Alloy Artifacts  

The "ChromeXQuality" Era: 1936-1939

For a long while the "ChromeXQuality" brand was a mystery to us, as a number sockets and drive tools of apparent Duro production had been found, but no information on the mark could be located. This mark was finally identified by a catalog reference as a brand used by Western Auto during the late 1930s.

A 1937 Western Auto catalog shows many examples of the ChromeXQuality brand, sometimes written as "Chrome-X Quality" or just "Chrome-X". This brand was their top-of-the-line at the time, and the catalog notes that these tools were made of chrome-molybdenum or chrome-vanadium steels. Western Auto offered a lifetime free replacement guarantee for ChromeXQuality tools.

The origin of the brand can be seen by thinking of the "X" as representing either molybdenum or vanadium, the two most prevalent classes of chrome alloy steel used for tool-making. Some of Western Auto's major suppliers preferred to work with chrome-moly steel (e.g. Vlchek), while others generally used chrome-vanadium steel (e.g. Duro/Indestro, Herbrand). Adopting a brand that could represent either type of steel made it easier to group the catalog listings for the tools.

Based on Western Auto historical sources, the ChromeXQuality mark first appeared in 1936, and could be regarded as their first private-brand label for hand tools. (The earlier "Chromium Vanadium" mark was more of a descriptive term.) The ChromeXQuality line of tools proved to be successful, but in 1940 Western Auto switched to the "Wizard" brand name for the top-quality tools. (Wizard appeared to be their favorite brand name and appeared on a wide variety of products.)

The relatively short usage interval for ChromeXQuality is actually fortunate for us, as it allows the manufacturing date to be estimated as 1936-1939 for tools with this mark.

As a side note, it's worth mentioning that Western Auto also used a brand "Master Quality" to indicate their second-tier tools. The term "Master Quality" was also used by Montgomery Ward as a brand, but for their top-grade products, so Western Auto's usage may have been intended as a dig against the competition. (Neither company had registered "Master Quality" as a trademark, so it was open to such abuse.) Based on a catalog illustration, one supplier of Western Auto "Master Quality" adjustable wrenches has been identified as Barcalo Manufacturing of Buffalo, New York.

Tools marked with the "ChromeXQuality" brand frequently also carried an alloy specification such as "Chrome Molybdenum", "Chrome Vanadium", or sometimes the older "Chromium Vanadium" brand.


Major Suppliers

Duro/Indestro, Herbrand, and Vlchek were the major suppliers of tools for the ChromeXQuality brand. J.P. Danielson is known to have supplied adjustable wrenches for the brand, and other producers may have been used as well, particularly for certain specialty tools.

Production by Duro/Indestro

Many of the known examples of ChromeXQuality tools can be readily identified as production by Duro/Indestro, with most of the remaining production falling to Herbrand or Vlchek. In particular, Duro/Indestro is currently the only known supplier of ChromeXQuality socket sets, and was also a major producer of box-end wrenches.

Production by Herbrand

Western Auto sold Herbrand tools through its catalogs beginning in 1931, and the early catalog descriptions specifically mention the brands Van-Chrome, Multihex, and Obstructo. When Western Auto developed the "ChromeXQuality" private brand in 1936, Herbrand continued as a supplier for some of the items, in particular combination wrenches, box-end wrenches, and pliers.

Production by Vlchek

The third major producer for the ChromeXQuality brand was Vlchek Tool of Cleveland. Vlchek provided primarily wrenches in open-end, tappet, combination, and box-end styles, although some chisels have been found as well.


Open-End Wrenches


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

We'll begin this section 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. 55. ChromeXQuality 2731A 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench with Dual Markings, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 55 shows a 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 makers typically used this series for obstruction wrenches.


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

[ChromeXQuality W1012 5/16x3/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 56. ChromeXQuality W1012 5/16x3/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 56 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. 57. ChromeXQuality W1416 7/16x1/2 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 57 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. 58. ChromeXQuality W1820 9/16x5/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 58 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 1027 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 1027 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 59. ChromeXQuality 1027 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 59 shows a ChromeXQuality 1027 19/32x11/16 open-end wrench, stamped with "Vanadium Steel" and the model number on the front faces, with "Forged in U.S.A." and the fractional sizes on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.2 inches, and the finish is nickel or chrome plating.

The use of the "Forged in U.S.A." marking along a curved arc identifies this wrench as Duro production.


Tappet Wrenches


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

Fig. 60 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.

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


ChromeXQuality 92 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 92 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench]
Fig. 61. ChromeXQuality 92 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 61 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.

