Pocket-Sized Crescent Wrenches

Joe Greiwe's collection centers around the 4-inch adjustable wrench.

| August 2006

Think your tool drawer is overloaded? Chances are good Joe Greiwe has you beat. Joe, who lives in Batesville, Ind., has been collecting antique tools and wrenches for more than 40 years.

Recently, he's concentrated on the 4-inch adjustable wrench, often known as the crescent-style wrench. So far, he's built a collection of 245 different brand names, and a total of 432 variations. "I decided about seven years ago that I would see how many different brands of the 4-inch size I could get," he explains. He's still looking for about 20 brands.

"I know there are probably a lot more that I've never heard of," he says, "but I believe my complete collection to be the largest in the country."

Never produced in big numbers, the 4-inch wrench is rare today. "The 4-inch wrench would only fit up to a half-inch nut," Joe says. "Farmers years ago didn't always have enough money to buy two wrenches, so they got a 6-, 8- or 10-inch wrench that they could use more. A lot of companies that made wrenches didn't even make a 4-inch wrench."

Early tractors and threshing equipment typically required larger wrenches. Smaller pieces of farm equipment, cream separators for instance, often came with their own wrenches. The 4-inch wrench was most commonly used for bicycle repair. "They called them 'pocket wrenches' because they were so handy to have in your pocket," Joe says.

Small numbers often add up to big prices in the collectibles world, and the 4-inch wrench is a classic example of that. A 4-inch monkey wrench might sell for as much as $200, Joe notes, while an 8-inch or 10-inch monkey wrench (unless rare) sells for about $5.