Introduction: Wrench Sizes... Problem Solved

About: Old inventor, reverted back to my 10 year-old self. A shop full of tools, a boat, race car, 3D printer and a beautiful wife who wants me to invent things for around the house... Now how cool is that?

This idea is evolved from another Instructable ><.  My thanks to Spikoli for sending me in the right direction.

There's always a problem when I begin working on a project that requires multiple sized wrenches.  This is especially true when I work on my boats and cars.  Each of these toys are filled with complicated mechanical systems and many, many different sizes of fasteners.

I don't know about you, but I really don't care if that bolt I'm trying to remove is a 3/16", 1/4" or a #12.  I'm also not able to (even though its fun to try) guess the size by feeling it through a 3"x3" opening.

Time to ask myself what it is I really want... When I'm working, what matters is my ability to  choose the tool that fits the bolt.  It really doesn't matter what dimension is stamped into the metal.

I also don't care if my tools maintain the same look they did when they lived in the store where I bought them.  I use, modify and trim them to fit the job I'm working on, so box wrenches might be ground down to fit a snug opening or cut away completely.

All I want is to be able to grab the tool I need, when I need it...

And I think I've figured out how to do that.

Step 1: What You'll Need:

Paint... Lots of colors.

A job that has numerous, varied sized nuts and bolts.

Also, for additional ID of specific wrenches that are used a lot, a label making machine.

You may also want to try this with a colored plastic spray coating in lieu of paint.

Step 2: Break the Job Down by Components.

As I said, I don't care what size the wrench is.  I only need to "match" the wrench to the bolt I'm working with.  Any way that allows me to choose the correct wrench accurately and quickly would make sizes moot.

The problem I'm having stems from the fact that most industries don't manufacturer all the components they use in their final products, but rely on third party suppliers.  These "off-the-shelf" parts are then added to other off-the-shelf-parts made by other manufacturers.  Each using their own "standard" fitting.  Attachment methods and sizes found in the final product are likely to be all over the map.

By the time you buy that boat, car or airplane, the number of different sized tools you'll need to work on it becomes incredibly vast.

However, each component within that product will be standardized to itself.  Furthermore, because these components work with other components within the same field, the parts the component relates to will also more than likely use the same fittings and sizes.

So that's what we'll do here.  We'll code our wrenches by where they're used instead of what size they are.  In my case, I've already painted several parts of the cooling system on my project car blue.  I've chosen the cooling system of my project car to be represented by the color blue.  That's as good a color as any, so the wrenches I use to work on that part of my car are painted blue.  So far, every bolt I've come across in the cooling system fits one of less than half a dozen wrenches...   

Piece of cake.

Step 3: Start Working on Your Project

Start work as you normally would.  Work on one component, but put aside every wrench you use into a separate pile.  When you take a break, spray paint the wrenches a single color, both sides.

Use a color that will represent that section of your project your tools fit.   Whenever you need to work on this section again, you'll know exactly which wrenches to choose, even if they're mixed up with all the others.

Do the same with every other component.  If one size is used in more than one area and you have spare wrenches, you can paint each a different color.  If you don't have spares, then you can paint a single wrench multiple colors. Neatness doesn't count.

The key is, paint the wrench to mate with the job and forget about size.

Step 4: Fine Tuning

My 3D printer uses a single-sized wrench for all of its assembly bolts.    I've given the wrench that fits it a label identifying it specifically.  Marking wrenches on both sides allows immediate access without having to flip them.  Because there are fewer metric sizes, I made labels to identify sizes of all the metric wrenches I own.

Before long, I'm sure these will be painted as well, but I'll keep the label clean by wiping them before the paint drys.

I may discover I'll need the wrench I use to loosen the dashboard quite often.  There also might be quite a few green (interior) wrenches, so it still takes time to locate this "one" green wrench.  If this happens, I'll print a label that says "Dash" and paste it to the wrench's handel.  It'll make that specific green wrench very noticeable every time I look at the green "bunch".

When the next project comes around, the paint can be easily removed and the wrenches made ready for the next set of color codes.  I'll keep the labels on any wrenches that have them and get used often.

I'll update this Instructable as I learn more through trial and error.  So far, the system works pretty well.  I do run into new fittings that require wrenches that haven't been painted and I've decided not to paint my sockets.

For sockets, I find the wrench that fits, note the size, then get the proper socket .

Enjoy.  I hope this technique finds users.  I'd love to get feedback on how it can be improved. 

Step 5: More Fine Tuning

Comments have been made about commercialization and borrowed tools.  I'm assuming these were tongue in cheek, but things like that are what get me thinking.

I'll give credit for this idea to AngrierBeaver who wrote that professionals wouldn't stand for colored tools and Triniguru who wished there was a way he could color borrowed tools.

There's a product called "Plasti-Dip" available in a line of colors.  This is the same stuff they put around the handles of pliers to keep them from slipping out of your hand.

If you use Plasti-Dip to color your wrenches, you'll create a surface that's not only easier to hold onto, but if you're careful how you finish the edges, youill give your wrenches a functional and professional looking grip.

What happens when the job's done?  The truly great thing about Plasti-Dip is, you slice it and it peels off, leaving the metal underneath perfectly clean, ready for the next project.

Bada Bing - Bada Boom.

Step 6: Commercalization

For folks who like to sell things; here's how you can turn this into something you can market to big box stores.  Bags of colored sleeves that stretch over a wrench's head or wrap around and cling to the central shaft.  They'd just have to be long enough to stand out and short enough to allow other sleeves to be added... That's all the help I'm giving you. :)

 Have fun and good luck.  Let me know when they're ready and where I can get some.  I'd like a set myself :)

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