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Later Contract-Production Socket Sets

An earlier section provided an introduction to the Billings Early Socket Sets, and in this section we'll look at their later offerings in this category, from about 1930 onward.

Billings relied heavily on outside contract manufacturers to produce most of their sockets and drive tools from 1930 onward. Based on a careful examination of tool examples, the major producers of Billings-marked sockets and drive tools have been identified as Walden, Herbrand, and Wright, in approximate chronological order. In addition, New Britain Machine has recently been identified as a secondary provider of socket tools, beginning in the earlier years when Walden was the major supplier and continuing into the 1950s.

Walden was the primary supplier for Billings from 1930 through at least the early 1940s, with New Britain Machine playing a secondary role. Herbrand became the major supplier in the mid 1940s and continued until at least the mid 1950s. Wright appears to have become a supplier of drive tools initially in the late 1940s, overlapping with Herbrand during this period. By the mid to late 1950s Wright was probably the primary supplier of sockets, and continued in this role even after Billings was acquired by Crescent Niagara. During the 1950s New Britain Machine continued as the supplier of 1/4-drive sockets, with catalog illustrations clearly showing their socket design.

Continuing the framework set out in the earlier section, we'll divide the late production into two periods.

  • The Chrome Alloy Period from 1930 to the early 1940s, featuring alloy steel sockets and tools primarily by Walden.
  • The Modern Period from the mid 1940s and later, with hot-forged sockets produced by Herbrand and Wright.

The sections below will show examples from each of these periods.


Chrome Alloy Period

By 1930 Billings had switched to the industry standard female drive for its sockets. A catalog from this year entitled "Socket Wrenches and Handle Units" shows a number of Billings socket sets and drive tools, with drive sizes of 1/2 square, 3/4 square, and 1 inch hex drive, and with sockets made of alloy steel. A 1931 Samuel Harris catalog (published in late 1930) also shows a similar collection of Billings socket sets.

The sockets and tools supplied at this time bear a striking similarity to those produced by Walden-Worcester, allowing us to identify Walden as the contract manufacturer for most of these tools. In particular, Walden was the earliest known producer of tools with 1 inch hex drive, having offered these as early as 1928 (or before). Williams and Armstrong also produced 1 inch hex drive tools, but their production appears not to have commenced until 1931, and the somewhat earlier reference for the Billings tools of this size points to Walden.


5824 Chrome 12-Point Socket

[Billings Chrome 1/2-Drive 5824 3/4 Socket]
Fig. 237. Billings Chrome 1/2-Drive 5824 3/4 Socket, with Inset for Broaching, ca. 1930-1937.

Fig. 237 shows a 1/2-drive Billings 5824 3/4 socket, marked "Made in U.S.A." and "Chrome" with the B-Triangle logo. The socket has a knurled band around the center, and the upper part has tapered walls.

The finish is plain steel.

This socket is basically identical to the Walden 8xx series sockets in construction and dimensions, as can be seen from the Walden-Worcester 8xx Sockets. (We'll add a side-by-side comparison photograph at some point.)


5128 Chrome 8-Point Socket

[Billings 1/2-Drive 5128 8-Point 7/8 Socket]
Fig. 238. Billings Chrome 1/2-Drive 5128 8-Point 7/8 Socket, with Inset for Broaching, ca. 1930-1937.

5136 Chrome 8-Point Socket

[Billings 1/2-Drive 5136 8-Point 1-1/8 Socket]
Fig. 239. Billings 1/2-Drive 5136 8-Point 1-1/8 Socket, with Inset for Broaching, ca. 1930-1937.

5820 Vitalloy 12-Point Socket

[Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive 5820 12-Point 5/8 Socket]
Fig. 240. Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive 5820 12-Point 5/8 Socket, with Insets for Broaching and Marking Detail, ca. 1937 to Early 1940s.

Fig. 240 shows a 1/2-drive Billings Vitalloy 5820 5/8 socket, marked "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo and "Vitalloy" trademark.

The finish is chrome plating, though much has been lost to wear and rust.

The socket has a knurled band around the center, and the upper part has tapered walls.

Billings began using the "Vitalloy" trademark in 1937, allowing us to establish a somewhat later production date for the "Vitalloy" examples.


5132 Vitalloy 8-Point 1 Inch Socket

[Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive 5132 8-Point 1 Inch Socket]
Fig. 241. Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive 5132 8-Point 1 Inch Socket, with Inset for Broaching, ca. 1937 to Early 1940s.

Fig. 241 shows a 1/2-drive Billings Vitalloy 5132 8-point (double-square) 1 inch socket, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo and "Vitalloy" trademark. The finish is chrome plating.

The upper walls of the socket a slightly tapered.

Billings began using the "Vitalloy" trademark in 1937, allowing us to establish a somewhat later production date for the "Vitalloy" examples.


5856 1/2-Drive Extension

[Billings 1/2-Drive 5856 Extension]
Fig. 242. Billings 1/2-Drive 5856 Extension, with Inset for Logo, ca. 1930 to Early 1940s.

Fig. 242 shows a 1/2-drive Billings 5856 6 inch extension, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo.

The overall length is 6.0 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.


5859 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Head

[Billings 5859 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Head]
Fig. 243. Billings 5859 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Head, with Inset for Detail.

Fig. 243 shows a 1/2-drive Billings 5859 sliding Tee head, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo.

The overall length is 6.0 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.


5861 1/2-Drive Ratchet Drive Plug

[Billings 5861 1/2-Drive Ratchet Drive Plug]
Fig. 244. Billings 5861 1/2-Drive Ratchet Drive Plug, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 244 shows a 1/2-drive Billings 5861 ratchet drive plug, stamped "Made U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo, and with the model number on the reverse.

The overall length is 1.4 inches, and the finish is plain steel or possibly cadmium plating.


5475 1/2-Drive Socket Set

This next figure shows a Billings No. 5475 socket set, a substantial collection of 1/2-drive tools recommended for garages, industrial plants, factories, and machine shops. As toolboxes were optional with Billings socket sets -- and our set was acquired without a box -- we've taken the liberty of presenting it in an older (non-Billings) toolbox.

[Billings 5475 1/2-Drive Socket Set]
Fig. 245. Billings 5475 1/2-Drive Socket Set, ca. Early 1930s.

Fig. 245 shows a Billings No. 5475 1/2-drive socket set, a collection of 1/2-drive tools and sockets with components summarized in the table below.

The set as acquired was missing several pieces, most notably the 5850 ratchet. The crossbars for the two sliding Tee heads were also missing, and these pieces were replaced with unmarked but similar tools for the photograph.

The socket models and sizes are, from the left, 5814 (7/16), 5816 (1/2), 5818 (9/16), 5819 (19/32), 5820 (5/8), 5822 (11/16), 5824 (3/4), 5825 (25/32), 5826 (13/16), 5828 (7/8), 5830 (15/16), 5831 (31/32), and 5832 (1 Inch). All of the sockets are marked "Chrome" and "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo, and the finish is cadmium plating.


The table below shows the standard components for three similar 1/2-drive Billings "Garage Set" socket set models. The No. 5475 set was the smallest of the three, with the No. 6450 and No. 5455 sets offering progressively more features. Basically the 6450 set added double-square sockets to the base set, and the 5455 set added both double-square sockets and open-end wrenches to the base. Billings also offered a 5480 set (not shown in the table) which added open-end wrenches to the base set.

