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How are Crowbars Used?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A crowbar is a metal tool which is designed to be used as a lever. It has a very basic design, and humans have probably been using versions of this tool for centuries. It has a wide range of uses, and is commonly used in demolition work, since it can be used to wedge things apart, and is also used to open things, like boxes which have been nailed shut. Many hardware stores stock crowbars, and they can also be ordered directly from their manufacturers.

A basic crowbar is simply a straight metal rod with one curved end. The curved end has a forked piece of metal which can be used as a clasp to pull out nails and similar obstacles. The other end is often shaped like a chisel; it is also possible to find crowbars fitted with handles in materials which are easy to grip, making them more comfortable to use. Those with a chisel end can be used as a very effective wedge, by driving the chisel into a small space and then twisting the shaft of the tool.

The term “crowbar” has been around since the 1400s, and it is believed to be a reference to the foot of a crow, which the curved end of the tool closely resembles. Originally, this tool was called a “crow bar;” at some point, the word became compound, although it is not exactly clear when this occurred. It is also possible that the term is derived from the Old French croc, which means “hook.” Crowbars are also known as pry bars or prybars, and in some communities they are called jimmy or jemmy bars.

The most typical choice of material for these tools is steel or iron, because both of these materials are strong and highly resilient. It is also possible to find crowbars made from titanium and other specialty materials. Some companies make versions that are not electrically conductive, which can be a distinct advantage; they are typically more costly, because the materials used to make them are more expensive. For people who struggle with tool theft, brightly colored crowbars or ones in garish floral themes are also available, although the paint tends to wear off with use.

When selecting a crowbar, it pays to look for one which is heavy and very sturdy. A solid one will yield years of productive use, while cheaper versions can snap at inconvenient moments. It can also be helpful to get several sizes of crowbar, to ensure that shorter or longer levers are available as needed.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AboutMechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon344875 — On Aug 13, 2013

@titans62: Try a moulding bar specifically designed to remove trim and moulding without damaging them.

By jmc88 — On Aug 27, 2012

Outside of the conventional uses, I have found a lot of other ways to use my crowbar. I find that they are extremely helpful when you need some extra leverage.

A while back I was having some problems with my dishwasher. In order to reach the pipe I needed, I had to slide my hand under the dishwasher, but the gap was too narrow. Since I was working by myself, I just used a crowbar under one of the feet to lift the dishwasher a little bit and let me get my hand under it. I did the same thing when I was trying to level out my washer and dryer.

Like the article mentions, they are also good at tearing things apart. I've used my crowbar for everything from ripping out drywall to busting the mortar on my neighbor's old stone fence.

By Emilski — On Aug 26, 2012

@titans62 - Those are some pretty common problems when removing trim with a crowbar. I am willing to guess that the crowbar you are using is one of the larger variety. These aren't ideal for taking off trim as they are more likely to cause problems.

If you go to the hardware store, they will often have smaller versions of the crowbar that are specifically made for trim. They are usually about 6-10 inches long with a thin, flat end and a curved end. To get the trim off, you can slide the flat end behind the trim and jiggle it away from the wall. Then, using the other end, get the tip behind the trim and tilt the crowbar to pull the nails from the wall.

As far as avoiding denting of the drywall, you can use wooden shims or some other piece of scrap wood or metal behind the crowbar. This is displace the pressure and prevent damage to drywall.

By titans62 — On Aug 26, 2012

@matthewc23 - I wish that I could get my crowbar to work for trim and moulding. Whenever I try to do it, I always end up with a bunch of problems.

The first time I tried to remove the trim in my kitchen I ended up cracking a bunch of the pieces, and they were ruined. I just had to go out and buy more trim to replace it. Another time, I was able to get the trim away from the wall without ruining it, but I ended up putting a bunch of dents in the drywall along the way.

Surely there is a way to stop these problems from happening. Does anyone have any suggestions? They would be greatly appreciated.

By matthewc23 — On Aug 25, 2012

I never thought about getting an ugly crowbar to stop people from wanting to steal it. It's a funny idea, but I bet it works!

I think having a crowbar around the house is a necessity if you are doing any sorts of small repairs. I bought mine on a whim when I moved into my first house, and I am so glad that I did.

I have used my crowbar most to remove trim along the floor and around doors. I can just slide the crowbar behind the trim, and it usually pries right off. Since it also has a claw end, I can also use it to pull out the nails once I get the trim off of the wall.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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