W r e n c h e s

not wenches
Remember, this article is only one person's opinion.  If you know others who may have good advice on this subject, talk to them too.
Buying wrenches is a complicated topic that would load-down the basic tool page, so I'm making a separate article to talk about them.  I have w a y too many wrenches to advise a novice which wrenches to buy  in a sensible (make that sane) way , but I'm gonna try.  

A big problem with selecting wrenches today is M E T R I C.  If you decide you need any particular wrench you probably need two -- one English standard and one metric.  If I were buying my first wrench set and was willing to pay a little extra, I would buy one of the Metrinch tool sets.  They appear to be reasonable quality and they fit both English and Metric fasteners. 

That said, if you are going to buy ordinary wrenches the brand suggestions are Husky, Sears Craftsman, S-K depending on how much you want to pay.  Husky will be the cheapest and you can find them at home centers like Home Depot.  You may not have noticed but few Sears tools are mentioned in my tool article.  Sears used to sell good quality tools, but with a few exceptions, that's no longer the case.  One exception as of 2009 are their Craftsman wrenches.  They're not excellent, but they're good and moderately priced if you buy them in sets on sale.  I've found the ratchets that usually come in their tool sets wanting, and I buy their better quality ratchets separately.  S-K makes topnotch mechanic quality tools.  Snap-On or MAC are considered the absolute best but are quite expensive.  I think most if not all these brands have lifetime replacement warranties, but you may find the Craftsman warranty easier to take advantage of.  Sears sells tools that are not Craftsman, but only tools marked "Craftsman" have their lifetime replacement warranty.  

Husky are probably adequate for a beginner, until they figure out if they're gonna grow up to be a Tim Allen tool freak.  


In 1998 a metallurgist for the Danaher Corporation stated that Danaher makes all the sockets for Craftsman, Easco, Matco, Proto, Allen Wrench, NAPA, and K-D.  He said all are made the same -- there is no difference between any of these sockets, in any way, except for the name. 

I usually call the kind of tools we're discussing here mechanics' tools, because their use for home repair is more limited.  Tools needed for cars are in general smaller sizes than needed for home nuts.  This creates the problem that many home repairs require wrenches that are large, expensive and hard to store.  Probably the best compromise is to get the wrenches that come in ordinary wrench sets, plus a 12" Crescent wrench and a large pair of Channelock pliers (not Sears Robo-Grips for this).  I have a pair (good quality but not Channelock brand) with 4+ inch jaws I bought 40 years ago and they've gotten me out of awkward situations lots of times.  The problem with Channelocks is they scar up whatever you use them on.  [Sometimes you can get plastic shrouds for the jaws that prevent the scarring but reduce their effectiveness]

Socket-to-me -- Socket-TO-me -- Socket to ME

whatever happened to Judy Carne?

In selecting a socket set you want one that has about 7 deep (long) sockets in addition to the standard length sockets.  (See how the metric/English problem makes the number grow?).  Also, you want 2-3 extensions (rods that go between the ratchet and the socket).  You can combine extensions to get different lengths.

Hand Wrenches

Everybody seems to love box end (the business end is a ring the goes entirely around the nut) and combination wrenches (box on one end and open end (U shaped opening the nut goes into) on the other.  If you only intend to buy one type, buy an open end set.  Sometimes a bolt is in a position you can't put the box over it.  You can always slide the open end on.  If you're going to get both open and box, I prefer a set of open and a set of boxes over a set of combinations (it's the same number of wrenches).  Often you have to put a wrench on the head of a bolt while you turn the nut with another.  If  you have a combination set, both of the sizes you need are on the same wrench -- duhh.

The minimum set is 7 English open end wrenches from 3/8" to 3/4" and 5 metric from 10mm to 14mm.  When you want to expand beyond that add a  3/8" drive ratchet and sockets in the same sizes as the hand wrenches.  After that, add the deep sockets.  I'd buy a 1/4" socket set next. Then start adding the larger open end and socket sizes in the same order until you reach 1" and 19mm.   Others might add box end wrenches in the same size order as I suggest for open ends.

As I'm sure you can guess, opinions vary widely on the order given above, but you have one person's opinion.

Wrenches are usually a lot cheaper in sets than individual prices.  You can buy hand wrench sets and socket sets separately.  So look around for separate sets or combination sets to put together the amount of the above collection you want.  To flesh out big sets they usually throw in a lot of stuff you don't need.  But, every once in a while Sears will have a sale price that's so good on a large collection you can just put that filler stuff in a box in the attic and still have a good buy.

I'm tired and stopping now but I'll probably come back later with more on wenches, wrenches . . . and maybe a little on winches :-)

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