Our earliest reference for the No. 5475 and related sets is the Billings "Socket Wrenches and Handle Units" catalog from 1930. The illustrations in this catalog are identical (except for markings) to the Walden production of that time, and we have therefore cross-referenced Walden's tool models in the table. Later Billings catalogs sometimes show a Billings ratchet in the socket sets, instead of the Walden model.

Table 3. Comparison of Billings 1/2-Drive Socket Sets No. 5475, No. 6450, and No. 5455
Billings
Model
Walden
Model
Description
No. 5475
Included in Set?
No. 6450

No. 5455
Examples/Notes
5850 916 Ratchet YesYesYes Walden 916 Ratchet
5851 1115 Speeder, 14-1/2 Inch YesYesYes Billings 5851 Speeder
5852 1119 Speeder, 20 Inch YesYesYes Billings 5852 Speeder
5854 N/A Sliding Tee Handle, 15 Inch Bar YesYesYes Billings 5853 Sliding Tee
5855 1142 Offset Handle, 10-1/2 Inch YesYesYes Missing from set.
5856 1135 Extension, 5 Inch YesYesYes Billings 5856 Extension
5858 1127 Sliding Tee Head, 12 Inch Shank YesYesYes Billings 5858 Sliding Tee Head
5860 1102 Universal YesYesYes Billings 5860 Universal
5861 1109 Drive Plug YesYesYes Billings 5861 Drive Plug
5864 1139 Extension, 9 Inch YesYesYes Billings 5864 Extension
5866 1126 Stud Driver YesYesYes Billings 5866 Stud Driver
5867 N/A Swivel Offset Handle, 10-1/2 Inch YesYesYes Missing from set.
5814-5832 814-832 Double-Hex Sockets (13), 7/16 to 1 Inch YesYesYes Billings 58xx Double-Hex Sockets
5112-5132 112-132 Double-Square Sockets (7), 3/8 to 1 Inch NoYesYes Billings 5828 Double-Square Socket
M1723 N/A Open-End Wrench, 3/8x7/16 NoNoYes  
M1025 N/A Open-End Wrench, 1/2x19/32 NoNoYes Billings M-1025 Open-End Wrench
M1027C N/A Open-End Wrench, 9/16x11/16 NoNoYes Billings M-1027C Open-End Wrench
M1028S N/A Open-End Wrench, 5/8x25/32 NoNoYes  
M1731A N/A Open-End Wrench, 3/4x7/8 NoNoYes  
5251 N/A Toolbox OptionOptionOption Specified by "B" suffix to model.

Billings socket sets were generally offered with the toolbox as an optional feature, a convenience for those customers that didn't need another box. For customers that did want a toolbox, any of the sets listed above could be ordered with a No. 5251 toolbox by appending a "B" suffix to the model number.


58xx "Chrome" 1/2-Drive Sockets

[Billings 58xx 1/2-Drive Sockets]
Fig. 246. Billings 58xx 1/2-Drive Sockets, with Inset for Broaching, ca. 1931-1935.

Fig. 246 shows a group of three 1/2-drive Billings 58xx series sockets from the No. 5475 socket set, each stamped "Billings" and "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo, and with "Chrome" below.

The model numbers and sizes are, from the left, 5825 (25/32), 5826 (13/16), and 5828 (7/8). The finish is cadmium plating.


5851 1/2-Drive Short Speeder

[Billings 5851 1/2-Drive Short Speeder]
Fig. 247. Billings 5851 1/2-Drive Short Speeder, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1931-1935.

Fig. 247 shows the 1/2-drive Billings 5851 short speeder (or brace) from the No. 5475 socket set, marked "Billings" and "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo.

The overall length is 14.7 inches, and the throw is 5.3 inches. The finish is cadmium plating.


5852 1/2-Drive Long Speeder

[Billings 5852 1/2-Drive Long Speeder]
Fig. 248. Billings 5852 1/2-Drive Long Speeder, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1931-1935.

Fig. 248 shows the 1/2-drive Billings 5852 long speeder from the No. 5475 socket set, marked "Billings" and "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo.

The overall length is 19.5 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.


5853 "Chrome" 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Head

[Billings 5853 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Head]
Fig. 249. Billings 5853 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Head, with Insets for Marking Detail, ca. 1931-1935.

Fig. 249 shows the 1/2-drive Billings 5853 sliding Tee head acquired with the No. 5475 socket set, stamped "Billings" and "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo, and with "Chrome" below.

The overall length of the bar is 9.9 inches, and the height of the sliding head is 1.6 inches. The finish of the sliding head is cadmium plating.

Several comments should be noted with this figure. First of all, the 9/16 diameter handle bar shown in the photograph is a replacement, as the original bar was missing from the set. This bar was borrowed from an S-K socket set and is probably quite similar to the standard 10 inch crossbar used with the Billings 5853 sliding Tee.

Another discrepancy to be noted is that the 5475 set normally included a model 5854 15 inch sliding Tee. At this point we're unsure whether the 5854 sliding Tee was simply a 5853 Tee head with a 5854 15 inch bar, or whether a former owner substituted the 5853 sliding Tee for the original piece.

We're also unsure of the exact Walden model corresponding to the 5853 (or 5854) sliding Tee. Walden did not produce this style of short sliding Tee during the 1920s, and we currently don't have any catalog coverage for Walden in the the 1930s. One possibility though is the Walden 1111 Sliding Tee Head shown in our article on Walden.

A somewhat later example of this tool can be seen as the Billing 5853 Sliding Tee Handle, although this example was probably made by a different company.


5858 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Head

[Billings 5858 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Head]
Fig. 250. Billings 5858 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Head, with Insets for Construction and Marking Detail, ca. 1931-1935.

Fig. 250 shows the 1/2-drive Billings 5858 sliding Tee head from the No. 5475 socket set, stamped "Billings" and "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo on the rotating hand grip.

The overall length is 12.1 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.

The 5858 Tee head is drilled to accept a 1/2 diameter crossbar, and the hole is fitted with a detent ball to hold the bar (see upper left inset). The set as acquired was missing the original crossbar, and the bar shown in the photograph is an unmarked replacement.

The Billings 5858 Tee head is basically identical to the corresponding Walden model, the Walden 1127 Sliding Tee Head.


5860 "Chrome" 1/2-Drive Universal

[Billings 5860 Chrome 1/2-Drive Universal]
Fig. 251. Billings 5860 "Chrome" 1/2-Drive Universal, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1931-1935.

Fig. 251 shows the 1/2-drive Billings 5860 universal from the No. 5475 socket set, stamped "Billings" and "Chrome" with "Made in U.S.A." and the B-Triangle logo.

The overall length is 2.8 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.

The corresponding Walden model can be seen as the Walden 1102 Universal.


5864 1/2-Drive 10 Inch Extension

[Billings 5864 1/2-Drive 10 Inch Extension]
Fig. 252. Billings 5864 1/2-Drive 10 Inch Extension, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1931-1935.

Fig. 252 shows the 1/2-drive Billings 5864 10 Inch extension from the 5475 set, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo.

The overall length is 9.9 inches, and the finish is plain steel.


5866 1/2-Drive Stud Extractor

[Billings 5866 1/2-Drive Stud Extractor]
Fig. 253. Billings 5866 1/2-Drive Stud Extractor, with Insets for Top View and Marking Detail, ca. 1931-1935.

Fig. 253 shows the 1/2-drive Billings 5866 stud extractor (or driver) from the 5475 set, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo.

