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Contract Production

The previous sections have looked at tools marked as Vlchek products, or at least not marked explicitly with another company's brand. In this section we'll look at examples of tools made for sale as other brands.


ChromeXQuality

The "ChromeXQuality" (or "Chrome X Quality") brand was a great mystery for quite a while, but has finally been identified as an unregistered brand of Western Auto Supply. The 1937 Western Auto catalog offered ChromeXQuality (or just "Chrome-X") tools as their top-of-the-line brand, and stated that they were "lifetime tools with free replacement guarantee." The Chrome-X catalog items included wrenches in open-end, box-end, and combination styles, sockets and drive tools, several types of pliers, and other tools.

The identification of Western Auto as the owner of the brand fits well with the known examples, as many of the tools collected thus far were apparently made by either Duro/Indestro or Vlchek, the same pattern seen with the Wizard and Westcraft brands. In 1937 the Wizard brand was being used for batteries and other automobile supplies, but not yet for tools; it seems likely that the success of the Chrome-X tool line lead to the Wizard brand being extended to include tools.

Based on Western Auto historical sources, the ChromeXQuality brand was used from 1936 to 1939, after which the company switched to their favored "Wizard" brand. We'll use this range as the estimated manufacturing date for the examples below.

In addition to Vlchek and Duro/Indestro, Herbrand has been recently identified as a third producer of ChromeXQuality tools. Additional information on these tools is available in the sections on Duro and Herbrand contract production.


ChromeXQuality 2731A 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench with "Western Auto" Marking

We'll begin with an unusual example marked for both ChromeXQuality and Western Auto. This wrench would have saved us a lot of trouble in tracking down the ChromeXQuality brand if it had shown up earlier.

[ChromeXQuality 2731A 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 140. ChromeXQuality 2731A 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench with Dual Markings, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 140 shows an unusual dual-marked ChromeXQuality 2731A 3/4x7/8 open-end wrench, stamped with "Chrome X Quality" on the shank and with "Western Auto Stores" on the reverse. The faces are stamped with the fractional sizes, with "Chrome Molybdenum" and the model number on the reverse.

The overall length is 9.2 inches, and the finish is plain steel, with extensive pitting due to rust.

This wrench can be identified as Vlchek production by the general construction and the use of the "Chrome Molybdenum" marking with larger initial letters. In addition, Vlchek is known to have used the 2xxx model series for its open-end wrenches, whereas other markers typically used this series for obstruction wrenches.


ChromeXQuality W1012 5/16x3/8 Open-End Wrench

[ChromeXQuality W1012 5/16x3/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 142. ChromeXQuality W1012 5/16x3/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 142 shows another ChromeXQuality tool of Vlchek production, a 5/16x3/8 open-end wrench with the Vlchek model number W1012. The head is marked "Chrome Moly" and the shank is stamped with a "KV" code, presumably an indication of the Vlchek source.

The overall length is 4.8 inches.

The forged-in number is "3".


ChromeXQuality W1416 7/16x1/2 Open-End Wrench

[ChromeXQuality W1416 7/16x1/2 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 143. ChromeXQuality W1416 7/16x1/2 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 143 shows a similar ChromeXQuality 7/16x1/2 open-end wrench with the Vlchek model number W1416, stamped "Chrome Moly" on the face with a "KV" code on the shank to indicate the Vlchek source. The shank has a forged-in number "4" at the left.

The overall length is 5.3 inches.


ChromeXQuality W1820 9/16x5/8 Open-End Wrench

[ChromeXQuality W1820 9/16x5/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 144. ChromeXQuality W1820 9/16x5/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 144 shows a ChromeXQuality 9/16x5/8 open-end wrench with the Vlchek model number W1820, stamped "Chrome Molybdenum" on one face with a "KV" code stamped on the shank. The shank has a forged-in number "2" at the left.

The overall length is 6.4 inches.


ChromeXQuality 90A 7/16x17/32 Tappet Wrench

The next two figures show examples of ChromeXQuality tappet wrenches.

