Wrenches 101

Every good tool set needs a few multipurpose wrenches on hand to grip, tighten, and manipulate things like fasteners - most commonly nuts and bolts. They come in many sizes (both in standard and metric sizes) and can be adjustable.

In this guide, we'll break down the various type of wrenches and their use-case:

Wrench size

When looking for the right wrench for your project, the first thing you want to do is look for one that fits the nut or bolt you'll be using. This helps you avoid stripping your hardware.

Standard wrenches can be found in sixteenth-inch increments and are designed to be a few thousandths of an inch bigger than your fastener.

You also want to make sure the wrench can actually fit in the space you're working in and be turned or held as needed.

Most common wrench types

Adjustable wrenches
Allen Wrenches


Adjustable wrenches are great all-purpose solutions because they adjust and can fit standard and metric fasteners. You should stock a large one (10”) and a small one (6”) to cover most basic jobs around the home. These work well for tightening nuts and bolts on cars, bikes, faucets, showerheads, and lots more.

Allen wrenches

Typically shaped like an L (though also available in ratcheting sets or T shapes), these may look familiar if you’ve ever assembled furniture. Allen wrenches (aka hex keys) turn or hold in place screws that have a hexagonal socket. And while they're included with a lot of products requiring assembly, having your own set of standard and metric sizes is handy for working on bikes, electronics, and repairing furniture, cars, motorcycles, and tools.


Working with wrenches alot? if you’re starting a collection, you should also include:

Open-end wrenches
These are common two-sided wrenches where each side is a different size. They function much like an adjustable wrench but are usually smaller, and because their jaws are fixed, they can create a better grip. The downside? You may need a lot of sizes for all your future projects..

Box or closed wrenches
These wrenches use ring-like grips to fit right over the fastener you’re working on and are less likely to strip a nut or bolt as a result. Though they fit into tighter spaces, they can only be used if there’s enough room to slip the ring over the object being gripped. Note! Combination wrenches combine open-end and box wrenches, with one type on each side of the handle..

Socket wrenches
Socket wrenches with ratcheting handles can speed your work right up. The sockets fit over the fastener and can tighten or loosen a bolt like a typical wrench, but the ratchet feature allows you to skip repositioning the socket for every turn. You can simply swing the handle back to the starting point and turn again.

While you don’t need much more than a few adjustable wrenches to tackle most tasks, there are times when only a specialty wrench can do the job.

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