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Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman… 7552

Admin Team Absolute Zombie Club Posts: 23,276
Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« on: May 14, 2007, 04:15:04 AM »
Adjustable wrench tools #1

Lots of excitement right now in the knife and tool world about the new Guppie model from CRKT. Based upon an adjustable wrench, the Guppie also has a folding knife and quite a number of other features. With all that capability packed into one small package, it promises to be a big seller. What a wonderful new and innovative concept, right?



Wrong.
The idea of turning an adjustable wrench into a multi purpose tool has probably been around for as long as they’ve been making adjustable wrenches! The earliest (and most well known) example that I am aware of was produced by Cattaraugus in the early 1920’s. The famous Little Valley, New York knife company’s model 1-W and model 3-W replaced an even earlier, alligator-style tool, which we will look at in a future chapter. 



With a standard worm drive adjustment and slightly canted wrench head, these tools were built strong and sturdy, and were expected to be used hard. Jigged bone handle scales and solid brass bolsters gave them a touch of class. Both models carried a hefty spear point master blade, but whereas the model 1-W had a secondary awl-punch blade, the model 3-W (shown above) substituted a combination screwdriver/cap lifter blade. Slight variations in production occurred through the 1930’s.

All of the Cattaraugus wrench knife variations are highly sought after, and fetch top dollar on the rare occasions they come up for auction. (Do be careful though, as counterfeiting and substituting knife blades on these old tools has become a common and lucrative practice.)



New York State was a hotbed of knife making in the early 1900’s, and another famous firm had their version of the ideal adjustable wrench multitool. Camillus Cutlery produced more knives than any other firm in the world last century, although most folks don’t know it because so many of their knives were produced for and sold by other companies. The wrench knife shown above was labeled for sale by Klein Tools, a well known tool company in their own right.

Designed specifically for electricians, this fancy stag handled one must have belonged to the crew foreman or job boss. Much more common is the version with brown plastic handle scales, shown below. Stag handles or plastic, the Klein wrench knives sported a sturdy spear point master blade and a combination screwdriver/wire stripper secondary blade.



On a much smaller frame, Camillus also produced this cute little wrench knife designed as a promotional giveaway item. It had a 2” long clip point blade and a combination screwdriver/cap lifter blade. Like its big brothers, this little fellow has a wrench head that was chrome plated to resist corrosion. Handle scales were clear plastic over white or yellow colored backings. Various promotional advertisements were then embossed into the scales, including liquor brands, car dealerships, etc.
   
(I was saddened to hear that after 100 years in business, the Camillus Cutlery factory closed its doors for good on February 28th, 2007. The company cites inability to compete with foreign markets as its reason for closing.)



Not to be outdone by their American competitors, manufacturers in Europe were also creating wrench multitools in the middle part of the 20th century. Produced with either a corkscrew or a Phillips screwdriver (shown above) this beautiful piece of work from the Luna Company in France set a high standard for quality.

A nickel plated head and handles combined with a high polish kept rust at bay, while rounded edges and rugged construction encouraged every day carry. Blades include a spear point master and a combination screwdriver/wire stripper/cap lifter as secondary. Along with either the corkscrew or the Phillips screwdriver, a sharp triangle awl is contoured into the backspring.



Another wrench tool with French origins was the Pocket Auto Kit. Produced in France during the 1950’s, it was then imported to America and sold via mail order by the Seaboard Steel Company. Slightly larger than the Lunawerks model, it too was of excellent quality construction. A knife blade and combination cap lifter/screwdriver/file blade on one side were balanced by a Phillips screwdriver and triangle awl on the other.



Available for the princely sum of $12.50 back in 1952, the Pocket Auto Kit was not cheap compared to other pocket knives of its era. However, its features and quality of construction more than justified the price.

Perhaps you’ve seen or handled one of the poorly built wrench knives coming out of China these days? Don’t make the mistake of judging the tools in this article by those low standards. These early wrench multitools were built with pride and craftsmanship rarely seen in today’s bargain discount fast-food marketplace. Each and every one proudly carries the name of its manufacturer, names that in many cases had been around for a century or more.
   
Ah, but I digress. The number and variety of old wrench knives is considerable, but the rest should probably be saved for another Chapter…..