[ChromeXQuality 90A 7/16x17/32 Tappet Wrench]
Fig. 145. ChromeXQuality 90A 7/16x17/32 Tappet Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 145 shows a ChromeXQuality 90A 7/16x17/32 tappet wrench, stamped "ChromeXQuality" on the shank, with "Chrome Molybdenum" on the reverse shank and "Made in U.S.A." and the model number on the reverse faces. The reverse shank also has a forged-in number "2" visible at the left.

The overall length is 8.0 inches.


ChromeXQuality 92 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 92 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench]
Fig. 146. ChromeXQuality 92 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 146 shows a ChromeXQuality 92 1/2x9/16 tappet wrench, stamped with "Chrome Molybdenum" and a "KV" code on the shank, with "Made in U.S.A." and the model number on the faces. The shank also has a forged-in number "11" visible at the left.

The overall length is 8.1 inches.


ChromeXQuality WBE18 9/16 Combination Wrench

[ChromeXQuality WBE18 9/16 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 146B. ChromeXQuality WBE18 9/16 Combination Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 146B shows a ChromeXQuality 9/16 combination wrench, marked with the brand and fractional size on the raised panel, with "Chrome Molybdenum" and "WBE18" on the reverse panel.

The overall length is 7.4 inches.

The example here can be readily identified as Vlchek production by the sharply rounded box end, the forged-in number "1", and the Vlchek WBE18 model number.


ChromeXQuality WBE24 3/4 Combination Wrench

[ChromeXQuality WBE24 3/4 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 146C. ChromeXQuality WBE24 3/4 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 146C shows a ChromeXQuality WBE24 3/4 combination wrench with raised panels, stamped with "Chrome X Quality" and the fractional size on the front panel, with "Chrome Molybdenum" and "WBE24" on the reverse panel.

The overall length is 9.7 inches.

The example here can be readily identified as Vlchek production by the sharply rounded box end, the forged-in number "3", and the Vlchek WBE24 model number.


ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Offset Box-End Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 147. ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 147 shows a ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 offset box-end wrench, stamped with "Chrome X Quality" and the fractional sizes on the raised panel, with "Chrome Molybdenum" on the reverse panel.

The overall length is 8.5 inches. The finish is plain steel with pitting due to rust, and with possible traces of a plated finish.

This wrench can be identified as Vlchek production by the general construction, and by the use of the "Chrome Molybdenum" marking with taller leading letters.


ChromeXQuality 5/8x11/16 Offset Box-End Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 5/8x11/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 148. ChromeXQuality 5/8x11/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 148 shows a ChromeXQuality 5/8x11/16 offset box-end wrench, stamped with "Chrome X Quality" and the fractional sizes on the raised panel, with "Chrome Molybdenum" on the reverse panel.

The overall length is 9.8 inches, and the finish is plain steel, with traces of a plated finish.

This wrench can be identified as Vlchek production by the general construction, and by the use of the "Chrome Molybdenum" marking with taller leading letters.

The deep offset construction makes this wrench similar to the Vlchek early WBA series models, an example of which can be seen as the Vlchek WBA 2425 Box Wrench.


ChromeXQuality 3/4x25/32 Offset Box-End Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 3/4x25/32 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 149. ChromeXQuality 3/4x25/32 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 149 shows a ChromeXQuality 3/4x25/32 offset box-end wrench, stamped with "Chrome X Quality" and the fractional sizes on the raised panel, with "Chrome Molybdenum" on the reverse panel.

The overall length is 11.1 inches, and the finish is plain steel, with traces of a plated finish.

This wrench can be identified as Vlchek production by the general construction, and by the use of the "Chrome Molybdenum" marking with taller leading letters.


ChromeXQuality 1/2 Inch Flat Chisel

[ChromeXQuality 1/2 Inch Flat Chisel]
Fig. 150. ChromeXQuality 1/2 Inch Flat Chisel, with Inset for Side View, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 150 shows a ChromeXQuality flat chisel with a 1/2 inch octagonal shank, stamped with "Chrome X Quality" and a "KV" code on the shank.

