The adjustable spanner (or wrench if you are in the USA and Canada) was invented by Richard Clyburn in 1842 and patented in 1843. It was revolutionary at the time as it had a pair of open jaws that could be adjusted by a rack and worm to change their size and replace a whole set of spanners. The design would prove to be remarkably long lived and is still being manufactured and used today. The spanner originally had a handle shaped like a letter ‘S’, however straight handled versions were also produced and today we are looking at a British Army marked example of one of these:
The adjustable head is controlled by a large metal worm gear, which is serrated along the edges to allow better grip by the user when adjusting it:
The shaft of the spanner is marked with the /|\ property mark and manufacturer’s initials which look like WJLB:
My suspicion is that this is the mark for William J Bedford, part of Bedford and Sons a large toolmaker from Sheffield.
Spanners could have a variety of uses in wartime, as recallled by one London child in the Blitz:
I was 10 years old in 1939. My mother’s orders were if the warning goes get my sister’s children into the dugout and leave the street door open so she could run in when she came back from the shops. The siren did go and I did what I was told. While in the shelter I heard a rustling sound and then a foreign voice calling out. My thoughts were that it was a parachute coming down. I grabbed the spanner from the back of the shelter ready to protect my two nephews and myself. But the person ran when he saw me with the spanner. I learnt afterwards that the person was a Jewish rent collector and the rustling sound was a barrage balloon going up in the next road. The Airforce men were stationed at the local pub in Wager St. , Bow. I don’t think they saw that man for a while but the neighbours suggested I should have hit him anyway as he was a rent collector.
“What size is that nut ?” “Medium Adjustable”
For when you absolutely, positively need to round off nuts and bolts fast…
We were specifically forbidden to use them on Aircraft (make that ‘to get caught using them’)
Yet there was a set in every toolbox and on every toolboard…