General Purpose Tools

Footprint Plumbers Wrench

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Reliable classic pipe wrench

The Footprint Wrench ($25) was designed in 1875, by 1958 they had made 10 million pairs and to this day they are being made to the same design in the UK. The tool may be old but it is still regularly seen in the toolboxes of British plumbers today, while other adjustable wrench designs have come along.

The elegant simplicity of the Footprint (often known by plumbers as Footies) is bombproof and gets called on when the job gets really tough or mucky. The original design consists of just 3 parts, a fixed jaw, movable jaw, and bolt. There are now some fancier models with different adjustments but I prefer the original bolt system as it doesn’t get stiff or sticky.

They are available in 3 sizes, 7″, 9″ and 12″ and this will cover very small domestic fittings right up to rather large industrial types and will work on round pipe as well as hex nuts and other odd shaped parts. The reason I love them so much is that not only do they work on a wide range of fittings, including damaged and rounded off nuts, but the design creates a mechanical advantage with minimal grip strength making them great for outdoor work in cold weather or when wearing gloves. Because of the shape of the jaws, once you are engaged on the work, pushing on the handles not only provides the turning force but also tightens the grip on the fitting. They are comfortable in the hand and intuitive to use, they also work well in tight spaces or blind spots.

For several years I only used the 9″ size which is the one I recommend if you are only going to get one, recently though I picked up a 7″ set and I really like them, especially for more delicate work. Now the hunt is on for a 12″, they are too big for anything I will do, but it would be nice to complete the set. They are usually to be found for sale second hand as they really are indestructible.

-- Chris Askwith 01/8/19