Palm or thumbwheel ratchets came up in casual conversion around the Toolmonger shop recently. Some hold that they’re extremely handy and can be a serious saver when attempting to remove bolts or nuts in constricted areas. Others think they’re little more than bait for tool fanatics with a burning need to stock a toolbox. Here’s what we think: Both can be true.
I have personally reached for thumbwheel ratchets in automotive situations where a ratchet handle just gets in the way and whatever part I’m trying to remove from an engine bay can’t be simply coaxed out. However, to be fair, extensions and universals on the end of a traditional ratchet will normally get the job done as well.
Bright colors and shiny finishes like the ones on the Garrett Wade versions do attract gearheads like crows to a bit of sparkle, but in the end a 1/ 4” – 1/ 2” ratchet that fits in your palm and can be turned without fear of a mechanical lock happening is a powerful bullet to have in the gun.
Were our diet heavily crack-laden, we’d consider Garrett Wades’ pricing of $35 for three such ratchets a good deal. But, since reality is a friend of ours, a little shopping will get you the same functionality starting around $5 from Harbor Freight — we recommend the latter.