To complete any task in an efficient manner, one must have the proper hand tools at his or her disposal. In many cases, this includes a pipe wrench of one type or another.

For some, this tool is quite familiar. Others, however, might wonder, “what is a pipe wrench?”

A pipe wrench is a specialty tool that features adjustable jaws and can be configured to fit a variety of surfaces. Each jaw found on a standard pipe wrench features a row of teeth that are capable of biting into a pipe or similar stock.

Adjustable wrenches of this nature are extremely handy and can be used to tackle a wide variety of DIY home improvement projects.

How Do You Use A Pipe Wrench?

Unlike standard wrenches, a pipe wrench can be adjusted to many different sizes, only limited by the wrench’s overall jaw capacity. Using a wrench of this type is quite simple, and can be mastered with relative ease.

To do so, simply fit the unit’s jaws (hook jaw and heel jaw) over a pipe, before turning the wrench’s adjuster until each jaw firmly engages the pipe itself. 

With each jaw positioned as desired, one can begin turning the handle of the wrench, using leverage to exert rotational force. When necessary, one can return the position of the pipe wrench to its previous angle, by simply reversing their direction of torque upon the wrench’s handle.

This presents a ratcheting effect of sorts, facilitated by the natural taper of an adjustable wrench’s jaws.

When To Use A Pipe Wrench

A pipe wrench can be used in any scenario where round or hex stock must be rotated, or when significant torque must be applied. In the majority of cases, a segment of pipe or pipe fitting serves as the round stock in question.

Therefore, pipe wrenches tend to be a favorite of plumbers, pipefitters, and other tradesmen.

However, a pipe wrench can be used to do much more than simply turn pipe. Unlike many other types of wrenches, a pipe wrench can be used to exert a substantial amount of torque.

Heavy-duty pipe wrenches can even be used to bend or manipulate metal as desired, and are nearly as versatile as any tool found within the average tool box.

Pipe wrenches come in several different forms, further adding to this versatility. Some of the most popular of these configurations include cast/aluminum straight pipe wrenches, offset pipe wrenches, and end pipe wrenches.

What Should You Not Do With A Pipe Wrench?

While an adjustable pipe wrench is indeed handy and quite versatile, there are several tasks to which such a tool is not suited. This included the tightening of soft pipe or ornamental fittings, like a shower head.

Both aluminum and cast iron pipe wrenches are more than capable of severely marring delicate surfaces.

Even high quality pipe wrenches can slip slightly on rounded surfaces when placed under tremendous pressure. This often leads to unsightly damage, which is not easily covered, hidden, or repaired.

In many cases, a certain degree of such damage can be prevented by placing a shop towel or piece of rubber between a pipe wrench’s jaws, and the segment of pipe that is to be loosened or tightened.        

It is also important to avoid touching any burrs created from pipe wrench use with your bare hands. These burrs can be extremely sharp and can do significant damage to exposed skin.

Prevent misadventures of this type by wearing gloves around compromised surfaces of this type.         

What’s The Best Pipe Wrench?

One of the best pipe wrenches on today’s market is the Ridgid Heavy-Duty Straight Pipe Wrench. This wrench is known for its superior fit/finish and incredible durability.

Pipe wrenches within this line come in a number of sizes, ranging from 6”-60”. All Ridgid Pipe Wrenches are also backed by a lifetime warranty, thereby ensuring that you are never without the correct tool for the job.

Conclusion

In the hands of a knowledgeable craftsman, a single pipe wrench can do the job of an entire set of wrenches. Not only is a pipe wrench handy for tackling a wide variety of pipefitting chores, but such a tool can also be used to complete a number of tasks, of varying degrees of difficulty.

Simply put, a quality pipe wrench is a must-have for any serious DIY enthusiast and is worthy of a coveted spot in the tool box of any hard working tradesman.