Adjustable wrenches have been around in some fashion since as early as 1842 . While the origin of the basic style as we know it today is subject to some debate, it is typically credited to Swedish Inventor Johan Petter Johansson of the Bahco Company and based on a patent dated 1891. Popularized in America by the Crescent Tool Company of Jamestown, NY around 1915 as a tool intended for making brake and clutch adjustments, the adjustable wrench quickly gained popularity for it’s versatility.

Versatile and handy as they may be, adjustable wrenches have their limitations. Like any tool, there are certain task they are great for, and certain tasks for which they are not. One common complaint with adjustables is that the adjustable jaw has a tendency to “run” after a few turns requiring you to have to re-adjust to the proper size. It’s aggravating, especially in a tight spot, and makes the use of the wrench more time consuming than it needs to be.

Thankfully, Proto has a solution.

Proto Clik-Stop 4

Debuting in 1959, Proto’s Clik-Stop adjustable wrenches are designed to hold their adjustment and eliminate the need to constantly re-adjust. Available in sizes ranging from 4″ to 24″ in both satin and black industrial finish, there’s a Clik-Stop model to cover virtually any application.

Proto Clik Stop Ad (1950's)

 

How it works

At first glance the Clik-Stop looks like any other adjustable wrench. Early Clik-Stop’s were easily identifiable by the gold adjustment wheel. While this feature was long ago discontinued and the difference is no longer something you’ll see, it’s definitely something you’ll feel. The trick lies at the base of the knurled adjustment wheel. Tiny teeth machined into the base of the wheel are compressed into a corresponding groove on the frame of the wrench by a hidden spring. This locks the jaw in place preventing in from running open during use.
Proto Clik-Stop 6 (Wheel)
When adjusting the wrench you can feel the distinct clicking of the adjustment wheel. It does make the wheel slightly harder to turn, but not to the point that it’s annoying or uncomfortable. If you so desire, you can bypass the clicking during adjustment by putting slight upward pressure on the wheel as you turn it. It took me a day or two to get used to the difference in the adjustment, but it’s second nature now.

 

Proto vs. Crescent

So how does the Clik-Stop compare to the iconic Crescent branded wrenches? It really depends on the size. For example, in the 10″ size the length and head size are pretty much identical, but in the 6″, 8″, and 12″ sizes the Proto models have the advantage of a smaller head size giving them the ability to fit into tighter areas. Considering that the bulk of the head is one of the most common restrictions with adjustables, that’s a big plus for Proto.

The one across the board advantage the Proto wrenches have is jaw capacity. With the exception of the 6″ models which are both 25mm, the Clik-Stops offer an addition 4mm of capacity in the 10″ and 12″ sizes, and 2mm in 8″. It’s not a huge difference, but it is an advantage. Another advantage the Proto models offer is the fact they are made here in the USA (Western Forge). Just as Apex Tool has seemingly done with many other brands they control, they outsourced the Crescent brand wrenches to China a year os so ago. It’s true, The Crescent wrench, an American icon, is now manufactured in China. Check it out for yourself next time you’re in Wal-Mart or Lowe’s. I’m not one of these people who think everything made in China is garbage, but I prefer my hand tools to be made in the USA.

Proto Clik-Stop 5 (jaws)

 

Conclusion

In my mind there is no question the Clik-Stops are superior wrenches. They offer larger capacity in a more compact and versatile tool, the Clik-Stop system eliminates the most annoying characteristic of the adjustable wrench design, and they are still made here in the USA. Surprisingly, by shopping around we found the 10″ Clik-Stop $2 cheaper than we found the 10″ Crescent. Proto also offers adjustables without the Clik-Stop feature for even less.

 

Models

If you’re shopping for Clik-Stop wrenches be sure the model number ends in the letter L for satin or SL for black. Models without an L at the end do not have the Clik-Stop feature. Western Forge produces adjustables for many brands, but the Clik-Stop feature is exclusive to Proto.

Satin finish models are numbered as follows:

4″ – J704L
6″ – J706L
8″ – J708L
10″ – J710L
12″ – J712L
15″ – J715L
18″ – J718L
24″ – J724L

3 piece set (8″, 10″ and 12″) – J790

Black Industrial Finish models are as follows:

4″ – J704SL
6″ – J706SL
8″ – J708SL
10″ – J710SL
12″ – J712SL
15″ – J715SL
18″ – J718SL
24″ – J724SL