Ratchet spanners are a must-have for any toolkit. They offer a versatile, precise tool for loosening and tightening nuts and bolts, they’re one of the most efficient tools out there. They usually appear in a toolkit as part of a set of a dozen – though sometimes up to thirty pieces, all of different sizes. Before you buy, you’ll need to assess which ones you use the most, just so you don’t overspend on a set that you don’t need.

The History of Ratchet Spanners

The first ever ratcheting spanner to hit the American market was invented by J.J Richardson in 1863. Richardson’s ratchet spanner would appear in the Scientific American the following year, with a diagram showcasing two different sizes of interchangeable ratchets. 

Since then, the technology has evolved to decrease the size of the ratchet to something that could comfortably fit in one’s pocket. The original ratchet spanner could only be used on square nuts, but by the end of the 19th century, advancements in steelworks paved the way for the creation of hexagonal fittings for the ratchet.

Hexagonal fittings became more popular due to their size and ability to manoeuvre in tight spaces. With the invention of more complex automobiles – the primary use for a ratchet spanner at the time – that needed to work in difficult spaces meant the hex heads for the ratchets took off in popularity and became the standard fitting. This is also partially due to the fact that they allowed for smaller movements of the wrench, which made tightening (or loosening) a quicker task.

What Makes a Good Ratchet Spanner?

If you’re in the market to buy a brand new ratchet spanner, here are a few things you should look for before you make the purchase.

  • Make sure it is size-appropriate – nothing worse than buying a whole set and none of them fit the bill. Check and double-check what sizes you use most often.
  • Count the teeth! One of the things to consider when buying a ratchet spanner is how many teeth it is. In general, ratchet spanner teeth count starts as low as 20 teeth and can go as high as 40. The higher the tooth number, the less the ratchet will have to move to engage the next tooth.
  • If, however, you choose to buy a used set – as brand new ones aren’t necessarily cheap – make sure you check the wear-and-tear on the teeth. You want something that’s going to last.

The Ratchet Spanners of Today

One of the advancements made in ratchet spanner design and engineering throughout the years has been ease-of-use. This includes the invention of a quick-release button on top of the ratchet itself, to allow you to easily release the head from the nut that you’re tightening. With standard ratchets heads, you have to pull the head off yourself.

No matter what you’re looking for in a ratchet spanner, many different brands sell just what you’re looking for. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the mechanism a few times before you take it to work. A ratchet spanner set can fetch a steep price tag but consider it an investment in your toolkit – and if you’re a professional, it can be a tax write-off anyway, as well as highly beneficial to your efficiency, particularly if you’re in an industry – like the mechanic industry – where time is money. 

If you’re looking for a great ratchet spanner, RS Online can help. Visit the store, and shop the range today!


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