I have found that there are certain tools that people tend to get very polarized about. 1/4″ socket spinners are a great example of this. From what I have seen, professional wrenches and weekend warriors alike either love socket spinners, or they hate them.
A socket spinner is a screwdriver-shaped tool with a 1/4″ square drive at the tip. Pop on a socket, and spin in like you would a screwdriver. This allows users to very rapidly install longer bolts and the like.
Spinner handles allow you to create a set of space-saving nut drivers, although spinners with sockets lack the through-hole shafts that nut drivers often feature for spinning nuts onto long bolts or threaded shafts. This is why brands like Klein, which aren’t often tied to the automotive or aerospace markets, offer socket spinners.
Some spinners, such as the Williams, SK, and Proto models linked below, feature a female 1/4″ square recess at the end of the handle. This allows the spinner to be used with a ratchet or breaker bar.
Socket spinners with square recesses can be more convenient than those without, as they serve double-duty as long extensions.
T-handle spinners, or “speed wrenches,” are also available.
While I have nothing against socket spinners, I find them useful in theory but unnecessary in practice. I have yet to come across an application where I couldn’t speedily use a nutdriver, Wera Zyklop ratchet, or Gearwrench Roto Ratchet. But if I didn’t have nutdrivers or swivel-head ratchets, spinner handles would probably appeal to me even more.
I used to keep a Craftsman spinner around here for “just in case” purposes, but have lost track of it over the years.
Buy Now: Klein 65621 | Williams M-106A | SK 40953 | Proto J4769 (via Amazon)
Socket spinner handles are typically available for $10-20.
What do you think? Are socket spinners underappreciated tools, or are they just plain unnecessary?
Not a big fan of them of a dedicated socket spinner since it seems like an unnecessary redundant tool. Could just use a 1/4″ square bit in a screwdriver and without a hex bolster at the end of the screwdriver not enough torque for a lot of applications. Plus the ability to lose even more sockets that way.
I think a socket spinner would probably be a reasonable case for the average DIYer to not need a set of nut drivers. I certainly don’t have anything against them, though I do already have a set of nut drivers (though my nut drivers do not have thru-hole shafts either).
I hadn’t seen the type that also offers the square recess in the other end to act as an extension or for breaker bar, and I think that is a pretty clever idea – I’ll be putting one of those on my wishlist.
Yes, one of these handles with a small socket set makes a good nutdriver set too – but these handles aren’t primary tools. They’re pretty good for spares/backups/extra kits. That’s where I use mine.
I like to refer them as to “The just in case tool” I have used mine on several locations. The are always nice to have around.
They also come in sizes for 1/2 inch drive:
VIM HD500-6 and
and in 3/8 inch drive:
Like Proto J5267 which has a flex shaft and Williams 31016 which has a solid shaft.
1/4 drive ones come in variants too like Grey Pneumatics’ 9506WH (Wobble head) and an odd one from Ko Ken:
Dedicated nut drivers are usually better but I don’t have all the SA and Metric sizes, and being infrequently used, these come in handy. Mine came with an old craftsman tool set.
I like to use them in situation where a regular socket wrench might apply too much torque and cause damage; such as on plastic enclosures or when assembling some wood products (similar to IK*A).
I have an extendable one in a trunk bag with some common sockets to save the space. Used it a few times, so I’m in favor.
How about one that has a joint in the handle ? Fold it over for more torque, straight for speed.
I use mine less now that I have a good nut driver set.
A post about something like that from Facom is already scheduled for this week or next. It’s a spinner that pivots in middle.
Ko Ken makes one:
I grabbed a couple of Husky branded ones at my local ocean state job lot for a buck 50. I like them , use it when servicing my chainsaws and lawnmower.
The regular ones like pictured I don’t think are particularly useful but I have a Snap-On TMR4 that is a ratcheting version that I absolutely love. It’s great for removing small bolts that are not highly torqued or are recessed.
I have an old craftsman one that came in a toolkit I purchased at least 20 years ago. I used it until i got dedicated and insulated nutdrivers.
I have several of these and keep them at home, at work, and also in my vehicle bags. They have come in handy more than once and can be highly useful. I have even used them with deepwell sockets at times. They are also useful for using with other extensions when you need a really long nutdriver. I have 1/4″ to 3/8″ adapters to use with them so I can use 3/8″ drive sockets. I have full sets of nutdrivers, but I’m not always near them.
Like others stated, they are more useful in a portable tool box, or for someone with a limited number of tools, than at home when you already own nut drivers.
I wasn’t aware of the model with a 1/4″ socket adapter in the back. That would multiple its usefulness, especially in a space-limited portable tool box. Thanks!
The Westward 5MW20 – 3/8 – also has a socket at the back
I am definitely in favor of the 1/4″ spinner. This tool combined with a thorough 1/4″ socket set, a 1/4″ drive hex bit adapter, and a couple strips of bits, makes a very versatile compact mobile tool set. The downfall of nut drivers is that in order to have a complete set you need a ton of them. Also if you’re unsure of the size you need, you’ll find yourself grabbing 4 that you think might work. The 1/4″ spinner is the one tool that can be 200+ drivers. The 1/4″ spinner can be used on RC cars to Formula One cars. It is the holy grail of tools.
I have one, and almost never reach for it.
