I love Channellock adjustable wrenches, and I discussed why in an earlier post. They’re smooth to adjust, they have wide jaw openings, they’re strong, and they don’t slip. Channellock adjustable wrenches are made in Spain, with all signs pointing to Irega as the OEM.
If I recall correctly, I spent more than twice as much on my Channellock 8″ adjustable wrench than I did on my Crescent. The version without a cushion-grip handle is less expensive, ~$17 and change via Amazon, but still appreciably higher-priced than Crescent’s 8″ wrench.
So there I was, setting up an install and I realized I needed two wrenches. My Channellock 8″ wrench is always in a visible and easy-to-reach place, and I needed another tool. The socket set I had nearby only went up to 7/8″, but I was working with hardware with 15/16″ flats.
I dug around. No, my Knipex 7″ Pliers Wrench wouldn’t do, due to awkward angling, and so I didn’t even hunt down my 10″ Pliers Wrench. Other pliers wouldn’t quite do either. So, I dug around a little more and found my USA-made Crescent adjustable wrench.
My Channellock adjustable wrench is smoother to adjust and it has a wider jaw opening. There’s no denying that it’s a better adjustable wrench. But while the Crescent wrench isn’t as polished as Channellock’s, it worked quite well enough. As the title says, the experience was better than I remembered. I’ve used junky wrenches before, and the Crescent is far from that. The Crescent provided a pleasant user experience.
My several years-old Crescent wrench was comfortable to use, fairly smooth to adjust, and didn’t slip. Honestly, I was surprised, I had expected it to slip or be a hassle to adjust.
I should also mention that both wrenches were equally useless at the end, with their head size getting in the way of final tightening. I had to take a few minutes to retrieve two 15/16″ combination wrenches.
Crescent adjustable wrenches are not made in the USA anymore, at least not the ones stocked at the local home center stores. I’ve heard that USA-made versions are still available at industrial suppliers, but I haven’t confirmed this firsthand.
I try to be very cautious about not forgetting the tools I’ve owned and used before, especially those I upgraded from. But in this case, what happened? Have I let myself become snobby about adjustable wrenches? Maybe I’ve just become spoiled by the smoothness of Irega and Channellock wrenches.
Buy Now(Channellock 8″ WideAzz Adjustable Wrench via Amazon)
Buy Now(Channellock 8″ Bare Handle Adjustable Wrench via Amazon)
I can’t find a reliable source for USA-made Crescent wrenches, but you can find the imported version for about $11. Home centers have it for a little more. The wrench I used above is NOT the same as what’s available today due to different sourcing.
Buy Now(Crescent 8″ Wrench via Amazon)
When Dewalt came out with adjustable wrenches, the product managers compared them to Crescent, which they described as the industry standard. I believe Milwaukee did the same when they announced their adjustable wrenches. Crescent adjustable wrenches are the benchmark, and this particular experience reminded me of why.
A few years ago, I had the idea to do a USA-made vs. imported wrench comparison and found two wrenches of different sourcing on the same peg, so I bought one of each. I believe that the wrench I used here is the “new old stock” model from that comparison. I’ll break it in a little more in coming weeks to see if my positive experience changes, although that’s more for personal curiosity since it seems you can’t buy this exact wrench anymore.
In the meantime, which is your go-to adjustable wrench? For me, Channellock is still my favorite, but this particular Crescent wrench will serve well as a backup.
I’m treating this experience as a reminder that perspectives can warp over time.
Dean in Des Moines
i have a Carlyle I’m quite happy with. It doesn’t see a lot of use, but when nothing else will do, it has always done the job well.
I have both the 8″ and the 12″ version of this adjustable wrench. I agree with your assessment. This is my go-to wrench. The handle is extremely comfortable and the smoothness of the adjustments is amazing. This is well worth the investment. The 8″ version is a lot more versatile and with slimmer jaws than the 12″ version, in my opinion. I also, have the same concern that you mentioned regarding the Knipex disputable pliers wrench (also a phenomenal tool in its own right). There are just certain uses where the Knipex is too big or bulky for the task.
Before APEX offshored production the Crescent adjustables were pretty good.. Not Diamond Calk and Horseshoe good but pretty smooth and reliable.
Building up a collection of such tools, perfected decades ago, is a great reason to go to flea markets, the bigger the better. Some still-good tools are abused/uncared for, but nearly all can easily be brought back to full smooth function and can be added to your stash for a buck or two.