The overall width is 1.8 inches and the height is 1.8 inches. The finish is cadmium plating.

Similar tools from other makers include the Herbrand 820 Stud Extractor, Plomb 4508 Stud Extractor, and Williams S-60C Stud Extractor.


5150B 1/2-Drive Socket Set

Our next socket set example shows a smaller and slightly later set.

[Billings 5150B 1/2-Drive Socket Wrench Set]
Fig. 254. Billings 5150B 1/2-Drive Socket Wrench Set, ca. 1931-1935.

Fig. 254 shows a Billings No. 5150B 1/2-drive socket set, unmarked but identified as model 5150B by a catalog illustration. Based on the description in the 1937 catalog, the original contents included a Model CB ratchet, 5861 ratchet plug, 5853 sliding Tee handle, 5864 extension, 5860 universal, and 12 double-hex sockets. The set as acquired was missing the universal and several sockets.

The sockets in the set were from the Billings 58xx series of double-hex tapered-wall sockets, and the original sizes were listed as 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 19/32, 5/8, 11/16, 3/4, 25/32, 13/16, 7/8, 15/16, and 1 inch. The set as acquired included models and sizes 5814 (7/16), 5816 (1/2), 5824 (3/4), 5825 (25/32), 5830 (15/16), and 5832 (1 inch).

All sockets are marked "Billings Chrome" and "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo. The socket design includes a finely knurled band around the center, and the finish is chrome plating with polished upper walls. These sockets closely resemble the example shown above as the Billings Chrome 5824 Socket, but with a chrome plated finish.


5853 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle

[Billings 5853 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle]
Fig. 255. Billings 5853 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle, with Inset for Construction Detail.

Fig. 255 shows the 1/2-drive Billings model 5853 sliding Tee handle from the 5150B set, marked "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo.

The overall length is 9.5 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with some loss due to rust.

This sliding Tee has some distinctive features not commonly seen in tools of this type. The sliding head has a threaded opening on the top, presumably for a thumbscrew (now missing) to lock the position of the slider. The oversize bar has a diameter of 11/16 and is not fitted with stops at the end, allowing the sliding head to be removed. This would allow the bar to be used with other accessories, although the current set does not have any other tools requiring a bar.

The unusual features of this tool are also noted in the nearly identical Bog No. 637 Sliding Tee Handle made by Bog Manufacturing, allowing us to identify Bog as another contract manufacturer for Billings. Although not widely known, Bog was an important supplier to the Western Auto Supply Company, a high-volume retailer of automobile parts and tools. (The two companies shared a family connection, as Bog Manufacturing was founded by the brother of the founder of Western Auto.)


5864 1/2-Drive 10 Inch Extension

[Billings 5864 1/2-Drive 10 Inch Extension]
Fig. 256. Billings 5864 1/2-Drive 10 Inch Extension, with Inset for Marking Detail.

Fig. 256 shows a 1/2-drive Billings 5864 10 Inch extension from the 5150B set, marked "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo.

The overall length is 9.8 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

The extension has a decorative band of cross-hatched knurling around the drive end, a detail not previously seen in any Billings (or Walden) tools of this era. In fact, this extension closely resembles the models made during the 1930s by New Britain Machine, which were sold under various brands including None Better, Husky, and the Craftsman "BE" and H-Circle line. See for example the None Better and Craftsman Extensions in our article on the Craftsman tools.


5868 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle

[Billings 5868 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle]
Fig. 257. Billings 5868 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. Early 1930s.

Fig. 257 shows a 1/2-drive Billings 5868 sliding Tee handle, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo on the shank. The 7/16 diameter handle bar is unmarked.

The overall length of the bar is 8.0 inches, and the length of the drive shaft is 4.1 inches. The finish is plain steel.

This tool is basically identical (except for markings) to the Walden 1124 Sliding Tee Handle.


5531 1 Inch Hex Drive 31/32 Hex Socket

[Billings 5531 1 Inch Hex Drive 31/32 Hex Socket]
Fig. 258. Billings 5531 1 Inch Hex Drive 31/32 Hex Socket, with Insets for Construction and Marking Detail, ca. Early 1930s.

Fig. 258 shows a 1 inch hex drive Billings 5531 31/32 hex socket, stamped "Chrome" and "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo.

The finish is cadmium plating.

The left inset shows the 1 inch hex drive opening, which is nearly the same size as the 31/32 service opening shown in the right inset. The socket is equipped with a cross-bar hole for a 7/8 diameter bar.


Modern Period

By the mid 1940s Billings had switched suppliers for its socket tools in favor of Herbrand. Herbrand was a high-volume producer of a full range of automotive and service tools, and their line of alloy-steel socket tools was very successful at that time. The identification of Herbrand as the producer for Billings is easily made based on the cross-hatched socket design and distinctive slide-shifter ratchets, both illustrated in later figures.

Wright Tool also became a supplier for Billings in the 1940s, probably initially for ratchets and possibly other drive tools, and later for sockets as well. Wright may have overlapped with Herbrand as a socket supplier during part of this period. Since Wright and Herbrand used similar hot-forging techniques for producing sockets, the sockets from the two companies are sometimes difficult to distinguish, at least after Herbrand dropped their decorative knurling in the mid 1950s.

But in the mid 1950s Wright changed the design of certain socket sizes from a reduced-base to a cylindrical form, whereas Herbrand maintained the reduced base for these same sizes. As the Billings sockets follow the later Wright design, it appears that Wright became the dominant socket supplier from the mid 1950s onward.


S-1222 1/2-Drive Socket

[Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-1222 11/16 Socket]
Fig. 259. Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-1222 11/16 Socket, with Insets for Broaching and Marking Detail.

Fig. 259 shows a 1/2-drive Billings Vitalloy S-1222 11/16 socket, marked with the "Billings Vitalloy" logo and "Made in U.S.A." (see lower inset).

This socket closely resembles the sockets made by Herbrand in the mid 1940s through early 1950s, as can be seen by comparison with the Herbrand S-1xx Sockets.


SD-1222 1/2-Drive Deep Socket

[Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive SD-1222 11/16 Deep Socket]
Fig. 260. Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive SD-1222 11/16 Deep Socket, with Insets for Broaching and Marking Detail.

Fig. 260 shows a 1/2-drive Billings Vitalloy SD-1222 11/16 deep socket, marked with the "Billings Vitalloy" logo and "Made in U.S.A." (see lower inset).

The socket is equipped with a cross-bar hole, a standard feature for earlier sockets intended for spark-plug service. The base of the socket has a band of cross-hatched knurling, perhaps useful for an improved grip.

This socket closely resembles the Herbrand deep sockets of the mid 1940s to mid 1950s, as can be seen by a comparison with the Herbrand DS-26 Deep Socket.


S-824 1/2-Drive 8-Point Socket

[Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-824 8-Point 3/4 Socket]
Fig. 261. Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-824 8-Point 3/4 Socket, with Insets for Broaching and Marking Detail.

Fig. 261 shows a 1/2-drive Billings Vitalloy S-824 8-Point 3/4 socket, marked with the "Billings Vitalloy" logo and "Made in U.S.A." (see lower inset).


H-1254 3/4-Drive Socket

[Billings 3/4-Drive H-1254 Socket]
Fig. 262. Billings 3/4-Drive H-1254 Socket, with Insets for Broaching and Detail, ca. 1945-1953.

Fig. 262 shows a 3/4-drive Billings H-1254 1-11/16 socket, marked with the "Billings Vitalloy" logo and "Made in USA". The finish is chrome plating, with polished upper walls and a satin finish on the base.


