The socket wrench is a wonderfully useful tool for tightening and loosening all sizes of nuts and bolts. Its ease of use makes it a must-have in the basic tool chest.
One end of the handle is etched to offer a firm grip. The other end has a square socket head.
The socket is open on both ends. The square end fits over the socket head on the handle. The other end (usually hexagonal) fits over a nut or bolt. A wrench comes with a range of different socket sizes.
The ratchet mechanism in the handle allows the handle to reverse direction without moving the socket, so the tool does not have to be removed to continue tightening or loosening. A level on the back of the head reverses the direction of force.
An extension adds length from the head to allow access to hard-to-reach places. An adapter has two open ends and fits over the head so the handle can hold sockets made for a different size head. A breaker bar slips through the handle and enables the user to exert extra force on the tool. A universal joint adds a 90-degree bend to aid access to certain nuts and bolts.
The socket wrench was patented in 1863.