There’s no reason to doubt being able to get another century or so out of them.
I probably have at least a dozen of this type of adjustable wrenches. Truth be told none of them gets used all that much, there is always a preferred tool that I go to for a specific task.
I did look closely at all of them and found quite a few that would be considered “vintage”. The difference between the vintage models and the newer nameless and nondescript made-in-China adjustable wrenches is remarkable. The newer adjustable wrenches have a fair amount of “slop” to them that the older tools do not. I have an old 10″ Boker that is quite good and turning that thumbscrew you can literally feel the precision the tool exhibits. An 8′ P&C (off shoot of Plomb now Proto) http://alloy-artifacts.org/peterson-carlborg.html is also quite amazing.
One of mine is an old Diamond Calk Horseshoe Company adjustable wrench, and the precision in its jaw is close to machine-like. And its initial trip past a wire-wheel revealed the most beautiful forged steel shine. That’s hard to beat.
Diamond made Snap-on’s first adjustable wrenches and then their Blue points in the twenties and thirties.
I enjoy my Crescent wide mouth but my Bahco wide mouth is even nicer.
Estate sales is another good place to look for old Made in the US tools.
Over the years I find I use an adjustable wrench as little as possible. Mostly because I just like a clean fit and easy use. Yes that means I might well carry 10 wrenches to replace a faucet. Yep. and sure one I get into the job I use maybe 3. and a pair of pliers for something.
But I do have 3. 6 inch, 8 inch and 10 inch – all cresent that are over 20 years old give to me when I went off to college in the 90’s. When I do need one they’ve worked but I try to avoid it.
anyway I don’t know I would pay significant money for a adjustable wrench and I would prefer a USA made over other COO’s.
I have a couple Irwin adjustables I got in a set. They work pretty well.
Retired condo dweller here. My 6 inch Channellock adjustable and #426 Channellock pliers are the go to pair for the odd jobs I deal with.
I’ve been quite pleased with the Martin adjustable wrenches I picked up from this deal:
The Channellock is my go to.
I’ve been pleased with my Tekton. The jaws are still nice and tight. I like the laser markings to tell you how large the opening is. It helps when you realize an end wrench is the only thing that will work. It makes it really clear if it’s a 1/2in or 12mm and has saved me from rounding off nuts.
I’ve been meaning to pickup a few extras to toss in places that you always need a few wrenches. Like my bag for the angle grinder.
I recently picked up a Made-in-Spain Channellock 8 inch based on your recommendation. Smooth adjustment, jaws stay where you set them, feels like it will last a lifetime. Couldn’t be happier with an adjustable wrench. I will get a 10 inch & maybe 12 inch soon.
Mike (the other one)
I recently picked up an old J.H. Williams adjustable wrench at an antique store for $4. It’s a little beat up, but I think I can get it in good working order without much trouble.
I also have an Irwin wrench, and a Proto wrench, which are both good. I have a few generic wrenches here and there.
I find that adjustable wrenches are a good tool for holding nuts while the bolt is being tightened with a regular wrench. I’ve also used them as hand-held clamps on some occasions.
Harry Epstein has a few brands of USA adjustables. If I recall, they were blowing out a couple of 15” wrenches under various brands at the beginning of July. I picked up a rigid brand for about $25 I think. Once in a while I come across something that will require a little more leverage. This year I was thinking it would help with inner tie rods.
During my working life from 1965 to 2014 my EDC adjustable wrench has been the Bahco 31 8″ aka ” the Marine Engineer’s best friend “.
Of the USA-made adjustable wrenches the Diamonds are, in my opinion, the most well made and the most beautifully finished.
Of the adjustable wrenches made today the japanese make some very good ones. TOP- Kogyos adjustable wrenches are the only I know of that are designed to apply full torque in both clockwise and anti clockwise directions.
Some makers like Crescent stamp an arrow on the handle to show the allowed direction of turn.
I’ve read the logic of “allowed direction” and find it at odds with the 15° angle offset of the head, just like open end wrenches – that’s how minimum turn is done, right? Based on that, both directions are valid.
If one way doesn’t break the wrench and the other does, buy a different wrench.
Of course you can use the adjustable to turn in both directions.
The arrow on the handle indicates the recommended direction safe for high torque.
Sorry, I’ll delete the sentence “that is turning clockwise”. I noted it too late to correct it.
