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Sockets and Drive Tools

Interchangeable sockets and drive tools were one of the most important tool-related developments of the 20th century, but for whatever reason Vlchek Tool apparently chose not to compete in this area. Except for a brief period in the early 1930s, Vlchek did not produce sockets and drive tools during the 1920s through 1940s, the period that brought most of the important innovations in socket tools. The company's early production of sockets is known only from catalog A-2, published around 1934.

In the mid to late 1950s Vlchek began offering sockets and drive tools regularly in their catalogs, and the 1957 Vlchek catalog offered tools in 1/4-drive up through 3/4-drive sizes. But in Vlchek's later period, most of the known examples bear a close resemblance to 1950s-era tools from Fleet and Penens, two companies in the Proto Tool family. (E.g. the 2805 Extension.) These considerations suggest that the later socket tools were most likely produced under contract manufacture, rather than developed internally.


Early Period, Mid 1930s

Vlchek sockets and drive tools from their 1930s period are less commonly found, reflecting the fact that they were were available only for a relatively short period. We'll begin this section with a example of an early 1/2-drive Vlchek ratchet.


WSSR10 1/2-Drive Reversible Ratchet

[Vlchek WSSR10 1/2-Drive Reversible Ratchet]
Fig. 119. Vlchek WSSR10 1/2-Drive Reversible Ratchet, with Insets for Reverse and Side View, ca. 1934-1935.

Fig. 119 shows a 1/2-drive Vlchek WSSR10 ratchet of distinctive design, marked with "Drop Forged" forged into the handle, with "Made in U.S.A." forged into the reverse.

The overall length is 9.6 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The ratchet mechanism uses a dual-pawl design with a 28-tooth drive gear.


WSLR6 3/8-Drive Ratchet

[Vlchek WSLR6 3/8-Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 120. Vlchek WSLR6 3/8-Drive Ratchet, with Insets for Reverse and Side View, ca. 1935.

Fig. 120 shows a 3/8-drive Vlchek WSLR6 ratchet of distinctive design, marked "Drop Forged" in forged-in raised letters, with "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse. The overall length is 6.6 inches, and the finish shows some traces of the original plating, probably nickel.

The most unusual feature of this ratchet is its linear slide shift lever, seen in the photograph with its "ON" and "OFF" directional arrows. The lever has a slot that slips over the pivot pin of the pawl, to maintain alignment, and an offset hole in the lever engages a pin at the top of the pawl. The sliding motion of the shifter then imparts a rotation to the pawl, and shifts it to the opposite side of the detent.

Apart from the unique shift arrangement, the design of the ratchet is very similar to the pivoting pawl design developed by Snap-On in the early 1930s. (See patent #1,854,513 for more information.) The ratchet mechanism has a 20-tooth drive gear, and the pivoting pawl has a single tooth on each side. A spring-loaded detent ball returns the pawl to its selected position.


WSS331 1/2-Drive 31/32 Socket

Shortly after acquiring the ratchet in the above figure, we were fortunate to acquire an early Vlchek socket from another collector. The socket appears to date from approximately the same time frame as the ratchet, early to mid 1930s, and indicates again that Vlchek at least experimented with socket production at this early time.

[Vlchek WSS331 1/2-Drive 31/32 Socket]
Fig. 121. Vlchek WSS331 1/2-Drive 31/32 Socket, with Inset for Broaching, ca. 1935.

Fig. 121 shows a 1/2-drive Vlchek WSS331 31/32 socket, marked "Chrome Molybdenum" with the Vlchek name. The finish is polished steel.

The inset shows the broached opening, and the chatter marks on the wall indicate cold-broached manufacture. The band of finely detailed cross-hatched knurling resembles the knurling on sockets from New Britain.

Another detail worth noting is that the drive end of the socket has a small recess in each wall, a convenience feature to help retain the socket on its drive stud. Although common today, this was rather uncommon in the early to mid 1930s, due to the additional work required to machine the recesses.


WSS325 1/2-Drive 25/32 Socket

[Vlchek WSS325 1/2-Drive 25/32 Socket]
Fig. 121B. Vlchek WSS325 1/2-Drive 25/32 Socket, with Inset for Broaching, ca. 1935.

Fig. 121B shows a 1/2-drive Vlchek WSS325 25/32 socket, stamped "Chrome Molybdenum" with the Vlchek name and model number.

