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Plumber Wrench

Sunday, June 28, 2015 - 11:04am

A design conceived in 1888 by Swedish inventor Johan Petter Johansson, the plumber wrench is more widely used in Europe than in the United States. A plumber wrench is a hand tool that is long and unwieldy, but it provides an effective way for workers to rotate pipes that resist movement or to tighten them securely. With two handles instead of one, its design is unique among large wrenches. With handles approximately the length of lopping shears, Johanssonís wrench can produce sufficient power to damage soft metal pipes. The tool's length makes it unusable in tight spaces, and ordinary wrenches that are available today make its use unnecessary.

How it Works

Similar in some ways to a Stillson wrench, the jaws of the Johansson plumber wrench are adjustable. With an adjustment ring that can make the jaws close, both wrenches can adapt to fit pipes or fittings. Jagged teeth in the jaws make them inappropriate for use on hardened steel nuts and bolts. It is not uncommon for the jaws to leave bite marks on soft metal pipes, and they can render a steel nut unfit for use with wrenches that have a smooth surface. A pulling motion is the most efficient way to use a plumber wrench or a pipe wrench. As the Stillson or the Johansson wrench responds to the pressure of a pull, the teeth close in the direction of the turn to make the grip secure and tight. While the jaws and the adjustment ring in the Stillson and Johansson wrenches are similar, only one of the two wrenches is available in variable lengths. Stillson wrenches have popular lengths of 12, 14, 18, 24, 36 and 48 inches as well as longer and shorter models. Shorter lengths make the Stillson wrench a more versatile tool than the standard length of the Johansson wrench.

History and Patents

Daniel C. Stillson got a patent for his invention in 1869, almost 20 years before Johansson created his design. Pipe wrenches or plumber wrenches are commonly called Stillson wrenches in the United States and Stillsons in the United Kingdom. Johanssonís model is variously called a Swedish pattern wrench or a Swedish wrench, owing to the nationality of its originator. For their effectiveness in tightening or loosening round objects such as pipe in plumbing installations, pipe wrenches are an essential part of a plumbers toolkit. Stillsons and other pipe wrenches have an advantage over Johannsonís invention, due to their shorter size.

Limited Use in Restricted Areas

Requiring extensive space that is frequently unavailable in baths, kitchens and laundry rooms, the Johansson plumber wrench is unable to reach pipes that may need repair in hard to reach areas. Smaller hand tools are more versatile, reaching into spaces where there is typically insufficient room to open and close the handles of an unwieldy plumber wrench.

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