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Creating tools for specialty applications isn’t something tool companies started a year ago. Hell, most modern tool conglomerates started out looking to solve just one problem. Milwaukee originally founded to provide a 1/4″ power drill light enough for Ford’s assembly line, for example. That’s why I used to love rolling ’round the flea market tool tables with my Dad when I was a kid. Sometimes we’d find a usable wrench or socket to add to the collection, but the real joy came from picking up some weird-looking tool and asking “What it it?” Or, maybe even more importantly: “What is it for?

What you see above is called a “spud wrench.”

It was designed to solve a problem common to workers assembling steel structures. On one hand, they needed a wrench to tighten the bolts. But they also needed to make fine adjustments to alignment to line up the bolt holes. With that in mind, you can pretty much guess how they use the spud wrench.

Despite its special application, there’s nothing special about the idea of custom tools for custom apps, even when you have to modify the tool yourself. My favorite example of this is a socket we found in the seat box of the old BMW bike Sean and I picked up years back (and had to part out due to lack of available time, dammit). It was a normal Craftsman socket, but someone had clearly machined down the outside of it for clearance. But clearance for what? We found out months later when we went to remove the bent forks. The main fork nut was slightly recessed and BAM: we found the use for that modified socket.

What’s your favorite custom tool, either one you’ve run across or made yourself?


33 Responses to It’s a Spud Wrench

  1. DeadGuy says:

    My buddy and I have a little hobby where we try to build or combine tools to save space in our saddle-bags. The game is to have as many tools as possible in the smallest amount of space.

    My favorite was also the easiest. I took a bit extension and ground it flat so it would fit into the bit adapter on a Leatherman. That allowed me to carry every bit the bike takes, plus extras.

    His coolest was a hammer head that screws onto the end of a ratchet handle. It is always nice to have a persuader when working on a motorcycle.

  2. george says:

    ground down the depth and thickness of a 10mm box wrench to fit on bolts holding a fan on. also bent and ground down a box wrench to fit on a nut under an injection pump that was near impossible to get to. and many more.

  3. Justin says:

    Finally broke down and bought an O2 sensor socket, just for the cutout and the hex turn head.

  4. fred says:

    Plenty of spud ratchet wrenches out there too – from Klein, Proto etc,


  5. cronin says:

    Knipex 13 05 160 does most of task I need for a cable work: holding, cutting, stripping and crimping end sleeves. Together with exceptional Knipex brand quality, it’s complete win.

    • Dave says:

      Considering that those are about as useful for most common crimping applications you’ll come across in North America as two flat rocks, it’s kind of funny that they promote those in the U.S. as crimpers.

  6. Pat says:

    I ground a slot in an old plug socket for driving eye/lag bolts with my electric impact wrench.
    BTW – this blog needs a Facebook page (RSS Graffiti would do nicely. Then I can follow it easier!)

  7. Croesus says:

    Fifty years ago, when I was working steel in New York City we called this a “drift wrench”. The tapered part was used to drift steel together. We also had “drift pins” which were double ended pins designed for the same task.

    However, I never saw an adjustable drift wrench since the head was used to back up the pneumatic wrench that set the bolt’s tightening torque. An adjustable wrench would not stand up to the impact of a pneumatic driver

    • Tim Gordon says:

      I think there’s a lot of tools out there today that are essentially reproductions of, uh, ‘old favorites’. They usually don’t cost all that much, but they sure aren’t made like the originals ‘back in the day’ were, either! In most cases, the need the quality original filled is mostly in the past, and the new ones are made because they’re a different product than everyone else is marketing. There may very well be a touch of nostalgia involved, too. I can see where a real spud or drift wrench would be solid, fixed sized, and extremely robust. The adjustable head looks handy, and maybe some who acquire them actually find good uses for them that have nothing to do with structural steel. I’ve seen ratcheting ones, and I don’t quite get those! They seem like a long handled ratchet, but the tapered end has to be just miserable to bear against very hard or for very long, and the very end is just pointy enough that it looks dangerous to use!

  8. Shopmonger says:

    I love my Body saw, that i files down the mounts and it now takes regular jig saw blades, like a poor man’s handy saw, or cutzall…..


    Or some wrenches ground down to fit into a tight spot, or widen a wrench to fit a specific hold….


  9. Chris says:

    Basin wrench, for the inevitable replacement of an already installed faucet.

  10. fred says:

    For oddball things – in the category of whay would I possibly want to buy this tool I recently came accross this:


    But I’m a woodworker at heart – so what do I know

    • dutch_bart says:

      Fred great tool,
      But if you want the same affect just weld some nuts

      Or with out welding use a bolt and then put a nut on it al the way to the head of the bolt

  11. Don says:

    My dad, who has never seen a tool he hasn’t liked picked up a spud wrench nearly identical to the one in the pic. It wasn’t until I saw this that I knew the name, spud wrench. $1 at a yard sale, not bad at all.

  12. Robin says:

    And all this time I’ve been using mine for digging potatoes.

  13. Anton says:

    Does anyone know what this measuring tape might be used for? http://store.helpinghandtools.net/12tapemeasure.aspx It has markings exactly twice the size of inches. I picked one up from CVS when I left my regular one at home and it has been driving me crazy ever since. The only thing i could come up with is if you wrap it around something twice it would be correct. The package has 3 languages on it so you would think they would put a metric side on it instead.

  14. Frankie says:

    I grinded down a 1 1/4″ Dasco Pro Flat chisel to 1″ and thinner to remove the oil sight glass from compressors.

  15. Chris says:

    I just love my ideal electrician’s scissors and also a fuller 5 in one screwdriver that is quite handy. Also Weel used and liked is a Palladin / SOG pt-510 multipliers.
    Extremelu handy but expensive.

  16. Chris says:

    What this page REALLY needs is a way to correct post’s or at least a proper spellchecker.

  17. Chris says:

    Anton if I reread your post right then it should in fact be a center finding tape ie if you read the top at say 13 inches and then transfer the reading to the bottom that point will be the center of the distance (handy if you are constantly trying to drill a hole in the centre of something).http://americanfurnituredsgn.com/Merchant2/graphics/00000001/Tool_P5.jpg

  18. Jason says:

    I have a couple smaller (1″ handle) screwdrivers that I heat the tip , bend it 90* (or any other angle) , then grind the tip so its a flat hook. Works great for removing o-rings , pulling Positive retention clips on automobiles…etc etc.

    I also have a large 24″ spud wrench that I use (I’m a flat rate tech) for aligning sub-frame pinch bolt holes on FWD vehicles.

    I also have a spud bar … makes SO’s 200$ pry bar look like a joke when you go to your toolbox , reach UNDER it , and pull out a 6′ iron rod and stand on it.

    Also : if you ever have an old set of wipers , there are metal strips inside the rubber. You can do all sorts of great (and some questionable) things with these.


  19. Karol says:

    Anyone know where to buy parts for a Klein adjustable spud wrench??.

  20. alan says:

    Must be a spud wrench for Munchkkns. Can’t imagine getting your hand between the wrench and girder/beam without any offset on the tool.

    As for custom tools, the C-clamp is invaluable for making a press. Anything from a small watch crystal and bezel press to any size spring press, modified C-clamps come in handy.

  21. Chris Edwards says:

    No self respecting Ironworker carries a carpenter spud(spud crescent) joe’s only. If you have one you don’t connect. Joe. Local 86, Seattle.

  22. Chris Edwards says:

    Don’t be a joe

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