We hope you are enjoying the beginnings of 2014! As for us, we have had some time to ponder the events of the last year and do some serious long term planning. The bit of time off during the holidays has also allowed for much needed research into a few goodies we picked up in September to celebrate our first year in business.
This particular smooth operator is a Billings Model A Adjustable Bicycle Wrench. According to the November 1878 edition of American Machinist, the wrench was drop-forged from Norwegian iron and bar steel that was then case hardened. The tool was patented on February 18th, 1879 by the designer, Charles E. Billings, as proudly engraved on the head of the wrench. The Billings and Spencer Co. operated in Hartford, Connecticut beginning in 1869 under the name Roper Sporting Arms Co. They became pioneers in drop-forging, inventing and producing many tools from wrenches to tongs to pliers.
"There have been many devices brought before the public for a handy wrench that could be carried in the pocket, but either from the cheap material used in their construction, or their complication, they have not met with general favor. In projecting this wrench the designer has overcome objections heretofore existing, and has produced a wrench unequaled in material, finish, strength and efficiency..." - American Machinist, November 1878
They weren't kidding. Our little wrench works smoother than most you find in hardware stores. The simple three part tool comes apart with ease for cleaning if necessary. You can even use the indents marked at 1/32 of an inch on the sliding bar as a scale. Impressive to say the least!
Even the Billings & Spencer Co. Curved-Handle Adjustable Wrench we found doesn't compare to its' predecessor. The 6" Curved-Handle Adjustable Wrench is an interesting specimen for its form. The handle is ergonomic for small hands and certainly a departure from the standard straight wrenches. The reverse side of the handle contains the ever-recognizable B-triangle logo of Billings & Spencer Co.
While we hesitate to throw these two pieces into our toolboxes for regular use, it is reassuring to know that something that is a century (and a decade) older than us is still functioning as its designer intended. It's a goal we aspire to with our own products.
For more information on Billings and Spencer Co., please check out this incredibly thorough webpage by Alloy Artifacts. The website is a great introduction into vintage tools and contains pretty amazing documentation on their personal collection. It is very much a no frills site, but enduring in a way. Happy Hunting!