Home-How » Pipe Wrench Vs Monkey Wrench: What’s the Difference?

Pipe Wrench Vs Monkey Wrench: What’s the Difference?

You would usually see pipe wrenches and monkey wrenches in your garage tools. Generally, these two look similar which is why many DIYers use them interchangeably. 

But did you know that although they are both adjustable, these wrenches are used for specific pipe fittings?

In this article, we will have an overview of a pipe wrench and monkey wrench and we will differentiate the characteristics of these two tools.

Pipe Wrench: An Overview

A pipe wrench is basically used to tighten or loosen circular pipe bars. If you want to reassemble your connected pipes, you can use this tool with ease. 

In other countries, a pipe wrench is also called the Stillson wrench or plumber wrench. If we define the appearance of this adjustable wrench, we can say that its jaws have zigzag teeth installed. The lower jaw is immovable, the upper jaw is adjustable, and the wrench handle is static. Some pipe wrenches are compact and some are hefty, and this depends on how long the handle is.

Because of their teeth, these wrenches should not be used on hexagon nuts. However, if the nuts are round, you can use these wrench pipes since they can hold metal surfaces better than other wrenches. For experts, aside from installing copper pipes, these wrenches are also used for rusty hex bolt heads.

Pipe Wrench

Furthermore, wrench pipes come in different sizes and their handle portion varies as well. Usually, these wrenches are made of steel and aluminum. Based on personal experience, it is highly recommended to buy quality pipe wrenches, even if they are costly because I find them cheaper than repeatedly buying poor-quality pipe wrenches.

So, if this wrench is not suitable for hex nuts, on what bolts can you use it? Generally, coming from its name, this wrench is for threaded pipes, stainless nipple fittings, and cast steel screwed fittings.

If you take a look at it, rounded surfaces are not advisable to be gripped by the wrench pipes because the teeth can damage the smooth surface. On the other hand, threaded surfaces can be easily gripped by the wrench pipe’s zigzag teeth.

If you want to use a pipe wrench, all you have to do is to insert the pipe in between the upper and lower jaws, and then move the upper jaw such that they both snugly fit the pipe or other rounded object. To tighten or loosen the pipe, twist the wrench in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. Unscrew the clamping mechanism to take the pipe out of the jaws of the wrench.

Monkey Wrench: An Overview

A monkey wrench is also one of the adjustable wrenches you can see in your toolbox. This is a very convenient tool and its design is very simple. It has flat jaws made of iron, and usually, the length of this tool is 24 inches.

Because this tool contains no teeth (flaw jaws), it is perfect for materials with flat surfaces and round surfaces. Most of the time, this hand tool can also be used to clamp nut lugs and those materials that have aged already.

Monkey Wrench

Many people say that this tool is named after its similar looks to a monkey. However, there are some speculations that this tool was named after its inventor, Charles Moncky. When Mr. Moncky invented this tool, he sold its patent and used the money to buy his own home.

In the 19th century, this speculation finally came to an end. The real story behind the term monkey wrench was only inspired by a real person called a monk who made and sold tools.

If you want to use this monkey wrench, all you have to do is to loosen the jaws of the monkey wrench depending on how big the material you want to loosen or tighten with. Then, turn the tool clockwise and when you have achieved the right grip, unscrew the tool to remove it from the flat material.

Nowadays, the use of monkey wrenches is standardized and many tools with adjustable jaws are becoming popular. For this reason, collectors are fans of keeping old-styled monkey wrenches, especially those that can effectively work on the rusty head of a bolt and screw.

Additionally, since the monkey wrench is for loosening and tightening, it can also be used in plumbing.

Characteristics of Monkey Wrench Vs Pipe Wrench

There are different types of wrenches and in this section, we will focus on the characteristics of a pipe wrench and a monkey wrench. Although these two tools almost provide the same uses, they basically have their own differences.

1. Jaws and movement

The monkey wrench and pipe wrench have flat jaws and serrated jaws, respectively. These surfaces are very important to consider when doing mechanical work because if you choose the wrong one, you can actually damage the material you are using the wrenches with.

For the jaw movement, the monkey wrench’s lower jaw is movable while the pipe wrench’s jaw (upper)  is movable.

2. Sizes and convenience

Generally, monkey wrenches are bulky while pipe wrenches can be compact. Nowadays, the latter comes in different sizes with the same uses.

When it comes to convenience, both of them are actually convenient, especially because you use them for different purposes. But, if you are looking for an easier-to-use one, the pipe wrench is more recommended.

For the head, the pipe wrench has a smaller one while the monkey wrench has a larger one. This design is made for the former to be used in narrow spaces and for the latter in bigger spaces.

3. Monkey and pipe wrench advantages

Monkey and pipe wrench advantages

For the advantages, let us discuss those for monkey wrench:

  • Durable and provides a good grip
  • Easy to use and ergonomic 
  • Very reliable to use

For the pipe wrench, take a look at the information below:

  • Easy to assemble
  • Suitable for rusty materials
  • Very durable and provides a better grip

4. Monkey and pipe wrench disadvantages

Of course, there are also some disadvantages to these wrenches. For the monkey wrench, take a look at the information below:

  • Heavy
  • Kind of pricey
  • Not that versatile

For the pipe wrench, take a look at the information below:

  • Heavy
  • Pricey and the bigger the size, the more expensive
  • Not that comfortable to use

Monkey Wrench Vs Pipe Wrench: Which Should You Consider?

Well, how you should choose your wrench depends on what you will use it for. Again, for flat surfaces, you can use the monkey wrench and for rough or serrated surfaces, you can use a pipe wrench.

For common mechanical works, you can use a monkey wrench and for pipe works, a pipe wrench, would, of course, fit better.

How to Choose the Best Monkey and Pipe Wrenches

Before you purchase a monkey wrench or a pipe wrench, here below are some considerations you might want to take:

1. Grit and durableness

When you purchase any product, the first thing you should consider is its durability. Based on personal preference, I always go for quality products over price because I believe that I will spend more money if I’d go for those cheap but do not last long.

When we refer to pipe and monkey wrenches, choosing those that are made of steel and iron is highly advisable as they are proven to last long.

If you are buying online, you can take a look at user reviews so that you can make use of much of your money. Usually, these reviews will tell you if the product can tear fast.

Take note that you can also consider the manufacturer of the product you wish to purchase. There are some established companies that produce high-quality wrenches and you should not miss these.

2. Comfortability


When we speak of comfort, we refer to how easily you want to use wrenches. Thus, we take a look at the size and weight of the wrenches. 

Generally, pipe wrenches come in different sizes and weights. This means that you can choose either a compact or bulky one.

The monkey wrenches are usually heavy but there are some lightweight materials being used in the production of these wrenches as well.

3. Gripping materials

Take note that there are wrenches that come with gripping materials such as rubber and silicon. Although those that come with these materials are expensive, you should bear in mind that they are comfier to use and provide better flexibility.

Final Thoughts

Indeed, monkey wrenches and pipe wrenches are amazing power tools you can find in your garage. Once you have them, repairing your materials and products at home would be so much easier. 

However, keep in mind that, although these two look alike, their uses are specified for certain products and these two have different screwing mechanisms. 

For example, pipe wrenches are for rough surfaces while monkey wrenches are for smooth ones.

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