Back in July, we reviewed Craftsman’s new ratcheting elbow wrenches. After a reader commented that a wrench appeared bent in one of the photos, I went ahead and examined each wrench in the set. I then asked around and examined a few more wrenches, and ultimately discovered that there was no glaring issues with the wrenches.
In fact, you cannot even tell that there is any play or unevenness in the elbow joint in use or even examining it in your hand. As with all tools, if you look for flaws, you will often find one.
Before we discuss our observations, remember that we only became aware that the wrenches were not 100% perfectly symmetrical after a pincushion distortion made a wrench look curved in a photo. Only then did I examine the wrenches for uneven curvature and realize that the elbow joints were slightly off-parallel.
How We Tested
Wrenches were placed on their edge and aligned with a bold straight line before being observed from above to check for curvature. The wrenches were then placed on their sides with a flat portion of the box end held against a hard flat surface.
What We Found
We found that there is no unusual curvature of the wrenches themselves, but that there was in fact a very minor non-parallel behavior at the joint. When flipped over, the height of the open end of the wrench in relation to the table would change. Resting on one side, the open end of a wrench might be in near-contact with the table, and flipped over it hovers 1-2mm above.
The vertical alignment curvature test came after the horizontal parallel test , and clarified that the asymmetry was in the joint and not the wrench beam itself.
What This Means
All this means is that the elbow joint is ever so slightly asymmetrical. For most of these wrenches, this corresponds to a 1-2mm deflection at the tip of the open end, which won’t ever be noticeable during use.
The fact that I didn’t even notice this “flaw” until prompted to by a reader and the distorted photo means a lot. If tend to be very observant and ultra-critical of tools, especially when it comes to defects. All in all, I would say that this “flaw” is absolutely nothing to worry about.
Clarification from Craftsman
We considered that the slight asymmetry of the wrench joints might be intentional, and so we contacted Craftsman to clarify as to whether it was a defect or design specification. Here is their reply:
There is a certain amount of “wiggle room” between the head of the wrench and the handle of the wrench (by design). So, it is possible that the head of the wrench is not perfectly aligned with the handle, and that can cause a confusing optical illusion regarding the “straightness” of the wrench.
Straightness is something that we do spend a good amount of resources and energy controlling in our manufacturing processes, both because it is important to tool users and because it is subject to variability in manufacturing.
While no wrench is perfectly straight, we strive to control the straightness so that even if there is a measureable bend, it is visually undetectable. If anyone feels that they have received a wrench that does not meet that criteria, we will obviously stand behind our commitment to quality and replace that tool for them.
I went ahead and picked up another set of elbow wrenches at the local Sears. The wrenches in the second set all seemed near perfect with only the slightest bit of play in the elbow joint.
Long story short, these wrenches are perfectly fine, and we still recommend them.