I don’t understand why anyone would hate a spinner handle. I have more than a few in 1/4 and 3/8 drive. I have a two foot one with the female 1/4 square drive on the handle that is perfect for lower radiator hose clamps or anything needing some reach. I also modify a few with locking adapters. I like them for starting intake manifold bolts before following the torque procedure. They can be very useful. By the way I don’t think there’s such a thing as a redundant tool on a tool blog. LOL
Spinners with female square drives in the handle end can also double as extensions, e.g. the Williams model shown above.
Yep.. and you can use a deep well socket on it for situations where a shallow nut driver wont cut it..
Certain jobs they end up working out pretty good on..
The handle on that KLEIN looks similar to my sears made in the USA screw driver set.
One place I have used mine replacing the battery in my car/truck with a shallow socket…dedicated one is no shallow enough and the dedicated open wrench tends to not grip that well. I leave one in the car and truck for that reason alone only. Another reason that I can think of, when someone asks me for a jusp start, I always like to disconnect the battery from my car to not mess up some electronic stuff….
Also one came in handy when replacing my f-150 tail light bulbs….. using a retchet would not ratchet….so I used the spinner.
I have a short spinner left over from my days as an auto tech; I find it very useful in confined spaces. You can buy them new from Snap On for twenty bucks, on in their imported line for around eight.
They’re okay; nothing to get excited about. As a DIYer I’m not enthusiatic about them, as ratchets give you more control and overall torque (twisting ability). When you think about it, though, they’re quite similar in that respect to a screwdriver, regardless of the head type (Phillips, slotted, etc.). A T-handle or a rubberized grip greatly improves the amount of force you can exert with either one.
They’re probably most useful when you don’t have access to a standard ratchet or breaker bar as part of your tool kit. They have a place in your tool arsenal, it’s just that it’s purpose is not well-defined (i.e., it’s not the first tool you would reach for). It’s most needed when space is at a premium. However, it is less useful outside that parameter because of what you give up in terms of applying force to a fastener. A locking extension could be considered a more useful tool, as it won’t let go of a socket after you’ve finished tightening a fastener in a restricted workspace (such as an engine bay or under the kitchen sink).
Your ears must have been burning. Just the other day I opened my ratchet drawer looking down at two spinners from Snap On & Matco and asked myself do I still need them in this drawer?
The answer is yes, at least one of them; I like them in low torque situations when holding nuts in place especially in hard to reach spots while using a ratchet in the other hand on the bolt. Can I use other tools for the same job? Sure I could.
They don’t take up much space and it goes on the road with me (good extension), I thought I would be using it more often but at the same time I do still use them. The Wera would for sure make a nice Gucci replacement.
PS: Congrats on your new member of the family.
Get a Wera Zyklop and you are all set …
That being said the socket spinners in my Bacho sets see quite alot of use, those are of course equipped with the adapter in the back, useful for that extra reach sometimes!
Pretty much a useless tool. There is one in my 1/4 socket set and I don’t recall ever using it.
I will always opt for the ratchet or use a T bar.
I have the Craftsman through-handle versions, and they are the PERFECT tool for when you need to initially break a fastener free with a socket and ratchet, but then want to pop off the ratchet handle and spin the extension, but where a plain or even knurled extension isn’t enough. This is usually the case on things like valve covers or underhood shields – a nut driver won’t give you enough torque, and just a ratchet leaves you either ratcheting 50 times or spinning the handle – which is possibly a bad idea depending on the proximity to the battery, wires, or around custom-painted engine parts.
I like the 1/4″ spinners enough that even though my original is in great shape, I bought every single USA-made Craftsman one I could get my hands on when the China-made ones started showing up. I also finally managed to get the slightly shorter 4.5″ long version, for whenever it’s needed.
While they may not be for everyone, they have their place in a set of 1/4″ sockets, and as mentioned, they work great in place of a set of nut drivers for a compact tool set.
I like them , I combine one with Snap On semi deep sockets , to use as a nut driver . It has a 1/4″ square recess in the butt , so I can use a Johnson bar , if I need high torque . I work out of a briefcase kit a lot , so I like multiuse tools .
I only found this site bacause I have recently lost my heavily used 1/4″ spinner and I’m looking for a replacement.
I carry a fairly concise set of tools for work and it serves as a nut spinner and 6″ extension.
I loved it and miss it deeply, I can’t understand that others don’t.
I need a 1/2″ one. Not sure why they are all 1/4″.
I have a screw inside a shelf that I have a hex socket for but nothing fits it.
I have a Felo t-handle but there’s no room to turn the t-handle, there’s no room to use the ratchet. A spinner handle is perfect but no one makes a 1/2″.
What about simply using a 1/2″ extension, or a 1/2″ extension with T-handle attached?
You won’t find this in 1/2″ sizing due to torque delivery limitations. Most uses for 1/2″ sockets involve larger fasteners that you’re not going to easily or effectively tighten or loosen with an inline screwdriver-style tool.
I have a t-handle but that won’t work. I finally found a 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch Adapter, so I can use my spinner handle. On order from Amazon to arrive Monday.
I’m working in a very tight space. The screw placement is 1/4 inch from the top right edge and a shelf is below it, which is why an extension won’t work. It’s an entertainment center shelf made to hold dvds. The screw came out when the movers carried it inside.
I did learn something new….my socket set came with a plastic ring. It’s a spinner for close quarters when you can’t move the handle. I wondered what that was for.
I own two. They have not been used in over a decade, ever since I bought real nutdrivers.