Alloy Artifacts

Exploring Ingenuity in Iron ...

Alloy Artifacts Home
Alloy Artifacts Web Search

Klein Tools Inc.

[Lineman Logo from 1912 Trademark]
Lineman Logo from 1912 Trademark.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Klein Tools is a maker of pliers, nippers and other tools operating in Chicago, Illinois.


Company History

Klein Tools was founded by Mathias Klein in 1857 as a blacksmith shop in Chicago. The company initially operated as M. Klein & Sons and became one of the most respected manufacturers of lineman's tools, including pliers, cutters, and other specialty tools.

Klein's best known product is probably their model 201 Lineman's Side Cutting Pliers, a design featuring heavy-duty jaws with angled facets. This design practically defined the term "lineman's pliers", and pliers of this design were frequently called "Klein Pattern" when made by other tool manufacturers.

The company continues in operation today as a family-owned business, and its 1857 founding date makes Klein Tools one of the oldest American tool companies remaining in operation. Interested readers can find more information on the company's history on their web page About Klein Tools [External Link].


Patents

Table 1. Klein Tools: Issued and Licensed Patents
Patent No.InventorFiledIssuedDescriptionNotes and Examples
1,628,744 W. Rose02/21/192705/17/1927Fish Tape Puller  
1,966,593 L. O'Russa06/05/193306/05/1933Wire Splicing Tool  
2,001,541 L. O'Russa06/05/193305/14/1935Wire Gripping Tool  
2,903,790 M.A. Klein, Jr.09/29/195809/15/1959Long Nose Flush Cutting Pliers  

Trademarks

In recent years Klein Tools has been extremely active in trademark registrations, with dozens of entries in the USPTO TESS database. The following table shows some of the more important historical trademarks.

[1911 Advertisement for M. Klein & Sons]
1911 Advertisement for M. Klein & Sons. [External Link]

We may be missing at least one important trademark, an early version of the "Climbing Lineman" trademark with "Klein" and "Tools" on the circumference and "Est. 1857" across the bottom. This trademark logo can be seen in the advertisement at the left, published on page 16 of the January 14, 1911 issue of the Journal of Electricity.

Since the "Climbing Lineman" logo here is the same as that in the registered trademark #89,564 (see table below), it's possible that Klein did not separately register the version with the "Klein Tools" text. The text in the ad notes that the company would start using the mark on January 1 [1911], which matches the first use date in the registered trademark.

Table 2. Klein Tools: Registered Trademarks
Text Mark or Logo First Use Date Filed Date Issued Registration Notes
Klein 01/01/1865 01/17/1955 01/10/1956 619,012  
XELA 01/15/1910 03/20/1911 12/24/1912 89,563 Used for knives, screwdrivers, and other tools.
Early Climbing Lineman Logo 01/01/1911 03/20/1911 12/24/1912 89,564 Early "Climbing Lineman" logo.
Used for pliers and other tools.
Klein-Lok 12/08/1933 12/21/1933 03/12/1935 322,656 Used for lineman's safety straps.
Later Climbing Lineman Logo 02/11/1950 05/04/1950 09/18/1951 548,282 Later "Climbing Lineman" logo.
Used for pliers.
Klein Tools Est. 1857 [logo] 01/01/1974 01/31/1990 01/08/1991 1,630,868 Modern "Climbing Lineman" logo.
Used for safety equipment.
Modern Climbing Lineman Logo 01/01/1974 01/31/1990 06/04/1991 1,646,650 Modern "Climbing Lineman" logo.
Used for hand tools.

Tool Identification

Older Klein tools can be identified by the markings "M. Klein & Sons" on the inside of the handles, or by the "Climbing Lineman" trademark stamped on the face. The earlier of the lineman logos (from a 1912 trademark) was used beginning in 1911. Advertisements from 1911 show the "Climbing Lineman" logo with the text "Klein" and "Tools" at the side, with "Est. 1857" across the bottom.

A later version of the lineman logo (from a 1951 trademark) has the text "M. Klein & Sons" at the top and was used beginning in 1950. A still later variant of the logo (from a 1974 trademark) includes "Klein" and "Tools" inside the circle, with the text "Est. 1857" across the center.