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


That concludes our brief look at the ChromeXQuality tools produced by Vlchek. In the next section we'll look at Vlchek tools marked with the "Wizard" and "Westcraft" brands, the successors to the ChromeXQuality mark.


Wizard and Westcraft

The Western Auto Supply Company sold mechanic's hand tools under the brands Wizard and Westcraft, both of which were registered trademarks. Vlchek was a supplier for the wrenches sold under these brands, as can be seen from the great similarities in design and construction with the Vlchek-marked tools. Note also that the pieces below have a small "V" mark stamped on them.

As a side note, Western Auto sourced its sockets and ratchets for these lines from Duro/Indestro, showing very tasteful purchasing on the part of their buying agents. The Duro-sourced Wizard and Westcraft pieces have a small "D" marked on them. (See our article on Duro's Contract Production for more detail.)


Wizard HR2062 13/16x7/8 Open-End Wrench

[Wizard HR2062 13/16x7/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 151. Wizard HR2062 13/16x7/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 151 shows a Wizard model HR2062 13/16x7/8 open-end wrench, marked "Made in U.S.A." and "Alloy" on the reverse, along with a small "v" source code. The overall length is 9.25 inches.

The wrench handle features a distinctive design with a central polished area and curved arcs at either end. This design was apparently developed for Western Auto, as the only examples known are for Wizard or Westcraft branded items.

Based on the illustrations in a 1953 Western Auto Supply catalog, the curved-arc design goes back at least to the early 1950s. That catalog shows Wizard open-end, box-end, and combination wrenches all with handles of this style.


Wizard HR2201 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench

[Wizard HR2201 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 152. Wizard HR2201 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 152 shows a Wizard HR2201 3/8x7/16 offset box-end wrench, marked "Alloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse, along with a small "v" code.

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

The forged-in number is "11".


Wizard H2103 7/16 Combination Wrench

[Wizard H2103 7/16 Combo Wrench]
Fig. 153A. Wizard H2103 7/16 Combo Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 153A shows a Wizard H2103 7/16 combination wrench, marked "Wizard Hi-Torque" with "Forged U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 5.0 inches.

This tool is readily identified as Vlchek production by the sharply rounded box end and the forged-in number, as well as the "v" mark on the reverse.


Wizard H2106 5/8 Combination Wrench

[Wizard H2106 5/8 Combo Wrench]
Fig. 153B. Wizard H2106 5/8 Combo Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 153B shows a Wizard H2106 5/8 combination wrench, stamped with "Wizard Hi-Torque" and the fractional sizes on the shank, with "Forged U.S.A." and a "v" code on the reverse. The shank is also marked with a forged-in number "1" visible at the left.

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

This tool is readily identified as Vlchek production by the sharply rounded box end and the forged-in number, as well as the "v" mark on the reverse.


Westcraft WBC1012 5/16x3/8 Box-End Wrench

The next few examples show tools marked with Westcraft, the sister brand to Wizard. (Western Auto appears to have used them interchangeably.)

[Westcraft WBC1214 5/16x3/8 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 154. Westcraft WBC1012 5/16x3/8 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

In Fig. 154 we see a Westcraft WBC1012 5/16x3/8 offset box-end wrench, marked "Chrome Moly" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse, along with a small "v" code. The overall length is 4.1 inches.

The finish is chrome plate with polished ends, and the forged-in number is "23".


Westcraft WBC1214 3/8x7/16 Box-End Wrench

[Westcraft WBC1214 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 155. Westcraft WBC1214 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 155 shows a Westcraft WBC1214 3/8x7/16 offset box-end wrench, marked "Chrome Moly" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse, along with a small "v" code. The reverse shank also has a forged-in number is "42" visible at the left.

The overall length is 4.7 inches.


