Did you know the exact type of spanner that every single workshop has in their toolbox today is actually one of the oldest known hand-held tools that ever existed? Unlike smartphones and jumbo jets, the most basic spanner is almost unchanged since the 1400s, when this grippy lever was first used to ensure a tight fit on the body armour of warriors, and to wind up a crossbow with far greater tension than would otherwise be possible with a bare hand.
Today, the basic spanner is accompanied by a fully-fledged and diverse family of wrenches and spanners that can get just about every type of tightening and loosening for every type of fastener imaginable done with ease. Whether it’s a generic spanner for a simple task or a highly specialised tool for the niche industry and application, rest assured: it’s out there. Today, though, we’re going to zoom in on one spanner type in particular – the ratchet spanner.
Unlike the standard, C-shaped open jaw that fits snugly over a portion of a nut or bolt head, the ratchet spanner is an example of a ring spanner. It’s not an open C-shaped jaw but a closed ‘O’ or ring that fits around the entire head of the nut or bolt. But while a standard ring spanner is a single chunk of metal, the working end of a ratchet spanner includes a separate mechanism on the inside of the ring that often connects with a socket of varying sizes that enables a one-directional rotational action. Once the socket or mechanism encapsulates the fastener, it enables the handle to be turned by the user in a clockwise direction for tightening, and anti-clockwise for loosening. Universally defined by the unmistakable clicking sound produced by the teeth of the mechanism, the real beauty of the ratchet concept is that the backwards-forwards motion of correct usage means that once the head is attached to the fastener, you never need to lift the ratchet off until the job is done.
But with so many ratchet spanner types, sizes and varieties to choose from, and so many different and widely-diverse industries and highly specific applications that can benefit, the difficult part isn’t knowing that it’s the perfect tool for you – it’s ensuring you get the exact tool in your hand for the job. Here’s how to get a head-start:
As a lever, it’s always the spanner length that makes the biggest fundamental difference. As the length goes up, so too does the twisting power – otherwise known as torque.
A spanner’s profile is the basic shape and size of the part that makes physical contact with the fastener. Unlike an adjustable wrench, ratchet spanners only have fixed profiles, meaning it will need to fit exactly with the specific fastener’s corresponding profile for a tight, stable connection.
- Head width/thickness
As a general rule, more width and thickness in the head corresponds exactly with its strength, minimising both fastener/tool damage and ease of use where brute spanner power is at a premium. The downside, however, is a loss of manoeuvrability where space is tight.
Although the manufacturing process plays a big role in the quality of your tool, especially when extra moving parts like the ratchet mechanism are involved, the materials themselves are still the primary consideration for ensuring the desired quality meets your purpose. Look for steel or – better still – titanium for the really premium tools, and step it up a notch with 1% vanadium.
Did you know ratchet spanners differ in price from the accessible-for-everyone two digits all the way up to four digits – for a single tool? The most difficult aspect of starting to benefit from the perfect ratchet spanner for you is matching your industry or organisation’s precise application with the most appropriate tool selection, so get in touch with one of our experts for easy guidance.