Snail brand spanners

How’s this for a variety of the same size Snail brand spanner.
If anyone has a different design please send me a pic as it appears I have formed a somewhat of a collection.
It would be great to have them put in order of year produced.
Regards, Graham

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Then there is this size
I had to laugh when I went to sort them out thinking they were mostly the same.

My Favourite is the top photo forth spanner down.
The ‘Racing’ model :rofl:

Without telling you the obvious, your group of 1/8W x 3/16W SNAIL Spanners, if correct for a 1938 to 1940MY SS Jaguar, or a postwar Mark IV, Mark V and XK120 are the size allocated Jaguar Part No C.998.
The second size 1/4W x 5/16W as used in the same SS and Jaguar models is a C.999.
You dont picture the third size 3/8W x 7/16W used in SS Jaguar and Mark IV only (not Mark V nor XK120) that is a C1000.

And it is possible to group their ages, but not to single year accuracy, thus reasonably identify whether correct or not for 1938MY, 1939MY, 1940MY SS Jaguar, or indeed Mark IV, Mark V and XK120.
At the top level the age grouping is the exact form of the size markings on the spanners, that evolved as mandated by successive issues/updates of the relevant British Standard, and with a World War 2 overlay requirements of the British Ministry of Supply, that controlled all World War 2 period of British Manufacture and supply.
For the C.999 size, the age groupings are based on the following size markings…

A. 1/4 x 5/16
B. 1/4W x 5/16W
C. 1/4BSW5/16BSF x 5/16BSW3/8BSF
D. 1/4W5/16F x 5/16W3/8F
E. 1/4W5/16BS x 5/16W3/8BS

The size markings D. are applicable to nearly all Mark IV, Mark V and XK120, albeit for extremely early Mark IV, you can sometimes find carry over old stock C. style markings.
I cannot discount either that the very last 1954 built XK120 may have received some of the very first with the new E. marking, but its not expected.
Within the D. marking variants over the 1945 to 1954 period of use, there are some other age related indicators regarding the exact style of the SNAIL pictogram, but I wont go into that here.

The situation with the C.1000 size is exactly as with the C.999 size, except of course Mark V and XK120 did not get this size.

The situation with the C.998 size is a little more difficult.
The 1/8W size is NON STANDARD (according to the British Standards), thus has no BSF equivalent, and is NOT a preferred size. The preferred size for similar size threads is 2BA.
Prewar, 1/8W x 3/16W spanners were made, although 2BA x 3/16W spanners were preferred.
But given their was never a BSF equivalent, when the size markings developed, the postwar period for the D variant markings was…
1/8W x 3/16W1/4F
But given the 1/8W size was non-standard, these were not a main stream spanner size to be made by any tool manufacturer, and would have been supplied as a special order as a ‘non-standard’ spanner

Now the British Standard specifies the LENGTH of each spanner size-combination, but its not an overall length that mattered to Jaguar (to ensure fitting properly in the tool tray recesses). Thus Jaguars purchase of C.998 size spanners struggled to ensure correct overall length - it didn’t matter in an XK120 tool roll, but the problems with fitting in a Mark IV tool tray recess, was not addressed until the enlarged recess in the Mark V tool tray.
But again, this is ‘too much information’ for this forum.

If anyone wants further detail on these Snail spanners, can I suggest you contact me direct.
Most people seem to be happy to just have a British Made spanner that fits in its tool tray recess.


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I have only two.

What do we know about the Snail company?

I happened to find a 1925 magazine article that mentions that the Stevenson jack was made by British Tool and Engineering of Wolverhampton.

Racing model? Is he raising a cloud of dust under him? Spinning his wheels, er no, scrabbling his feet, er no, sloshing his slime?

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Hi Rob.
Here is the ‘racing’ model.
He’s lean and keen. He has an third tentacle (no not testicle) for better observation and he knows the finish line is east not west like yours.
And he’s leaving the ‘BS’ behind him. :wink:

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Hi Roger.
Here is my 3/8W x 7/16W selection. Only 6 different this time.

Looks like Snail tools were made by Thomas Smith and Sons of Saltley Mill in Birmingham beginning about 1843.

