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By Rhyolith
I have found it not uncommon to be advised to not use adjustable spanners, even to the point of it being considered unprofessional to use them… but I still think adjustables are superior for most situations. Here’s why:

They fit tighter on the nut:
This is a common stated weakness of adjustables, but if you use them right (and they are well made) they can close tighter than a fixed spanner. This is particularly the case with old bolts and nut that have been worn to the point of not being a standard size anymore.

This concept is taken further with what it my opinion is the best general purpose spanner design. It can properly clamp the nut... it actually works so well you can get sufficient grip to tighten or remove a stiff thread via a round object (like a stripped bolt head).

ImageStanley 10" Locking Adjustable Spanner (Locked) by Rhyolith, on Flickr

I is actually impossible for a fixed spanner to grip as well as this does.

Less time wasted looking for Tools:
You don’t have to spend time finding out what size the bolt or nut is and finding the right spanner. You just pick an adjustable thats roughly the right size and go. This is particularly beneficial with restorations of old things where you almost never know the bolt head sizes in advance.

Less Toolbox Space needed:
An adjustable will do the job of around 4 times their number in fixed spanners, the space this saves is not a small deal.

Lower Cost:
Quite simply because you need less of them.

This is not to say however that I don’t think fixed spanners have their place. If your going to be working with a lot of the same sized heads (like taking 100 of the same sized bolt out of something) then the time saved not having to fit on each one makes up quite a lot of searching time.

I’d also reach for a fixed spanner (particularly one with a ring) over and adjustable for working somewhere cramped, simple because they are generally slimmer and easier to use in many awkward spots.

Thats my 2 cents, I am will be interested to hear any thoughts :)
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By Trevanion
I have a full set of fixed spanners, always reach for the old adjustable spanner every time over a fixed one. I find it more comfortable to use an adjustable over a fixed spanner as well if that makes any sense.
Right from the start I was always taught that it was "unprofessional" to use adjustables Ryolith, but IMO, you're quite right, with the RIGHT type of adjustable, there are SOME advantages, SOMETIMES - like for example, trying to remove a rusted-on nut as just one applicable case.

BUT still I prefer to use the correct size spanner - full ring spanner when possible, but an open-ender too, usually for restricted circumstances, or of course, when there's no access directly over the nut/bolt/stud combination too.

And don't forget sockets too - provided they are decent quality, made to correct tolerances, and not made out of the Chinese version of Swiss cheese, these are preferable because, like ring spanners, they grip the nut on all it's flats and/or (more likely) all its peaks.

But yeah, sometimes a decent adjustable is a very helpful tool, but for me anyway, usually as a "standby" rather than as a "first go to".

There may be another reason for me though - here, all adjustable spanners are referred to as "Englanders", and believe me, that is NOT supposed to be a compliment here! :D
By julianf
If you're working on somthing with good access, then, sure, an adjustable will do the job.

But if you're bending yourself into some convoluted space with only one arm even close to the fastener (that you probably can't even see any more!) then you really don't want to have an adjustable in your hand.
By E-wan
I find myself most commonly using a small quarter inch ratchet set

sometimes with a t bar instead of the ratchet

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By Sideways
Fixed spanners are excellent if they fit.
Ring spanner, especially those that drive on the flats, probably the strongest of all.

I have that stanley and like it, especially for chromed plumbing fittings. I use a piece of paper to stop any marring but once clamped it never slips and rounds a fitting.

A Knipex pliers wrench is an AWESOME device. Looks like a pair of pliers mated with a slip joint wrench. Works like that. Super fast. Applies huge clamping force due to the leverage of the design. £35-£45 a pair but much better than conventional crescent adjustables.
By marku
I threaten to weld adjustable spanners to peoples benches if they are using them in our workshop unless they have a very good reason!

If you have good quality fixed spanners they are always better. Normally you would use a ring spanner rather than open end if you have access.

I was always taught the adjustable is for when you have to fix a machine in a field and haven't got the right tool, basically as a get you out of trouble tool not an everyday use item.

People pay us to fix their machinery professionally and I know a lot of customers would not be impressed by the use of adjustable spanners on their machines!
By Cheshirechappie
Hard to say which is 'best' - sometimes the best is the one that fits when the others won't - but shifters (or 'adjustables' if you're posh) are certainly very handy. Buy good ones, though.

An old fitter once told me that back in the days of steam, shed fitters just used a 2lb ball-pein hammer to knock nuts round on their threads. That certainly explained the high incidence of b*ggered nuts found when stripping old engines for restoration. Don't do it, folks - they invented spanners for a reason.

This might be worth a watch, though;
By TFrench
I've got a couple of bahco adjustables but I'd never use them for anything that needs to be tight. More than anything I use the big one to lock the spindle on my lathe as I've not got an appropriate massive whitworth spanner! Using an adjustable just feels a bit amateur to me, when the proper tool exists.

On a similar note, if you're buying sockets I always try to get the 6 sided ones, not the 12 - much less likely to slip or round the head off.
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Banned at most locations I’ve visited and worked at - too many accidents with them slipping and also pita with rounded nuts an ill adjusted spanner can leave.
By sunnybob
Another "horses for courses" thread.
A person who is methodical and takes the few seconds needed to adjust it to a tight fit before using it will find it a useful tool, especially if he / she is out from the workshop and tool box carry weight is an issue.

But the average person, and that includes apprentices, will not take the time, and wait untill it slips before tightening it for a second /third /fourth attempt, therefore causing grief to all concerned.

I wont use them (dont even possess one) because most of the bolts I tighten need to be TIGHT>. and full force is when an adjustable spanner is at its most dangerous.
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By Rhyolith
A few people agree that using adjustables is unprofessional, why? Not saying your wrong necessarily, I just cannot see the reason behind this.

It seems to me the only people who strip nuts with adjustables are ametures (i.e. people who don’t know how to use them). Indeed for a newbie its just as easy to strip a nut with a fixed spanner that does not quite fit, I have actsully seen this more often than misuse of an adjustable.

I don’t think one is better than the other, I just think adjustables are more often the right tool than fixed spanners... for basically anything thats not a tight space or a lot of the same nut size.
By Doug71
If the job involves lots of nuts and bolts I will get out the socket set and spanners but for most things I use an adjustable.

My favourite is this little one from Bahco, I keep one in tool bag and one in workshop, lovely little tool. ... lsrc=aw.ds
By phil.p
I've a 10"? Bahco with a reversible jaw so it can hold on round and irregular shaped stuff. I wouldn't be without it. :D