Westcraft WBH2628 13/16x7/8 Offset Box-End Wrench

[Westcraft WBH2628 13/16x7/8 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 156. Westcraft WBH2628 13/16x7/8 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 156 shows a Westcraft WBH2628 13/16x7/8 long offset box-end wrench, marked with a Vlchek model WBH2628. The reverse is marked "Chrome Molybdenum" and "Made in U.S.A.", and has a small "v" code.

The overall length is 13.4 inches.


Westcraft WBH3032 15/16x1 Offset Box-End Wrench

[Westcraft WBH3032 15/16x1 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 157. Westcraft WBH3032 15/16x1 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 157 shows a Westcraft WBH3032 15/16x1 long offset box-end wrench, stamped "Chrome Molybdenum" and "Made in U.S.A." with a small "v" code, and with "Westcraft" and the model number on the reverse. The shank also has a forged-in code "19" visible at the left.

The overall length is 15.0 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

This wrench is basically identical (except for markings) to the standard Vlchek WBH3032 Offset Box Wrench.


Westcraft HR2080 5/16x3/8 Open-End Wrench

[Westcraft HR2080 5/16x3/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 158. Westcraft HR2080 5/16x3/8 Open-End Wrench.

Fig. 158 shows a Westcraft HR2080 5/16x3/8 open-end wrench, marked "Alloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the shank, with a small "v" code in between. The overall length is 4.3 inches.

The finish is chrome plating with polished faces, and the forged-in number is "60".


Westcraft W1416 7/16x1/2 Open-End Wrench

[Westcraft W1416 7/16x1/2 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 159. Westcraft W1416 7/16x1/2 Open-End Wrench.

Fig. 159 shows a Westcraft W1416 7/16x1/2 open-end wrench, marked "Alloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the shank, with a small "v" code in between. The overall length is 5.4 inches.

The finish is chrome plating with polished faces, and the forged-in number is "55".


Westcraft W2526 25/32x13/16 Open-End Wrench

[Westcraft W2526 25/32x13/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 160. Westcraft W2526 25/32x13/16 Open-End Wrench.

Fig. 160 shows a Westcraft W2526 25/32x13/16 open-end wrench, marked "Alloy" and "Made in U.S.A." on the shank with a small "v" code on the face. The overall length is 9.2 inches.

The finish is chrome plating with polished faces, and the forged-in number is "13".


Westcraft HR2285 3/8 Combination Wrench

[Westcraft HR2285 3/8 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 161. Westcraft HR2285 3/8 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 161 shows a Westcraft model HR2285 3/8 combination wrench, marked "Made in U.S.A." and "Alloy" on the reverse, and showing the small "v" code. The overall length is 5.9 inches.

The finish is chrome plate, and the forged-in number is "7".

The wrench handle shows the distinctive design previously see in the Wizard HR2062 example.


Westcraft WBE20 5/8 Combination Wrench

[Westcraft WBE20 5/8 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 162. Westcraft WBE20 5/8 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1946-1952.

In Fig. 162 we see another Westcraft combination wrench, a 5/8 size model WBE20 with a flat shank. The reverse is marked "Chrome-Alloy" and "Made in U.S.A." with a small "v" in the center, and the overall length is 8.2 inches.

The wrench is finished with chrome plating, and the forged-in number is "4".

The flat shank on this wrench indicates an earlier manufacturing date than the example in the previous figure. Since the curved-arc design is known from a 1953 Western Auto catalog, this wrench was likely made before then, and the chrome plating places it at least after 1945.


Westline 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench

Western Auto also sold tools under the "Westline" brand, an unregistered mark found mostly on lower-priced tools.

[Westline 19/32/11/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 163. Westline 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 163 shows an example of the Westline brand, a Westline 19/32x11/16 open-end wrench with a panelled shank. The wrench is marked with "Westline" and the fractional sizes forged into the shank, with "Drop Forged U.S.A." on the reverse. The reverse shank also has a forged-in number "1" visible at the left.

The overall length is 8.2 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

This wrench is basically identical (except for markings) to the Vlchek 19/32x11/16 Panelbar Wrench shown in an earlier section.