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Excellent info. Thanks Rob

See attached, an exceptionally nice SNAIL Tools catalogue I picked up some years ago, dates from 1950/51 so perfect for post war SNAIL tool relevance - its perfect bound 8-3/4" x 9-1/2", 60-pages and full of photos of the entire SNAIL tool range, not just our three open-enders as found in Mark IV/V and XK120 tool kits


See also the loose covering letter dated Feb 1951inside front cover…

Nice addition to my collection, and of immense help re SS and Jaguar tool-detail research.


Thanks Roger, it reminds me of something I noticed in other Snail advertising, and was going to call attention to it.
Is there a difference between a spanner and a wrench in British parlance?

My own personal feeling on these terms is that a spanner is a tool with a certain amount of precision for its jaws whereas a wrench is something more like this:

If someone describes wrenching something off it suggests tearing it off with brute force. I guess an exception to this it the tool for applying a measure torque. The universal term in Britain is “torque wrench”.


For what it’s worth, here are a couple of pictures of some
Snail wrenches I ended up acquiring along with some XK tools I had bought online.

The top one doesn’t have a snail logo for some reason.

I believe that only the bottom two might be authentic for an XK120.

As with all such detailed topics, just depends how exact you wish to be regarding ‘authentic’.
The XK120 of course was produced 1949 to 1954, and its tool kit included two only WHITWORTH sized open-ended spanners, the C.998 and C.999 which Jaguar was only concerned about the Jaw sizes being 1/8W x 3/16W and 1/4W x 5/16W as required, and the overall dimensions being such that these two spanners fitted into the recesses specifically provided in the Mark IV and Mark V tool tray. The dimensions were not critical to an XK120 Tool Roll of course, but a C.998 and C.999 was the same regardless of being supplied to an XK120 or a Mark IV or V.
We do know of course from original tool kits that the C.998 and C.999 were a standard ‘Regular 30-degree head’ double-ended open-ended Spanner , branded SNAIL (as made by Thomas Smith & Sons). As per my earlier posting, the ever evolving British Standards dictated the exact form of labeling each WHITWORTH size jaw opening, as the same jaw opening size not only fitted its original nominal WHITWORTH size, now identified as being the courser BSW (British Standard Whitworth) thread, but also the later introduced finer BSF (British Standard Fine) thread, which for the same hex head dimension was one-size larger. Yes, I know its complex!

Bottom line, is that for an XK120 built 1949 to 1954, the two sizes of Snail spanners were supplied with the following size markings…
C.998. 1/8W one end and 3/16W 1/4F the other end, or 1/8W x 3/16W1/4F
C.999. 1/4W 5/16F one end and 5/16W 3/8F the other end, or 1/4W5/16F x 5/16W3/8F

Accordingly in your photo.
Your ‘bottom’ spanner 1/8W x 3/16W1/4BS is not a correct C.998 for an XK120 as the BS (British Standard) substitution for F (BSF) was introduced by SNAIL in late 1954, but has not yet been confirmed as ever actually getting delivered to Jaguar for inclusion within even one of the last XK120 tool kits put together, and given the XK120 was the last user of SNAIL spanners, I simply dismiss these with BS marking as having NO Jaguar relevance. But if you are not into ‘strict authenticity’, for many, they are close enough.
Your ‘second bottom’ SNAIL spanner marked 1/4W5/16F x 5/16W3/8F is an authentic C.999 for an XK120

Your ‘third bottom’ SNAIL spanner marked 1/4W5/16F x 5/16W3/8F is an authentic C.999 for the 1945 to 1954 period regarding regulated marking, but if you want to get more pedantic re exact age of manufacture, and thus likely inclusion within an original XK120 tool kit, the right-facing SNAIL logo design is more 1940s than 1950s thus XK120, which is more likely to have the left-facing more open SNAIL logo design, but given stock level handling, you cannot count out a late 1940s spanner actually ending up in an XK120 tool kit

Your ‘fourth bottom’ SNAIL spanner marked 1/4W5/16F x 5/16W3/8F is as per ‘third bottom’

THe ‘top’ SNAIL BRAND spanner marked 1/8BSW x 3/16BSW 1/4BSF is a variant made over the WW2 period 1940 to 1945 when all spanners were subject to British Ministry of Supply requirements, with BSW and BSF spelt out fully, rather than just W and F. This was to help alleviate confusion of American serviceman not used of the Whitworth system. In this smallest size, as you can see, there was no room to add the SNAIL logo, thus SNAIL BRAND was fully spelt out on the reverse. These were definitively never supplied to XK120, but the rare old-stock carry over has been confirmed finding its way into the earliest 1945/6 Mark IV tool kits, before swamped with the new post-war manufactured C.998 spanners with the simple W and F markings.

