A wrench (also called a spanner) is a tool used to provide grip and mechanical advantage in applying torque to turn objects—usually rotary fasteners, such as nuts and bolts—or keep them from turning.
It’s a handheld tool with a gripping mechanism used to turn objects. It can be used to tighten and loosen nuts and bolts. It’s used in many trades including mechanics, construction, and plumbing.
So, let’s look at the history of the wrench and how it’s used today.
In this post we'll cover:
- The Wrench: A Classic Tool for Every Job
- The Twisted History of Wrenches and Spanners
- The Wrench: A History of Physical Victory
- Wrenches: A Comprehensive Guide to the Different Types Available
The Wrench: A Classic Tool for Every Job
A wrench, also known as a spanner in some parts of the world, is a tool that provides grip and leverage to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts. It is a mechanical tool that applies torque to rotary fasteners, making it easier to turn them or keep them from turning.
Why is it useful?
The wrench is a standard tool in any home or workshop because it is essential for any job that involves fastening or loosening nuts and bolts. It is a tool that has been around for a long time, but it has undergone several improvements over the years to make it better and more efficient.
What are the different types of wrenches?
There are several types of wrenches, each with a unique design to fit different nuts and bolts. Some of the most common types of wrenches include:
- Crescent wrench: This classic wrench has an adjustable curved head that can fit different sizes of nuts and bolts. It is a versatile tool that is useful for a wide range of jobs.
- Socket wrench: This wrench has a socket opening that fits over the nut or bolt. It is a useful tool for jobs that require a lot of torque.
- Allen wrench: This wrench has a hexagonal head that fits into the socket of a corresponding bolt. It is a useful tool for jobs that require precision.
How does it work?
The wrench works by providing grip and leverage to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts. When you turn the wrench, it applies torque to the fastener, making it easier to turn or keep it from turning. The mechanical advantage provided by the wrench makes it possible to turn nuts and bolts that would be difficult to turn by hand.
What are the benefits of using a wrench?
Using a wrench has several benefits, including:
- It provides a better grip on nuts and bolts, making it easier to turn them.
- It provides leverage, making it possible to turn nuts and bolts that would be difficult to turn by hand.
- It is a versatile tool that can be used for a wide range of jobs.
- It is a standard tool in any home or workshop, making it easy to find and use.
The Twisted History of Wrenches and Spanners
Over time, the wrench and spanner have evolved to become the adjustable tools we know today. The original wrenches were fixed and could only be used for a specific size of nut or bolt. The adjustable wrench was invented in the 19th century, making it possible to use the same tool for nuts and bolts of different sizes.
The Wrench: A History of Physical Victory
- The wrench began as a simple tool, designed to offer a complete range of motion for people who wanted to turn bolts and nuts.
- It was considered an important invention, as it allowed people to complete tasks that were previously limited by the use of saws or other blade-like tools.
- The wrench was later named after its ability to “wrench” or twist objects, and it quickly became known as one of the best tools for the job.
The Fight for Equality
- In the early period of American history, blacks were not considered equal to whites, and they were often prevented from using the same tools and techniques as their white counterparts.
- However, some skilled black men were able to fight against this system, and they invented new techniques for using the wrench that allowed them to compete with whites on an equal footing.
- One of these men was Jack Johnson, who later became the first black heavyweight boxing champion. He received a patent for his invention of an electric wrench, which violated the commercial system of the time.
The Fight for Recognition
- Despite the wrench’s significant role in physical battles, it was often overlooked in favor of other tools like hammers and screwdrivers.
- However, in the mid-1900s, companies like Snap-On began to offer a complete range of wrenches, and the tool finally received the recognition it deserved.
- Today, the wrench is known as an essential tool for any mechanic or handyman, and its history as a tool for physical victory is remembered by hundreds of people around the world.
Wrenches: A Comprehensive Guide to the Different Types Available
Wrenches come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each designed for a particular use. Here are some of the most common types of wrenches:
- Open-end wrenches: These wrenches consist of two flat, parallel jaws that can be slipped over a nut or bolt. They are commonly used for tightening or loosening nuts and bolts in tight spaces.