Pity that we cannot edit our comments after being sent.
Sorry, the option is a) allow for anyone to enter their info (even anonymous) and comment, b) employ the use of 3rd party sign-ins that make it far more difficult for new readers to ask questions or share their opinions, or c) switch to a 3rd party system that loads much slower. I’m also not keen on 3rd party sign-ins or services for technical and privacy reasons.
There was a youtube video I saw (might have been AvE) where a guy did a test to failure of crescent wrenches. He had pairs of a few sizes of both chinese and vintage american ones and tested them all to failure both the “right” way and the “wrong” way. He found each pair failed at similar torque regardless of the direction. It’s likely the wisdom about which way to apple the force comes from an age when metallurgy was much less advanced and crescent wrenches had a different failure mode.
I saw that video too. All wrenches in that video were of “american pattern”. They all broke above and behind the knurl.
Why does Crescent still stamp a directional arrow on the handles of their adjustable wrenches? There must be a reason for that.
I have broken off the moving jaw of three Bahco wrenches, two 6 in. and one 8 in, when I used a pipe to get more power. That was easy fixed because you can buy repair sets for Bahco’s wrenches comprising the moving jaw, a knurl, a spring and a pin screw. It might be so that the Bahcos are designed to break the moving jaw in stead of the handle. This is just a guess but might be true. If you break the handle you have to buy a new wrench. A repair set is much cheaper.
Older Crescent adjustables also had repair sets. Now they and all WF blanks used by other makers just have a pressed in pin in lieu of a pin
screw. They want to sell you new wrenches. Good for business.
I have the 8″ channellock slim jaw version and love it. I’m grabbing a non slim jaw version at some point.
So, unpopular opinion, but todays import Crescent wrenches are of better manufacture than the last few years of USA product they had in the big box stores. The 6″ wide jaw crescent I bought in 2008 has thicker chrome and tighter tolerances than the last one I bought around 2016. Also with the change to import came layered measurement marks, which I for one find incredibly handy.
Look, I love US manufacturing, but just like every other label Apex owns, Crescent was run into the ground.
If you buy a made in USA adjustable today, no matter the brand, its made by Western Forge in Colorado.
Couldn’t agree more about you comment on the Crescent products….
Channellock. It’s great. I couldn’t see the point of an upgrade. If the Channellock can’t do it, an adjustable wrench must be the wrong tool.
I’m not including the pliers wrench in this assessment however. It’s better still and something I use way more often.
I have quite a few USA-Made Crescent brand adjustable wrenches, partly from getting them when they started being made in China, and partly just from buying them on sale/clearance. The 6 inch and 8 inch sizes are REALLY handy to have around, and the wide, comfortable handle makes them much more of a pleasure to use than most other wrenches. Even dipped handle wrenches aren’t as comfortable as a bare USA-made Crescent.
I don’t think the Irega/Channellock wrenches are a fair comparison since that’s more of a “premium” design for “clean” work. If that wrench was used in nasty, greasy conditions, the handle would likely fall apart and who knows how comfortable the metal handle under it is.
The Crescent will work great even if you knock it around and drop it in oil and tap on it with a hammer or slip a pipe over the handle.
I still like the Western Forge USA-made Craftsman adjustables as my go-to adjustable wrenches, because they are about as standard of a design as you can get, but when I wind up grabbing a Crescent, they sure are a pleasure to hold and use. The outsourced replacements definitely don’t feel or work as nice.
Just FYI, Channellock sells adjustable wrenches with or without the code blue handle. Without the comfort handle, they also sell a matte silver finish or a black oxide.
Was in an ace and the Ace branded adjustable wrench looked an awful lot like the Channellock. Wonder if they are the same just different branding.
I’m not getting how it was better than you remembered if neither of your wrenches helped you succeed in accomplishing your task. You paid twice as much for a wrench that you already owned and just to have it cuz it was made by a different brand for the sake of being snobbish? Wow. Pretty shallow I must say. Maybe it would have been smarter to upgrade to a larger size wrench instead of upgrading brand names. I prefer my Dunlap or diamond calk wrenches. The old crescent wrenches are pretty good. (not the ones made by Apex). I own the Dewalt and channellock wrenches you’re talking about and they don’t see much use. In fact I took the Dewalt wrenches back the day I bought them cuz they were poorly made. And I like Dewalt tools. I think I’ve used the channellock wrench once since Xmas. Since then they’ve found themselves in a box with the rest of my dusty rarely used hand tools. Fortunately they were a gift cuz I wouldn’t have paid for them.