Bob 

« Last Edit: May 16, 2007, 01:09:13 AM by J-sews »

In order to be certain of having the right tool for every job.........one must first acquire a lot of tools
Head Turd Polisher Administrator Just Bananas Posts: 61,259 Optimum instrumentum est inter aures
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2007, 04:25:27 AM »
Bob, you have outdone yourself again!  That is amazing!

Some of the stuff you have in your collection and have researched is just astounding.... I can't wait for the next chapter!

Mind you $12.50 for a tool... dang, you could get a used Packard for a little more than that in those days!

Def

Leave the dents as they are- let your belongings show their scars as proudly as you do yours.
No Life Club Posts: 2,886
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2007, 07:31:45 AM »
Truly amazing stuff Bob...Thank You

"
Chief of the Absolutely No Life Club! Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here... Posts: 43,090 Why haven't you got a Farmer yet!
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2007, 09:00:10 AM »
excellent write up mate, and good piccies to!

there should be a book with all your stuff in!

Give in, buy several Farmer's!!!!!!
Hero Member Posts: 561
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2007, 03:53:09 PM »
Hi Bob,

This is great.  Thanks for sharing this with us.

Best - Joe
Head Turd Polisher Administrator Just Bananas Posts: 61,259 Optimum instrumentum est inter aures
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2007, 04:12:33 AM »
I love these historical articles...

We need lots more like this!  I feel like we should be all sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows and asking Uncle Bob to tell us more!

Def

Leave the dents as they are- let your belongings show their scars as proudly as you do yours.
Admin Team Absolute Zombie Club Posts: 23,276
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2007, 06:04:50 AM »
Mmmm-mmm! Vintage multitools and s'mores around the campfire. What a combination!  :)

In order to be certain of having the right tool for every job.........one must first acquire a lot of tools
No Life Club Posts: 1,894
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2007, 12:17:44 AM »
I love these threads. The pictures are excellent and the history is outstanding.  :)

I am waiting for the full-feature hardcover book to come out soon!
Admin Team Absolute Zombie Club Posts: 23,276
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2007, 02:07:15 AM »
For anyone interested, Wikipedia has a bit more info about the history of Camillus Cutlery HERE.

In order to be certain of having the right tool for every job.........one must first acquire a lot of tools
No Life Club Posts: 1,956 Marsh-wiggle
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2007, 02:46:17 AM »
J-sews: just wanted to say thanks for these "before LM" threads. I think I've read them all and enjoyed them like a true nerd, always wanting more information  :D  I can't imagine what your whole collection looks like!  :multi:
Turd Bucket No Life Club Posts: 2,633
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2008, 07:47:30 PM »
to bad there aren't manufacturers making these wrench tools anymore.
Global Moderator He Who Has The Most Nuts, Wins! Posts: 55,500
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2008, 12:49:53 AM »
Great post Bob love to read stuff like this,  I love to have stuff like this in my head just in case someone asks a ? and viola I have an anser for it  :salute: Great pics to  :D I would love to have any one of those wrench knifes just becasue you don't ever see anything like that anymore  :cheers:
Admin Team Absolute Zombie Club Posts: 23,276
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2008, 01:31:14 AM »
Great post Bob love to read stuff like this,  I love to have stuff like this in my head just in case someone asks a ? and viola I have an anser for it  :salute: Great pics to  :D I would love to have any one of those wrench knifes just becasue you don't ever see anything like that anymore  :cheers:

Yah it is sorta puzzling that none of the mainstream multitool companies make an adjustable wrench model. (Excepting the Guppies of course) We see a lot of junky wrench tools coming out of China these days, but no good quality American or European ones.  :-\

In order to be certain of having the right tool for every job.........one must first acquire a lot of tools
No Life Club Posts: 3,592 Supreme Planetary Overlord trainee
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2008, 02:23:39 PM »
I have to agree,surely the patents have expired and little to worry about in the way of licensing.There's bound to be some kind of market for such a tool.

