Pipe Wrench Vs. Monkey Wrench

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  March 21, 2022
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I remember, when I first heard of a monkey wrench, I felt like, what is a monkey wrench? It didn’t take long to know, though. Quickly I came to the conclusion that it’s just a fancier name of Pipe wrench.

But what I did not realize back then, is that they are two completely different tools. But what are the differences? That’s what we will explore here.

Both a pipe wrench and a monkey wrench look pretty similar, if not identical, to an untrained eye. In all honesty, there are more than enough reasons to jumble between the two. Pipe-Wrench-Vs.-Monkey-Wrench

Both the tools are made in a similar fashion; both are big and usually bulky, both are heavy, and they function similarly. Despite all the similarities, The two are quite different. Let me explain how.

What Is A Pipe Wrench?

A pipe wrench is a kind of adjustable wrench, intended to work on, well… pipes and plumbing. They were originally made of cast steel, but more modern pipe wrenches are mostly made of aluminum, but they still use steel to make the jaws and teeth.

Teeth? Yes, the jaws of pipe wrenches have a set of teeth each. The purpose is to hold on to the pipes or something else that you are working on. The jaws curve into the softer materials and help to hold tight without slipping.


Other Uses Of A Pipe Wrench:

Though the main intention of a pipe wrench is to work with pipes, or rather plumbing in general, it is still used in other places as well. Such as:

  • To assemble or disassemble regular hex bolts or shoulder bolts
  • Remove or break open rusty metal joints
  • Loosen a rusty or worn-down bolt

You can see a common pattern here. In all these cases, the object you will be holding is either rusty or worn down. Thus, you will be needing to hold on to the parts strongly and prevent it from slipping. Another common theme is that you will need to apply a lot of force on it.

What Is A Monkey Wrench?

A monkey wrench is more like a regular adjustable wrench. The main purpose of a monkey wrench is to tighten and loosen bolts and nuts. Similar to a pipe wrench, it also has two jaws. One of the jaws is permanently attached to the frame of the wrench, where the other one can move.

What puts this wrench apart from a pipe wrench is the fact that the jaws of a monkey wrench are flat. A monkey wrench does not have any teeth on its jaws. That’s because the purpose of this kind of wrench is to hold strong on the head of a bolt or nut.

The most common shape of a bolt head is hexagonal, with six flat sides. The flat shape of the wrench jaws helps them to be flush with the bolt head. Thus, you can apply maximum force on it without the fear of slipping.


Other Uses Of A Monkey Wrench:

A monkey wrench can easily be used on other tasks as well. You can use a monkey wrench for:

  • Working on plumbing (with the aid of rubber padding)
  • Applying pressure to break or bend semi-hard objects
  • An emergency makeshift hammer (they can take a beating)

Similarities Between A Pipe Wrench And A Monkey Wrench

The structure of both tools resembles each other. This is the first and foremost reason why people get confused between the two. Besides, they both function in the same way. One jaw is fixed with the handle, while the other can be moved and adjusted.

Although it is not recommended, you can interchange between the two and get the job done. Both of the wrenches are made of cast steel or aluminum. As a result, they are strong as… steel. They can take quite a beating.

Differences Between A Pipe Wrench And A Monkey Wrench

As I mentioned above, the main difference between the two is the structure of their jaws. A pipe wrench has toothed jaws, whereas a monkey wrench has flat jaws. Speaking of the jaw, it can be removed with a pipe wrench making it easy to replace a worn-down teethed jaw with a new one.

This is especially useful because replacing the jaw is much more economical compared to replacing the whole tool. The jaws of a monkey wrench are permanent because they tend not to take much damage anyway.

A pipe wrench works on relatively softer materials such as plastic, PVC, or soft metal like copper. The teeth help it to sink into the material and get a good grip. A monkey wrench, on the other hand, works on harder materials like steel, iron, or something of that sort.

Which Wrench Should You Use?

Which wrench should you use depends on the situation? If you mostly do your house chores or little maintenance, either of the two will do. However, a monkey wrench is preferable of the two since it is more versatile. As I mentioned above, both of the tools can be interchanged and get the job done.


However, If you plan to work professionally, or even more frequently than “little maintenance,” you should get both the tools or the one you think you’ll need the most.

The reason is efficiency will play a bigger part. Doing a lot of pipework with a monkey wrench will end up taking significantly more time, whereas using a pipe wrench on bolts may end up wearing the teeth or the bolt.


To sum things up, both a monkey wrench and a pipe wrench are specialty tools. Even the best pipe wrench or the best monkey wrench is not meant to do everything. But what they do, they are unparalleled at that. They are sturdy items and can take quite a beating, But still, you should use the proper tool for the task and handle the tools with care.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.