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January 2008 Neat Stuff - Wrenches & Pliers

Posted in Product Reviews on January 1, 2008
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When first seeing an X-Beam wrench, our initial reaction was "Huh?!?" Then, after thinking for a second, the idea of turning the handle on a wrench 90 degrees suddenly made perfect sense. Surely our fingers would prefer pulling on a flatter surface rather than an edge, especially on cold days. Sure enough, according to the package, these tweaked ratchet wrenches got an "Ease-of-Use Commendation" by the Arthritis Foundation.

These neat tools are brought to us by the same company that forever spoiled us with the reversible ratchet wrenches, but in this version, the "reversible" part is missing. This means you have to turn the X-Beam over to change directions-and they could get trapped if you're not paying attention.

Available in various sets, the cheapest large one we found was a 12-piece set at under $100. If a reversible version ever comes out, it'll certainly be more expensive, but probably worth it. Either way, our hands have definitely taken a liking to the X-Beam design.

No, it's not a trick photograph or something modified in Photoshop. An X-Beam wrench is supposed to look like this. Why? Well, why not? With the end of the wrench you grab with your hand at 90 degrees to the end at the fastener, the X-Beam offers a much more comfortable grip. These Combination Ratcheting Wrenches are also longer than usual, adding to the leverage and further sparing tired hands and fingers.

It was a simple fuel-return hose held on only by OE spring clamps, yet it took several hours just to take it off. And that was after removing some of the parts that were in the way. Stubbornness kept us going, although at one point we did consider also removing the front axle to get better access. If only we'd had the GearWrench Double-X pliers then.

"Double-X" refers to the innovative multiple pivot-point design of these pliers, not to be confused with the many triple-X-rated words we used when fighting said hose without the benefit of Double-X pliers. Trading some clamping force for extra movement at the jaws is what makes these pliers fit in cramped spaces where hands and regular pliers wouldn't fit. At $32 apiece, they aren't the cheapest pliers you'll ever find, but when they're the only tool that'll work, they're practically priceless. Heck, we would have gladly paid the $75 for the complete set of three, just to use one of them for the day on that darned hose.

Available with straight, 45-degree, or duck-bill tips, these GearWrench pliers can reach places other pliers simply can't touch, let alone function in. Since the geometry of the pivot points makes the jaws open more than the relative handle movement, access to hard-to-reach places is even better than what the looks of the tool suggests. These aren't pliers you're likely to need very often, but they're incredibly useful when those occasions do arise.

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