SD-1216 1/2-Drive Deep Socket

[Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive SD-1216 1/2 Deep Socket]
Fig. 263. Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive SD-1216 1/2 Deep Socket, with Insets for Broaching and Marking Detail.

Fig. 263 shows a later 1/2-drive Billings Vitalloy SD-1216 1/2 deep socket, stamped with the "Billings Vitalloy" logo and "Made in USA" (see upper inset).

This socket closely resembles the production by Wright from the mid 1950s onward.


Model CB 1/2-Drive Ratchet

[Billings 1/2-Drive CB Ratchet]
Fig. 264. Billings 1/2-Drive CB Ratchet.

Fig. 264 shows a 1/2-drive Billings model CB ratchet, marked with "Made in U.S.A." and the B-Triangle logo stamped on the shank.

The overall length is 8.4 inches.

The ratchet is constructed with a heavy forged handle, hardened all over, and a relatively softer rotating gear with 11 circular arc teeth. The ratchet was equipped with a double-male drive plug, model SP-150 for this example, but a model 5681 drive plug in earlier years.

The model CB ratchet was the successor to the Model CA Ratchet and is very similar to that earlier tool. These ratchets were offered for many years, from before 1920 until at least 1961.


S-1112 Vitalloy 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle

[Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-1112 Flex-Head Handle]
Fig. 265. Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-1112 Flex-Head Handle, with Insets for Design Details.

Fig. 265 shows a 1/2-drive Billings Vitalloy S-1112 flex-head handle, marked "Made in U.S.A." on the knurled handle, and with "Billings Vitalloy" in a distinctive form (see center inset).

The overall length is 12.0 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

The left inset shows a close-up of the flex head, illustrating the groove used to provide a positive detent for the straight position.

The handle is equipped both with a cross-bar hole and a 1/2-drive end broaching, as shown in the right inset. These features allow the breaker to function as a T-handle (with a bar inserted) or as an extension, increasing the utility of the tool.

This breaker bar closely resembles the Herbrand S-13 model of late 1930s to mid 1940s production, as the design and dimensions are almost identical.


S-1112 Vitalloy 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle, Short Version

[Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-1112 Flex-Head Handle]
Fig. 266. Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-1112 Flex-Head Handle (Short Version).

Fig. 266 shows another 1/2-drive Billings S-1112 flex-head handle, very similar to the previous figure but slightly shorter in length.

The overall length is 11.3 inches, and the finish is chrome plating, now missing in many areas due to wear and rust.


S-1211 Vitalloy 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle

[Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-1211 Sliding Tee Handle]
Fig. 267. Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-1211 Sliding Tee Handle, with Insets for Top View and Marking Detail.

Fig. 267 shows a 1/2-drive Billings S-1211 sliding Tee handle, stamped "Vitalloy" and "USA" on the bar.

The overall length is 11.0 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

This sliding Tee handle has a distinctive design using stepped grooves to retain the sliding head, rather than the more familiar stop-balls. The walls of each groove have a sharp step on the outside and a gradual slope on the inside, so that the head can easily slide to the inside, but can't clear the outer step.

Sliding Tee handles of this design are shown in the 1957 Wright catalog, making Wright the likely manufacturer for this example. It's likely that this breaker bar design was patented at some point; however, the patent is not yet known.


S-1410 Vitalloy 1/2-Drive Ratchet

[Billings Vitalloy S-1410 1/2-Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 268. Billings Vitalloy S-1410 1/2-Drive Ratchet, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 268 shows a 1/2-drive Billings Vitalloy S-1410 ratchet, marked "Vitalloy" in forged raised letters, with "Made in U.S.A." and the B-Triangle logo on the reverse. The overall length is 10.3 inches.

The ratchet mechanism uses a 24-tooth main gear with dual pawls, and the shift lever operates a lobed cam to alternately deactivate one pawl. This type of mechanism provides simple and reliable operation with very low back-drag, and has been used by a number of other tool companies, notably Armstrong and Plomb/Proto.

This ratchet is almost certainly one of Billings' own production, as the forged flat handle doesn't resemble any other known examples, and raised-letter markings would be unlikely for contract production. Based on a review of catalogs, this ratchet model had been introduced by 1949 or earlier, and remained in production at least through 1961.


LS-1410 Life-Time 1/2-Drive Ratchet

The next two figures show Billings ratchets marked with the Life-Time trademark and bearing the same model number, but with very different design and construction.

[Billings Life-Time 1/2-Drive LS-1410 Ratchet]
Fig. 269. Billings Life-Time 1/2-Drive LS-1410 Ratchet, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 269 shows a 1/2-drive Billings LS-1410 ratchet with a forged flat handle, with stamped markings "Billings" and "Life-Time" on one side, and "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo on the reverse. The overall length is 10.2 inches.

This ratchet is nearly identical to the S-1410 Ratchet shown above, but note that the markings here are stamped rather than forged into the handle.


LS-1410 Life-Time 1/2-Drive Transverse Slide-Shift Ratchet

[Billings Life-Time 1/2-Drive LS-1410 Transverse Slide-Shift Ratchet]
Fig. 270. Billings Life-Time 1/2-Drive LS-1410 Transverse Slide-Shift Ratchet, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1954.

Fig. 270 shows a 1/2-drive Billings LS-1410 ratchet with a distinctive transverse slide shifter, marked "Life-Time" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse cover plate.

The overall length is 10.0 inches. The original finish was chrome plating, but it has now worn away over most areas to expose the underlying copper plating. (Chrome plating on steel is usually done as three layers, chrome over nickel over copper.) This extensive but uniform loss of plated finish likely indicates a problem with the plating process.

The design and construction of the ratchet is virtually identical to the Herbrand S-5 Ratchet from around 1954, confirming that this ratchet was made for Billings by Herbrand. Earlier Herbrand ratchets used a longitudinal slide shifter that required asymmetrical pawls of a special contour, but by the mid-1950s Herbrand had changed to a transverse slide of the type shown here.

In addition to the design similarities, Herbrand ratchets of this era are also known to exhibit the loss of finish evident here. See for example the Herbrand J-5 Ratchet, a very similar 3/8-drive model.


S-102 Vitalloy 1/2-Drive 2 Inch Extension

[Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-102 2 Inch Extension]
Fig. 271. Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-102 2 Inch Extension, with Insets for Detail.

Fig. 271 shows a 1/2-drive Billings S-102 2 inch extension, marked "Vitalloy" and "USA" on the shank.

The overall length is 2.0 inches, and the finish is polished chrome.


S-135 Vitalloy 1/2-Drive 5 Inch Extension

[Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-135 5 Inch Extension]
Fig. 272. Billings Vitalloy 1/2-Drive S-135 5 Inch Extension, with Inset for Marking Detail.

Fig. 272 shows a 1/2-drive Billings S-135 5 inch extension, marked "Vitalloy" with "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse side.

The overall length is 4.8 inches, and the finish is polished chrome.

The drive end is equipped with a cross-bar hole, allowing use as a T-handle as well as an extension.


LS-135 Life-Time 1/2-Drive Extension

[Billings Life-Time 1/2-Drive LS-135 5 Inch Extension]
Fig. 273. Billings Life-Time 1/2-Drive LS-135 5 Inch Extension.

Fig. 273 shows a 1/2-drive Billings LS-135 5 inch extension, marked "Life-Time" and "Made in U.S.A." on the head.

