It’s not very often you run across a completely unfamiliar type of hand tool, but that’s what happened when I stopped by the Kirk Wrench booth in the Inventors Spotlight section of the National Hardware Show. The exhibitors in that area are typically brand new companies showing first-time products.
That definitely describes the Kirk Wrench, an ingenious drive system for reaching nuts and bolts that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to get at with standard wrenches and ratchets (as shown in the demo video below).
There are different attachments for reaching around different types of obstructions.
It’s difficult to describe the various components, because they are unfamiliar and the system is so new its developers have yet to come up with the final names for all of them. The only recognizable part of the Kirk Wrench is the handle, a reversible breaker bar with an oversize composite grip. After that, there is a static arm or arc, a curved connector piece that accepts proprietary attachments and also standard attachments such as sockets, crow foot wrenches, hex wrenches, and the like.
Among the proprietary attachments is an adjustable head that functions as a tight-quarters adjustable wrench, a ratchet, and a pivoting ratchet head that reminds me of the Wera Zyklops. Handles and accessories can be attached at any of the square perforations through the arcs.
Pieces can be mixed and matched in any number of configurations – the manufacturer says there are hundreds of possibilities – to allow you to work around the obstructions encountered inside cabinets, engine compartments, and anywhere else with restricted access.
The Kirk Wrench is the brainchild of Kirk Hyust, a remodeler who landed a job that involved replacing cabinets and plumbing in a large number of apartment units. The supply lines were so close to the backs and corners of cabinets it was hard to put wrenches on the compression fittings at shutoffs.
Hyust dealt with the problem by cutting the head off an adjustable wrench and welding it to a handle that came out from the open side—which allowed him to reach around from the back of the valve.
To develop the Kirk Wrench, Hyust joined forces with several friends and investors, among them a mechanical engineer and another who manages auto repair shops. They picture the Kirk Wrench being used by mechanics, building contractors, plumbers, aircraft maintenance techs, and others who often encounter fasteners or fixtures that are difficult to access and turn.
As with many exhibitors at NHS, they were there to find distributors willing to carry their product. If that doesn’t work out, there is always the possibility they’ll sell the Kirk Wrench directly to end users online. They hope to have the product available before Black Friday in November 2017.
The folks from Kirk Wrench showed me prototypes of a $50 set aimed at DIYers. This set works with 1/4″ drive accessories, and would include a handle, a static arm, and a ratchet. A 3/8″ drive version of the same, aimed at pro users, would sell for about $150.
The company’s Facebook page shows a set aimed at plumbers, featuring a handle, static arm, and an open end wrench fitting that presumably fits compression fittings. It’s unclear what other accessories will cost—though there seem to be plenty with more on the way.
More Info(via Kirk Wrench)
I can see why the product was conceived as a solution to the installation and removal of plumbing compression fittings. They’re never where you can get at them and there is always something in the way. The same may be true of nuts and bolts deep in an engine compartment or piece of machinery.
Do I like the Kirk Wrench? As a concept, yes; it’s incredibly clever and for that reason alone I find it appealing.
Would I consider buying one if and when it becomes available? That would depend on what I was working on. There was a time when I worked on machinery, repaired my own vehicles, and did a fair amount of plumbing work. In those days the Kirk Wrench would have been very appealing.
It has less appeal now—not because of any flaw in the product but because I no longer do the kind of work where a reach-anywhere-wrench would be of use. Fortunately for the folks at Kirk Wrench, there are plenty of people out there who regularly do the kind of work where a reach-anywhere-wrench might come in handy.
I don’t picture this being an “everyday” tool. For me it would be the kind of tool that lives deep in the toolbox and comes out when nothing else will work.
Would having a tool like this save you time or effort?
For compression fittings, we often used ratcheting flare-nut wrenches from Proto. These are sometimes called Kwik_Tite Wrenches if you like the Imperial (Stride Tool) brand.
If they fitted this style wrench head to their handle – that might make the tool handy. CDI (a Snap-On company) already makes this style wrench head for use with torque wrenches.
Kudos to Kirk Huyst for having the vision and determination to go from his roughly welded prototype to an interesting and very professional looking system. The merchandising looks pretty good, too, with a package that looks like people should be able to touch the product and imagine themselves using it in one or more of its various configurations.
It’s very hard for single-product manufacturers to get shelf space at big box retailers, but he may do well at specialty stores if he can get some sales help to reach all of them. I wish him well as it’s great to see that single-person product innovation is alive and well in the US.
I agree the hard part is that while awesome, these specialty tools have the challenge of having to explain to someone how to use it and how it will be handy in the future. The packaging doesn’t help with that at all. Without word of mouth, long advertisement/instruction, display section, or even just knowing about this tool before hand its not like someone is going to walk into Home Depot and be swayed to just pick it up.
while I appreciate the concept that looks fairly clunky and heavy. I like the idea but oddly this is what I think harbor freight is for. I have done just like he as on a number of occasions.
go to HF – buy cheap set of something – take the one wrench I need – cut, beat, bend, grind etc to fit my specific need. If it’s a job I will do again – keep it in bottom drawer of roll around.
I can however see his concept tool making it way into some jet engine makers – field service tool kit for Quick Engine Change. Looks like something Pratt would do. That’s not a bad thing mind you.
Just too gimicky!
Good for them, always like to se innovation.
It’s definitely outside the box thinking…sadly, without actually trying them, the prototype looks like the most useful version of the tool.
I think it’s cool but they’re gonna have a hard time making a go of it. It’s so specialized sales volume will always be low even if they get off the ground.
It would be more versatile if the main handle had a ratchet head instead of just a breaker bar type of head. Also, did Kirk know that the valve handles on those fittings can be removed to give you access from any side?
The picture shown is also particularly bad as a selling point. The wall of the cabinet will get in the way of turning the wrench head shown – beyond a few degrees.
Most of the time a bolt or nut that is impossible to get to is also unbelievable tight. At this price it need a cheater or the ability to use one and not break the wrench
They often feel that tight because you can’t get leverage on them in my experience.
Where do you get one??
None on google, amazon or ebay
It looks like a cool idea. We run into issues trying to break gas fittings loose when replacing furnaces in closets often. I wonder if it would be sturdy enough to do that.
Cool idea. One small improvement would be, to make the adjustable wrench, adjustment knob, tool free. Otherwise, imagine yourself crawling into said tight space, it’s probably not well lit you may be using your hands to support yourself.
To 1. need to bring and hold another tool, 2. Be able to mate them together without line of site/poor lighting 3. possibly not enough clearance to fit separate adjustment tool, would make life much more complicated. Overall I think It’s a great concept, I hope the quality and implementation will be done right
i think for regular mechanics it would have very limited usefulness because in my experience just because you can get a fastener loose with that tool doesnt mean your going to be able to get it back in. so the obstruction your trying to avoid removing will most likely need to come off anyways. but any innovation is good! and hey maybe it will work better than i think it will
i can certainly envision a use for this in automotive repair work i frequently do. If it was available i would buy it if it was in the $50 – $75 range
There are too much gimmicky junk tools out there today that seem to be made just to make them. Tools that were made to answer a question nobody asked….
I am very much against gimmicky tools but admit I am intrigued by this wrench. I believe if I owned it that it would set in the toolbox 97% of the time and I would have little use for it, BUT…. Those 3% of the times when you find yourself in one of those odd situations where nothing else seems to work I do think this would be handy when you just can’t reach a fastener with nothing else in the toolbox.
An it may just come in handy more than you think once you get more used to using it.
I would be interested in checking one out first hand……
And they have gone bust already.