Adjustable spanner

An adjustable spanner (UK and most other English-speaking countries) or adjustable wrench (US and Canada) is any of various styles of spanner (wrench) with a movable jaw, allowing it to be used with different sizes of fastener head (nut, bolt, etc.) rather than just one fastener size, as with a conventional fixed spanner.[1]

From the bottom:
  1. The first adjustable wrench from 1892 (Enköping Mekaniska Verkstad)
  2. Adjustable wrench from 1910 with an improved handle (BAHCO)
  3. Adjustable wrench from 1915 with a slightly rounder handle (BAHCO)
  4. Adjustable wrench from 1954 with improved handle and new jaw angle of 15 degrees (BAHCO)
  5. Adjustable wrench from 1984 and the first with ERGO handle (BAHCO)
  6. Today's version of the adjustable wrench from 1992 with ERGO (BAHCO)

There are many forms of adjustable spanners; many of them are screw-adjusted, whereas others use levers, and some early ones used wedges.

Forms and namesEdit

There are many forms of adjustable spanners; many of them are screw-adjusted, whereas others use levers, and some early ones used wedges. The early taper-locking spanners needed a hammer to set the movable jaw to the size of the nut. The modern screw-adjusted spanner and lever types are easily and quickly adjusted. Some adjustable spanners automatically adjust to the size of the nut, using a motor and battery. Simpler models use a serrated edge to lock the movable jaw to size, while more sophisticated versions are digital types that use sheets or feelers to set the size.

English engineer Richard Clyburn is credited with inventing an adjustable spanner in 1842;[2][3] it had the thumbwheel screw (worm-on-rack arrangement) that would later be famous via subsequent adaptations. Another English engineer, Edwin Beard Budding, is also credited with the invention.[4][5] Improvements followed: on 22 September 1885 Enoch Harris received US patent 326868[6] for his spanner that permitted both the jaw width and the angle of the handles to be adjusted and locked.

One of the most widely known forms or types of adjustable wrench is an improved version of the Clyburn type, developed in 1891–1892, that the Swedish company Bahco attributes to Swedish inventor Johan Petter Johansson[7][8] who in 1892 received a Swedish patent for it.[9][10] In Canada and the United States, this type is often known as a Crescent wrench owing to widespread genericization of the brand name[11] of the company that held the original 1915 U.S. patent for this type (U.S. Patent 1133236A), the Crescent Tool Company. (The Crescent brand is now owned by the Apex Tool Group). As Geesin 2015 documents,[3] the worm-on-rack type (regardless of which terminology is used to name it) was invented in Britain,[3] and later popularized in Scandinavia via the Bahco/Johansson improvement, before its manufacture in the United States was patented. The Bahco/Johansson/Crescent category (regardless of which terminology is used to name it) became so dominant in the 20th century that in North America, the very term adjustable wrench usually elicits the meaning of this type in general usage today, unless another type is specified. In Australia it is sometimes referred to as a "shifting spanner" or its abbreviated form of "shifter".[12][unreliable source?]

Monkey wrenches are another type of adjustable spanner with a long history; the origin of the name is unclear.[13] Before the Bahco/Johansson/Crescent type became widespread in the United States, during the industrial era of the 1860s to the 1910s, various monkey wrench types were the dominant form of adjustable wrench there.

Another popular type of adjustable spanner has a base and jaws that form four sides of a hexagon, and is therefore particularly suited for hexagonal nuts ("hex nuts") and hexagonal headed ("hex head") cap screws and bolts.

In some parts of Europe, adjustable spanners are often called a Bahco,[8][14] owing to genericization of the name of the Bahco/Johansson type. In Denmark, this type of spanner is commonly referred to as a "svensknøgle", which basically translates to Swedish key. The Swedes themselves call the key "skiftnyckel", which is translated into adjustable key (shifting key).[15] In Australia, adjustable spanners are also referred to as "shifters".[16]

Design and useEdit

The fixed jaw can withstand bending stress far better than can the movable jaw, because the latter is supported only by the flat surfaces on either side of the guide slot, not the full thickness of the tool. The tool is therefore usually angled so that the movable jaw's area of contact is closer to the body of the tool, which means less bending stress. Still, one should avoid applying excessive force on tight bolts, since doing so can pry open the mounting of the movable jaw causing the wrench to no longer be able to be snugged to bolt heads, loosen too easily, or mar bolt heads. In some cases the jaws of the tool can break.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ FCS Engineering Technology L2. Pearson South Africa. 2009. pp. 161–. ISBN 978-1-77025-592-0.
  2. ^ Murray, John (1845). The Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England. pp. 388–.
  3. ^ a b c Geesin, Ron (2015), The Adjustable Spanner: History, Origins and Development to 1970, Crowood Press, ISBN 9781785000362.
  4. ^ John Lloyd; John Mitchinson; James Harkin (30 October 2012). 1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off. Faber & Faber. pp. 44–. ISBN 978-0-571-29795-5.
  5. ^ Lance Day; Ian McNeil (11 September 2002). Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology. Routledge. pp. 206–. ISBN 978-1-134-65019-4.
  6. ^ U.S. Patent 326,868
  7. ^ "About Us | BAHCO". Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  8. ^ a b Swedish Bahco leaflet about the development history of adjustable spanners (including photos) Archived October 15, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Johansson, Johan Petter (May 11, 1892). "SE Patent: SE-4,066 Stallbar skrufnyckel". Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents.
  10. ^ Andreas Bergh (31 July 2014). Sweden and the Revival of the Capitalist Welfare State. Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 11–. ISBN 978-1-78347-350-2.
  11. ^ "Has crescent wrench become a generic trademark?". 12 January 2020. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  12. ^ "Shifter". June 2019.
  13. ^ The Davistown Museum — The Boston Wrench Group
  14. ^ "Has bahco become a generic trademark?". 12 January 2020. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  15. ^ Basic Swedish: A Grammar and Workbook ISBN 1-351-16966-1 p. 177
  16. ^ "shifting spanner". HarperCollins.