We can do better: CarbonLite carbon fibre wrenches

by Marc Basiliere 21

Any bike folks care to jump in?

That'll be $140, please.
That’ll be $140, please.

Q: Do the wrenches float?
A: No.”

When we recently caught Core77’s “Lightweight Tools of the Future” headline, we expected to find a set of sexy, pricy, lightweight tools for motorsports use.  What we found was a set of rather crude, pricy, lightweight tools for motorsport use.

Clearly cut from layered sheets of carbon fibre, CarbonLite’s five-piece imperial/metric box-end wrench set is said to weigh 190g- as little as a single 15mm steel wrench. Hardened steel twelve-point inserts take the brunt of the torque and is tapered to fit more tightly the deeper it sits on a bolt head.

Mmm... carbony.
Mmm… carbony.

Truth be told, the issue with CarbonLite’s wrenches isn’t the $140 (£83) price tag.  Lightweight specialist tools (with a lifetime warranty, no less) will always be expensive.  No, it’s that the wrenches are so plainly awful.  Not only are the sharp edges terribly uncomfortable-looking, but the company recommends wearing gloves due to the “small possibility the carbon fiber can leave splinters in your hand if the carbon fiber is damaged.”  The decision to locate adjacent-sized metric and imperial sizes in the same wrench is also an easy recipe for stripped bolt heads.

Given the wide range of beautifully-sculpted carbon fibre bars, stems, cranks, linkages, and even tools in the bicycle industry – many incorporating metal inserts – it’s painfully clear that we could do better.  CarbonLite have left plenty of room for improvement in terms of construction, ergonomics, and error-proofing.  If there are any composites engineers out there in the Singletrackworld looking for a side project, this could well be your chance.


Comments (21)

  1. Dare I say it but £83 seems cheap when compared to Snap-On and Facom prices. The unfinished edges would seem to bear this out.

  2. Surely lightweight is an important aspect of tools you plan to carry. I don’t think I;ve ever been in a situation where I needed a ring spanner on a ride, other than what can be handled with the ones on a multi-tool. At which point I look at these and wonder “why?”.

    Possibly a great example of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”.

  3. i was going to write a further “whats wrong” list but i thought
    “whats right?”
    I’m seeing any advantage.

  4. sorry missed a “not” out.

  5. Not April is it?? As an Engineer they really are a good example of just because you can doesn’t mean you should I’ll stick to Britool and snap on thanks.

  6. If I bought those, then it would be *I* that was the spanner.

  7. Do they all come in a box of straw? I’ve been looking for some proper artisanal wrenches, but drawn a blank at my local farmer’s market so far.

  8. I have made/bodged plenty of frames/components out of carbon, but under no circumstances would I ever consider using these!!!

  9. “Surely lightweight is an important aspect of tools you plan to carry.”

    Yup, and on event’s like the Dakar rally the competitors pay a small fortune per kg of spares/tools to be carried on the trucks. So there’s definately a market for this stuff, singletrack just isn’t it.

  10. Yeap thats what Ti is for.

  11. they are heavier than the equivalent Stahlwille double ended ring spanners… which won’t injure the user and are superb quality

  12. These will be far lighter than ti though.

  13. The negatives aren’t centred around the material and weight though, it’s the design and execution that are poor.

    Interesting write up, pulls no punches unlike a lot of the thinly disguised press releases we see on the front pages. Who wrote it-well done.

  14. I should be able to make them nicer to hold and more robust if you want to send me one to try?

  15. The finishing on the parts is awful. I’d say that they’ve been waterjet cut, the edges are slightly delaminated (hence the gloves advice I suppose) which shows a lack of understanding when it comes to waterjet cutting the material or the quality of the material isn’t too great. Cheaper carbon fibre sheets tens to have air bubbles in them which when the high pressure water finds them cause delamination and cracking of the material.. There are better materials to manufacture light weight tools from that carbon fibre, I suspect they are just trying to tap into the “all things carbon” trend.

  16. Looking at the surface of the spanners they look covered in surface pitting. Given the relationship between air entrapment and strength of composites I wouldn’t be surprised if those spanners snapped when you try and apply a load!
    Looking at the products it smaks of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing when it comes to manufacturing composites.

  17. All the above comments plus the fact that the ring part is massively thick and will likely mean you can’t use these anywhere you want to.

    I’ve never used the phrase Epic Fail before but this seems an appropriate time to start.

  18. …and even if the other million things that are wrong with them were made right, who would buy a set of tools are 50% unusable. Imperial threaded bike anyone?

  19. Well to be fair, the company making these is not bike-oriented, and is from the US, so imperial sizes are really not that strange.

    I’d be more worried that uncoated CF would delaminate when exposed to oil and grease, IIRC that’s why all the friction paste that comes with CF parts are water-based.

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