When it comes to health and safety regarding tool use, some need better instructions than others but never ASSUME that folks know exactly how to use a tool properly just because they have touched on or used it at home. Remember it always seems like child’s play to other right up to the point you have an incident or broken tool and NO IT IS NOT A HAMMER!
A pipe wrench is a prime example of this same theory in safety. Regardless of the size of your pipe wrench, make sure you leave space between the shank of the hook jaw on the pipe wrench and the pipe itself. The gap is what allows better gripping action by the pipe wrench on the pipe. For best turning and gripping action, keep this gap around 0.5 inches (1.3 centimeters) wide. Pipe wrenches are used to tighten and loosen threaded pipes as well as for killing unsuspecting socialites in a spooky mansion’s conservatory. A pipe wrench is an adjustable wrench — the top jaw moves up or down — and has toothed jaws for gripping onto pipe. The jaws on a pipe wrench are designed so that the top jaw (aka the hook jaw) rocks a little bit in the frame of the wrench. Whenever you apply forward pressure on the handle, the top and bottom jaws come closer together.
Pipe wrenches come in different sizes and are measured by the length of the handle.
A pipe wrench is a hardy tool, not given to easy breakage like a thin saw or a drill bit. Heck, it’s a weapon in the game of Clue. But if you forget to leave a small space between the back of a wrench’s hook jaw and the pipe you’re gripping, you could strip the teeth, bend the jaw, or damage the tightening nut. A wrench’s jaws aren’t parallel, and their natural wedging action tightens around the pipe as you turn. Choose the appropriate size wrench for your job. When placing a pipe wrench on the pipe, you want to maintain a small gap between the pipe and the back of the hook jaw. Allowing the back of the hook jaw to come into contact with the pipe reduces the gripping action of the wrench. A one-half-inch gap between the pipe and the back of the hook jaw will do the trick.
Because of its teeth and strong grip, pipe wrenches can leave marks in whatever you’re tightening or loosening, so don’t use a pipe wrench on your nice plumbing fixtures. Save them for when you’re working under the sink. Also, you shouldn’t use a pipe wrench on nuts and bolts. You’ll damage the fastener.
“Leaving a space permits the jaws to tighten with just the right amount of give,” says Penney. If you forget the space, you could turn your best wrench into a decorative piece of cast iron, which is only a good thing if you’re a blacksmith. The jaws of a pipe wrench are not really parallel and the hook jaw grabs on the corner of square stock instead of on the flat face. If you really torque on square stock the corner will be damaged or torn off. A better choice for square stock would be an adjustable wrench (cresent wrench) since it works on the sides and not the corners.
The pipe wrench has changed over its 140-year history, but the current design of today has remained virtually the same for the past 90 years.
Using a stationary lower jaw and a movable upper jaw known as the hook jaw (because of its shape), these hardened, serrated jaws will generate tremendous gripping force when pressure is applied to the handle. However, the unique function and design of a coil and flat spring (located quietly inside the main wrench housing) also permits the wrench to easily and quickly be removed from the pipe without loosening the wrench nut when the job is complete or when the wrench needs to be repositioned on the material. This enables an easy and continuous one-hand operation once the wrench is adjusted properly for the size of material.
Properly positioning the wrench on the material is an important part of the wrench adjustment. The proper fit will center the material between the fixed jaw and movable hook jaw but leave a very important gap between the shank of the hook jaw and the surface of the material. In essence, the threaded shank of the hook jaw should not rest on the surface of the material. This gap provides room for the hardened jaws to pivot and increase their grip on the material as additional force is applied to the handle. Since these hardened jaws play such a key role in properly gripping the material, it is important to keep the jaw serrations free of dirt and debris and replace these wrench components when the teeth of the gripping surface become worn. This eliminates the risk of slippage as increased force is applied to the handle.
Also, like all jobs wrenches are available in a number of sizes, and it is important to use the proper size wrench for the job at hand. Some users have been reported to use a mechanical device commonly referred to as a “cheater” but this practice is not recommended as it can overload the wrench capacity and lead to tool failure or personal injury.