This wrench can be identified as Vlchek production by the "KV" code and the use of the "Chrome Molybdenum" marking with larger initial letters.


ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench]
Fig. 62. ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 62 shows a ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 tappet wrench, stamped "Chrome X Quality" on the front, with "Chromium Vanadium" on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.9 inches, and the finish is plated chrome.

This dimensions of this wrench match very closely to those of the Herbrand H-2 tappet wrench shown in our article on Herbrand.


Combination Wrenches


ChromeXQuality [1218] 9/16 Combination Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 9/16 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 63. ChromeXQuality 9/16 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 63 shows a ChromeXQuality 9/16 combination wrench with depressed panels, stamped with "Chrome X Quality" on the front, with "Chromium Vanadium" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 6.0 inches.

The distinctive design marks this as Herbrand production, and the dimensions are virtually identical to the Herbrand 1218 "Multitype" Wrench shown in our article on Herbrand.


ChromeXQuality WBE18 9/16 Combination Wrench

[ChromeXQuality WBE18 9/16 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 64. ChromeXQuality WBE18 9/16 Combination Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 64 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 [1222] 11/16 Combination Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 11/16 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 65. ChromeXQuality 11/16 Combination Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 65 shows a ChromeXQuality 11/16 combination wrench with depressed panels, stamped with "Chrome X Quality" on the front, with "Chromium Vanadium" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.1 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

The distinctive design marks this as Herbrand production, and the dimensions are virtually identical to the Herbrand 1222 "Multitype" Wrench shown in our article on Herbrand.

Although Herbrand didn't mark its model numbers on the ChromeXQuality combination wrenches, the 1938 Western Auto catalog listed this style of combination wrench using the standard Herbrand numbers.


ChromeXQuality WBE24 3/4 Combination Wrench

[ChromeXQuality WBE24 3/4 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 66. ChromeXQuality WBE24 3/4 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 66 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.


Box-End Wrenches


ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Box-End Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 67. ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 67 shows a ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 box-end wrench, marked "Chrome Vanadium Steel" in a slanted font on the reverse.

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

The wrench can be identified as Duro production by the design and construction, and the use of a slanted font for the "Chrome Vanadium Steel" marking.


ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Box-End Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 68. ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 68 shows a ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 box-end wrench, stamped "Chromium Vanadium" on the reverse.

The overall length is 8.0 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

This wrench has a distinctive angular shank of nearly the same thickness as the box end, the characteristics of the Herbrand "Angular Multihex" wrench series. An example can be seen in the Herbrand 5731-A Angular Multihex Wrench.


ChromeXQuality 3/4x7/8 Box-End Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 3/4x7/8 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 69. ChromeXQuality 3/4x7/8 Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 69 shows a ChromeXQuality 3/4x7/8 box-end wrench, stamped "ChromeXQuality" with the fractional sizes on the raised panel, with "Chrome Vanadium Steel" in a slanted font on the reverse.

The overall length is 11.1 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends and faces.

The wrench can be identified as Duro production by the design and construction, and the use of a slanted font for the "Chrome Vanadium Steel" marking.


ChromeXQuality 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench

The 1937 Western Auto catalog listed a group of six deep offset box-end wrenches in their ChromeXQuality brand, with sizes ranging from 3/8x7/16 up to 15/16x1. The text noted that they were chrome-molybdenum or chrome-vanadium steel, and were offered with a lifetime free replacement guarantee. We have acquired several examples of these wrenches, all of Duro/Indestro production, as the following figures will show.

[ChromeXQuality 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 70. ChromeXQuality 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 70 shows a ChromeXQuality 3/8x7/16 offset box-end wrench, marked "Chrome Vanadium Steel" in a slanted font on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.7 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends and panels.

The wrench can be identified as Duro/Indestro production by the design of the box-end forgings and general construction, the raised parallelogram panels, and the use of a slanted font for the "Chrome Vanadium Steel" marking.


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

[ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 71. ChromeXQuality 1/2x9/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 71 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. 72. ChromeXQuality 5/8x11/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 72 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 5/8x11/16 Offset Box-End Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 5/8x11/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 73. ChromeXQuality 5/8x11/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 73 shows a ChromeXQuality 5/8x11/16 offset box-end wrench, marked "Chrome Vanadium Steel" in a slanted font on the reverse.

The overall length is 10.0 inches. and the finish is chrome plating with polished ends and panels.

The wrench can be identified as Duro/Indestro production by the design of the box-end forgings and general construction, the raised parallelogram panels, and the use of a slanted font for the "Chrome Vanadium Steel" marking.