I
Sr. Member Posts: 490
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2008, 04:55:01 PM »
Great post Bob love to read stuff like this,  I love to have stuff like this in my head just in case someone asks a ? and viola I have an anser for it  :salute: Great pics to  :D I would love to have any one of those wrench knifes just becasue you don't ever see anything like that anymore  :cheers:

Yah it is sorta puzzling that none of the mainstream multitool companies make an adjustable wrench model. (Excepting the Guppies of course) We see a lot of junky wrench tools coming out of China these days, but no good quality American or European ones.  :-\

Wouldn't the Byrdrench be considered one? OK, it isn't exactly a mainstream multitool company, but it does fit your criteria of coming out of America.
Admin Team Absolute Zombie Club Posts: 23,276
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #15 on: June 13, 2008, 12:05:22 AM »
Great post Bob love to read stuff like this,  I love to have stuff like this in my head just in case someone asks a ? and viola I have an anser for it  :salute: Great pics to  :D I would love to have any one of those wrench knifes just becasue you don't ever see anything like that anymore  :cheers:

Yah it is sorta puzzling that none of the mainstream multitool companies make an adjustable wrench model. (Excepting the Guppies of course) We see a lot of junky wrench tools coming out of China these days, but no good quality American or European ones.  :-\

Wouldn't the Byrdrench be considered one? OK, it isn't exactly a mainstream multitool company, but it does fit your criteria of coming out of America.

Well yes and no I suppose. The Byrd Wrench is made in China, but the original SpydeRench it is based upon was made in USA.


Still, I admit that I had overlooked the design in my previous statement. Thanks for catching it sir! :salute:



In order to be certain of having the right tool for every job.........one must first acquire a lot of tools
Global Moderator He Who Has The Most Nuts, Wins! Posts: 55,500
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2008, 04:47:11 AM »
I was just commenting in another thread (Will we ever...) about this very same thing before reading over here Would love to see LM take on an adjustable wrench  :drool: If it would be as good as Crunch many ppl would love to have one  :D At least I  :think: they would  :D
No Life Club Posts: 2,026
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #17 on: June 13, 2008, 06:07:31 AM »
Thanks again for an other great article Bob,really enjoyed it!!!
Hero Member Posts: 855 Wanted: SpydeWrench
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #18 on: August 20, 2014, 11:01:35 PM »
Great article, loved reading it, thanks.

No Life Club Posts: 3,105 American Clandestine Materials Executive (ACME)
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2014, 01:54:27 AM »
Honestly, I wish someone would make a good multitool based on these kinds of wrenches. Yes, they sorta suck, but when you have what you have, you make it work. I can think of more than a few times where an adjustable open ended wrench would have been at least if not more useful than the pliers in my LM.

"Even if it is only the handful of people I meet on the street, or in my home, I can still protect them with this one sword" Kenshin Himura

Patriotism is a lively sense of collective responsibility, Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on it's own dunghill.

Necessity is the mother of invention. If you're not ready, it's "a mother". If you are, it's "mom".
No Life Club Posts: 1,031

WWW 00

******
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #20 on: August 21, 2014, 02:21:57 AM »
 Awesome thread Bob, really interesting and well written. It always surprises me how many and how varied these vintage multitool were. Thanks for the great Reading material.
No Life Club Posts: 3,886
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #21 on: August 21, 2014, 09:12:45 AM »
Wow, some serious thread necromancy! 

But it is my first time reading this thread, and thank you for the wonderful writeups and pictures.  Now I am curious about the other 'chapters'.

Btw, $12.5 in 50s is a large amount, I don't know how accurate are the numbers in the following thread, but I would assume it'd be like few hundred dollars nowadays to us:

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Media/Slideshow/2012/04/04/Minimum-Wage-and-What-It-Buys-You-1950s-to-Now
Hero Member Posts: 636 Haven't smoked since 17/05-14 7.10 PM - 28/03-16
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #22 on: August 21, 2014, 10:13:22 AM »
...  Now I am curious about the other 'chapters'.

Yep, me too. Gotta crawl the forums now and see if anything pops up. And congrats on the soon-to-be 1000 posts. :D
No Life Club Posts: 3,886
Re: Chapter 11) Before there was Leatherman…
« Reply #23 on: August 21, 2014, 10:39:43 AM »
...  Now I am curious about the other 'chapters'.

Yep, me too. Gotta crawl the forums now and see if anything pops up. And congrats on the soon-to-be 1000 posts. :D

Thanks!  Just past 1000, and please come join my 1k GAW.  :D

 

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