- Box wrenches: These wrenches have a closed end with six or twelve points that are designed to turn hex and square bolts. They are more versatile than open-end wrenches and are often sold in sets.
- Combination wrenches: These wrenches combine the functions of both open-end and box wrenches. They have an open end on one side and a closed end on the other, and are available in a variety of sizes.
- Adjustable wrenches: These wrenches have a movable jaw that can be adjusted to fit nuts and bolts of different sizes. They are an excellent tool for carrying around, as they can be used for a variety of different tasks.
- Socket wrenches: These wrenches are designed to fit over a nut or bolt and are connected to a handle. They come in a variety of sizes and are sold in sets that include multiple sockets and a handle.
- Torque wrenches: These wrenches are used to apply a specific amount of force to a nut or bolt. They are commonly used in automotive repair and other applications where proper tension is critical.
- Pipe wrenches: These wrenches are designed to grip and turn pipes and other cylindrical objects. They have a tough, forged steel jaw that can cut into the metal to provide a secure grip.
- Allen wrenches: These wrenches are also called hex keys and are used to turn screws with hexagonal heads. They come in a variety of sizes and are commonly found in sets.
In addition to the main types of wrenches, there are also a variety of specialty wrenches available for specific uses. Here are some examples:
- Spark plug wrenches: These wrenches are designed to remove and replace spark plugs in automotive engines. They have a thin, elongated shape that allows them to fit into tight spaces.
- Ring wrenches: These wrenches have a ring-shaped end that fits over nuts and bolts. They are commonly used in plumbing and other applications where a secure grip is necessary.
- Offset wrenches: These wrenches have an angled handle that allows them to be used in tight spaces where a regular wrench won’t fit.
- Crowfoot wrenches: These wrenches have a flat, open end that can be used to turn nuts and bolts at a right angle. They are commonly used in automotive repair.
- Flare nut wrenches: These wrenches have a small, thin mouth that allows them to fit over nuts and bolts that are too tight for other wrenches. They are commonly used in plumbing and other applications where a tight fit is necessary.
Male and Female Wrenches
Wrenches can also be classified as male or female, depending on the shape of the jaws. Male wrenches have jaws that fit over a nut or bolt, while female wrenches have jaws that fit around a nut or bolt. Here are some examples:
- Male wrenches: Open-end wrenches, box wrenches, socket wrenches, and Allen wrenches are all examples of male wrenches.
- Female wrenches: Pipe wrenches and ring wrenches are examples of female wrenches.
Choosing the Right Wrench
When deciding which wrench to use for a particular job, there are a few things to consider:
- Size: Make sure to choose a wrench that is the right size for the nut or bolt you are working on.
- Shape: Different wrenches are designed for different shapes of nuts and bolts, so make sure to choose the right type of wrench for the job.
- Force: Some jobs require more force than others, so make sure to choose a wrench that is designed to handle the amount of force needed.
- Protection: When working with delicate materials, it’s important to choose a wrench that will protect the material from damage. For example, a pipe wrench should be used on a metal rod, as it is less likely to cause damage than other types of wrenches.
- Complexity: Some jobs require a more complex wrench, such as a torque wrench, while others can be done with a simple open-end wrench.
Carefully Using Wrenches
Wrenches are a great tool for a variety of different jobs, but they can also be dangerous if not used properly. Here are some tips for using wrenches safely:
- Use the right size wrench for the job.
- Make sure the wrench is properly aligned with the nut or bolt before applying force.
- Use a wrench with a long handle for jobs that require more force.
- Never use a wrench as a hammer or to hit something.
- Tighten nuts and bolts gradually, rather than all at once.
- Always wear proper eye and hand protection when using wrenches.
So there you have it, a wrench is a tool used to turn or tighten nuts and bolts.
You can’t get by without a wrench in your toolbox, so make sure you know the right kind to get for the job. I hope this guide has been helpful and you now know everything you need to know about wrenches.
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.