Our coverage of Miwaukee’s 2015 new product symposium (see more of our recent new Milwaukee tool posts here) continues with a quick look at their new adjustable wrenches.
That’s right, adjustable wrenches.
Milwaukee has said time and time again that they don’t want to be a “me too” brand, and that they seek to introduce new tools that offer new and innovative features for users.
So what new and innovative features has Milwaukee brought to adjustable wrenches, a tool category that some might say is mature and over saturated?
To answer that, take a look at one of their adjustable wrench heads. Do you notice anything unusual? You should – this wrench has a very fine-tooth thumbwheel that provides 5 points of engagement!
Most adjustable wrenches, like Dewalt’s, and Crescent’s, have 3. My favorite adjustable wrench – Irega-made Channellock’s extra wide styles – have 4.
So why do you want more engagement? For one, more engagement usually means more strength. But, surprisingly, that’s something that Milwaukee’s product manager didn’t touch upon. What they emphasized was that the thumbwheel wouldn’t budge or self-adjust during use.
Self-adjustment is a big frustration when using lesser quality adjustable wrenches. You set the jaw opening, turn a fastener, reset the wrench position for another turn, and find that the opening width has changed. Having to adjust the wrench opening with the thumbwheel every turn or couple of turns of a fastener can really slow things down.
Milwaukee’s product manager encouraged us to do the “rattle test,” which is something Channellock also encourages. After you read this post, go pull one of your adjustable wrenches out of your toolbox or bag. Hold it by the handle and shake the wrench around a little.
It really isn’t too useful to listen for the sound one adjustable wrench makes. The “rattle test” is more useful when comparing the sounds of 2 different makes or models.
If you hear a lot of clanging around of the thumbwheel in one wrench, and quieter sounds in another, the quieter adjustable wrench will usually hold its jaw opening width closer to where the user set it to. Louder rattles usually indicate how much slop there is in the mechanism, which can sometimes make an adjustable wrench more prone to unintentional self-adjustments.
There is a tradeoff – looser thumbwheels are often easier to spin and adjust. Those with greater tolerances and less slop are often a little slower to spin and adjust.
Milwaukee’s product manager also mentioned that the new adjustables will be a little slower to adjust, but that it’s slight enough where it might go unnoticed.
Milwaukee also strayed from the traditional I-beam design that some brands still adhere to. They also added in a branded and Milwaukee-red handle insert to provide greater gripping comfort.
Here is their extra-wide adjustable wrench, although I don’t recall if it was their 6-inch or 8-inch size. I think it was the 8-inch.
And here’s the standard sized wrench.
Comparing the two, you can see that there’s a pretty substantial difference between standard and extra-wide adjustable wrenches.
So why buy one of the other? The standard wrench will be available at a slightly lower price point and is a little less bulky, while the extra-wide wrench obviously offers greater jaw capacity.
There will be a couple of different sizes, although a full list wasn’t immediately available.
Don’t give your current adjustable wrenches away just yet, as these won’t be available for quite some time.
ETA: Feb 2016
One of these days, I’d really like for a tool brand to demonstrate their brand new adjustable wrenches against Channellock’s, rather than Crescent’s. On the other hand, Crescent seems to be the by-far dominant player in the adjustable wrench market. Theirs are the wrenches to beat.
Still, these new Milwaukee wrenches offer some nice features, and might even best Channellock and Irega’s offerings.
I liked what I saw, and am definitely eager to get my hands on the new wrenches once they hit the market.
Right now there’s no plan for Milwaukee to come out with thin-jaw models, which Channellock just came out with, but they said they will continue to explore options. I asked about this because I found the new adjustable wrenches to be a little chunky. Sometimes you want an adjustable wrench to be a little thicker, other times you need one that’s a little thinner.
Before anyone can say it in comments, yes – the Knipex Pliers Wrench is often a better tool. The discussion in a more recent Pliers Wrench post confirm that it’s a very popular tool. But it’s also more expensive than an adjustable wrench and the Pliers Wrench won’t replace the use of adjustables 100% of the time. Just like an adjustable wrench won’t replace a set of “real” combination wrenches, the Pliers Wrench won’t completely replace adjustable wrenches.
What do you think – are you excited for these new Milwaukee adjustable wrenches to come out?