The overall length is 4.7 inches, and the finish is plated chrome.

The drive end is bored for a cross-bar hole to allow use as a T-handle.

This extension closely resembles the Wright N12 Extension shown in our article on Wright Tool & Forge.


LS-1310 Life-Time 1/2-Drive Extension

[Billings Life-Time 1/2-Drive LS-1310 10 Inch Extension]
Fig. 274. Billings Life-Time 1/2-Drive LS-1310 10 Inch Extension.

Fig. 274 shows a 1/2-drive Billings LS-135 10 inch extension, marked "Life-Time" and "Made in U.S.A." on the head. The overall length is 9.8 inches, and the finish is plated chrome.

The drive end is bored for a cross-bar hole to allow use as a T-handle.

The drive stud end of the extension shows a small raised ridge left by the forging operation, showing that the fluted end was shaped by the forging die rather than by turning.


LS-9A Life-Time 1/2-Drive Socket Set

The previous figures have shown several examples of tools in the Billings Life-Time series, and we'll now show a socket set incorporating some of these tools. Billings packaged its tools into a number of different sets, with varying numbers of sockets and drive tools for every application and budget. Our example here is one of the smaller sets.

[Cover of Billings Life-Time LS-9A Socket Set]
Fig. 275. Cover of Billings Life-Time LS-9A Socket Set.

Fig. 275 shows the top cover of the Billings Life-Time LS-9A socket set, with the Billings name embossed on the top.


[Billings Life-Time LS-9A 1/2-Drive Socket Set]
Fig. 276. Billings Life-Time LS-9A 1/2-Drive Socket Set, ca. 1960.

Fig. 276 shows the Billings Life-Time LS-9A 1/2-drive socket set in its metal box. The paper label on the lid is somewhat tattered, but includes the text "Billings Life-Time Alloy Steel" and "1/2 Square Drive Socket Set". (The model number "LS-9A" is faintly stamped at the top.)

The set consists of a LS-1410 ratchet in the Billings-made flat-handle style, a LS-135 extension, and seven sockets in the LS12xx series. The sockets are, from the left, LS1224 (3/4), LS1222 (11/16), LS1220 (5/8), LS1218 (9/16), LS1216 (1/2), LS1214 (7/16), and LS1212 (3/8). The box includes space for more sockets, but this starter set included only this modest selection of sizes.


[Billings Life-Time 1/2-Drive LS-12xx Sockets]
Fig. 277. Billings Life-Time 1/2-Drive LS-12xx Sockets, ca. 1960.

Fig. 277 at the left shows the seven sockets from the LS-9A set, all marked "Billings Life-Time" and "Made in U.S.A." with LS12xx model numbers. The models and sizes are, from the left, LS1212 (3/8), LS1214 (7/16), LS1216 (1/2), LS1218 (9/16), LS1220 (5/8), LS1222 (11/16), and LS1224 (3/4).

These sockets closely resemble the sockets produced by Wright Tool, as can be seen by comparison with the Wright 1/2-Drive Smaller Sockets and Wright 1/2-Drive Larger Sockets. The sockets made by Wright and Herbrand are often quite similar in appearance and construction; however, after 1955 Wright changed its design to use a cylindrical form for sizes 5/8 to 1 inch, but Herbrand continued using a reduced base for these sizes. The 1/2-drive Billings sockets of this era all have a cylindrical form in the larger sizes, indicating that the production was most probably by Wright Tool.


H-1121 Vitalloy 3/4-Drive Flex-Head Handle

[Billings 3/4-Drive H-1121 Flex-Head Handle]
Fig. 278. Billings 3/4-Drive H-1121 Flex-Head Handle, with Inset for Marking Detail.

Fig. 278 shows a Billings 3/4-Drive H-1121 flex-head handle, stamped "Vitalloy" and "Made in USA" on the shank (see inset).

The overall length is 21.2 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

The distinctive design of this tool closely resembles the Herbrand H-15 Breaker Bar shown in our article on Herbrand. Particular points of similarity include the massive wedge-shaped fork, the use of a spring-loaded plunger to control the head movement, and the banded knurling on the handle.


H-1220 3/4-Drive Sliding Tee Handle

[Billings 3/4-Drive H-1220 Sliding Tee Handle]
Fig. 279. Billings 3/4-Drive H-1220 Sliding Tee Handle, with Insets for Top and Marking Detail.

The overall length is 20.0 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.


H-1421 Vitalloy 3/4-Drive Slide-Shifter Ratchet

[Billings 3/4-Drive H-1421 Slide-Shifter Ratchet]
Fig. 280. Billings 3/4-Drive H-1421 Slide-Shifter Ratchet, with Insets for Side View and Reverse, ca. 1958-1962.

Fig. 280 shows a 3/4-drive Billings H-1410 ratchet with a sliding shift button, marked "Vitalloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse cover plate.

The overall length is 22.1 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

The design and construction of this ratchet match the description of the Herbrand model H-11 ratchet shown in Herbrand catalogs from 1954 and 1960. In particular, the five knurled bands on the handle are characteristic of this time period. (The Herbrand H-11 ratchets from the 1940s had a fully knurled handle.)

The Billings catalog from 1955 shows a different style for their H-1421 ratchet, but by 1961 the catalog illustration matches the Herbrand model exactly, right down to the five bands on the handle and the distinctive shift button.

The ratchet mechanism uses a 30-tooth main gear with dual pawls, and the asymmetric pawls have a special contoured surface so that the movement of the shifter stud will alternately deactivate one pawl. Herbrand developed this mechanism sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s, and used it on ratchets from 3/8 up to 3/4-drive.

An example of the Herbrand linear slide shifter can be seen in the Herbrand S-10 Ratchet. Herbrand's later production (by the mid-1950s) changed to a transverse slide shifter for the 1/2-drive and smaller sizes, probably to avoid the need for asymmetric pawls.

This ratchet has a smooth, quiet action with remarkably low back-drag for its size, and the generously long handle gives great leverage.


H-1421 Vitalloy 3/4-Drive Fine-Tooth Ratchet

The next figure shows another example of the H-1421 ratchet, but made by Wright Tool and Forge, and with a completely different round-head fine-tooth design.

[Billings 3/4-Drive H-1421 Fine-Tooth Ratchet]
Fig. 281. Billings 3/4-Drive H-1421 Fine-Tooth Ratchet, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1960s.

Fig. 281 shows another example of the model H-1421 ratchet, a 3/4-drive Billings H-1421 round-head fine-tooth ratchet. The shank is stamped "Vitalloy" and "USA" on the reverse.

The overall length is 20.5 inches, and the finish is chrome plating, with losses due to wear and rust.

The construction details for this ratchet close resemble the round-head fine-tooth models made by Wright Tool and Forge, and the ratchet mechanism has a 60-tooth gear in the head.


C-118 Vitalloy 3/8-Drive Flex-Head Handles

The next two figures show examples of the Billings C-118 3/8-drive flex-head breaker bar.

[Billings 3/8-Drive C-118 Flex-Head Handle]
Fig. 282. Billings 3/8-Drive C-118 Flex-Head Handle.

Our first example is shown in Fig. 282 at the left, a 3/8-drive Billings C-118 flex-head handle, marked "Vitalloy" and "Made in USA" on the knurled handle.

The overall length is 8.5 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

[Billings 3/8-Drive C-118 Flex-Head Handle]
Fig. 283. Billings 3/8-Drive C-118 Flex-Head Handle.

