Kids these days can't tell a box-end wrench from an open-end wrench

Continuing the discussion from Dismembered man put to use:

It’s not that they can’t tell the difference - they don’t know what the names for them are.

Do you know what a crowbar is?

Another good one: do you know what a monkey wrench is?

Fewer people know the meaning of these words every year, so they end up getting redefined.

Or is this not a crowbar? (or perhaps, a pry-bar?). I only know them from computer games, though :slight_smile:

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Today, that’s a crowbar in America, and soon (thanks in part to that franchise) it will be a crowbar everywhere. Because people who know the original name will be a tiny minority, drowned out by the people who think they know it.

But that used to be a wrecking bar, sometimes called a “J-bar”. A crowbar was not double ended, usually, nor was it so elaborately shaped. Today what used to be called crowbars are called spud bars, digging bars or pinch bars in America.

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I presume you’re also going to say that the adjustable spanner is not a monkey wrench.

But is that because we, as a species, are less capable of describing them? Or maybe that such precise terminology is nearly irrelevant to a vast swath of speakers?

The horrid old cliche that “Eskimos have 17 different words for snow.” is meaningful here: There are about 17 different words for “street” in common usage on roadsigns in my city. That variety would surely seem bewildering and redundant to that hypothetical (and stereotyped) “Eskimo.”

Teenagers aren’t especially resistant to learning (and I’m a former teacher, so I do speak from experience). What they are is much, much better at detecting relevance to their own lives and futures than their younger siblings. They demand relevance.


I’m American, so I don’t know if the adjustable spanner is a class or a specific tool. Certainly the monkey wrench is a type of adjustable wrench/spanner, a very precisely specific kind. But it is not a pipe wrench… most people today will call a Stillson a Monkey, which is like calling a submarine a jumbo jet. Way off.

I do all my own plumbing and most of my car repairs so I have to know the names of dozens of kinds of wrenches.

Monkey wrench, useful for changing blades on big saws:

Stillson wrench, the greatest pipe wrench of all time:

Crescent wrench, which has mostly replaced the Monkey wrench:

This is a Crescent® brand adjustable open-end wrench.

Well, everybody has to decide for themselves what is relevant, I guess. I’m certainly not trying to say kids today are stupid, in fact I would argue the opposite.

We are truly in agreement then :smile:

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Yes, it is one of many types of adjustable open-end wrenches. I own at least three.

These are also adjustable open-end wrenches, but mostly Briggs pattern, not crescent:

This is an interesting non-adjustable attempt at solving the same problem that the crescent wrench addresses - the accursed alligator wrench:

The Stillson is a masterpiece, the Crescent is a fine tool, the Briggs are usable if you understand them well, and the alligator is an abomination.


I have never heard of nor seen an alligator wrench until you shared it here.

And I knew instantly it was an abomination :stuck_out_tongue:

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Thanks! I did know the difference between a monkey wrench and a pipe wrench, but I didn’t know that what I’ve always called a pipe wrench is a Stillson wrench. As for the Crescent wrench, I fear it’s in danger of having the name made generic. I’ve yet to meet the gearhead who asks for an “adjustable open-end wrench” rather than a Crescent wrench.

My Dad and I always liked the old vise-grips.

You can see why:


You weren’t wrong; the Stillson is a pipe wrench, and in fact it’s the best pipe wrench. I own and have used several other kinds of pipe wrench and nothing else really compares.

There’s interesting history surrounding Daniel Stillson and his wrench. He wanted to sell the pattern outright to his boss, but the boss insisted on him retaining the rights, which made both Walworth and Stillson a whole lot of money.

I believe the crescent wrench is so called because the Crescent manufacturing company invented the currently popular pattern, which has an angular end to fit properly on hex nuts - previous versions being essentially thinner monkey wrenches, best suited to square nuts. But I could be wrong!

I’m headed for home or I’m likely to talk about tools all night. I have dozens of different kinds of hammers, too - but kids today can’t tell a cross-peen from a shingle-hammer :wink:


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my dad had 5 sizes of the stilson type, 7 of the crescent, and 2 alligators.

Wow… that’s great! I’d like to think that I’d be that kind of boss.

I inherited my DIY-ness (and many of my best tools) from my father, who is a retired machinist and shadetree mechanic. I suspect he, too, found the Stillson to be the best pipe wrench, since he (and I) never thought to try other kinds, having had the success with the Stillson that we did.

Since he was a machinist, he had many flavors of hammer as well, so I could distinguish between a ball-peen hammer and a claw hammer from an early age… and my goal is to pass on as much of that kind of info as possible to my own kids. Hopefully they’ll express some interest in helping me restore my 1970 Cougar, along with whatever other DIY projects I get up to. They’re just about at the age to really start appreciating that stuff, and since I have plenty of things to do on my list once time permits, I look forward to getting them involved.

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Now if that were shorter, it’d be a wonderbar.


A Wonderbar has a little hump in the middle intended (I think) to be used as a fulcrum: