August 17, 2012 - Happy Birthday, Wrenches!

In England, it's called a spanner.

To a physics teacher, it's a kind of lever.

In the U.S., it's called a wrench.

Whatever the name, the first of these tools was patented on this date in 1835 by a man named Solymon Merrick.

Wrenches are used to tighten or loosen bolts, nuts, or anything that needs to turn. Many wrenches are made to fit specific sizes of nuts and bolts, and other wrenches are made with mouths that can be tightened or loosened to fit various sizes of objects.

The wrench is able to apply a lot more turning force on the mouth end with a relatively small amount of force on the handle end. That is the key to the power of levers—with a strong enough material and a long enough lever, you can multiply force hugely and move even heavy things. As a matter of fact, Archimedes is supposed to have said of the power of levers, “Give me the place to stand, and I shall move the whole world."

Other inventors improved on the original design, soon inventing the monkey wrench, pipe wrench, and ratchet wrench. (The monkey wrench got its name because Charles Moncky invented it.)

Speaking of pipe wrenches...

My favorite “literal video” is sometimes called “Pipe Wrench Fight.” 

Also on this date:

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