Westline 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench

[Westline 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 164. Westline 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 164 shows a Westline 5/8x3/4 open-end wrench with a panelled shank, marked with "Westline" and the fractional sizes forged into the shank, with "Drop Forged U.S.A." forged into the reverse. The reverse shank also has a forged-in number "1" visible at the left.

The overall length is 7.5 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

This wrench is basically identical (except for markings) to the Vlchek 5/8x3/4 Panelbar Wrench shown in an earlier section.


Tiger Tools

The "Tiger Tools" brand was used for a line of tools sold in Gamble's and Gamble Auto Supply stores, a retail chain operated by the Gamble-Skogmo Corporation. The brand appears to have been used for a relatively brief period in the late 1930s to early 1940s.

Gamble-Skogmo later used the "Artisan" brand for its tools, and examples can be seen in the section on Artisan.


Tiger Tools WBE14 7/16 Combination Wrench

[Tiger Tools 7/16 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 165. Tiger Tools WBE14 7/16 Combination Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. Late 1930s to Early 1940s.

Fig. 165 shows a Tiger Tools WBE14 7/16 combination wrench, stamped with "Tiger Tools" and the fractional sizes on the raised panel, with "Chrome-Alloy" and the model number on the reverse. The shank also has a forged-in number "2" visible at the left.

The overall length is 6.3 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.


Tiger Tools WBE16 1/2 Combination Wrench

[Tiger Tools 1/2 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 166. Tiger Tools WBE16 1/2 Combination Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. Late 1930s to Early 1940s.

Fig. 166 shows a Tiger Tools WBE16 1/2 combination wrench, stamped with "Tiger Tools" and the fractional sizes on the raised panel, with "Chrome Alloy" and the model number on the reverse. The shank also has a forged-in number "3" visible at the left.

The overall length is 6.9 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.


Tiger Tools WBE22 11/16 Combination Wrench

[Tiger Tools WBE22 11/16 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 167A. Tiger Tools WBE22 11/16 Combination Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. Late 1930s to Early 1940s.

Fig. 167A shows a Tiger Tools WBE22 11/16 combination wrench, stamped with "Tiger Tools" and the fractional sizes on the raised panel, with "Chrome-Alloy" and the model number on the reverse. The shank also has a forged-in number "2" visible at the left.

The overall length is 8.9 inches. The finish is nickel plating, with some losses due to wear.


Tiger Tools WBE24 3/4 Combination Wrench

[Tiger Tools WBE24 3/4 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 167B. Tiger Tools WBE24 3/4 Combination Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. Late 1930s to Early 1940s.

Fig. 167B shows a Tiger Tools WBE24 3/4 combination wrench, stamped with "Tiger Tools" and the fractional sizes on the raised panel, with "Chrome-Alloy" and the model number on the reverse. The shank also has a forged-in number "3" visible at the left.

The overall length is 9.6 inches. The finish is plain steel with traces of the original nickel plating.

This wrench is very similar to the ChromeXQuality WBE24 3/4 Combination Wrench made by Vlchek for Western Auto Supply.


Tiger Tools 3/8x7/16 Short Offset Box-End Wrench

[Tiger Tools 3/x7/16 Short Offset Box Wrench]
Fig. 168. Tiger Tools 3/8x7/16 Short Offset Box Wrench, with Insets for Reverse and Side View, ca. Late 1930s to Early 1940s.

Fig. 168 shows a Tiger Tools 3/8x7/16 short offset box wrench with raised oval panels, stamped with "Tiger Tools" on the front panel, with "Chrome-Alloy" and the fractional sizes on the reverse. This example doesn't ahve a forged-in number, but the reverse shank has a forged-in asterisk at the left.

The overall length is 4.0 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

This wrench is similar to the Vlchek WBC1214 Short Offset Box Wrench, but is somewhat shorter.


