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Wera Joker – A Combination Ratchet Spanner – But Not as we Know it!

Aimed squarely at professionals, but keen amateurs will love them too. innovative and possible the end of skinned knuckles.

For the Wera uninitiated, the launch of a new range of spanners, or in Wera –speak – of Joker Professional Ratcheting Combination Wrenches, might not signify on their product radar. But more fool them I say, because they might have missed a product that despite being “only a spanner” could be very useful to them, in solving some of their working dilemmas.

I am not a mechanic by inclination, but even with a limited experience of doing simple jobs on my car, I could see where these Wera wrenches could be a major time and knuckle saver. For professionals, they would be a very useful and long – term investment in timesaving and high quality kit.

The new Joker Combination Wrenches cannot be faulted in terms of quality. They are made from high performance chrome molybdenum steel that is then plated with a nickel-chrome coating for high corrosion protection.

The steel combination means that even very high-torque applications can be confidently undertaken. Just the feel of the wrenches in your hand will confirm that –they are slimly sleek for comfortable grip and easy access to small spaces, but are clearly very strong.

Cleverly, Wera designers have incorporated the Wera Kraftform trademark into the wrench handles, right in the middle where extra strength is needed. The indentations of the design also serve as useful thumb and finger grips for greasy hands. As usual, the finish on the wrenches is super high quality – there are simply no traces of forging marks – just smooth matte metal.

But with four other useful functions to explore, it is time to move on.

The first of these is the practical holding function. What? a spanner that holds nut or bolt heads tight so that they can be located into position easily and then tightened. A closer look shows that the Joker wrenches have metal stop plates inset into the open ended jaws. With stop plate facing downwards, the nut or bolt head can be inserted into double-hex geometry of the jaws above. The stop plate has “ledges” on the inside of the jaws that prevent the nut or bolt from falling out. The double-hex geometry ensures that the nut is placed for best advantage.  All the user then has to do, at worst, is put a thumb or finger over the nut and start tightening it.

With the wrench the other way up, the holding function becomes an integrated limit stop. With the stop plate on the upper face of jaws, it acts to stop the fastener from slipping through the jaws. This means that the user does not have to steady the fastener with a thumb or forefinger before tightening it. It also ensures that the full area of the wrench jaws is located firmly onto the flat driving faces of the fastener. This minimizes any risk of slipping on the fastener, and also the nasty knuckle-crash risk associated with slipping fasteners.

But the stop plate has one more trick up its sleeve, so to speak. A close examination of it reveals that there are a couple of rows of tiny teeth on the parallel jaw sides of the wrench.  When the gripping plate is facing downwards on the fixing, these teeth, when under pressure, generate a form-fit connection to the fixing. The extra-hard teeth bite into the fixing and help prevent slippage under high torque loads. Once again, a bit of thoughtful design has reduced the danger of skinned (or worse) knuckles.

It is clear from the above, that the innovative addition of a stop plate to the to the Wera Joker Wrenches range has enabled users not only to greater levels of safety, but also to extra speed and convenience too. If they are not some of the goals of innovation in design, then you are welcome to your box of old-fashioned spanners, no doubt with built-in bumps, bends and oil stains!

The double-hex geometry combined with the straight head of the wrench mean that finding purchase on a fixing is a simple matter of moving the handle only 30 degrees to reposition the wrench onto it. Gone are the days of “tighten a bit, remove wrench, turn it over, reposition on fixing, tighten a bit, remove wrench….. etc.

The next bits to explore are the “ratcheting” and “combination” part of the Joker Wrenches. Looking at the other end of the wrenches, users can see an enclosed ratchet ring. This works as slickly as an oiled turnstile. The direction of travel of each ratchet is clearly marked with an etched arrow that won’t rub off with use. Selecting clockwise or anti-clockwise rotation is as easy as turning the wrench over.

The thickness of the wrench head is a shade over 10mm, so it is designed to fit into very small spaces. But perhaps more important to most users will be the fact that the ratchet has an 80 – tooth mechanism that enables a pivot angle of under 5 degrees. In practice it means that the very end of the handle travels less than 25mm to the next stop. Tightening or loosening nuts in a confined area is probably never going to be made easier than this. Also, it eliminates the need to remove the wrench from the fixing to find the next angle of purchase needed to carry on.

For a real life lesson, I used the Joker wrenches to help me replace a headlight on my Ford Focus. Easy you might think – but not on the nearside light. It involves removing the battery and battery holder in order to reveal the back of the light holders. The space is very confined and I was able to make full use of the versatility of the Joker wrenches’ ability to remove fixings in confined spaces. Having done this job a year or so with “conventional’ wrenches and sockets I was able to appreciate just how much easier the Joker made the job. Multiply this time saving many times for a professional mechanic or enthusiast to find out just how useful the Joker range could be. The Joker set used in this review was a six-piece set with popular sizes from 10mm to 19mm in it. Packed for dispatch and display in a sturdy card box, the wrenches are contained in a strong nylon case with a hook and loop closure. The wrenches have individual spaces in the case and there is a hanging loop on the case too. 

 

Read more Wera Reviews, such as the Kraftform Kompact VDE and the Tehnicans kit, which includes the Kraftform Kompakt SH1 Plumbkit and the Wera W1 Maintenance Kit.

For more information on Wera Tools, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk

Wera Zyklop Full Steel Mini-Delights for Engineers

Aimed at:- Fitters, maintenance/ electronics, engineers and anyone who needs an easily portable set of general fixing tools. 

