May 2010: Toolbox


The wrench is a crucial implement in your bag of D.I.Y. tricks. It’s what you’ll need for gripping and applying torque to objects that need to be turned, fastened or tightened such as nuts and bolts. As with most tools, there are many different kinds of wrenches designed for specific jobs, but I’m here to tell that a socket wrench set is sufficient for most of your D.I.Y. home improvement needs. 


First, though, an overview of the landscape: The traditional wrench family is divided into open-ended wrenches and box-end wrenches. The former has a U-shaped opening, the ends of which are like teeth angled in at about 15 degrees. You can get this type of wrench with an adjustable end or as a set with different size openings. The latter “box” type has an enclosed ring for fitting over the face of the nut or bolt. As the box type isn’t adjustable, you need a set of wrenches in various sizes for different size fasteners.  There are also combination wrenches that are open-ended on one end and box-end on the other.

The socket wrench set comes with a handle and separate, removable hexagonal socket heads to fit different size nuts, bolts and other fasteners. The reason I like the socket so much is that it comes with a ratcheting handle so you don’t have to keep lifting off and repositioning the wrench as you tighten. Most socket sets come with other drive handles as well. For example, if you need a ton of torque for a particularly corroded bolt, you can use the extra-long non-ratcheting handle, or if you need less torque to drive in a nut, you can use the screwdriver handle.—Katherine Ludwig