Montgomery Ward's Master Quality

Montgomery Ward sold tools under a number of brand names, including "Master Quality" and "Riverside". Vlchek produced wrenches for the Master Quality brand, as did other manufacturers such as Bridgeport Hardware.


Master Quality 11/16 Combination Wrench

[Master Quality 11/16 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 169. Master Quality 11/16 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 169 shows a Master Quality 11/16 combination wrench, stamped with the Montgomery Ward MW logo on the front, with "Alloy Steel" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 8.9 inches.

Vlchek production is indicated by the sharp radius on the box end, the wide flat shank (compare to this WBE18 wrench), and the forged-in number "4".


Speed-Hed

The next examples are for an unfamiliar brand called "Speed-Hed", showing a type of combination wrench with a cut-away head. The cut-away open-end gives a type of ratcheting action and is commonly called a "speed wrench", hence the brand name "Speed-Hed". No information has been found for this brand, and although one of the examples is marked for Thorsen Tools, the design and construction points to Vlchek production.

A recent patent search has found these wrenches described by patent #2,652,735, issued to G.W. Wilder. (This was strictly a lucky find while searching for a different wrench patent.) No assignment was noted in the patent document, but the 1949 filing date and 1953 issue date at least provide a time frame.


Speed-Hed 774-0 7/16 Combination Wrench

[Speed-Hed 774-0 7/16 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 170. Speed-Hed 774-0 7/16 Combination Wrench, with Inset Showing Reverse, ca. 1949-1953.

In Fig. 170 we see a Speed-Hed model 774-0 7/16 combination wrench, marked "Pat. Appld For" and with "Thorsen Tools - Oakland - Calif" on the reverse.

The overall length is 6.3 inches.

The wrench shows the contour and design typical of Vlchek, including the sharp grinding radii on the both box and open ends. The forged-in number is "11".

It's not known whether the Speed-Hed brand was developed by Vlchek and then produced for Thorsen and possibly others, or whether it was a Thorsen brand with Vlchek simply acting as the manufacturer. However, of several examples of Speed-Hed wrenches, this particular wrench is the only one marked "Thorsen".


Speed-Hed 776-0 1/2 Combination Wrench

[Speed-Hed 776-0 1/2 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 171. Speed-Hed 776-0 1/2 Combination Wrench, ca. 1949-1953.

Fig. 171 shows a similar Speed-Hed model 7760 1/2 combination wrench, again marked "Pat. Appld For" but with no markings on the reverse. The overall length is 6.9 inches.

The forged-in number is a "13".


SW

Several examples are known of wrenches marked "SW" on the face as an apparent brand, with construction and markings that indicate Vlchek. These are presumed to be Vlchek contract production, but the identity or meaning of the "SW" mark is not yet known. One possibility is that "SW" could represent Stevens-Walden, an alternate name sometimes used by Walden-Worcester, a company known to use Vlchek for contract production (see below). However, no definite connection to Stevens-Walden has been made.


SW 3/8x7/16 Open-End Wrench

[SW 3/8x7/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 172. SW 3/8x7/16 Open-End Wrench.

Fig. 172 shows a 3/8x7/16 open-end wrench with "SW" stamped on each face, with the V-Shield logo and "Forged in U.S.A." in raised letters on the shank. The overall length is 4.2 inches.

The finish is chrome plate, and the forged-in number is "44".


SW 7/16x1/2 Open-End Wrench

[SW 7/16x1/2 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 173. SW 7/16x1/2 Open-End Wrench.

Fig. 173 shows another example, a 7/16x1/2 open-end wrench marked "U.S.A." on one face and "SW" on the other, with "Forged in U.S.A." in raised letters on the shank. The overall length is 5.1 inches.

The finish is chrome plate, and the forged-in number is "12".


SW 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench

[SW 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 174. SW 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench.

Fig. 174 shows a third SW example, a 19/32x11/16 open-end wrench marked "SW" on both faces, with "Forged in U.S.A." in raised letters on the shank. The overall length is 6.1 inches.

The finish is chrome plating, and the forged-in number is "17".


