What Is a Monkey Wrench? –  All the Beginner’s Info You Need

 

A monkey wrench is an adjustable wrench with a wide range of applications. It can be used to tighten or loosen pipes, nuts, bolts, or sockets. It is easy to use and delivers powerful torque for even the tightest fasteners. It can be used with small, medium, and large objects.

At a glance, a monkey wrench is an F-shaped clamp with a jaw adjustment mechanism. It has a fixed upper jaw and a moveable lower jaw. It uses a screw mechanism to move the adjustable jaw towards or away from the fixed jaw.

History of the Monkey Wrench

The first version of the monkey wrench was made in the 18th century and was referred to as the coach wrench. It continued to be used in the 19th century, the 20th century, and the 21st century.

However, there has been a gradual refinement in its design over the years. The 18th-century monkey wrench was quite chunky and bulky, but the modern one is lighter and easier to use.

What Is the Difference Between a Pipe Wrench and a Monkey Wrench?

Although both have an F-shape, there is a slight difference in their jaw design. The monkey wrench has a smooth jaw, while a pipe wrench has a toothed jaw. The smooth jaw in the monkey wrench makes it suitable for use on smooth and flat surfaces such as lug nuts, bolts, and screws. The lack of teeth makes it unsuitable for use with round fasteners.

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On the other hand, pipe wrenches are mainly designed for pipes. The toothed jaw offers a firm grip on round surfaces for easy turning and twisting.

Why Is It Called a Monkey Wrench?

The actual monkey wrench as we know it today was officially invented around 1858 by Charles Moncky. The monkey wrench was named using a purposeful misspelling of the name – Charles Moncky.

Keep in mind when learning the history of the monkey wrench, however, that there are many different stories floating around about its origin and who invented it. During your research, you may also discover that the proper name for a monkey wrench is actually adjustable spanner.

An adjustable spanner is simply a wrench with an adjustable jaw that permits it to grasp nuts and bolts of varying sizes.

How to Use a Monkey Wrench

Steps for Using a Monkey Wrench to Loosen a Fastener

Below are the steps for using a monkey wrench to loosen a fastener:

  1. Identify the fastener that you want to use the monkey wrench on
  2. Using the screw mechanism, open the monkey wrench to allow enough space for the fastener’s head to fit
  3. Position the wrench so that the fastener’s head is positioned between the jaws
  4. Using the screw mechanism, close the bottom jaw to hold the fastener’s head securely. The grip should be firm enough to prevent the wrench from slipping off when you turn it
  5. Firmly hold the wrench’s handle and turn it smoothly and slowly in the anti-clockwise direction. Keep turning until the fastener loosens

Steps for Using a Monkey Wrench to Tighten a Fastener

  1. Put the fastener in the respective joint
  2. Using your fingers, turn it clockwise until it is secured in place
  3. Open the monkey wrench to allow enough space for the fastener’s head to fit
  4. Position the wrench so that the fastener’s head is positioned between the jaws
  5. Using the screw mechanism, close the bottom jaw to hold the fastener’s head securely. The grip should be firm enough to prevent the wrench from slipping off when you turn it
  6. Firmly hold the wrench’s handle and turn it smoothly and slowly in a clockwise direction. Keep turning until the fastener is tightly secured in place
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Tips for Using a Monkey Wrench to Loosen or Tighten a Fastener

  • Hold the handle towards the end rather than at the center or near the jaw to optimize torque
  • If you do not have enough room to make a full circle turn, you will have to mount and dismount the wrench severally until the fastener is loosened

Factors to Consider When Buying a Monkey Wrench Set

Monkey wrench
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Durability

The durability of a monkey wrench set mainly depends on the materials used to make it. Go for one made of aluminum and steel. Aluminum is lightweight and makes it easier to handle. In comparison, steel is sturdy and more suitable for bigger wrenches.

Size

Monkey wrenches are available in a wide range of sizes. Size, in this case, is twofold – the length of the handle and the minimum to the maximum range of the adjustable range. Most monkey wrenches are 8-18 inches long, while the industrial ones can be up to 4 feet.

Consider the diameter of the objects you will be using the monkey wrench on and buy a wrench whose jaw range is within its diameter. The wider the opening range, the longer the handle should be to provide adequate torque for smooth motion.

Type of Project

Monkey wrenches can be used on most metals with flat surfaces. However, consider a pipe wrench instead if you work with pipes and round objects. Unless it has a slim head design, it is not suitable for use in tight corners.

Our Favorite Monkey Wrench Options

1. Stanley Proto Facom Monkey Wrench

Monkey Wrench 11"

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The Stanley Proto Facom Monkey Wrench is best suited for heavy-duty work and opening and closing wide objects. It is versatile and can be used in a wide range of settings, including farm work, automotive work, and construction.

This monkey wrench has a sturdy and durable build. It is made of hardened steel with a satin finish that provides corrosion resistance and excellent grip. Its design incorporates worm gear, which provides a smooth operation of the jaw. Its jaw is smooth to prevent marring fasteners or other surfaces it is used on. The 11-inch handle provides adequate torque even when handling large and heavy objects.

Pros

  • High-quality build
  • Delivers optimal torque
  • Jaw opens wide (Up to 3 inches)
  • Does not damage fasteners

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Bulky

2. Titan Tools 21321 11-inch Auto Wrench

Titan 21321 11-Inch Auto Wrench

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The Titan monkey wrench has a standard 11-inch handle length and 3-inch jaw opening. It is designed to provide ergonomic handling and durability. This adjustable jaw wrench is made of steel with a satin finish, and the handle has an I-beam design.

It is most suitable for heavy-duty work, e.g., hydraulic hose fittings or chrome fittings. The smooth jaws are non-marring, and large knurls enable easy and smooth jaw adjustment.

Pros

  • High-quality build
  • Suitable for heavy-duty work
  • Easy and smooth jaw adjustment

Cons

  • Slightly pricey

Conclusion

A monkey wrench is best suited for heavy-duty work. Its characteristic flat jaw ensures that it does not mar the objects it is used for. When buying one, ensure that it is the right size for its intended purpose.

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