Fig. 283 at the left shows a similar Billings C-118 breaker bar, marked "Vitalloy" and "USA" on the shank.

The overall length is 8.5 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.


C-128 Vitalloy 3/8-Drive Sliding Tee Handle

[Billings 3/8-Drive C-128 Sliding Tee Handle]
Fig. 284. Billings 3/8-Drive C-128 Sliding Tee Handle.

Fig. 284 shows a 3/8-drive Billings C-128 T-slider handle, marked "Vitalloy" and "Made in USA" on the bar. The overall length is 8.0 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

The inset shows the open form of the sliding head.


C-147 Vitalloy 3/8-Drive Ratchet

[Billings 3/8-Drive C-147 Ratchet]
Fig. 285. Billings 3/8-Drive C-147 Ratchet.

Fig. 285 shows a 3/8-drive Billings C-147 ratchet, marked "Vitalloy" and "USA" on the shank.

The overall length is 7.0 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

This ratchet closely resembles the Wright 34xx ratchet series, except for the hand grip, as can be seen in the Wright 3400 Ratchet. The Wright soft-grip handles were introduced in the early 1960s, and prior to that the company did make ratchets with knurled handles.


1/4-Drive Tools

Based on a review of their catalogs, Billings didn't introduce 1/4-drive socket tools until sometime in the 1950s. Our earliest reference is the 1955 Billings catalog, and the illustrations of 1/4-drive tools in that catalog closely match the examples made by New Britain Machine for their Husky, None Better, and other brands.

New Britain Machine had been a secondary supplier to Billings back in the 1930s (see the 5864 Extension for an example), and the 1/4-drive line shows that New Britain continued as a supplier into the 1950s.


M-8xx 1/4-Drive 8-Point Sockets

[Billings M-8xx 1/4-Drive 8-Point Sockets]
Fig. 286. Billings M-8xx 1/4-Drive 8-Point Sockets, with Insets for Broaching and Marking Detail, ca. 1950s.

Fig. 286 shows a group of three 1/4-drive Billings M-8xx 8-point sockets, stamped "Vitalloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the base.

The models and sizes are, from the left, M-808 (1/4), M-810 (5/16), and M-812 (3/8). (For some reason, the markings on the 1/4 socket are upside-down compared to the other two.)

The finish is chrome plating.

These sockets have a distinctive band of cross-hatched knurling around the base, a decorative feature used on the sockets produced by New Britain Machine from the mid 1930s through the 1950s. Sockets in this style were widely sold under the New Britain, None Better, and Husky brands, and as the Craftsman "BE" and H-Circle brands as well.

These examples closely match the 1/4-drive sockets illustrated in the 1955 Billings catalog.


M-124 1/4-Drive Sliding Tee Handle

[Billings 1/4-Drive M-124 Sliding Tee Handle]
Fig. 287. Billings M-124 1/4-Drive Sliding Tee Handle, ca. 1950s.

Fig. 287 shows a 1/4-drive Billings M-124 sliding Tee handle, stamped "Made in U.S.A." on the shank.

The overall length is 4.5 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

The sliding head has a band of cross-hatched knurling, a decorative feature found on sockets and tools made by New Britain, identifying New Britain as the contract maker for this tool.

[Billings 1/4-Drive M-124 Sliding Tee Handle]
Fig. 288. Billings M-124 1/4-Drive Sliding Tee Handle, ca. 1950s.

Fig. 288 shows another example of the 1/4-drive Billings M-124 sliding Tee handle, stamped "Made in U.S.A." on the shank.

The overall length is 4.5 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.


M-116 1/4-Drive Flex-Head Handle

[Billings M-116 1/4-Drive Flex-Head Handle]
Fig. 289. Billings M-116 1/4-Drive Flex-Head Handle, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 289 shows a 1/4-drive Billings M-116 flex-head handle, marked "Made in U.S.A." on the shank.

The overall length is 5.3 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

The knurled handle is equipped with a cross-bar hole.


M-206 1/4-Drive Handle

[Billings M-206 1/4-Drive Handle]
Fig. 290. Billings M-206 1/4-Drive Handle.

Fig. 290 shows a Billings M-206 1/4-drive handle, marked with just the company name and model. The overall length is 6.3 inches, and the drive shank is finished in chrome plating.


Later Vitalloy and Life-Time Wrenches

By 1948 Billings had updated its open-end wrench design to use an oval shank with stamped (rather than forged-in) markings. This would have greatly simplified their die-making operations, and the change was probably made to allow for more economical production.

The offset box wrench design was also simplified to a flat or slightly convex shank around the same time. The straight angled wrench models didn't need to be changed much, as these models had used a convex shank with stamped markings all along.


Later Vitalloy Open-End Wrenches


1723 Vitalloy 3/8x7/16 Open-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 1723 3/8x7/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 291. Billings Vitalloy 1723 3/8x7/16 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 291 shows a Billings 1723 3/8x7/16 open-end wrench, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo on the face. The shank is stamped with "Billings" on the one side, with "Vitalloy" on the reverse.

The overall length is 5.0 inches. The finish is mostly plain steel, with traces of the original chrome plating visible on the faces.


1729 Vitalloy 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 1729 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 292. Billings Vitalloy 1729 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 292 shows a Billings 1729 5/8x3/4 open-end wrench, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo on the face. The shank is stamped with "Billings" on one side, with "Vitalloy" stamped on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.8 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.


1731 Vitalloy 3/4x13/16 Open-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 1731 3/4x13/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 293. Billings Vitalloy 1731 3/4x13/16 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 293 shows a Billings 1731 3/4x13/16 open-end wrench, marked "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo on the face, and with "Billings" and "Vitalloy" stamped on the shank.

The overall length is 9.1 inches.


1031B Vitalloy 25/32x13/16 Open-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 1031B 25/32x13/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 294. Billings Vitalloy 1031B 25/32x13/16 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 294 shows a Billings 1031B 25/32x13/16 open-end wrench, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo on the face, and with "Billings" and "Vitalloy" stamped on the shank.

The overall length is 9.0 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.


1031 Vitalloy 25/32x7/8 Open-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 1031 25/32x7/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 295. Billings Vitalloy 1031 25/32x7/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 295 shows a Billings 1031 25/32x7/8 open-end wrench, marked "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo on the face, and with "Billings" and "Vitalloy" stamped on the shank.

The overall length is 9.4 inches. The finish is chrome plating, with some loss due to wear and rust.


1033A Vitalloy 7/8x15/16 Open-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 1033A 7/8x15/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 296. Billings Vitalloy 1033A 7/8x15/16 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 296 shows a Billings 1033A 7/8x15/16 open-end wrench, marked "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo on the face, and with "Billings" and "Vitalloy" stamped on the shank.

The overall length is 10.2 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.


1033C Vitalloy 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 1033C 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 297. Billings Vitalloy 1033C 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 297 shows a Billings 1033C 15/16x1 open-end wrench, marked "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo on the face, and with "Billings" and "Vitalloy" stamped on the shank.

The overall length is 11.0 inches. The finish is chrome plating, now darkened by rust.


Later Vitalloy Box-End Wrenches

7025 Vitalloy Box-End Wrench, Later Style

The next several figures show examples of the 7000 series box wrenches in the later style. For these models the style changes affected only the markings, with the wrench design showing little or no change.

