What is a Prybar?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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A prybar is a hand tool which is designed to be used in both construction and demolition. You may also hear prybars referred to as crowbars or jemmys, depending on the region where you live. This tool is a common feature in a carpentry kit, and most hardware stores sell an assortment of prybars to meet various needs. Many people who work in construction have several prybars to choose from, ensuring that they will have the right tool for the job.

A classic prybar consists of a heavy bar with two ends. One end is forked, and the other one is shaped like a wedge. There are a wide variety of ways to use the tool; the wedged end can be worked under or between things to pull them apart, for example, while the forked end can be utilized to pull out nails. In some cases, the wedged end is replaced with a sturdy handle, making the prybar more comfortable to use.

Accounts of this tool date back to at least the 1400s, when it was known as a “crow,” referencing the forked end of the tool. In the 1700s, the “bar” was added, while the term “prybar” emerged in the 1800s. Among many other things, a prybar is very useful for prying crates and doors open, making it a popular tool among burglars as well as construction workers.


The materials used to make prybars vary widely. Some manufacturers produce special versions for firemen and electricians which are designed in such a way that they will not conduct electricity, making them safe to use in a structure which may have a hot electrical current. Others are extremely lightweight, but very strong, making them more comfortable to wear on a toolbelt, while others rely on extremely heavy metals to wedge things apart with sheer weight and force.

The prybar is quite famous for being extremely strong, and this tool is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to bend with bare hands, although it is theoretically possible to bend or break a prybar with enough weight and force. Because of its strength, the prybar can be used for brute tasks like smashing through walls and other objects during demolition, in addition to being used for more precision tasks, like removing the lids from crates used to store archaeological artifacts.


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