The finish is plain steel, with extensive pitting due to rust.

The socket has a band of finely detailed cross-hatched knurling at the base, resembling the knurling found on sockets from New Britain.


WSS426 1/2-Drive Deep 13/16 Socket

[Vlchek WSS426 1/2-Drive Deep 13/16 Socket]
Fig. 121C. Vlchek WSS426 1/2-Drive Deep 13/16 Socket, with Insets for Broaching and Marking Detail, ca. 1935.

Fig. 121C shows a 1/2-drive Vlchek WSS426 deep 13/16 socket, stamped "Vlchek" with the size and model number, and with "Chrome Molybdenum" above.

The finish is plain steel, with extensive pitting due to rust.

The socket has a band of finely detailed cross-hatched knurling at the base, resembling the knurling found on sockets from New Britain.

Another detail worth noting is that the drive end of the socket has a small recess in each wall, a convenience feature to help retain the socket on its drive stud. Although common today, this was rather uncommon in the early to mid 1930s, due to the additional work required to machine the recesses.


WSH334 3/4-Drive 12-Point Socket

[Vlchek WSS334 3/4-Drive 1-1/16 Socket]
Fig. 122. Vlchek WSH334 3/4-Drive 1-1/16 Socket, with Inset for Broaching, ca. 1935.

Fig. 122 shows a 3/4-drive Vlchek WSH334 1-1/16 socket, stamped "Chrome Molybdenum" with the Vlchek name and model.

The finish is plain steel.

The inset shows the broached opening, and the chatter marks on the wall indicate cold-broached manufacture. The band of finely detailed cross-hatched knurling resembles the knurling on sockets from New Britain.

As with the previous figure, the drive end of the socket has a small recess in each wall, a convenience feature to help retain the socket on its drive stud.


Late Period, Mid 1950s Onward

The examples in this section represent Vlchek's later period, beginning around the mid 1950s. During this time the Vlchek catalog offered socket tools in 1/4-drive up through 3/4-drive sizes, with various sets available as well as individual tools.

Most of the known examples from this period bear a close resemblance to 1950s-era tools from Fleet and Penens, suggesting that the later socket tools were most likely produced under contract manufacture.


3800 1/2-Drive Ratchet

[Vlchek 3800 1/2-Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 123. Vlchek 3800 1/2-Drive Ratchet, with Inset for Side View.

Fig. 123 shows a Vlchek model 3800 1/2-drive ratchet, marked "U.S.A." on the shifter. The overall length is 10.1 inches.

A careful comparison of this ratchet found it to be very similar to the Penens 1260 Ratchet. In particular, the ratchet heads for both models are machined symmetrically, so that the ratchet mechanism can be inserted from either side. The ratchet mechanisms were also of the same design.

One odd feature of this ratchet is that the head gear is cut with only 30 teeth, fewer even than some rotating-gear ratchets; typically a round-head ratchet will have 40-50 or more teeth.


32xx 1/2-Drive Sockets

[Vlchek 3800 1/2-Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 124. Vlchek 32xx 1/2-Drive Sockets, with Inset for Broaching.

Fig. 124 shows two 1/2-drive Vlchek 32xx series sockets, both marked "Alloy U.S.A." and with a bright polished chrome finish. The models and sizes are 3216 (1/2) on the left and 3232 (1 inch) on the right.

The inset at the top shows the 12-point broaching, showing hot-broached construction with a ring of displaced material.

As with the model 3800 ratchet above, these sockets are nearly identical to those of Penens production. The clincher is the small symbol marked on the side of the socket, resembling an outlined "+" or perhaps a four-leaf clover. (The mark can be seen by careful examination of the top inset.) This mark is placed in the exact center one drive face by a crimping operation, in order to form a dimple on the inside surface for securing the socket to the drive stud.

Penens also used the outlined "+" mark in their socket production, as can be seen in the Penens 16xx Sockets. Although the Proto and P&C brands also made use of a dimple to secure sockets, at least for some socket production, they typically used a different mark on the outside.


1800 1/4-Drive Ratchet

[Vlchek 1800 1/4-Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 125. Vlchek 1800 1/4-Drive Ratchet, with Inset for Detail.

Fig. 125 shows a Vlchek model 1800 1/4-drive ratchet, marked "U.S.A." on the shifter.