[Billings Vitalloy 7025 1/2x19/32 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 298. Billings Vitalloy 7025 1/2x19/32 Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 298 at the left shows a later example of the Billings 7025 1/2x19/32 box wrench, marked with the company name, model, and fractional sizes on the front, with "Vitalloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse. Note that the familiar B-Triangle logo is not marked on this example, having been discontinued at some point prior to manufacture.

The overall length is 8.4 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends.

7727 Vitalloy Box-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 7727 9/16x5/8 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 299. Billings Vitalloy 7727 9/16x5/8 Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 299 at the left shows a Billings 7727 9/16x5/8 box wrench in the later style, marked with the company name, model, and fractional sizes on the front, with "Vitalloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 9.5 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends.

The changes in the style and markings can be seen by comparison to the earlier Billings 7727 Wrench.


7027 Vitalloy Box-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 7027 19/32x11/16 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 300. Billings Vitalloy 7027 19/32x11/16 Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 300 shows a Billings 7027 19/32x11/16 box wrench, stamped with the company name, model, and fractional sizes on the front, with "Vitalloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 10.7 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends.


7029 Vitalloy Box-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 7029 11/16x25/32 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 301. Billings Vitalloy 7029 11/16x25/32 Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 301 shows a Billings 7029 11/16x25/32 box wrench, stamped with the company name, model, and fractional sizes on the front, with "Vitalloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 11.2 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends.


7031B Vitalloy Box-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 7031B 25/32x13/16 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 302. Billings Vitalloy 7031B 25/32x13/16 Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 302 shows a Billings 7031B 25/32x13/16 box wrench, stamped with the company name, model, and fractional sizes on the front, with "Vitalloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 12.8 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends.


7031 Vitalloy Box-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 7031 25/32x7/8 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 303. Billings Vitalloy 7031 25/32x7/8 Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 303 shows a Billings 7031 25/32x7/8 box wrench, stamped with the company name, model, and fractional sizes on the front, with "Vitalloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 12.8 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends.


7033A Vitalloy Box-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 7033A 7/8x15/16 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 304. Billings Vitalloy 7033A 7/8x15/16 Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 304 shows a Billings 7033A 7/8x15/16 box wrench, stamped with the company name, model, and fractional sizes on the front, with "Vitalloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 14.0 inches. The original finish was chrome plating, but most has been lost due to rust.


7033C Vitalloy Box-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 7033C 15/16x1 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 305. Billings Vitalloy 7033C 15/16x1 Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 305 shows a Billings 7033C 15/16x1 box wrench with an oval shank, stamped "Billings Vitalloy" with the B-Triangle logo and a "Made in U.S.A" marking.

The overall length is 14.1 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends.

This wrench is very similar to the earlier Billings 7033C example of this model.


8727 Vitalloy Offset Box-End Wrench, Later Style

The next figures show the updated design of the later 8000 series offset box wrenches.

[Billings Vitalloy 8727 9/16x5/8 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 306. Billings Vitalloy 8727 9/16x5/8 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 306 at the left shows a Billings 8727 9/16x5/8 offset box wrench, stamped with the company name, model, and fractional sizes on the front, with "Vitalloy" and "Made in U.S.A." stamped on the reverse.

The overall length is 9.2 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with some loss due to rust.

This wrench can be compared to the previous generation panelled style shown as the Billings 8727 Panelled Offset Box Wrench. The earlier model was significantly longer, 10.1 inches compared with the present 9.2 inches, and had a generally heavier construction.


8731-B Vitalloy Offset Box-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 8731-B 13/16x7/8 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 307. Billings Vitalloy 8731-B 13/16x7/8 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 307 shows a Billings 8731-B 13/16x7/8 offset box wrench, stamped with the company name, model, and fractional sizes on the front, with "Vitalloy" and "Made in U.S.A." stamped on the reverse.

The overall length is 13.0 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends.


8034 Vitalloy Offset Box-End Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 8034 7/8x1-1/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 308. Billings Vitalloy 8034 7/8x1-1/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 308 shows a Billings 8034 7/8x1-1/16 offset box wrench, stamped with the company name, model, and fractional sizes on the front, with "Vitalloy" and "Made in U.S.A." stamped on the reverse.

The overall length is 15.9 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends.


Later Vitalloy Combination Wrenches

Billings changed the markings on its combination wrenches in 1948, dropping the B-Triangle logo from the shank, and placing the "Billings" and "Vitalloy" trademarks on opposite sides of the shank. The changes in the markings are readily apparent by comparison with examples of the previous style.


1164 Vitalloy 5/8 Combination Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 1164 5/8 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 309. Billings Vitalloy 1164 5/8 Combination Wrench, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 309 shows a Billings 1164 5/8 combination wrench in the later style, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo on the face, and with "Billings" and "Vitalloy" stamped on opposite sides of the shank.

The overall length is 7.5 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

An earlier version of this model can be seen as the Billings 1164 Combination Wrench.


1166 Vitalloy Combination Wrench, Later Style

[Billings Vitalloy 1166 3/4 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 310. Billings Vitalloy 1166 3/4 Combination Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 310 shows a Billings 1166 3/4 combination wrench in the later style, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo on the face. The shank is stamped with the "Billings" and "Vitalloy" trademarks, but on opposite sides of the shank.

The overall length is 9.4 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

An earlier version of this model can be seen as the Billings 1166 Combination Wrench.


1167 Vitalloy Combination Wrench, Later Stlye

[Billings Vitalloy 1167 7/8 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 311. Billings Vitalloy 1167 7/8 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Side View, ca. 1948-1962.

Fig. 311 shows a later Billings 1167 7/8 combination wrench. The face is stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the B-Triangle logo, and the shank is stamped "Billings" and "Vitalloy" on opposite sides.

The overall length is 10.9 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

An earlier version of this model can be seen as the Billings 1167 Combination Wrench.


The Return of the Life-Time Brand

Billings first registered the "Life-Time" trademark in 1926 and used it briefly to identify their new alloy steel wrenches. Within a few years the Life-Time mark had been discontinued in favor of direct alloy markings and later the "Vitalloy" trademark, but Billings later decided to resurrect the Life-Time trademark for a second line of tools, targeted primarily for hardware stores.

This second appearance of the Life-Time brand occurred in the late 1940s or early 1950s. These later Life-Time tools were basically identical in design to the standard Vitalloy line of 1948 and later, but generally were less finely finished, in order to make them available at lower prices.

The Life-Time brand included open-end wrenches, box wrenches, combination wrenches, and socket tools in the smaller drive sizes. The markings on the tools typically included "Billings Life-Time" on one side, with the model number and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse. The model numbers followed the standard Vitalloy line, but with an "L" prefix.

The figures below will show some examples of the Life-Time line.


L1033-C Life-Time Open-End Wrench

[Billings Life-Time L1033-C 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 312. Billings Life-Time L1033-C 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 312 shows a Billings L1033-C 15/16x1 open-end wrench, stamped "Billings Life-Time" on the shank with "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 11.0 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

L8725-B Life-Time Offset Box-End Wrench

The next two figures show examples of offset box wrenches in the Life-Time series.

