Article featured in Autoweek, May 25, 2018
We love these high-end ratcheting wrenches that can be had on a hobbyist bank account
Ratcheting combination wrenches are a must-have in any pro’s toolbox, which means they’re a strong want for every home gamer. Of course, the easiest way to scratch the itch of ratcheting combination wrenches is taking a trip to your local Harbor Freight for some Pittsburgh offerings or Sears for a set of Gearwrench non-reversing on sale. Aside from the budget-friendly tools and, at the other end of the spectrum, the professional offerings from Snap-On and their ilk, there was a space in the market -- a hole that is now filled by SK. Now under the Ideal industries umbrella, SK Tool introduced its X-Frame ratcheting combination wrench to fill both the high-end hobbyist and professional user’s needs.
These X-Frame wrenches get their name from, well, the design of the wrench’s beam. Unlike most wrenches, SK removed some material near the ends of the wrench. This is supposed to make the wrench stronger, but I don’t imagine you’ll experience a drastic difference compared to any other reputable wrench, since the mechanism will likely strip before you mangle the beam. Especially considering that beam is just about twice as wide as a comparable set of Gearwrench tools. In the hand, that translates to a good, secure feel that doesn’t dig in and won't require gloves despite the squared off edges.
Comparing the 1/2-inch X-Frame (left) to the 1/2-inch Gearwrench ratching combination wrench(right), it's obvious that the SK tool is beefier.
More important than the beam design, these X-Frames use a six-pawl ratcheting mechanism, which is good for a scant 1.7-degree swing arc. This is the spot where the SK wrenches shine -- while the Gearwrench and Harbor Freight offerings will get the job done, the SK X-Frames low swing arc and shorter backlash make it better for use in tight spaces. As for strength, it’s still a ratcheting combination wrench, so we wouldn’t throw out our normal box ends and replace them with these jobbers, but they seem no weaker than a comparable single pawl ratchet.
The X-Frame wrenches also sport a modified open end, with serrations similar to Wright’s Wrightgrip tools or Snap-On’s Flank Drive Plus tools. That means you might have better luck using the open end on a stubborn fastener, instead of relying on the ratcheting mechanism to hold together and possibly busting a knuckle.
It should be noted that these are non-reversing and non-offset wrenches, so making them go the opposite direction is a simple matter of flipping them over. That also means that your knuckles aren’t exactly free from harm’s way. Though, there is the added benefit that you can’t accidentally flip the direction switch and start going the wrong way.
Getting a whole set of these X-Frames in your toolbox will run you around $150 for a set of seven fractional wrenches, and $230 for 12 metric pieces. These made in the USA wrenches are more expensive than the low-buck tools you’ll find fromTaiwan or China but are still about half of the price of Snap-On.
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