’re only looking for a single box wrench in your tool box. That said, box wrenches are often sold in sets with 6, 8, 12, or 16 points inside the head. Some box wrenches feature an offset design which gets a better grip on recessed nuts. Good for hard-to-reach spots. 

Combination: Has an open head on one end and a closed box head on the other. Can be used in tandem; the closed end can loosen the nut and the open end can quickly finish unscrewing it.

Crowfoot: A wrench with an open head and no handle or shaft. Meant to be paired with a torque handle to act as a kind of ratchet wrench. 

Hex/Allen: The hex (or Allen) wrench has a hexagonal head that matches hexagonal socket heads. Preferred for smaller projects like furniture building (hello, IKEA) because they’re easy to use and have a good grip that’s hard to strip. 

Open End: The “classic,” with the open jaw on one or both ends. Open end wrenches come in a variety of sizes and depending

Pipe: Another type of plumbing wrench, it is made to work on metal pipes and fastenings.

Ratchet: Fits over the fastener rather than around it, which makes it ideal for tight spots. Gives you the option to continue tightening nuts and bolts without repositioning the wrench. 

Short Body: Refers to an open or box wrench with a short shaft.


Tips

Get the best leverage with an adjustable wrench by positioning the tool so you’re turning the fastener towards your body. 

Use slow, steady movements rather than forced, jerky ones

Start with a small amount of pressure before building up to more. This gives you more control and avoids slipping. 

Make sure your wrench head size matches your fastener size. Never try to “mix-and-match” one wrench head size with another size fastener.

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