Walden

This next example is a bit unusual: a Vlchek-made wrench marked for Walden, a tool manufacturer generally not known to use contract production. Walden (or Walden-Worcester) was an important tool maker in the early 20th century, and continued to operate as a supplier of industrial tools into the 1990s. This is the only example of Vlchek production for Walden currently known, although perhaps others will be found.


Walden 2156A 13/16 Combination Wrench

[Walden 2156A 13/16 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 175. Walden 2156A 13/16 Combination Wrench.

Fig. 175 shows a Walden 2156A 13/16 combination wrench, marked "U.S.A." and "Alloy". The overall length is 10.5 inches.

The wrench shows the expected Vlchek production characteristics, with a thin box end and sharp grinding radii on both ends; the comparable Vlchek model would be WBE26. The forged-in number (a bit faint, but definitely present) is a "3".


Ersatz Vlchek

In 1958 Vlchek Tool was acquired by Pendleton Tool Industries, the parent company of Proto Tools and other brands. Within a few years Pendleton had in turn been acquired by the Ingersoll-Rand Corporation, an industrial conglomerate. It's not known for how long Proto continued the production of the then-current Vlchek tools, but there are some indications that the acquisition may have been more for the Vlchek brand value.

For example, it's fairly easy to find examples of relatively newer-looking tools marked "Vlchek", but otherwise closely resembling Proto or Fleet production. In addition, these Vlchek-marked pieces include or part numbers (e.g. WOxxxx open-end wrenches) that were not known previously.

These considerations suggest that at least part of the late production marked "Vlchek" may simply be Proto or Fleet tools stamped with the Vlchek name. This is a significant complication for anyone wanting to study the design and evolution of Vlchek-made tools, especially since it's not easy to estimate the manufacturing date of any particular tool. The best guideline here may be "If it looks like Proto/Fleet, it probably is."

The figures below give some examples of tools marked "Vlchek" that appear to be rebranded Proto or Fleet tools, and also an example of a Fleet-branded tool that resembles Vlchek design and manufacture.


W3236 Open-End Wrench

The Vlchek W-series wrenches remained in production for many years, well after the acquisition by Proto. This next figure shows an example believed to represent the later production.

[Vlchek W3236 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 176. Vlchek W3236 1x1-1/8 Open-End Wrench.

Fig. 176 shows a much later Vlchek W3236 1x1-1/8 open-end wrench, stamped "Alloy U.S.A." on the shank.

The overall length is 12.1 inches, and the finish is a full chrome plating with polished ends.

This wrench has a flatter and thicker shank than the earlier Vlchek models, and in some ways resembles the Proto open-end wrenches.


Vlchek 2805 3/8-Drive Extension

[Vlchek and Challenger 3/8-Drive Extensions]
Fig. 177. Vlchek 2805 3/8-Drive Extension (Bottom) with Challenger 1266 Extension (Top).

Fig. 177 below shows a 3/8-drive extension marked "Vlchek Alloy USA" with model 2805, as the bottom tool in the photograph. The overall length is 6.5 inches.

For comparison, the top tool is a Challenger (another Proto brand) 1266 3/8-drive extension marked "MFD USA Alloy". Although the lengths are slightly different, notice the great similarity in the fluted shapes and the transitions to the drive end.

One other detail isn't in the photograph, but both tools have a dimple on the drive end in the middle of one of the flats; this is characteristic of all Proto drive tools. (Sometimes the drive end has a hole instead, but we could call this a deep dimple.)


Vlchek AV6 "Clik-Stop" Adjustable Wrench

[Vlchek AV6 6 Inch Adjustable Wrench]
Fig. 178. Vlchek AV6 6 Inch "Clik-Stop" Adjustable Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 178 shows a Vlchek AV6 adjustable wrench in the Crescent style, stamped "Cleveland, USA" with "Forged Alloy Steel" forged into the shank, and with "Clik-Stop" and "Patented" on the reverse. The reverse also has a forged-in code "U.3.0" near the hanging hole.