Western Auto offered these wrenches at extremely attractive prices, ranging from $0.42 for the 3/8x7/16 size to $0.69 for the 15/16x1. By comparison, the 1938 Duro-Chrome catalog listed prices of $0.90 and $1.95 for their "Handy-Twin-Hex" equivalent wrenches (models 2051 and 2056 respectively.)


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

[ChromeXQuality 3/4x25/32 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 74. ChromeXQuality 3/4x25/32 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 74 shows a similar ChromeXQuality 3/4x25/32 offset wrench, with the reverse marked "Chrome Vanadium Steel" in a slanted font. The overall length is 11.4 inches.

The finish is chrome plate with polished ends and panels.

The wrench can be identified as Duro/Indestro production by the design of the box-end forgings and general construction, the raised parallelogram panels, and the use of a slanted font for the "Chrome Vanadium Steel" marking.


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

[ChromeXQuality 3/4x25/32 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 75. ChromeXQuality 3/4x25/32 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 75 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 15/16x1 Offset Box-End Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 15/16x1 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 76. ChromeXQuality 15/16x1 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

In Fig. 76 we see the largest of the group of wrenches, a ChromeXQuality 15/16x1 offset wrench marked "Chrome Vanadium Steel" in slanted font. The overall length is 14.4 inches.

The finish is chrome plating with polished ends and panels, with some finish loss and pitting due to rust.

The design and construction of this wrench closely resembles the previous examples.


ChromeXQuality 9/16x5/8 Half-Moon Box Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 9/16x5/8 Half-Moon Box Wrench]
Fig. 77. ChromeXQuality 9/16x5/8 Half-Moon Box Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 77 shows a ChromeXQuality 9/16x5/8 half-moon box wrench for starter and manifold applications. The wrench is stamped with "Made in U.S.A." and "Chromium Vanadium" on the shank, with "ChromeXQuality" on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.8 inches.

This wrench closely resembles the Herbrand 1936 Starter & Manifold Wrench shown in our article on Herbrand. The 1937 Western Auto catalog offered the ChromeXQuality model for a $0.57 net price.


ChromeXQuality V-8 Ford Brake Wrench

[ChromeXQuality 7/16x1/2 8-Point V-8 Ford Brake Wrench]
Fig. 78. ChromeXQuality 7/16x1/2 8-Point V-8 Ford Brake Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 78 shows a ChromeXQuality 7/16x1/2 8-point brake wrench for V-8 Ford applications, marked "Chromium Vanadium" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse. The overall length is 14.4 inches.

The finish is plated chrome.

This brake wrench has the same distinctive design as the Herbrand 2333V brake wrench shown in our article on Herbrand.


Sockets and Drive Tools

Currently Duro/Indestro is the only known supplier of sockets and drive tools for the ChromeXQuality line, although of course it's likely that another maker will be found later. In particular, Bog is known to have made alloy-steel socket sets that would be suitable for the ChromeXQuality brand.


ChromeXQuality N693 1/2-Drive Socket Set

[ChromeXQuality N693 1/2-Drive Socket Set]
Fig. 79. ChromeXQuality N693 1/2-Drive Socket Set, ca. 1936-1937.

Fig. 79 shows an early ChromeXQuality N693 1/2-drive socket set, consisting of a flex-head handle and eight double-hex sockets. The set is marked with a decal on the inside cover, displaying the ChromeXQuality brand with "Deluxe Vanadium Steel Tools", and with "Western Auto Supply Co." at the bottom.

The socket sizes are, from right to left, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 19/32, 5/8, 21/32, 11/16, 3/4, and 13/16. Each socket is marked with "ChromeXQuality" and "Vanadium Steel", but without a model number.

The flex handle is marked with "Chromium Vanadium" on the shank.

The set as acquired was missing the 7/16, 1/2, 11/16, and 3/4 sockets, and also included an extra 1-1/16 socket of the same style. The missing sizes have been replaced with sockets of the same style and markings.

The set is not marked with a model number, but the N693 model and standard contents were identified by reference to the Western Auto Supply catalogs for 1936 and 1937. This set is listed on page 100 of the 1936 catalog (Eastern edition), which referred to this as the "Beginner's Socket Set", but by 1937 it was being called the "Auto Owner's Set".

This socket set can be viewed in our article on Duro/Indestro as the ChromeXQuality N693 Socket Set.


ChromeXQuality 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handles

The next two figures show examples of 1/2-drive flex handles supplied with ChromeXQuality sets, beginning with the tool from the N693 set.

[ChromeXQuality 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle from N693 Set]
Fig. 80. ChromeXQuality 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle from N693 Set, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1936-1937.

