Monkey Wrench vs. Pipe Wrench

Wrenches in a row.

Adjustable wrenches are handy for all kinds of projects around the house. But with so many types of wrenches on the market, it can be difficult determining which ones are the best fit for a given job.

For example, many people do not know the difference between a pipe wrench and a monkey wrench, and some may think they are interchangeable. For those who may not know, here is a quick look at two of the most popular kinds of adjustable wrenches — the monkey wrench and the pipe wrench — and what sets them apart.

Pipe Wrench

A pipe wrench around a pipe.

Pipe wrenches are a common workhorse in the plumbing industry, and for good reason. For the average DIYer, a pipe wrench is a great tool for any plumbing related projects around the house. This includes installing new copper pipes and fittings. These types of wrenches feature serrated jaws that are made to fit around pipes. The jaws are loosened and tightened via a pair of thumb nuts that run along a shaft. Once the desired width has been achieved, you simply tighten down the nuts and secure the wrench to the shaft of the pipe. Pipe wrenches come in a slew of different sizes, ranging anywhere from 10 to 48 inches in length. Make sure you do a little research ahead of time and get the right sized pipe wrench for whatever project you are working on.

Pipe Wrench Projects

Although pipe wrenches and monkey wrenches appear similar, they have completely different uses. Pipe wrenches are made for working with soft pipes, such as copper. The pipe locks around the diameter of the pipe and digs into the soft metal. The pipe can then be turned and tightened into place by turning the wrench. Unlike a monkey wrench, pipe wrenches are not supposed to be used on nuts because the jaws can round over the edges of the nut, making it useless and hard to remove. If the edges of the nut are round, however, a pipe wrench could be used to remove it. As long as the metal is soft enough, the pipe wrench should be able to bite in and turn it.

Monkey Wrench

A monkey wrench against a gray background.

The monkey wrench has been around a very long time and is the precursor to the modern day adjustable wrench. Monkey wrenches were originally made to remove square head bolts and are not meant for pipe work. This tool features a set of metal jaws that can be widened via a bolt and shaft. Once the desired width has been reached, you simply tighten the locknut to keep everything in place. Because of the rise in popularity of the adjustable wrench, the monkey wrench has been on the decline over the past decade or so. Even still, this tool is very handy for projects around the house and is still a valuable tool in the average DIYers’ toolbox.

Monkey Wrench Projects

In contrast to pipe wrenches, monkey wrenches are not commonly used when working with plumbing related projects. Instead, monkey wrenches are useful on any project that features square shaped bolts. Because of the wrenches adjustable feature, it can pretty much tighten or loosen any square shaped bolt with ease. With that in mind, the monkey wrench is ideal for projects around the house or when working on cars. But if you have a project where you cannot fit a monkey wrench, consider getting an adjustable wrench. These work similar to a monkey wrench but are much smaller in size and can therefore fit into tighter spaces.


Although they have similar functions, a monkey wrench and a pipe wrench were made for different uses. A pipe wrench is predominately used in the plumbing industry while the monkey wrench was specifically made to remove square bolts. While the monkey wrench has been on the decline in recent years, the pipe wrench is still a staple tool within the plumbing industry.