[Billings Life-Time L8725-B 1/2x9/18 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 313. Billings Life-Time L8725-B 1/2x9/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 313 at the left shows a Billings L8725B 1/2x9/16 offset box wrench, stamped with "Billings Life-Time" on the front with the model number and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.9 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

L8729 Life-Time Offset Box-End Wrench

[Billings Life-Time L8729 5/8x3/4 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 314. Billings Life-Time L8729 5/8x3/4 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 314 at the left shows a Billings L8729 5/8x3/4 offset box wrench, stamped with "Billings Life-Time" on the front with the model number and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 10.7 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

L1164 Life-Time Combination Wrench

[Billings Life-Time L1164 5/8 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 315. Billings Life-Time L1164 5/8 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 315 shows a Billings L1164 5/8 combination wrench, marked "Life-Time" on the shank with the model number and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.6 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

L1166 Life-Time Combination Wrench

[Billings Life-Time L1166 3/4 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 316. Billings Life-Time L1166 3/4 Combination Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 316 shows a Billings L1166 3/4 combination wrench, marked "Life-Time" on the shank with the model number and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 9.4 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

The top inset shows a side view of the wrench. Note that the edges from the trimming operation are still visible after finishing, instead of having been ground smooth as is stypically seen in the Vitalloy line.

L1167 Life-Time Combination Wrench

[Billings Life-Time L1167 7/8 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 317. Billings Life-Time L1167 7/8 Combination Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 317 shows a Billings L1167 7/8 combination wrench, marked "Life-Time" on the shank with "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 11.0 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

L1171 Life-Time Combination Wrench

[Billings Life-Time L1171 1-1/16 Inch Combination Wrench]
Fig. 318. Billings Life-Time L1171 1-1/16 Inch Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 318 shows a Billings L1171 1-1/16 combination wrench, marked "Life-Time" on the shank with "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 14.9 inches. The original finish was chrome plating with polished ends, but most has been lost due to rust and wear.

One detail to be noted is that the shank retains some marks from the trimming operation after forging.


Post-Crescent Production

Production of Billings tools is believed to have continued for some time after the 1962 acquisition by Crescent Niagara, but currently we're unsure of the extent of this final period. The figures in this section will show examples of tools believed to represent the post-Crescent era.

In 1962 Crescent Niagara filed a trademark application for the "Billings" name in the distinctive form with the narrowed center, but without the B-Triangle logo. (The trademark was issued as #750,104 in 1963.) The exclusion of the B-Triangle logo from the markings provides a simple way to distinguish the later Billings-marked production.


Billings Vitalloy 1033C Open-End Wrench, Late Style

[Billings Vitalloy 1033C 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 319. Billings Vitalloy 1033C 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1962+.

Fig. 319 shows a Billings 1033C 15/16x1 open-end wrench, stamped "Billings Vitalloy" with the fractional sizes on the front, with the model number and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse. Note that the B-Triangle logo is not marked anywhere on this tool.

The overall length is 10.9 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

This wrench is very similar to the Billings 1033C Wrench shown in an earlier figure.


1090D Vitalloy 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench, Late Style

[Billings Vitalloy 1090D 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench]
Fig. 320. Billings Vitalloy 1090D 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1962+.

Fig. 320 shows a later Billings 1090D 1/2x9/16 tappet wrench, stamped "Billings Vitalloy" on the front with "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 8.4 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends.

(The black spots in the photograph are pits caused by contact with some sort of corrosive agent.)

The "Billings Vitalloy" marking without the older B-Triangle logo is believed to indicate late production, after Billings had been acquired by Crescent Niagara.


Billings Vitalloy 1167 Combination Wrench, Late Style

[Billings Vitalloy 1167 7/8 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 321. Billings Vitalloy 1167 7/8 Combination Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1962+.

Fig. 321 shows a Billings 1167 7/8 combination wrench, stamped "Billings Vitalloy" with the fractional size on the front, with the model number and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse. Note that the B-Triangle logo is not marked anywhere on this tool.

The overall length is 10.9 inches. The finish is chrome plating, but with extensive losses due to rust.

77-12 12 Inch Adjustable Wrench, Late Style

[Billings Vitalloy 77-12 12 Inch Adjustable Wrench]
Fig. 322. Billings Vitalloy 77-12 12 Inch Adjustable Wrench, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1962+.

Fig. 322 shows a later version of the Billings 77-12 adjustable wrench, stamped "Vitalloy" on the handle with "Forged Steel" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 12.2 inches, and the maximum opening is 1.3 inches. The finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

The maximum head thickness was measured at 0.73 inches.

The design of this wrench closely resembles the later style produced by Crescent Tool, as can be seen by comparison with the Crescent Crestoloy Adjustable Wrench. In particular, note that the depressed panel of the handle extends all the way to the adjusting screw, and that the hole in the handle has a squared-of ridge on one side. Thus it's likely that this wrench is Crescent production marked for Billings, and was probably made after Billings had been acquired by Crescent Niagara.


References and Resources

Photographs and observations of particular tools are based on items in the Alloy Artifacts collection.


Catalog Coverage

Product information was obtained from a number of Billings & Spencer catalogs, as summarized in the table below.

Catalog Year Notes
35th Edition 1923 Printed on heavy paper with spiral binding. Male-drive sockets listed.
37th Edition 1929 Male-drive sockets still offered
Socket Wrenches and Handle Units 1930 New line of standard (female-drive) sockets and drive tools, produced by Walden.
Sockets in 1 inch hex drive available. Lists 28xx-series single-offset box wrenches.
Also offers golf clubs!
40th Edition 1937 Vitalloy trademark shown on wrenches. Box-end wrenches available in S- and L-series.
41st Edition 1938  
42nd Edition 1939 Also reprinted in 1944
W-48-2 1948 Wrenches only. Illustrations of Vitalloy wrenches with Billings on one side of shank.
No. 49 1949  
No. 50 1955 Sockets in 1/4-drive listed
No. 50 1961 Later printing

Billings products were offered through a wide variety of industrial and automotive suppliers, and were even offered by name in some early Sears Roebuck catalogs! The list below shows some of these other references for Billings products.

  • Chandler & Farquhar 1919. The 1919 catalog from the Chandler & Farquhar Company, an industrial distributor, offers an extensive selection with 40 pages of Billings tools. The listings include adjustable and fixed wrenches, wrench sets in canvas rolls, and one page of socket sets with pressed-steel sockets.

  • C.W. Marwedel 1922. The 1922 catalog No. 11 from the C.W. Marwedel Company, an industrial supplier, lists several of the Billings adjustable wrenches, including the Models A, B, D, E, and G. The Model G wrenches were available in sizes from 6 to 18 inches. Also listed are Billings Model M and Model CC pliers.

  • Beckley-Ralston 1924. The 1924 Catalog No. 91 from Beckley-Ralston, an automotive supplies distributor, offered Billings open-end wrenches and other tools.

  • Samuel Harris 1925. The Samuel Harris Company catalog No. 51 from about 1925 has an large section devoted to Billings tools, with 50 pages of listings for tappet wrenches, open-end wrenches, wrench sets, and Tee-handle socket wrenches. Also included are the male-drive sockets sets Nos. 50, 51, 52, and 53.

  • Samuel Harris 1931. The 1931 catalog No. 11 from the Samuel Harris Company lists about 12 pages of Billings tools. Most significantly, the listings include several pages with illustrations of early chrome-alloy socket sets.

  • Sears Roebuck 1931. The 1931 Sears Roebuck (Spring and Summer) catalog lists two wrench sets from Billings & Spencer, a set of five S-wrenches or six open-end wrenches, both apparently older carbon-steel models. The set of open-end wrenches sold for only $0.65, compared with $1.85 for a set of alloy steel Craftsman wrenches.


Patents and Trademarks

Patent and trademark information was obtained from the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) web site at uspto.gov. Patent documents were obtained from sites offering free downloads, notably freepatentsonline.com.


Feedback

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