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An adjustable spanner (UK, and most other English-speaking countries) or adjustable wrench (US and Canada) is an open-end 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. Several other names are in use, including casually imprecise use of a US trademark as crescent wrench.
Forms and names
English engineer Richard Clyburn is credited with inventing an adjustable spanner in 1842. Another English engineer, Edwin Beard Budding, is also credited with the invention. Improvements followed: on 22 September 1885 Enoch Harris received US patent 326868 for his spanner that permitted both the jaw width and the angle of the handles to be adjusted and locked. Swedish company Bahco attributes an improved design, in 1891 or 1892, to Swedish inventor Johan Petter Johansson. who in 1892 received a patent Johansson's spanner was a further development of Clyburn's original "screw spanner". In Canada and the United States, the tool is known as a Crescent wrench or an adjustable wrench.
There are many forms of adjustable spanners, from the taper locking spanners which needed a hammer to set the movable jaw to the size of the nut, to the modern screw adjusted spanner. Some adjustable spanners automatically adjust to the size of the nut. 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.
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. For this reason, it's good practice to exert the force on tight bolts toward the movable jaw rather than away from it, for the latter 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, mar bolt heads, or be ruined entirely.
The type of straight adjustable spanner with jaws at right angles to the handle shown here as an "English Key"[not in citation given] is mainly called a "King Dick"[not in citation given] spanner in the United Kingdom because of a popular British brand of small, handy and reliable adjustable spanner used throughout the 1900s and used in great numbers during World War II.
A popular type of adjustable spanner has a base and jaws that form four (4) sides of a hexagon, and is therefore particularly suited for hexagonal nuts ("hex nuts") and hexagonal headed ("hex head") cap screws and bolts.
In the United States and Canada, the adjustable spanner (adjustable wrench) is sometimes colloquially referred to as a "crescent wrench" due to the widespread Crescent brand of adjustable wrenches; the former Crescent Tool Company was the assignee of the 1915 U.S. patent for the most familiar form factor of adjustable wrench. The Crescent brand of hand tools is now owned and marketed by Apex Tool Group, LLC. In some parts of Europe, adjustable spanners are often called a Bahco. This term refers to the company of the Swedish inventor Johan Petter Johansson, which was originally called B.A. (Bernt August) Hjort & Company. The Swedes themselves call the key "skiftnyckel" which is translated into adjustable key (shifting key). In Australia adjustable spanners are can also be referred to as "shifters".
- Pipe wrench or Stillson wrench
- Plumber wrench
- Monkey wrench
- Diamond Calk Horseshoe Company
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