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

This wrench closely resembles Proto adjustable wrenches, but more importantly, the "Clik-Stop" trademark was registered in 1958 by Pendleton Tool Industries, the parent company for Proto in the 1950s. Similarly, the "Clik-Stop" mechanism is covered by patent #2,905,037, issued to C.W. Coslow in 1959 with assignment to Pendleton Tool Industries.

The Clik-Stop mark has been used on Proto and related brands for years, so it's clear that this wrench is a Proto product. (More accurately, the wrench was made by the J.P. Danielson division of Pendleton Tool Industries, the factory responsible for adjustable wrench production.)


Fleet 6514 3/8x7/16 Box-End Wrench

[Fleet 6514 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 179. Fleet 6514 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench.

Fig. 179 shows a Fleet 6514 3/8x7/16 offset box-end wrench, marked "U.S.A." and with 6-point (single-hex) openings. The overall length 4.5 inches.

The wrench closely resembles the Vlchek WBC models in design, and the box ends have a relatively sharp radius as is common to Vlchek tools. In addition, a forged-in number "1" is visible at one end.


References and Resources

The photographs and observations in these pages are based on items in the Alloy Artifacts collection.

Information on the early history of Vlchek Tool was obtained from Frank Vlchek's autobiography The Story of My Life, translation edited by Winston Chrislock and published by The Kent State University Press.

The online Encyclopedia of Cleveland History has a brief article on the Vlchek Tool Company, which notes that Vlchek Tool was acquired by Pendleton Tool Industries in 1958.


Catalog Coverage

Product information was obtained from Vlchek Tool catalogs, as summarized in the table below.

PublicationTitleDateFormatNotes
N/A N/A 1912 Full Fancy V-Shield logo on cover.
No. 13 Vlchek Guaranteed Tools 1930? Full Open-end and tappet wrenches with chrome-molybdenum steel.
A-2 Quality Tools by "Velchek" 1934 Full Includes full line of sockets and drive tools. Lists WB and WBL series of box wrenches.
A-4 "Velchek" Tools 1938 Full No sockets or drive tools. Box wrenches in WB, WBC, and WBA series. No combination wrenches.
A-6 Vlchek Tools 1949 Full Combination wrenches listed in WBE series with wide shanks.
A-7 Vlchek Tools 1952 Full  
No. 10 Vlchek Tools 1957 Full  
No. 11 Vlchek Tools 1959 Full  

Industrial Distributors and Other Suppliers

Vlchek tools were sold through many different channels, including industrial distributors, automotive supply specialists, and even high-volume retailers such as Western Auto Supply.

  • A 1916 catalog from Central Automobile Supply (Des Moines, IA) provided information on some early Vlchek tool kits.

  • A 1953 Western Auto Supply catalog provided illustrations of Vlchek contract-made tools of this era.


Advertisements

During the 1920s Vlchek placed advertisements in some of the popular magazines of the time. The following links show examples of some of these ads.

  • An ad in the December 1924 issue of Popular Mechanics offers several models of Vlchek Tool Kits. The illustration shows the Vlchek "Tourist Kit" with 20 tools in a canvas case, including an alligator wrench, cotter pin puller, pliers, several screwdrivers, four double-open wrenches, an auto wrench, a ball-peen hammer, and several other items. The "Tourist Kit" was offered at a special $7 price, and the other kits listed ranged from the No. 900 "Mechanician Kit" at $20 down to the No. 909 "Little Roadster Kit" for just $3. At the bottom of the ad there's even a pronunciation guide with "Easy to say Velchek".

  • A full-page ad in the May 1930 issue of Popular Science Monthly shows an impressive Vlchek Forging Hammer along with examples of the various tools sold by the company. The text of the ad emphasizes the high quality of Vlchek tools and the low cost made possible by volume production.


Patents and Trademarks

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


Feedback

If any readers have additional information about Vlchek Tool, please let us know via the "Contact Us" link on the home page. Your comments and suggestions are welcome as well.


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