Before sockets came along, you’d need to use a spanner to handle all of your fastening needs. That all changed in the mid 1800s, when an illustration of a ratchet-style wrench was published in Scientific American – and the rest is history. Nowadays, fastening and unfastening is no big deal, no matter what the unique application is calling for – just grab the interchangeable socket you need from your socket set, connect it to the ratchet, wrench or tool of choice, and a bit of easy back-and-forth and a tough job has just been done… no sweat.
The thing is, whether it’s a mechanic or a tradie or a professional across the industry spectrum, more than one socket set actually might not be enough. So with so much out there, and some sets including no less than hundreds of individual pieces, just how many socket sets might you or your business need to invest in?
To start with, the relatively casual socket user can definitely get away with just one set – something like a 40 or 50-piece drive socket set in 1/4″, 3/8″ & 1/2″ should be more than enough for just about everything. And even if it’s not, just add some extra sizes one by one as you need them.
Some professionals, however, will have literally hundreds – and even thousands – of separate socket pieces, which may include standard, stubby and long handles, giving you the space and leverage necessary to cope with the task. They’ll also probably have a flex-head handy, complete with its pivot that will handle even the hardest to access fasteners, like the ones lurking deep within an tightly-packed engine.
What else will the heavy socket set user have on the bench?
Some pros will have a separate socket extension for every single drive shaft size. And it’s not just to reach into those impossible-to-reach places, but sometimes just to achieve a more comfortable turning position for the user. There are different extension types too, including different shapes and even ones with wobble heads for off-centre socket turning.
Unfortunately, there isn’t just a single measuring standard in the socket set world – there are two. The American standard is SAE – referring to the Society of Automotive Engineers, who pioneered it for the US car industry. It’s the one we mentioned earlier – measured in inches and fractions of inches. But you’ll also run across metric socket sets, which is preferred by many as the millimetre measurements are more precise than SAE. For the busy, socket usage-heavy professional, they’ll need both to cover all eventualities.
So far, we’ve only talked about sockets for ratchets … but don’t forget about sockets for the impact wrench! If you’re not going to use power to use your sockets, impact sockets aren’t for you – but if you do, this category of socket sets is what you’ll need for your impact wrenches or ‘drivers’ – whether they are powered electrically, pneumatically, or in another way such as hydraulically. These socket sets are made of more task-appropriate materials and usually coloured differently too, and will deliver one heck of a torque punch – just like a racing team pit crew powers those wheel nuts on and off in the flash of a trigger.
But wait: there’s more! Alongside your drive and hex socket sets, will you be needing E Torx sockets? Sockets with electrical insulation? Spark plug sockets? Pass-through sockets for use with a ratchet spanner? The socket set world is as vast as it can be confusing, so to ensure your professional tasks and business operations are covered for every socket eventuality, consult with our industry experts to help guide your choice.