When it comes to old iron, wrenches might just be the key to the hobby. Tractors, engines, combines, implements – all required wrenches from time to time. And not just any wrench would do. Each piece, in fact, was generally sold with a set of wrenches tailored to its unique construction.
Today, those wrenches are highly collectible. A hot category within the tool hobby, wrenches are further subdivided by size, type and function. Joe Greiwe, Batesville, Indiana, has spent the last 35 years building a collection of more than 3,000 wrenches. A big part of that is his display of 4-inch crescent-style, quick-adjust wrenches. “I feel like I have one of the largest displays of those around,” he says. “I have 309 brand names and 515 total, representing early and late models.”
Unique adjustment mechanisms
A retired carpenter, Joe has long collected tools. When he’d buy boxes of stray items at auctions, he often found wrenches in the bottom. As they piled up in a corner of his garage, he gave them a closer look. Fascinated by the varied adjustment mechanisms, he began to build a collection.
Joe finds crescent-style wrenches uniquely appealing, more so than any other tool. “Every wrench usually has a unique adjustment,” he says. “And there are so many categories: alligator, quick-adjust, implement wrenches and combination wrenches, just to name a few.”
The modern crescent-style wrench owes its development to inventor J.P. Johansson, Enkoping, Sweden, who won a patent for the first crescent-style wrench in 1892. In the U.S., Crescent Tool Co. did not build a crescent-style wrench until 1907. “A lot of people think Crescent built the first crescent wrench,” Joe says. “In fact, theirs is a copy of Johansson’s 1892 wrench.”
Wrenches from the farm
Recently, implement wrenches have become a hot item. “They’ve really taken off,” Joe says. “Years ago, all farm equipment came with a couple of wrenches that would fit every bolt on the piece.” More than a few wrench collectors delve into the history of the manufacturer. Some even find the specific piece of equipment that went with the wrench, and use that in their displays.
Combination wrenches are also popular. “They were a big thing in the 1930s and ’40s,” Joe says. Manufacturers and inventors tried to get as many tools as they could into one wrench.”
Joe refers to the years from 1925 to 1980 as the “golden era” for wrenches. “That’s when there was a real push for adjustable wrenches,” he says. Today may be the golden era for wrench collecting. “It’s the fastest-growing category,” Joe says, “because everybody is seeing how unique those adjustment mechanisms are.”
Need convincing? Take a look at these pocket wrenches from Joe’s collection.
For more information: Joe Greiwe, 206 Albers St., Batesville, IN 47006; (812) 934-2747.
Leslie C. McManus is the editor of Farm Collector. Contact her at LMcManus@ogdenpubs.com.