My bed has a nut and bolt that are recessed into a piece of wood.

The only tool I have that fits it is the tiny toy spanner that came with the bed.

The spanner does not grip the nut tightly enough to be able to turn it.

But a larger adjustable spanner/pair of grips does not fit in the hole.

How could I tighten this nut?

Update: The toy spanner did work up to a point, but now it just slips off the nut every time, as if it's too loose.

recessed nut and bolt tiny toy spanner spanner on bolt

  • 2
    What does the head of the bolt look like? Can you just hold this nut while you turn the bolt from the head? A closed end wrench would fit over that nut too I you have a set of those around.
    – dslake
    Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 9:03
  • 5
    it's possible that the hole is only to hold the nut while you turn the bolt with Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 11:20
  • Your third photo seems to show the wrench gripping the bolt. So, I don't get what the problem is. You do realize that you have to flip the wrench over after you turn the nut and the wrench hits the wood. If the problem is that you cannot get enough torque on the wrench, look around for a piece of pipe that will slip over the other end of the wrench. That'll give you more torque.
    – getterdun
    Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 3:54
  • @getterdun It's not about torque, the toy wrench slips off the nut. Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 7:59
  • Will, I still don't understand what you mean by "slips". Do you mean the wrench is the wrong size? Or, do you mean the nut is rounded? For the former what to do is obvious. For the latter I'd use needle nose vice-grip pliers to turn it.
    – getterdun
    Commented Jan 27, 2014 at 6:13

7 Answers 7


Don't underestimate what that little wrench will do, or how much torque you need to hold the bed rails together. With the lock washer, it only needs to be compressed, plus maybe another half turn at the most. The force created by the threads drawing through the nut create an incredible amount of pressure on the joining faces.

The included wrench has 2 distinct ends, one has the legs of the wrench equal lengths more or less, the other end has a shorter leg on one side. Because of the shape of the wrenches, I will assume there is little or no space to get a box end wrench around it, if there is any room behind it, then a box end wrench can be ground down enough to fit around it. A rail bolt wrench may work too, they are made to fit into even a deeper, hole. They are used for handrail assembly.enter image description here

Back to the offered wrench, the one end with the short leg, in my opinion is the workhorse, the short side is always on the leading side of the turn, as in if you are turning to the right, or clockwise, the short side is on the right side. That side is shorter so it does not bottom out as quickly in the shallow hole the captured nut is in. The wrench with the equal lengths are for the nut when it is in the midway point, where the nut is being turned where the legs of the wrench will still clear the bottom of the hole. As soon as one side of the wrench touches the bottom of the drilled hole, turn it around, and use the end with the short leg to complete the turn, so to speak, then swap ends again, turn that a little, then change ends of the wrench, and repeat.

You may have tried these techniques already, but it wasn't stated in your question to what extent you tried to work with the wrench. The picture of the wrench only shows a little distortion on the short leg of the one end that would occur if the wrench is turned the wrong way. Even though there a slight distortion, having the proper orientation of the wrench to the nut, that won't matter.

  • +1 love the rail bolt wrench (have used it on at least two projects) but the nut size may be a problem. OP's looks bigger.
    – bib
    Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 17:24
  • I think it is a 1/2", there is always the box end wrench that has been ground on. I am pretty sure there is not much room if any behind the nut to the wood/particleboard
    – Jack
    Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 0:50
  • @Jack thank you for your detailed instructions! Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 8:21

You can often get a box-type ratchet wrench around those recessed nuts ratchet wrench

These often come in sets. They are a bit pricey but have many uses. While you can also use a standard box wrench (a closed loop without the ratchet), in tight places, placing the wrench, advancing it a fraction of a turn, freeing the wrench, resetting it and turning again can get annoying.

But even a standard open end wrench (like the U shaped end of the wrench above) would give you more grip than the toy wrench provided.

 Links and images are for illustration only and are not endorsements
  • A 12 pointed ring spanner would work well too, ie without the ratchet. There's 30 degrees of turn required to get to the next point, and this hole looks to have plenty.
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 7:11

An outside-the-box solution would be to remove a small area of wood from the railing.

We can see where the wood has already been dinged by the tool. Removing a small sloping area will make access easier in the future, and should allow a normal 4"/100 mm spanner access

Mod of OP's photo

Also, next you move, consider leaving the bedframe assembled, rather than going through this process every time.

  • Great image.; well done.
    – Evil Elf
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 11:26
  1. I've used bicycle chain to undo a difficult fastener - would work great in this situation if you could drive the bolt from the other side. Without that could be a lot of resetting.

I had a length of bike chain, which was too worn out to use on a bike, but still structurally strong. I cleaned it well and wrapped it around the nut. Then I clamped down on the base of the two free ends with some pliers which were outside the hole. A little tap with a hammer and cold chisel against the chain was enough to move it a few degrees, then reset.

Haven't got a photo, but imagine something vaguely like this oil filter chain-whip.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil-filter_wrench


I had the same issue except there was no crescent wrench from the manufacturer at all. Needle nosed pliers worked perfectly albeit the nuts were actually not very tight to begin with.


I puzzled over this for a while then found my old and simple 1/2" ring spanner did it easily despite the tight access


Just take a pair of needlenose pliers and grab that sucker and turn. You'll only get about an 1/8 turn, but it won't take long.

My guess is the guy who told you that you are using the wrench incorrectly is probably right; have you used both sides, flipping it over and trying all the different ways? If it's catching once every 10 tries it could also be the nut is tight already and that's why the wrench is slipping off.

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