Bought an 8″ Crescent wrench for ~$10.
Bought an 8″ Channellock for ~$11, and later a cushion-gripped version for >$20+.
Several years pass.
I bought a couple more Crescent wrenches for review and comparison purposes as sourcing changed and to satisfy my curiosity. I also bought a couple more Channellock wrenches.
Several more years pass.
Last week, my default impression was that Channellock’s wrenches are much better than Crescent’s. Or at least I had the general mindset that I wouldn’t buy a new Crescent wrench, I’d go straight to Channellock again. They *are* definitely better, and for several reasons. But, those differences could have had skewed my impression about the Crescent. While the Channellock wrenches are better, Crescent’s are better than I remember. Something screwed my impression.
Fast forward to last week. I needed 2 adjustables since I don’t have any other 15/16″ wrenches in the same room.
“Hmm, the Crescent buried in this tool box and that I haven’t picked up in a while is actually better than I remembered and would have expected. Might be worth posting about.”
No, I didn’t go out and buy these wrenches just now. And yes, I also have larger wrenches. I don’t use 10″ or 12″ adjustables often, but I have at least one of each. My larger combo wrenches aren’t immediately available because I don’t use sizes larger than 5/8″ very often.
The adjustables got me 90% the way there, and when I realized I needed box ends I went to retrieve them.
You never pass up an opportunity to be negative, do you?
Also, please read the post more carefully. What I said was:
Have I let myself become snobby about adjustable wrenches? Maybe I’ve just become spoiled by the smoothness of Irega and Channellock wrenches.
Nowhere did I say I bought them to be snobbish. But I have the right to question whether this is something that I’ve developed tool snobbery about.
I see tool snobbery all the time on forums and sometimes on social platforms. I see the same about other product categories too. A beginner wants to know what they need to get started, and seasoned users recommend tools that aren’t well matched for beginner budgets. It’s an attitude I try very hard to avoid, and I deliberately use lower-end tools on occasion to remind me of how performance or features scale to different budgets. But for adjustable wrenches, it seems I got stuck in a one-dimensional opinion.
I questioned whether my impression was skewed due to tool snobbery, but I doubt that’s the cause. What could have happened? Somehow my relativistic opinion shifted. Based on my past experiences, I believe Channellock wrenches are better than Crescent, but somehow my preference for Channellock led me to forget what was good about Crescent. All I know is that I pulled a Crescent wrench out of my box, and it surprised me by performing better than I remembered or expected. I thought it was noteworthy.
As far as purchasing Channellock wrenches go, I tried (but didn’t buy) the cushion grip version years ago and posted about it. Then I watched Amazon and bought a plain-handled one for $10.77 with a gift card. It was a while later that I also bought the cushion-grip version, I believe from an industrial supplier during a promo period or maybe Harry Epstein’s. I also bought some Irega wrenches for very low pricing at a Woodworking Show tool liquidator.
I still buy new and different adjustable wrenches every so often, for the sake of continued brand and design exposure. Through all that, I still prefer Channellock’s the best.
I have numerous Crescent style wrenches of various brands, vintages, and sizes, but rarely use them since I got the magic Knipex pliers…
I have an assortment of Adjustable Wrenches, I love my Crescent units. I have both Made in USA and the newer Made in China, in the Apex Factory. The USA versions I have show signs of old dies and machinery being used to make them, rattling heads and loose knurls, but they still work. The new versions from China are made extremely well, good tight fitting components that make the tool easy to use. You guys in the USA have a penchant for US made tools, in Australia we also have that penchant, but, our wages which are very high make it impossible for us to compete with imported products and to that end our manufacturing of tools has all but gone offshore. We really have no alternative but to buy imported product as there is no local product bar Lufkin Tapes that made here in Australia. The new Crescent adjustable wrenches are a very good tool, so if you can forget your bias then I suggest you try them out
I just bought a 10-inch Crescent-brand adjustable-wrench to remove a 22
year-old oxygen-sensor………worked like a charm. The 3-side grip that this brand has makes it fit very tightly around whatever you are tightening it on to.
Find an old D-Slot Williams adjustable wrench. They were too early for wide opening, but maybe the best standard design ever. Even competitors Armstrong and Proto licensed them.