This yesteryear tool review is inspired by Corona virus Isolation and.. I was going to say boredom, but I like things made before the computer chip.
I hope you find something interesting too.
Back in the Day
The rivalry between tool makers. Who made the best mechanics tool set? was it the English, the drivers of the industrial revolution. The Americans , or the Italians, or Germans.
So many choices. Before the Second World War many countries had tool plants for their own specific tooling.
Standardizing components would not happen until the mid to late 1970’s.
If the Germans made a car they made the tools for it, same for the Americans and English, Italians the French and others.
Wrench. The Worlds Most Famous Tool.
Depending from which country you are from, and what your trade is, there are also different sizes and different terms used to describe wrenches.
- Shifting Spanner
- Monkey Wrench
- Adjustable spanner
- Adjustable automotive spanner wrench
- Kiwi socket set !
Nut & Bolt Warfare
I know this is supposed to be about mechanics tool sets, but tool problems began before the invention of the Locomotive, when every engineer making one, had their own sized nuts and bolts and wrenches.
Even though the threaded screw was successfully created by French mathematician Jacques Besson in 1568 it never really gained traction in England until about 30 years later.
By 1611 the idea was advanced a little further by having a companion for the bolt, which they called a “Nut“.
But still, it was a dogs breakfast of bolt threads not matching nuts. if they did it was considered a fluke, and someone tied them together with a piece of string and stacked them according to size.
Until thoroughly rusted do they part.
273 years Later…
After the first screw with a consistent thread pattern had been made, A guy named Joseph Whitworth devised a thread pattern to standardise the whole bolt industry.
Prior to that the only standardization was that had done by individual people and companies and used for their own in house processes.
Whitworth conceived the idea when he was working with a lathe perfected by Henry Maudslay that made it possible to adjust the thread pitch of a screw.
This made it possible to make large numbers of identical threads. The idea of making the bolts for one machine all the same seemed to have caught on. At least with the people putting them together.
Or maybe it was an investor who looked around and saw people standing around tying bolts and nuts together with string so they would not be separated.
Whitworth covered bolts between 1/8 inch and 6 inches in diameter, utilising a coarse thread with a 55 degree angle, and fixed numbers of threads per inch (tpi) related to bolt diameter.
So a ¼ inch bolt had 20 tpi, a 1 inch bolt just 8 tpi, and a mighty 6 inch diameter bolt a mere 2½ tpi.
Many heavy industries like locomotives, marine and others adopted Whitworth fittings for use in their products, from these a standard set of spanners could be made.
Previously the adjustable wrench or shifting spanner occupied the tooling space for the tensioning of fittings.
Comparisons in photo at right. Two open ended spanners. both nominal size 5/8″, with a diagram superimposed to show the logic that allows them both to be nominal size 5/8″ when their actual sizes are clearly different (across-flats distance vs screw diameter).
The across-flats definition is the common standard today, and has been for many decades. The larger wrench in the photo above is from the 1920s or earlier. Its face was polished to allow the size stamp to show well in the photograph.
Then Came the Calvary
Whitworth from the time he started work at his Uncles cotton gin, and throughout his career was about improving the precision with which machinery and tools were made.
Whitworth is also credited with the term “thou” a measurement equal to 0.0001 of an inch.
Precision is true of this era, names like Henry Maudsley, John Penn, Joseph Clements and numerous others all perfecting things created in the 1700’s into finely tuned complex machines capable of turning out precision tools.
With much of the world happily using Whitworth screws and bolts with nuts that fitted, and mechanics tools were able to be standardised, the Americans had other ideas.
America and most of Europe had been using Whitworth fittings for a couple of decades, when William Sellers who made machine tools wanted a “National Thread System”.
Sellers an American was unhappy with Whitworths 55° pitch. Saying the angle was hard to gauge and the rounded threads caused an uncertain fit between the nut and bolt.
He also argued that the rounded threads were weaker than a system he proposed where the angle between the opposing faces was 60°
The Reason for Specialised Tools
Mass production broke things down to a simple process. That simple process came with the need for specialized tools.
Everyone you talk to thinks mass production began with Henry Ford.
It began long before his time, about 60 years before him. In the Crimean war the British wanted 120 x 60hp., gun boats built with a 90 day deadline for delivery.
They were delivered on time, ready for the 1855 British campaign in the Baltic sea.
John Penn who was tasked with this contract, did something still common today.
He pulled two engines he had apart, located specialised manufacturers of these components and had them make exact copies of his components.
Many people credit Henry Ford as the first to mass produce cars.
He wasn’t, that title goes to Ransome Eli Olds 1901 with his “Curved Dash Oldsmobile”.
The video below is of the Ford assembly line. (Not sure of the year).
Ford formed the Ford Motor Company in 1903. and Revolutionized mass production of vehicles in 1913 with a moving assembly line.
What were the Mechanics Tools of Yesteryear
The earliest European cars were more advanced than the first American cars.
According to the International Association of Mechanists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), upper-class car-owners recognized the specialized knowledge of their drivers, opening up a new level of pay and privilege for carriage drivers and footmen willing to learn the trade.
In Europe, it was a good job if you could get it.
At the time a mechanic could be considered anyone who was trained to work on locomotives, ships engines, or manufacturing plant.
Eventually new classifications were introduced to differentiate between the machinery.
As more and more automobiles were produced and put into use, dealerships and private businesses began offering mechanic services. And with standardized parts, the auto mechanic trade became easier to learn.
IAM explains that competition grew quickly between mechanic businesses – and even individual mechanics – as most were paid by the hour. The most experienced mechanics worked faster, resulting in lower costs to the owner and more business for the mechanic or dealer.
Some Tools Used in those Days
Of course no tool kit is complete without a hammer and cold chisel.
The tools back in the day were generally carefully made. Mechanics with their own tools handled them properly, needing them to last as long as possible.
These days tools are made in many countries some show that the manufacturer was in a hurry to get them on the market as cheaply as possible.
Good tools always retain value. Carefully made and finished so no harm comes to the user they make work that little bit easier.
Tradesman like to have a board where everything has its place so it can be easily accessed and it can be seen if any tools are missing.