Manufacturing Dates

We were pleased to discover that Klein Tools has a date code system when a reader sent us a reference. It seems that in 2013 Klein ran an "Oldest Pliers" contest and documented their date code system on the entry form. When we checked their web site, we found a similar form for an Oldest Pliers in Canada [External Link] contest with a description of how to decode the date codes on their pliers. The date codes were typically stamped or forged into the underside of the handles.

According to this document, there were actually two date code systems in use over the period from the early 1900s to 1972. The earlier system was a simple "MM-YY" code giving the month and year of production. An example of this early date code system can be seen on our Klein 201 Lineman's Pliers dated to April of 1926.

The later system is more complicated and begins by mapping the 10 characters in "MKLEINCORP" to digits, with M=1, K=2, L=3, E=4, I=5, N=6, C=7, O=8, R=9, and P=0. The production date is then indicated by three letters, with the first one giving the calendar quarter and the next two providing the year after 1900. An example of this second date code system can be seen on our Klein [303] Needlenose Pliers, with an "LEM" code dating the pliers to the third quarter of 1941.

The Klein documents don't explain what system was used after 1972, although one example here suggests that a modified code was still in use. But it's good to know that there is a date code system covering much of the earlier production, and we'll need to go back and check the tools again for possible code markings.


References and Resources

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


Catalog Coverage

Information on the company's older products was obtained from catalog No. 26 dated July 1, 1926. The cover of the catalog shows an older version of the company's "Climbing Lineman" trademark, with "Klein" and "Tools" placed around the circumference and "Est. 1857" across the bottom. The catalog repeats the company motto "Every lineman a Kleinman" on each page.


Lineman's Pliers


Klein 201-8 8 Inch Lineman's Pliers

[Klein 201-8 8 Inch Lineman's Pliers]
Fig. 1. Klein 201-8 8 Inch Lineman's Pliers, with Insets for Reverse and Side Views, 1926.

Fig. 1 shows a pair of Klein 201-8 8 inch lineman's pliers, stamped "M. Klein & Sons" and "Chicago, U.S.A." around the pivot, with the company's "Climbing Lineman" logo partially visible in the center. One handle is also stamped with "CV" and "4-26" on the underside (see lower inset).

The overall length is 8.4 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The "4-26" marking is an early date code indicating production in April of 1926.


Klein 201-9NE 9 Inch "New England" Style Lineman's Pliers

[Klein 201-9NE 9 Inch New England Style Lineman's Pliers]
Fig. 2. Klein 201-9NE 9 Inch "New England" Style Lineman's Pliers, with Insets for Reverse and Side Views, 1969

Fig. 2 shows a pair of Klein 201-9NE 9 inch lineman's pliers in the "New England" style, stamped "M. Klein & Sons" and "Chicago, U.S.A." around the pivot, with a simplified "Climbing Lineman" logo in the center. The model number is stamped on the reverse face, shown as a close-up in the lower inset.

The overall length is 9.3 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The "New England" style of lineman's pliers featured smoothly rounded curves on the head instead of angular facets.

The underside of the handles have a forged-in code "MNR" (not shown), which according to the Klein date code system indicates production in the first quarter of 1969.


Diagonal Cutters


Klein 202-5 5 Inch Diagonal Cutting Pliers

[Klein 202-5 5 Inch Diagonal Cutting Pliers]
Fig. 3. Klein 202-5 5 Inch Diagonal Cutting Pliers, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 3 shows a pair of Klein 202-5 5 inch diagonal cutters, marked "M. Klein & Sons" and "Chicago, U.S.A.", with the company's "Climbing Lineman" logo in the center.

The overall length is 5.5 inches, and the finish is plain steel.


Klein 220-7 7 Inch Diagonal Cutting Pliers

[Klein 220-7 7 Inch Diagonal Cutting Pliers]
Fig. 4A. Klein 220-7 7 Inch Diagonal Cutting Pliers, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 4A shows a pair of Klein 220-7 7 inch diagonal cutters, stamped with "M. Klein & Sons" and "Chicago, U.S.A." around the pivot, with the company's "Climbing Lineman" logo in the center.