Fig. 80 shows the 1/2-drive flex-head handle from the ChromeXQuality N693 set, marked with "Chromium Vanadium" stamped on the shank.

The overall length is 11.6 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

The flex handle is equipped with a fixed male drive stud on the handle end, allowing it to be used as an extension with a female-drive ratchet. (Female drive ratchets were still quite common in the mid to late 1930s, but were being replaced by male drive tools.) In addition to the male drive stud, the handle has a cross-bar hole to allow use as a Tee-handle.

This flex handle closely resembles the illustration in a 1937 Western Auto catalog, and is basically identical to the standard Indestro 3221 flex handle of that period. An example of the Indestro model can be seen as the Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 3221 Flex Handle.


[ChromeXQuality 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle]
Fig. 81. ChromeXQuality 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle, with Inset for Detail, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 81 shows another example of a 1/2-drive ChromeXQuality flex-head handle, stamped "ChromeXQuality" and "Vanadium Steel" on the shank.

The overall length is 11.6 inches. The finish was originally chrome plating, though much has now worn off; a close look at the photograph shows that this tool has led a hard life.

As with the previous example, the handle of this tool is equipped with both a cross-bar hole and a 1/2-drive stud. These features allow use as a Tee-handle (with a cross-bar) and as an extension with a female-drive ratchet. (Female drive ratchets were still quite common in the mid to late 1930s.)


ChromeXQuality N705 3/8-Drive Socket Set

[ChromeXQuality N705 3/8-Drive Socket Set]
Fig. 82. ChromeXQuality N705 3/8-Drive Socket Set, ca. 1938-1939.

Fig. 82 shows a ChromeXQuality N705 3/8-drive socket set with most of its original sockets, but missing a few of the drive tools. The decal on the inside cover reads "Deluxe ChromeXQuality Vanadium Steel Tools" with "Western Auto Supply Co." at the bottom.

The model number of the set is not marked, but was identified by reference to the 1938 Western Auto catalog. The original contents included seven double-hex sockets, three double-square sockets, a ratchet, a flex-head handle, an extension, and a screwdriver bit. The set as acquired had all of the sockets except for the 9/16 double-hex size, but included only the ratchet as a drive tool.

The tools in the set are not marked with the ChromeXQuality brand, but carry the standard markings for the Indestro "Super Quality" line of the late 1930s. This is believed to indicate a later production date for the set; in order to keep costs down, socket sets for Western Auto were filled from standard Indestro production, leaving only the decal to indicate the specific brand.

The dimensions of the box (in inches) are 9.5 long by 3.2 wide by 1.3 high.

This socket set can be viewed in our article on Duro/Indestro as the ChromeXQuality N705 Socket Set with additional photographs and information.


Other ChromeXQuality Tools

This section will show other types of tools marked with the ChromeXQuality brand, or else listed along with other ChromeXQuality tools in the catalogs.


"Bet'R-Grip" 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench

Page 59 of the 1937 Western Auto Thrift Book (Eastern edition) lists ChromeXQuality adjustable wrenches with the "Bet'R-Grip" brand visible in the illustration. The wrenches were available in sizes 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 inches.

We haven't seen a "Bet'R-Grip" wrench actually marked with ChromeXQuality, but this next figure shows an example of a "Bet'R-Grip" adjustable wrench that would be representative of the ones sold under the ChromeXQuality brand, and from approximately the same time period.

[J.P. Danielson Bet'R-Grip 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench]
Fig. 83. J.P. Danielson "Bet'R-Grip" 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, 1940.

Fig. 83 shows a Danielson "Bet'R-Grip" 8 inch adjustable wrench, marked with "Bet'R-Grip" and "Made in U.S.A." forged into the shank, with "Forged Vanadium Steel" forged into the reverse. The shank also has a forged-in code "V-12-0" visible at the right, shown as a close-up in the middle inset.

The overall length is 8.2 inches, and the maximum opening is 0.90 inches. The head thickness was measured at 0.49 inches.

The finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

The wrench has a 9/16 inch double-hex broached opening, and the size is marked with "9/16 In." forged into the reverse side.

A close examination of the "Bet'R-Grip" and "Vanadium" markings on this example shows the use of the distinctive "Typewriter" font, a detail noted in most of the earlier Danielson production. The year code "0" and Typewriter font markings indicate production in 1940.

Additional examples of "Bet'R-Grip" wrenches can be found in our article on the J.P. Danielson Company.