The overall length is 4.5 inches.


Motiv and Economy-Brand Tools

By 1952 Vlchek had introduced a brand "Motiv" for an economy line of wrenches. These were made from a "Special Analysis Steel" instead of the chrome alloy used for the standard line, allowing them to sell at a somewhat lower price. For example, the 1953 list price for the Motiv X-24 was $1.36 compared to $1.62 for the WBE24 wrench.


Motiv N727 9/16x5/8 Open-End Wrench

[Motiv N727 9/16x5/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 126. Motiv N727 9/16x5/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 126 shows a Motiv N727 9/16x5/8 open-end wrench, stamped with "Motiv" and the model number on the faces. The shank is marked with "Made in U.S.A." forged into the front, with "Drop Forged" forged into the reverse. The shank also has a forged-in number "5" visible at the right.

The overall length is 6.1 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.


Motiv X24 3/4 Combination Wrench

[Motiv X24 3/4 Combo Wrench]
Fig. 127. Motiv X24 3/4 Combo Wrench

Fig. 127 shows a Motiv X24 3/4 combination wrench, stamped "Motiv" with the model number and fractional size. The forged-in number is "10".

The overall length is 9.75 inches.

This wrench is very similar to the WBE24 Wrench shown earlier, but presumably made of a lesser grade of steel.

Motiv XB1618 1/2x9/16 Offset Box-End Wrench

[Motiv XB1618 1/2x9/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 128. Motiv XB1618 1/2x9/16 Offset Box-End Wrench.

Fig. 128 shows a Motiv XB1618 1/2x9/16 offset box-end wrench, stamped "Motiv" with the model number and fractional sizes. The reverse shank is marked with a forged-in number "11" (not shown).

The overall length is 9.2 inches.


[Model X540] 3/8x7/16 Panel Bar Offset Box Wrench

In addition to the Motiv brand tools, the 1952 catalog lists several other groups of tools made of "Special Analysis Steel", which were intended to provide a less expensive alternative to the alloy steel tools. Included among these economy tools are "Panel Bar" box-end wrenches, available in both long deep offset and short shallow offset configurations.

The Panel Bar designs are similar to the WBA and WBC series, respectively, but with a recessed panel in the shank. These tools were marked with raised letters in the depressed panels on both side of the shank, typically with "Made in U.S.A." (or equivalent) and "Forged Steel". The Vlchek name may or may not be marked.

[Vlchek Panel Bar 3/8x7/16 Deep Offset Box Wrench]
Fig. 129. Vlchek Panel Bar [Model X540] 3/8x7/16 Deep Offset Box Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 129 at the left shows our first Panel Bar example, a 3/8x7/16 deep offset wrench marked "Vlchek U.S.A." with "Forged Steel" on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.6 inches. This wrench has a rough cadmium finish, now worn through in places. The forged-in number is "2".

The Panel Bar tools were generally not marked with a model number, but the catalog identifies this wrench (in "Velco" finish) as a model X540.

[Model X541] 1/2x9/16 Panel Bar Offset Box Wrench

[Vlchek Panel Bar 1/2x9/16 Deep Offset Box Wrench]
Fig. 130. Vlchek Panel Bar [Model X541] 1/2x9/16 Deep Offset Box Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 130 shows the next Panel Bar example, a 1/2x9/16 deep offset box wrench, marked "Made in U.S.A." with "Forged Steel" on the reverse. The forged-in number is "12".

The overall length is 8.6 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.

No model number is marked, but the catalog identifies this as a model X541.

[Model X543] 3/4x25/32 Offset Box Wrench, Panel Bar Style

[Vlchek Panel Bar 3/4x25/32 Deep Offset Box Wrench]
Fig. 131. Vlchek Panel Bar [Model X543] 3/4x25/32 Deep Offset Box Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 131 at the left shows a Vlchek 3/4x25/32 deep offset wrench, marked "Vlchek Made in U.S.A." with "Forged Steel" on the reverse.

The overall length is 11.2 inches. This wrench has no apparent finish remaining, but may have had a cadmium finish at some point.

No model number is marked, but the catalog identifies this as a model X543.

