Channellock’s Irega-made adjustable wrenches are still my favorites. How about a quick discussion about traditional adjustable wrench alternatives.
Short Answer: The Knipex Pliers Wrench is the best adjustable wrench alternative. I do still use adjustable wrenches for some things, and so my Pliers Wrenches haven’t completely taken their place.
I have tried or seen many adjustable wrench variants. Things like the hydrokinetic wrench, Kobalt squeeze-adjust wrench, Crescent locking adjustable wrench, Craftsman Mach Series wrench, Skil Speed Slide Wrench, or Stanley FatMax ratcheting adjustable wrench.
I believe a number of readers have spoken out in favor of locking-style adjustable wrenches.
I dropped off a lot of tools to the local high school STEM department these past two weeks, including both tool review samples and personally-purchased or owned tools. In sorting through the tools, I realized that I really didn’t use any of the adjustable wrench alternatives that I purchased or received.
Back in 2007, I purchased Irwin locking wrench pliers, with a soft-handle grip. Bare-handled versions are still available. I thought it would be useful for all sorts of things, and it might have been useful, but I never used it.
There was a quick post about these pliers on a now-defunct site, and someone commented about preferring LockJaw pliers. In my comment, I said:
The difference between these and lockjaws is that these will not damage the fastener.
I’ve since become very fond of the tool – it defeats channel locks when it comes down to the magnitude of sheer torque one is able to apply since you don’t need to worry about holding the jaws tight.
I wrote this maybe a month after purchasing the tool and using it a bunch of times. I might have remained fond of the tool, for a time, but it eventually moved from my pliers drawer to a seldom-used tool drawer. And the last time we moved, it went into deep storage. It was included in my recent tool donation drop-off.
Given the sheer number of adjustable wrench variants that I recently donated, I have come to the realization that I simply prefer using adjustable wrenches over newer “innovations.” The Knipex Pliers Wrench is often hailed as an “adjustable wrench killer,” and while I sometimes use mine in place of an adjustable wrench, there are enough reasons to keep adjustable wrenches at quick and easy reach.
The possibility of adjustable wrench variants or alternatives being quicker, easier, or better to use is highly appealing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was drawn in by such promises, only to leave the tool unused and collecting dust after the initial honeymoon period.
Small improvements to traditional adjustable wrench elements seem to make for more useful tools than adding new features or big differences in designs.
Additional teeth on the thumbwheel, a more comfortable handle shape or grip material, easy to use pawl locks, or other such minor enhancements can make for a better user experience, more so than ratcheting mechanisms, “quick adjust” mechanisms, or other features that largely change the design.
Traditional adjustable wrenches aren’t glamorous, and they’re not perfect, but they’re darned useful. While it sounds harsh, I have found that I simply don’t care for most new “innovative” styles. They look good on paper and product listings, but often fail to live up to the hype.
That all said, maybe there’s a variant design or alternative tool that you find more useful. If so, please tell us about it!
Which is your favorite traditional adjustable wrench alternative?
Bought some of the spanish channellock adjustables. I use them on brass fittings mostly. I like them so far
I love the ratcheting function of my Knipex Pliers Wrench. Thanks to this blog, I now own 4 of them plus a bunch of cobras.
They are especially great for tightening brass air fittings where I don’t want to mess up the brass. I also find them particularly handy for tightening PVC electrical conduit nuts where you definitely don’t want to stuff those up.
Just a few thoughts:
The perfect (insert tool name here) has not yet been invented.
That certainly goes for adjustable wrenches.
We really liked the Knipex Plier wrenches. We carried several sizes (including 125mm) on the trucks – and started using them about 17 or 18 years ago. They are not 100% replacements for an adjustable wrench – as their are times when gripping the plier handles is inconvenient. But with use you can alternate your grip and use them with “ratcheting-like” motion.
Recently (in my septuagenarian perspective) the Channellock wide mouth adjustable seem pretty decent and useful under the sink. Thin jaw varieties have their place as well – and ones from Engineer (Japan) have exceptionally thin jaws fro use on electronics and jam nuts,
There was more discussion here:
Your Engineer comment reminded me of these…
I agree with you. Knipex pliers wrench is my go-to but I have a set of Irega Channellock adjustable for when I can’t squeeze the grip. Those Channellocks are the best adjustable pliers I’ve ever used, by far.
BAHCO 31 BAHCO 31 BAHCO 31
stanley has a imitation that has a flat pry bar that i love.
I have grown to like the miners wrench myself when using a large adjustable wrench. How often are you tempted to whack something with your adjustable wrench?