The overall length is 7.6 inches, and the finish is plain steel.


Klein D228-8 8 Inch Diagonal Cutting Pliers

[Klein 228-8 8 Inch Diagonal Cutting Pliers]
Fig. 4B. Klein D228-8 8 Inch Diagonal Cutting Pliers, with Insets for Reverse and Side View.

Fig. 4B shows a pair of Klein D228-8 8 inch diagonal cutters, marked with "Klein Tools" and "Est. 1857" and the company's "Climbing Lineman" logo near the pivot, with "Wear Eye Protection" below. The reverse side is marked "Warning Not Insulated" across the pivot. (The markings are etched rather than stamped and are very difficult to read.)

The overall length is 8.0 inches, and the finish is plain steel.


Needlenose Pliers


Klein 203-6 6 Inch Needlenose Pliers

[Klein 203-6 6 Inch Needlenose Pliers]
Fig. 5. Klein 203-6 6 Inch Needlenose Pliers, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 5 shows a pair of Klein 203-6 6 inch needlenose pliers, marked "Klein Tools" and "U.S.A." around the pivot, with the company's "Climbing Lineman" logo in the center. The reverse is marked with the "203-6" model number.

The overall length is 6.6 inches, and the finish is plain steel. The handles have a rough finish and were probably originally covered by plastic hand grips.

The underside of the handles have forged-in markings (not shown) of "6.RK" and "C.7RK", possibly some sort of a date code, but we're unsure of the meaning.


Klein 203-8 8 Inch Needlenose Pliers with Side Cutters

[Klein 203-8 8 Inch Needlenose Pliers with Side Cutters]
Fig. 6. Klein 203-8 8 Inch Needlenose Pliers with Side Cutters, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 6 shows a pair of Klein 203-8 8 inch needlenose pliers with side cutters, stamped "Klein Tools" and "USA", with the company's "Climbing Lineman" logo in the center. The reverse is marked with the "203-8" model number.

The overall length is 8.5 inches, and the finish is plain steel with plastic hand-grips.


Klein [303-6] 6 Inch Needlenose Pliers

[Klein 303-6 6 Inch Needlenose Pliers]
Fig. 7. Klein [303-6] 6 Inch Needlenose Pliers, with Insets for Side View and Marking Detail, 1941.

Fig. 7 shows a pair of Klein [303-6] 6 inch needlenose pliers, marked "M. Klein & Sons" and "Chicago, U.S.A.", with the company's "Climbing Lineman" logo in the center. Note that this logo includes the "Klein Tools" text inside the circle, with "Est. 1857" and "Trade Mark Reg." at the bottom.

The overall length is 6.6 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The lower inset shows the stamped marking "0-L-EM" on the underside of one handle. The "LEM" letters represent the Klein date code, with the "L" indicating production in the third quarter, and the "EM" indicating 1941.

Although not marked with a model number, these pliers were identified as model 303-6 by a catalog reference. The model 303 needlenose pliers were similar to the Klein 301 long nose pliers, but with a sharper point at the tips of the jaws.


Other Tools


Klein (A&E Manufacturing) 68205 11/16x3/4 Ratcheting Box Wrench

This next figure shows an example of A&E's production for Klein.

[Klein 68205 11/16x3/4 Ratcheting Box Wrench]
Fig. 8. Klein 68205 11/16x3/4 Ratcheting Box Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, 1988.

Fig. 8 shows a Klein 68205 11/16x3/4 ratcheting box wrench, stamped "Klein Tools, Inc." and "Chi. U.S.A." on the front, with a "Pat. No. 2,500,835" patent notice on the reverse. The reverse is also stamped with a diamond symbol to the right of the patent notice, which is a stylized "8" date code for 1988 in the Snap-on date code system.

The overall length is 9.2 inches, and the finish is polished chrome plating.

The top inset shows the laminated and riveted construction of the wrench.

The patent notice cites patent #2,500,835, filed by John W. Lang in 1947 and issued in 1950.


Alloy Artifacts Home Text and Photographs Copyright © 2005-2016 Alloy Artifacts Site Index