Pros:- Brilliant small kit in a new nylon case. The kit is amazingly versatile and very well made.

One thing I have learned over the years of doing reviews is:- Never, ever underestimate the amount of innovation of which Wera is capable. Just when you think that they have launched the final answer to a product range, the Wera engineers come up with something new and startling that is packed with surprises.

The kit in question that was sent for review is the Wera Zyklop Metal 1/4 inch set that I first saw in Cologne in March. It garnered enough attention then, and will surely be a hit on retailers’ shelves already. The important thing for users to understand before purchase is that the ratchet come with two options- the Metal Push version and the Metal Switch version – so make sure which one you want to buy. The ratchets are also available to buy individually should you want to update an existing set.

We all know by now that the Wera name is associated with top quality, but if an end user ever wanted to be convinced, the style of packaging for the new Wera products is very convincing. This kit is presented in a neat, crisply folded, black cardboard box that has an image of the product shinily overprinted on it. In truth, it looks like something in which a high-end computer company might present its goods and certainly aids initial “consumer interest”.  

Slide off the lid of the box and you are confronted with an embossed black nylon structured fabric case that holds all the 28 pieces of the kit. By pulling apart the hook and loop closure, the kit is revealed so that it stands proud ready to be placed on a flat surface for use. I couldn’t help but be impressed by the wallet alone –it adds so much to the usability of the kit that it would be inconceivable for it to be any other way. The structured fabric case is lightweight and compact and of course, will not dent or bend like a metal case if it is dropped. It also provides excellent protection for the contents. Once again, Wera scores on innovation and design not merely for its own sake, but to add value to an already good idea.

The key pieces of the kit are the ratchets. The clues are in the names Metal Push and Metal Switch as they are full steel handled, exactly 140mm long with laser engraving and a clever nod at the trademark Wera Kraftform shape handle – very simple and very strong.

On the “Metal Push” version, left and right rotation is selected by simply pushing the ¼ inch drive through the head. The arrows engraved on the head show the directions for loosening and tightening. The spring-loaded socket lock function serves to hold the socket onto the drive, but these are released by pushing the top of the drive. There is no danger that the square drive will fall out, unlike some square drives. As I said, Wera seems to have thought of everything.

The Metal Switch version of the ratchet looks exactly the same, but it has a small and very well engineered switch on the head that is flicked easily into left or right-handed mode with a thumb or forefinger. I prefer this for my own use because I find that when I am working in confined spaces selecting clockwise or anti-clockwise rotation is achievable without removing the socket from the head of the bolt.

Both wrenches are as deliberately slimline as they can be without sacrificing strength, the new fine-tooth, double pawl 38-tooth ratchet design has a throw of only 4.7 degrees, so that working in confined spaces as small as 35mm wide or so, is possible. Fitters and engineers in a wide range of modern industries will find this a very useful feature.

The 150mm long extension although slim, is clearly strong, and the addition of a rotating spin sleeve on the shaft ensures that a speedy work-rate is possible when the bolts or nuts are not yet at the stage of being tightened. For those occasions when it is not possible to attack a nut or bolt head at right angles, the smaller extension (55mm long) has a square drive on it that has been angled. Thus the user can angle the wrench at about 10 to 12 degrees off right angles and this provides even greater flexibility in tight situations. I did use this feature quite a lot recently when I was assembling a metal stand for my bandsaw. The nuts were placed close to the edges and corners of the steel frame and the ratchet saved me from having to have double-jointed wrists in the very tight corners I was confronted with.

Lastly, there is a quick-release hex bit holder that will accept standard hex fittings. This too has a rotating spin sleeve that allows the user to support the work with a second hand.

Next in line are the nine sockets from 5mm to 13mm – the most commonly used sizes. These sockets stand as straight as a Buckingham Palace Guardsman because they are attached to the wallet via plastic holders. We have all wrestled with sockets stuck into elasticated pockets where they are largely concealed and difficult to pull out. This solution means that the sockets are instantly available, won’t fall out in transit or if the case is dropped. To cap it all, each socket is recognized by its size embroidered into the nylon case. For me, an ideal solution, as it forces me to be organized, rather than simply allowing the sockets to roam freely in the wallet.

Finally, with the points sticking out over the edge of the wallet for easy access, is the range of nickel plated hexagon drive screwdriver bits. This particular kit had six Torx drivers, four hex, two Pozi and three Phillips. This range covers pretty well all major fixing groups, but I suspect that many users will slowly drop the ones they don’t use and replace them with multiples of others that they use most.

The structured case itself folds up into a cuboid shape that has endpieces to ensure that any loose pieces will not escape. It is also just about pocket size and is therefore the “go-to” tool for fitters, without having to drag the toolbox along.

The arrival of this kit coincided with some major issues with the internals of my bandsaw, and after using it to carry out repairs and examinations I could clearly see all the virtues of it. Such is the flexibility and versatility of the kit I didn’t have to use any other tools apart from a pair of circlip pliers and a straight screwdriver.Being able to work flexibly in confined spaces is a huge plus, and knowing that no matter how much force I needed to apply to the ratchets, they would be able to take it, was comforting. The usual rule applies though – encourage others to buy their own version of this Wera kit, because if they borrow yours, it might take a long time to come back.

 

For more information on Wera Tools, please visit www.wera-tools.co.uk

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