When you think of a list of the most common tools — tools that you start using as a kid and become part of your toolbox everywhere life takes you after that — it’s probably got five or six must-haves. That list would likely include a hammer, screwdriver, tape measure, saw and a Crescent wrench. All immediately recognizable. All recognized as essential.
But on this Mount Rushmore of tools in your toolbox, one of them might be an impostor.
“There’s a good chance that what a person thinks is a Crescent wrench isn’t actually a Crescent wrench,” said Brendan Walsh, director of product marketing at Crescent Tools. “It’s just an adjustable wrench. And, yeah, there’s a big difference.”
The misconception starts with the fact that many people don't realize that Crescent is the name of a brand, not the tool. Crescent Tools started producing the famed adjustable wrench in 1908, and it didn't take long for the tool to boom in popularity. The ability to essentially have multiple wrenches of different sizes in one tool was a revelation.
This happens when brands become synonymous with the thing that they sell, and consumers see it happen all the time. Kleenex, Band-Aid, Xerox, Jet Ski and even Zamboni are all brands that are referenced interchangeably as names for the items they sell. Kleenex doesn’t sell Kleenex, it sells facial tissues. On the flip side, their competitors don’t sell Kleenex, they also sell facial tissues. But everyday people commonly refer to everything as Kleenex.
And that’s what happened to Crescent’s adjustable wrench.
“I can’t blame people for doing it. I mean, it certainly rolls off the tongue faster than ‘adjustable wrench’ does,” said Walsh. “But the fact is that if it’s not made by Crescent, then it’s not a Crescent wrench. And, honestly, we take a lot of pride in that.”
Adjustable spanners — the precursors to Crescent's adjustable wrench — had been developed as early as the 1840s, but the sliding jaw would easily bind, rendering them unusable. However in 1907, a gifted Swedish inventor named Karl Peterson founded the Crescent Tool Company in Jamestown, New York. A year later, he introduced the Crescent wrench, an adjustable wrench with a smooth-sliding jaw so superior to anything else on the market that the Crescent adjustable wrench was an instant success.
The Crescent wrench has since been the brand’s signature item, overshadowing Crescent’s growth into one of the most respected professional hand tool brands in the world. Crescent recently expanded to include five other legendary hand tool category creators: Nicholson (files), Wiss (scissors, snips and cutting tools), H.K. Porter (heavy duty cutting tools), Lufkin (measuring) and JOBOX (tool and equipment storage).
“We make so much more than the average person — even a heavy tool user — knows about,” said Kevin Fitzpatrick, product manager at Crescent Tools. “We’re innovating now the same we did a hundred years ago, listening to tradesmen to develop and improve tools in ways that make their lives easier. For example, we just launched our Crescent Lufkin Shockforce measuring tapes this past March, and the reaction over how innovative they are has been overwhelming. Tradesmen didn’t know that tapes could be improved so much, but we’re doing it.”
While other hand tool brands don’t market their adjustable wrenches as “Crescent” wrenches, consumers still use the term interchangeably regardless of the brand.
“It feels good to know we’ve built a tool that is so popular and so well respected that its name has become the default name for the tool itself, but it’s important to know that the brand matters. It’s not a Crescent wrench unless it’s a Crescent wrench.”