How to Use an Adjustable Wrench

Some people call them pipe wrenches, others call them monkey wrenches, but adjustable wrench is the correct technical term for these wrenches. Believe it or not, these wrenches have been around since 1848!

It’s no secret that these wrenches are both simple and ubiquitous – you’ll even see an outline used as an icon for the word “tool.”

Parts of an Adjustable Wrench

Here’s how they work. There are only three parts: the handle (1), the ferrule (2), and the jaw (3).

How to Adjust the Wrench

Turn the ferrule (1) counterclockwise. The jaw (2) slides down, making the wrench wider. If you turn it clockwise, the jaw goes up, making it smaller.  Hence the word “adjustable.”

Our goal is to loosen the nut on this bolt. 

Put the wrench over the nut (3). Turn the ferrule (1) clockwise until the jaw (2) presses against the nut. Wiggle the handle slightly as you continue to turn the ferrule until the wrench feels tight.

Turn the whole wrench counterclockwise – lefty-loosey – and the nut loosens on the bolt. 

To tighten the nut, simply turn the wrench clockwise, righty-tighty, and the nut cinches down. It’s astoundingly easy.

There is, of course, the dark side. 

Because it’s adjustable, the wrench can come loose. If you don’t tighten the jaw completely, it can slip. It’s not so bad when you loosen the nut, but if you’re tightening it, the wrench can slip and damage it.

But, that’s the only caveat. Now you’re a master at manipulating this marvelous piece of mechanical history!

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