I have in the past used (but do not currently own) adjustable spanners where the jaws are on the side of the handle so the nut enters from the side. Similar in layout to a pipe wrench but without the looseness and serrated jaws. I see these pop up in restoration videos which suggests they may be an older style.

These spanners can be handy because they often have a wide range of size adjustments and can sometimes get into tight spaces more easily than the current style of adjustable spanner that dominates nowdays.

Can anyone tell me if there is a specific name for this style of spanner and whether they are still made.

  • 1
    Are they still made? Yes they are and I found two brands on Amazon. You have to weed through all the pipe wrenches, but they are there. Of course you said 'spanner' so you're probably not in the US, but you should be able to find them on your side of the pond. May have to stick to online shops or thrift stores and garage sales.
    – JPhi1618
    Feb 1, 2019 at 18:41
  • The image in the video appears to be a very early version of what came to be called, circa 1910, a "Ford wrench" (because Ford supplied them in their toolkits), or, more generically, an "automotive wrench".
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 2, 2019 at 1:25
  • aka (for searchability) crescent wrench, but sideways
    – Mazura
    Feb 2, 2019 at 4:12

1 Answer 1


It's a monkey wrench, if you can believe that, or a coach wrench.

Adjustable coach wrenches for the odd-sized nuts of wagon wheels were manufactured in England and exported to North America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They were set either by sliding a wedge, or later by twisting the handle, which turned a screw, narrowing or widening the jaws. In 1840, Worcester, Massachusetts knife manufacturer Loring Coes invented a screw-based coach wrench design in which the jaw width was set with a spinning ring fixed under the sliding lower jaw, above the handle. This was patented in 1841 and the tools were advertised and sold in the United States as monkey wrenches, a term which was already in use for the English handle-set coach wrenches.

enter image description here

And no, it wasn't named after a guy with a funny surname.

  • Thanks, I did come across that term in the title of a restoration video but when I googled "monkey wrench" what popped up to buy were mostly pipe wrenches. The wikipedia article says they are also known as "gas grips" but that doesn't seem to be turning much up either. I guess they simply aren't made much anymore. Feb 1, 2019 at 17:48
  • 2
    If it's got sharp teeth and the head has a pivot, it's a pipe wrench; the teeth will grab into smooth iron (or lead) pipe, and the pivot will allow the jaws to open just enough that the wrench can be rotated backwards to get another turn, without removing it from the pipe. Flat smooth jaws are only for nuts or bolt heads. This is actually explicit in the caption to isherwood's picture.
    – CCTO
    Feb 1, 2019 at 21:39
  • The rightmost image would be a "pair of stillsons" or a Stillson for short. The sharp teeth are for biting into round pipe. The left image would be an adjustable spanner and have no ability to hold round pipe/conduit - instead it for holding coach nuts which are 4 sided versions of a normal 6-sided nut.
    – Criggie
    Feb 1, 2019 at 22:50
  • When I was a kid the reason for the name "monkey wrench" was obvious -- the wrench had a curved handle and canted head, making it look quite a bit like a monkey. Unfortunately, I'm not finding anything much like it, especially since the term "monkey wrench" has come to mean simply a generic open-end adjustable wrench.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 2, 2019 at 1:20
  • Come to mean? On the left is a monkey wrench, on the right is a pipe wrench. These are two very different tools. Pipe wrenches articulate to facilitate grab. Monkey wrenches are more like a crescent wrench, but sideways.
    – Mazura
    Feb 2, 2019 at 4:09

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