[Model X534] 13/16x7/8 Offset Box Wrench, Panel Bar Style

[Vlchek Panel Bar 13/16x7/8 Deep Offset Box Wrench]
Fig. 132. Vlchek Panel Bar [Model X534] 13/16x7/8 Deep Offset Box Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

In Fig. 132 we see a Vlchek 13/16x7/8 deep offset Panel Bar wrench, marked "Vlchek Made in U.S.A." with "Forged Steel" on the reverse.

The overall length is 12.7 inches. The wrench has a hard plated finish with a yellowish tint. No model number is marked, but the catalog identifies this wrench (with nickel plate) as a model X534.

[Model X562] 1/2x9/16 Short Box Wrench, Panel Bar Style

[Vlchek Panel Bar 1/2x9/16 Short Offset Box Wrench]
Fig. 133. Vlchek Panel Bar [Model X562] 1/2x9/16 Short Offset Box Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 133 shows an example of a Vlchek 1/2x9/16 short offset Panel Bar wrench, marked "Forged Steel" with "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse, but without the company name. The overall length is 5.3 inches.

The finish is a thin bright plating, now mostly worn off. The 1/2x9/16 size with the bright plated finish is listed as catalog model X562.

The wrench is clearly a Vlchek piece based on the design and the forged-in number "5", and the lack of a company name marking may indicate that this was sold as contract production. (These were supposed to be economy-grade tools.)

[Model X573] 5/8x11/16 Short Box Wrench, Panel Bar Style

[Vlchek Panel Bar 5/8x11/16 Short Offset Box Wrench]
Fig. 134. Vlchek Panel Bar [Model X573] 5/8x11/16 Short Offset Box Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

In Fig. 134 we see another example of the short Panel Bar series, a 5/8x11/16 box-end wrench marked "Vlchek U.S.A." with "Forged Steel" on the reverse. The overall length is 6.1 inches.

The wrench has a what appears to be a painted finish, but worn through in places. The 5/8x11/16 size with a non-plated finish is listed as catalog model X573.

Note that "Vlchek U.S.A." appears where the previous example had the "Made in U.S.A." marking.

3/4x25/32 Short Box Wrench, Panel Bar Style

[Vlchek Panel Bar 3/4x25/32 Short Offset Box Wrench]
Fig. 135. Vlchek Panel Bar 3/4x24/25 Short Offset Box Wrench, with Insets for Side and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 135 shows a Vlchek 3/4x25/32 short Panel Bar wrench, marked "Made in U.S.A." with "Forged Steel" on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.1 inches. The finish is a bright chrome plating with polished ends, and a forged-in number "2" is visible on the front. The company name is not marked, but the wrench can be identified as Vlchek production by the design and the forged-in number.

The 3/4x25/32 Panel Bar wrench had apparently been discontinued by the time of the 1952 catalog, so the model number for this wrench is not available at this time.

The upper inset shows a side view of the wrench to illustrate the angled ends and very slight offset, giving it an almost flat profile.

5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench, Panel Bar Style

The Panel Bar series also included open-end wrenches, as the next several figures illustrate.

[Vlchek Panel Bar 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 136. Vlchek Panel Bar 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 136 shows a Vlchek 19/32x11/16 open-end wrench in the panel bar style, marked with "Drop Forged" and the fractional sizes forged into the shank, with a forged-in number "16" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 6.5 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench, Panel Bar Style

[Vlchek Panel Bar 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 137. Vlchek Panel Bar 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 137 shows a Vlchek 5/8x3/4 open-end wrench in the panel bar style, marked with "Drop Forged" and the fractional sizes forged into the shank, with a forged-in number "5" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 9.5 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

1-1/16x1-1/8 Open-End Wrench, Panel Bar Style

[Vlchek Panel Bar 1-1/16x1-1/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 138. Vlchek Panel Bar 1-1/16x1-1/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 138 shows a Vlchek 1-1/16x1-1/8 open-end wrench in the panel bar style, marked with "Drop Forged" and the fractional sizes forged into the shank, with a forged-in number "3" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 10.5 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.

5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench, Panel Bar Style

In later years Vlchek offered a chrome finish option for the Panel Bar wrench, in addition to the plain and cadmium finishes.

[Vlchek Panel Bar 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 139. Vlchek Panel Bar 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 139 shows a later Vlchek 5/8x3/4 Panel Bar open-end wrench with a chrome finish, marked with "Drop Forged" and the fractional sizes forged into the shank, with a forged-in number "38" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

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


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