If there has ever been a fun element to a wrench, it surely is represented by the Socket Wrench. What you may know from your childhood as a ratchet, could very well derive its nick name from the sound it is creating when used to tighten or loosen bolts. You can turn it 360 degrees, and it creates the noise usually associated with mechanics, tire changing places, or other production environments.
Throughout the years, these wrenches have been an essential tool for the professional mechanic as well as the do-it-yourselfers and have come a long way since they've first been introduced to the market in the mid 1860′s. There are several reasons for their brilliance.
* Bidirectional use. With the simple flip of a mini lever, you can move the handle of this tool in either direction, while its head is fastening or loosening the bolt.
* Interchangeable heads. This tool has the ability to accommodate several different socket sizes to adjust to any bolt head size. As an example, look at your auto mechanic, body shop, or even the store where you exchange your tires. If you pay attention to how quickly the heads can be exchanged, you'll see a demonstration of the true flexibility of this tool.
You will find a variety of different socket wrenches, based on their dedicated use.
Generally, there are 4 different associations;
*The 12 point socket wrench; meaning that you can start your wrench from 12 possible positions around the center. Much like gears of a watch, this wrench has 12 teeth on its gears, giving this wrench the most room for movement. The downside, due to the amount of teeth, the 12 point wrench can sometimes slip.
*The 8 point socket wrench; this particular style is slowly disappearing from the market as its main use was for square bolts, which are no longer commonly produced. Nowadays, most bolt heads are hexagonal, leaving the 8 point wrench with nearly no use in a mechanic's shop.
* The 6 point socket wrench; opposing to the 12 point wrench, this version with less teeth and therefore starting positions, is commonly regarded as more secure, since it has larger teeth and less opportunity to slip. Most professional mechanics favor the 6 point for this very reason.
* The impact wrench; unlike its manual counterparts, the impact wrench is most often found at tire changing stations and often seen in car race pitstops such as NASCAR, where professional tools that provide speed and accuracy are the key to success. The impact wrench, driven by compressed air, is designed to deliver maximum torque to tighten or loosen bolts faster than any manual socket wrench.
The sockets for the ratchet come in either metricor SAE sizes and while it often times may seem that you can use a metric socket for a SAE bolt head, it's clearly not advisable. This wrench and its attachment depend on a firm grip on the bolt head, or you run the risk to round off the edges of the hexagonal heads basically stripping them. It's definitely a good idea to own a metric set of attachments as well as the SAE version of the same. Both socket sets are reasonably affordable.
Manufacturers like Snap On, Craftsmanor Mac Tools are among the most well known suppliers of professionally crafted tools and most commonly use chrome-vanadium as material for the tool production.
Enjoy the sounds of the ratchet wrench next time you're working on your projects!