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?