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I think Peter is in a better position to advise popular current use in British parlance of Spanner versus Wrench.
From a simple perspective, my understanding is SPANNER is the normal/correct terminology for all hand tools that are enshrined by British Standards, which always adopt the normal everyday terminology that exists. So you get a variety of SPANNERS, open-ended Spanners, Single-ended Spanners, Adjustable Spanners etc.
For reasons I have no idea, despite USA’s British heritage, they coined or preferred the term WRENCH which I understand did have minority use in some areas a long time ago in the 1800s.
But post WW2, given the growing interaction of Americans in UK, you do on occasion see the term WRENCH used for more obscure Spanners, and indeed certain companies would offer ‘Wrenches’ where they thought American buyers would not know what a spanner was.
My 1951 SNAIL catalogue, despite front cover offering Spanners and Wrenches, when you get inside every different offering is called a SPANNER apart from one page that offers ADJUSTABLE WRENCHES which is unexpected, with that pictured by Peter not offered by Snail, but in Australia we do call these PIPE WRENCHES.

I have a similar age catalogue from KING DICK who during the 1950s was the most prolific manufacturer/supplier of Hand Tools, but in their 88 page catalogue there are zero items labelled as a WRENCH. Even the style that SNAIL calls an ‘Adjustable Wrench’ is more correctly called an AUTO TYPE ADJUSTABLE SPANNER. But throughout this 88 page King Dick catalogue, there are many many different types of SPANNERS.

To avoid this British versus USA and indeed on occasions versus Australian terminology inconsistency, when talking or writing about matters Jaguar, as a RULE, I always use the terminology that Jaguar themselves use, bearing in mind that even Jaguar terminology evolved over SS through 1960s Jaguar period.
With SS and initially post war they used DOUBLE ENDED SPANNERS, but this later became OPEN ENDED SPANNERS (probably to differentiate from now more common RING SPANNERS), and BOX SPANNERS, (albeit correctly called TUBULAR BOX SPANNERS, thus often simply Tube Spanner or Box Spanner), and of course a few different style ADJUSTABLE SPANNERS, including the XK140/150 version that Americans might like to refer to as a Crescent Wrench.

The only instance I am aware of Jaguar using the term WRENCH is for the C.2957 as supplied to XK120, XK140 and Mark 1 saloons, described as a WRENCH, for Adjusting Brakes (which is a simple sheet metal/bent double ended ring-spanner.)
Otherwise the E-type only, what I call an Allen Key, is according to Jaguar a C.18636 SPECIAL WRENCH, for Handbrake Adjustment, and the tool for levering off Hub Caps on Mark 2/Mark 10 and E-types with optional disc-wheels, etc, a flat piece of steel with a right angle bend, is a C26864 WHEEL DISC WRENCH, thus I always provide photos.

So to all intents and purposes, all SS, SS Jaguar, XKs and 1940s/50s saloons had a variety of different SPANNERS, with barely a WRENCH in sight.


This advert is dated 1921.

So perhaps if there was any American influence involved, it may have been the doughboys rather than the GIs.

I believe the term coach wrench was used on both sides of the Atlantic until this invention replaced it in the 1840s. We call this a monkey wrench.

Crescent wrench derives from the brand name of a major manufacturer here.

Pin Spanner is used for these.


We also occasionally hear bung spanner as a tool for opening oil drums.

As Eddy Murphy said… Look at that Escargot!!!

I see Snail brand quite a lot at car boot sales for little money. Any looking for a particular size ?

AF is no good for SS and MkIV


As a start, SS and Jaguar relevant SNAIL spanners need to be of their age related 30-degree REGULAR Head style with basic blackened finish, see below picture of a selection that dates c1935 to c1955, but my no means a complete evolution set.

Your pictured SNAIL BRAND spanners are of their later ‘Spearpoint Head’ style, and are of no Jaguar relevance. SNAIL BRAND was a huge British manufacturer of spanners and other hand tools, their is only a tiny percentage of what they made that has any Jaguar relevance. Values are based on relevance or not.