I have the Knipex in all sizes but all my traditional adjustables are old diamond calk horeshoe company wrenches… Such if the life of a tool collector
I have the Pliers Wrench and it just never seems to be the right tool.
For what used adjustable wrenches cost, get a few high quality 20 year old wrenches.
I haven’t seen a modification on the basic design that was a game changer.
Someday after my loft restoration I’ll again have my own tools all in one place and I’m looking to actually being able to choose the best tool (I own) for the use at hand. Not just the bag or case I can find that day. And I can’t find squat most of the time. Grrrr.
Quasi-related, for all of you that have the pliers wrenches in multiple sizes, which would you say is the most useful to start off with? Menards has a 15% off bag sale this week and I can’t decide between the 10” or 7.25”
250mm (86 03 250 ) aka 10 inch – would be my recommendation if only buying one
You want at least 3. 7″, 10″, 12″ they come in a sets and it’s usually/always cheaper to get them in a set.
You probably want to get both the 250mm/10″ and 180mm/7.25″ since the 10″ is a little big for some things and sometimes you need more leverage than what you get with the 7″.
i would say you don’t really need the 12″ unless you know you’ll be working on stuff that needs the larger opening or you just want a second big wrench.
I’ve never tried a Pliers Wrench, but I use my adjustable wrenches relatively often. Two uses immediately come to mind. I use them to quickly gauge the size of a nut / bolt, so as to get the right wrench; and I also will use them in a pinch when I don’t have a second box wrench for loosen a bolt.
I use the plierswrench for the same, basically a non precise but good enough set of calipers. just make sure if you get them they have the measurement markings on them, because some do not. (I had to add my own)
I noticed at the top of the article: “If you buy something through our links, ToolGuyd might earn an affiliate commission.” Can you expound on this? Does that apply on this page’s links only, or can I go back, say, five years and use a link? Any specific vendors this works with?
If I’m going to buy something anyway, I’d love to give you credit, especially if you’re the one who recommended a specific tool. I think others here likely feel the same way.
Quick reference: https://toolguyd.com/misc-link-updates-112017/
We have affiliate relationships with several retailers. Buy something through a tagged link, and we might earn some revenue.
Our relationships change, and different retailer come and go from my radar.
Larger retailers include Amazon and Home Depot. Smaller ones include Acme Tool, Rockler, and Ohio Power Tool.
Full current list:
Amazon (USA, UK, DE)
Ohio Power Tool
Tool Nut and Festool Products
Some of these affiliate relationships do go back 5 years.
Other linked-to retailers are simply well regarded, such as Lee Valley, KC Tool, Carbide Processors.
I try not to actively encourage affiliate link activity, which is why you won’t find me talking about it often. I try to treat them as a seamless part of posts, with links appearing only where they naturally make sense.
See, and this is why I love Toolguyd.com. I learn about all kinds of higher quality / better suited tools for my arsenal. Had never seen those knipex plier wrenches before now.. or heard of the ‘Engineer’ brand from Japan (thanks, @Fred)!
Please don’t punch me for this, but I think the kobalt rapid adjust ones are pretty neat. I don’t actually own them, (so I don’t have any experience with how well they perform) but I’ve messed around with the demo displays at lowes and they seem interesting.
I HAD the husky rapid adjustment wrenches, they were OK. BUT the ability to rapidly adjust to the correct size is great…. BUT it also slips out of adjustment rapidly… after a while When i torqued on the wrench it would just roll out. i threw it over the fence. and then gave the other two away.
I think I might still have one of the three Huskys I owned at one point, but having to snug the stupid thing up literally every single time the tool left the nut got real old, real quick.
I picked up a Crescent wrench a few months ago that came with a handful of pass-through sockets and a ratchet at the end opposite the wrench head – it’s actually come in handy several times. That’s probably the only adjustable wrench “variant” (and I’ve tried several) that I’ve found useful.
Haha my coworker also got that pass thru wrench set. I dont know why, both of us have a set of pass thru socket sets that have been used ONCE for a specific job that we thought we HAD TO HAVE.
I really like my new stanley prybar+hammer+adjustable wrench sold at lowes. Usually when im using an adjustable wrench its on a crude application where i might need to beat a bolt thru a hole to reach the threads or pry the bolt out after loosening it. Big and chunky for a reason, love it.
Nothing beats my Bahco…
it’s funny the only times I’ve used an adjustable wrench recently has been to remove some fluid fitting or to turn something larger than any socket I own.
IE – faucet replacement – didn’t know the sizes I’d need other than the sizes for the new kit – so tote it along and sure enough needed it for the old crap.
