A wing nut is a nut with special metal protrusions that resemble wings, which give it its name. These wings allow the nut to be hand tightened. While they cannot be tightened by hand as firmly as a conventional hex nut can be tightened with a wrench, they are far easier to tighten and loosen. They are generally used in applications that require frequent adjustments to bolt tightness or in situations wherein ease of use and assembly is most important. They are available in a wide variety of styles and materials.
Home and office furniture manufacturers make frequent use of wing nuts. Beneath almost every modern desk chair, a modified wing nut serves to control the tension on the chair. Wing nuts also are used to allow the rapid exchange of interchangeable parts, such as the heads of mops or other tools and cleaning implements. Microphone or music stands also may use them to put pressure on pipes to allow rapid raising or lowering while preserving structural stability.
Any piece of furniture that requires periodic disassembly and re-assembly is likely to employ wing nuts. Chair and table legs are frequently attached with a wing nut. These can be tightened sufficiently to ensure the chairs and tables are safe and stable but can easily be loosened to allow for disassembly for moving.
The wire nuts frequently used in electrical work are versions of the wing nut. Instead of using a threaded interior to join with a bolt, these nuts serve to fasten onto soft copper wires and hold them in place. Wire nuts, like all wing nuts, can be easily hand tightened, are adequately secure when in place, and can be loosened easily at need.
Wing nuts may become stuck, most often as a result of dirt accumulation or corrosion. Wing nut wrenches are available to deal with this problem. They are available in a variety of styles, but they commonly function by slotting over the nut to allow much greater leverage to be exerted, which is usually sufficient to loosen the nut. If this fails, and if space permits, standard adjustable wrenches can also easily be employed.
Wing nuts are most often produced in stainless steel or zinc. Nuts in other metals also are widely available. Plastic wing nuts exist as well and are most frequently employed in plumbing to allow for the rapid joining and separation of plastic pipes, often to allow access to a drain trap.