Today, they’re a generic and indispensable part of life: the simplest and most efficient way, even in our era of incredible technological progress, to unfasten the rotary fasteners that help keep our lives more secure. The earliest signs of the very first spanners date all the way back to the 15th century, when blacksmiths would craft exclusive spanner-like tools to wind up crossbow strings a lot tighter than the human hand could achieve alone. By the early 1800s, spanner designs and sizes were beginning to standardise, so that industries could put tools in their toolboxes for more generic use. And by World War II, the modern spanner had basically taken shape, with smaller heads the result of the need to save metal materials for battle elsewhere. And you can find one everywhere, including reputable suppliers like RS Components.
Fast-forward to the current day, and there’s now a vast and impressive range of standard spanner sets that give you the mechanical torque advantage to get those vital tasks done simply and reliably – no matter how specialised the particular application. Simply combine the right spanners with the correct job, and you’ll get precisely the grip and torque function to get it all done quickly with little more than a flick of human muscle.
Just how many different types of spanner sets are there? Answer: as many as your industry or application will require! We’ve put together a collection of what we think are the 8 you need to know about:
1. Open end
This is the most universally-recognised spanner – the type depicted in your smartphone’s emoji set. The working end ‘jaw’ is in the familiar ‘C’ or ‘U’ shape, to slot around parallel sides of the fastener.
2. Double ended
Also highly common, with a working-end at both ends. Typically, the working end of the jaws of a spanner is offset at 15 degrees, enabling easier use in confined and flat spaces with a larger turning arc. When one end is open and the other a ring, these are known as combination spanners.
Rather than a ‘U’ shape, the working end is ‘O’ shaped, providing greater and more evenly distributed grip thanks both to the shape and the presence of teeth. These spanners are particularly useful for multi-edged fasteners, with the rings bent down for more convenient application.
A socket, ultimately in the basic ‘O’ shape tradition, is used in combination with the actual socket spanner, with the recessed ‘drive socket’ at one end, with the head at the other. With the familiar ratchet-type socket, applications where a ring spanner will not fit, greater torque assistance is required, or specific torque settings (torque wrench) are all applicable.
Unlike the typical ’emoji’ spanner, the box spanner is more like a steel tube. The most familiar example is a spark plug remover, with the shape normally suited to six-sided fastener heads and a T-bar required for turning.
6. Hook spanner
At first glance, the hook spanner is similar to an open end spanner – except the ‘C’ is fashioned into a hook with a pin that fixes into the non-traditional revolving fastener to enable opening and tightening.
Every business needs an adjustable spanner in the toolbox, because it can be easily altered by the user to fit a wide range of fastener sizes. The downside is that fastener slippage and damage is more common due to the manual sizing adjustment.
An alternative to the less precise adjustable spanner is a magneto set, which is typically a full set of simple forged spanners held or packaged together so you never get caught short with a fastener fit more precise than the single tool at #7.
Would you believe that this is far from an exhaustive list of all the various spanner sets that could make your productive work easier and more productive? If you suspect your particular set of applications may require an even more specialised spanner or spanner-like tool, get in touch and we’ll point you in the right direction.