Or – strut replacement on my car – strut top nut was a 27 or some such mm and I don’t have any wrench like that and I can’t use a socket because I have to also wrench the other end to hold the strut rod in place. IE it needs to be 2 wrenches on top of each other.
so in comes the kentucky socket set. (I have no idea where I heard that from)
Of those – my adjustable wrenches I own all say channelock on them – but are all older than 13 years also.
I use pliers wrenches now for almost everything I used to do with an adjustable wrench.
There are a couple of applications where the pliers wrenches do not work. In those cases I still find myself occasionally using the Channelock WideAzz thin jaw (pretty thin – air fittings usually), Engineer thin jaw (really thin, pretty much like a bike cone wrench – often used as a second for that purpose), a Stanley locking adjustable (for any time a nut or bolt needs to sit still in a place with no hands on it, and a 24″ harbor freight adjustable (which is most often used outside and saves the day when it is needed).
I tend to just use real wrenches of the proper size (box/open ended).
This is probably due to doing more car repair than home repair. I do have a couple of smaller ones that I keep in my household tool bag and a couple of bigger ones in the car bags, but I use adjustable wrenches as little as possible.
There is in my eyes a nobetter wrench than the knipex pliers wrench. Ive been using them for 10+ years(converted our whole staff to them) The clamping force is equally proportional to the pressure applied to the handle which leads to minimal slip, or rounding and fast disengagement. They are a wicked tool that really only requires a pushing/pulling motion rather than a gripping. Its a brilliant design and the rest of the industry in my opinion is in the badlands.
Expensive? F**** yes, but these are quality tools that will make your job/work far more pleasant than the cheaper alternative
I totally agree with your assessment. I do own and like the Knipex pliers wrench but there are instance a traditional adjustable wrench work better.
I did purchase the locking adjustable wrench that you have mentioned awhile back. It’s a nice addition. It work well enough in certain instance but I haven’t use it much because a lot of time the future just get in the way. I think the problem with most of the tried and failed adjustable wrench replacement is that the benefit isn’t enough to outweighs the cost.
I agree with almost every word. I have adjustable wrenches, Knipex Plier Wrenches, and the vintage Plierenches. All of them have a time and place. They are not completely interchangeable.
The Knipex wrenches are very, very good. However, I just haven’t gotten used to the adjustment “button”. You can’t really do it one handed, and there are times when it sticks. Still, it’s hard to replace a good ‘ol Crescent…I don’t work on stuff every day so I never know which box wrench to grab…the adjustable saves me a lot of frustration.
I use knipex pliers wrench most of the time, replaces normal pliers almost 100% of the time and adjustable wrenches about 80% of the time. Stanley locking pliers stand in for most other times. I pretty much hate normal adjustable wrenches but I do keep a couple around
If you need to turn bigger nuts, then look at the Ridgid Spud wrench. The Spud wrench is for toilet and urinal spuds (or other chrome/brass fittings that can’t be marked up), and it’s like a pipe wrench, only it has flat ground jaws that are parallel – https://www.ridgid.com/ca/en/spud-wrench. They also make a Hex wrench as well – https://www.ridgid.com/ca/en/hex-wrenches.
I use toothless wrenches whenever I can. I hate leaving tool marks on anything. Tooth grip tools only when necessary.
I have a set of USA made Craftsman adjustable wrenches that have served me well over the years.
Vise Grips are great if the fastener is disposable. Since that’s rarely the case, I use the correct size socket or wrench when possible, with the adjustable as a last resort.
I remember in maintenance school being taught the correct way to position it for torque (with the solid jaw on the high side of the fastener in the direction of rotation).
Which is pretty much the same advice for a pipe wrench (called a bobbjaan spanner here) except the fixed jaw is at the bottom.
Oh my, the Knipex looks like a very sweet tool. I want one and can now understand why everyone loves them. The price is a shocker for this diy-er however.
My favorite wrench has the same adjustment feature and that’s the Irwin GrooveLock pliers that ToolGuyd introduced me to several years ago. I only wish they had a smooth jaw face version…. but I still love them at a fraction of the cost of the Knipex. I will be keeping my eyes open for the Knipex sales in the future!
the best adjustables i have are my channelock ones. my favorites though are my old green handle diamonds i have from 4-12 inches.
i have many others as well but all of the are used most often for bending or straightening things.
i have looked at the knipex pliers wrench many times and have yet to see the value and i am a tool junkie. i do have several other knipex pliers and i like them.
I’m still thinking about how nice the Knipex might be for me. Any users out there able to tell me what they use each size for. Without further input, I’m thinking maybe the 10 inch might be a good universal size if I was to only buy one size. Thanks in advance for any input!
