Open end ratchet spanner review

Good woodworking magazine review of Chicago Brand open end ratchet spanners.

Star performers

If you do a lot of work in hard-to-reach areas, these Chicago brand spanners will be right up your street. Not only are they built to last but they also come with a lifetime warranty to boot – superb!

 Woodworking isn’t always about sharp tools and snug fitting joints; there are occasions when we have to use bolts, and in some instances, in inaccessible places. Each spanner has a combination of two different nut sizes it will fit, with a 10 & 12mm, 13 & 14mm and 15 & 17mm configuration.

The slip head action. So what sets them apart from any other spanner out there? Well there are ratcheting ring spanners that save lots of time, which are no good in restricted areas such as the recess a worktop bolt sits into. These spanners are open-ended for easy alignment with a nut or bolt, but also have a ratcheting type action, which is actually a spring-loaded hinged or pivoting head that as you set it to run the nut tighter or looser by switching its orientation, engages like a standard spanner, but as you pull against this action, the head disengages to ratchet or slip back, ready to move to the next tightening or loosening motion.

The slip head action engages and disengages at 30° increments that allow a nut to be tightened or released in a very restricted or enclosed space, turning the spanner over accordingly to tighten
or loosen, but there is a downside: this function needs a certain amount of resistance to do its stuff.

Releasing a tightened nut is fine, but tightening up needs enough pressure to allow it to slip over to the next flange on the nut, but I found that spinning a nut on and applying finger pressure was enough to get the first nip to work and then slip to the next position.

In its working position the spanner sits around the nut to apply pressure but it’s in tight spots such as beneath worktops where these really excel

Excellent quality, the quality of these spanners is excellent and they are powerful as well: I found I could lean on them hard to get a really tight fixing without any sign of slippage.

 The sizes available are limited in their range, starting at 10mm through to the biggest at 19mm or from 3⁄8in to 13⁄16in in the Imperial range with the double-ended slip head set of three as reviewed, or in sets of 10 with a slip head and fixed head configuration.


Averaging at just shy of £17 per spanner you may think it’s a high price to pay, but these come with a lifetime guarantee, and in the case of restricted and hard-to-reach working areas, I’d pay double just for the 10mm one!

Rating: 5 out of 5. GW

1 reply
  1. Chris
    Chris says:

    If there anything like the sockets, they will be excellent quality and able to take punishment, my first use of the sockets were to take a rounded head bolt from a Range Rover, was no problem for them, I’m looking forward to getting the spanners aswell for my tool kit


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