I like my Irwin locking adjustables. It’s like the original except infinitely adjustable and much easier to adjust…just push the button and slide to where you want it. No trying to line up the grooves or going all catty wampus on you right when you don’t want it to or fiddling with a worn one forever just trying to get it to adjust. So much easier. Kind of like adjustable wrenches…they just work.
Paul, do you have a link to one please?
I think I missed something though. For an adjustable WRENCH I use the traditional worm gear wrench that the Crescent brand is most known for and I carry everything from a small 4″ one all the way up to 18″. I use them mostly as the second wrench for wrench work when I can’t get an impact gun on it.
It really depend on what you are dealing with on a regular basic. For small electronic the 7 actually work better. I bought mine in a sets (7, 10, 12) and I have personally found used for all 3 size. I leave the small one inside the house for small electronics. It’s usually cheaper to get them in a set anyway.
There is always a mini sets (one mini pliers wrench and one mini cobra).
The nice thing about the pliers wrench is that you can also use them to press fit small stuff or straighten sheet metal.
My 40 year old USA Made Pre-Apex Crescent, 30 year old Craftsman, Petersen Vise Grip Nut Busters and my recent Knipex Pliers Wrench. All my go to.
I knew the answer from just reading the article. Can’t beat the versatility of Knipex Pliers Wrenches..
I kind of liked when the Crescent wrenches had a wider jaw opening so you could use the shorter/smaller wrench on larger fasteners, which helped a lot in tight quarters, since you could access stuff that even combination wrenches were too long for, and in sizes above that of most stubby wrench sets.
I’ve used the Pliers Wrench, but it definitely doesn’t replace an adjustable, there’s just so much stuff where you don’t have the ability to squeeze the handes together but a regular wrench isn’t available or isn’t the right tool for the job.
I’ve used the Vise-Grip locking wrench, too. I’ve got the old, old USA-made ones, but when I had a job that needed something to grip a hex bar that wouldn’t let go, they didn’t work so well. Even when clamped as tight as I could get them, the jaws slowly spread apart when force was applied. Of course, an adjustable wrench didn’t work either. It was the open end of a regular ‘ol Craftsman raised panel combo wrench that finally did the job.
As far as adjustable wrenches go I don’t think you can beat Bahco, I also have a set of 3 Knipex Pliers Wrench which are great. I also own the 6inch irega channel lock wide jaw and find that the blue rubber handle slips off when under load which did disappoint me.
Gedore Adjustable Wrenches my Favorite, no slop and stay tight, no nut rounding off
If only those Channellock Irega-made adjustable wrenches came in metric! 🙂
Irega makes metric adjustables: a quick search on Amazon or Google for “Irega wrench” or “Irega spanner” should do the trick!
I won a pair of the Knipex pliers wrench from one of your giveaways, and I have to say that I am very glad I did. I have used them on many occasions, and I appreciate the somewhat narrow jaw which has been an advantage over some traditional adjustable wrenches. Also, the ratcheting (if you will) has been useful.
With that said, there are plenty of scenarios where the Knipex were less than ideal compared to traditional adjustable wrench. Having to hold the pliers closed while turning can be a major downside. Whenever I have needed substantial force to be applied, the old school wrench was better.
My favorite alternative to the “traditional” adjustable wrench, as patented by Johan Petter Johansson in 1892 that were originally made and sold by Bahco starting in the 1890’s (yup, been around over 125 years now), are two sets of combination wrenches, one in SAE with 15 wrenches going from 1/4″ to 1″ and the other with 20 wrenches in metric from 6mm to 25mm. The advantages? No auto-adjusting feature.
The adjustable wrench is affectionately known as a Swedish nut rounder, or Swedish nut lathe, in honor of Johansson who invented its current design. That said, the one adjustable wrench I’ll definitely keep is a 12″ Rastall S12-H hammer head. It was designed by Rastall in Canada specifically for the jack-leg rock drill operators in hard rock mineral mines and contains the following improvements of Johansson’s design:
* The hole in the end of the handle is a 7/8″ 12-point box wrench.
* The fixed jaw side of the head is extended outward into a hardened hammer.
(some call this feature a built-in thumb detector)
* Its jaws open to the same width as a standard 15″ adjustable.
It’s as well made as all of the premium tool truck adjustable wrenches that are priced to keep mechanics and technicians paupers. Any faceted fastener the jaws can’t subdue, the hammer head can beat into submission.
The Channellock wrenches are the best for me, hands down. Klein is second in the standard adjustable wrench category.
The Knippex plier wrench is a great tool, but too awkward to use daily. For some infrequent things they’re the cat’s meow. But for daily use, they are too hard to handle especially in hard to reach areas. I used a 7″ pair for a while, but at $50 a pair, way too much for what they are.