ChromeXQuality Battery Pliers

[ChromeXQuality Battery Pliers]
Fig. 84. ChromeXQuality Battery Pliers, ca. Late 1930s.

Fig. 84 shows a pair of ChromeXQuality battery pliers, marked "Made in U.S.A." and "Chromium Vanadium".

The overall length is 8.0 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

These pliers are nearly identical to the Herbrand 179 Battery Pliers shown in our article on Herbrand, with closely matching dimensions and curves in the handles.


ChromeXQuality Waterpump Pliers

[ChromeXQuality Waterpump Pliers]
Fig. 85. ChromeXQuality Waterpump Pliers, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. Late 1930s.

Fig. 85 shows a pair of ChromeXQuality waterpump pliers, stamped "Chromium Vanadium" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length (fully extended) is 10.0 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

These pliers are very similar to the Herbrand 166 "Multigrip" Pliers shown in our article on Herbrand.


ChromeXQuality 1/2 Inch Flat Chisel

[ChromeXQuality 1/2 Inch Flat Chisel]
Fig. 86. ChromeXQuality 1/2 Inch Flat Chisel, with Inset for Side View, ca. 1936-1939.

Fig. 86 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.

This wrench can be identified as Vlchek production by the "KV" code.


The Wizard and Westcraft Era: 1940s Onward

In 1940 Western Auto began using the "Wizard" brand for tools, a brand it had previously used for a variety of auto supplies and accessories. Sometime later the "Westcraft" brand also came into use.

Unlike the previous "Chromium Vanadium" and "ChromeXQuality" brands, both Wizard and Westcraft were registered trademarks of the Western Auto Supply Company, and both marks were used for hand tools as well as other items.

The Wizard brand was the immediate successor of the ChromeXQuality mark shown in the previous section, and was generally (or exclusively) used for their top-quality tools.

These brands remained in use for the remaining years of Western Auto's operations.


Major Suppliers

The major tool suppliers for the Wizard and Westcraft lines were Duro/Indestro and Vlchek Tool.


Wizard and Westcraft Production by Duro/Indestro

Duro/Indestro was a major supplier for the Wizard and Westcraft lines. The Duro tools known to have been sourced for Western Auto include ratchets, sockets, drive tools, tappet wrenches, and some double-box wrenches.


Wizard H2833 1/2-Drive Ratchet

[Wizard H2833 1/2-Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 87. Wizard H2833 1/2-Drive Ratchet, with Inset for Reverse, ca. Late 1950s to 1960s.

Fig. 87 shows a Wizard H2833 1/2-drive fine-tooth ratchet, stamped with a small "D" and "Wizard" on the handle in the top image, with "Forged in U.S.A." in the bottom image.

The overall length is 10.3 inches, and the finish is chrome plating

The ratchet mechanism is marked with patent #2,686,582, issued in 1954 to Odlum and Hosford of Duro Metal Products. (This patent will be seen on most of the Duro and Indestro fine-tooth ratchets.)

A check of the Indestro catalog for 1961 shows that this closely resembles the model 3277 ratchet. A similar model 3275 ratchet was available with a knurled handle.


Wizard H2178 5/8x11/16 Tappet Wrench

[Wizard H2178 5/8x11/16 Tappet Wrench]
Fig. 88. Wizard H2178 5/8x11/16 Tappet Wrench, with Insets for Reverse.

Fig. 88 shows a Wizard model H2178 5/8x11/16 tappet wrench. The reverse is marked "Alloy Steel" and "Forged in U.S.A.", and the overall length is 8.4 inches. The wrench is finished in a bright chrome plate.

The particular identifying marks for Duro/Indestro include the small "D" next to the Wizard brand, and the "Forged in U.S.A." notation on a curved arc, as seen in the inset.


Wizard HR2192 1/2x9/16 Box-End Wrench

[Wizard HR2192 1/2x9/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 89. Wizard HR2192 1/2x9/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 89 shows a Wizard model HR2192 1/2x9/16 offset double-box wrench, marked with a small "D" code. The reverse is marked "Alloy Steel" and "Forged in U.S.A.", and the overall length is 5.1 inches.

The wrench is finished in a matte chrome plate and polished ends.

The identification as Duro/Indestro production relies on the "D" code and the construction details, as the modern Duro/Indestro wrench designs no longer include the distinctive "streamline" motif.


Westcraft 19/32x11/16 Offset Box-End Wrench

[Westcraft 19/32x11/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 90. Westcraft 19/32x11/16 Deep Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 90 shows a Westcraft 19/32x11/16 deep offset box wrench, marked "Forged in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 9.4 inches.

Although not marked with the small "D" notation, this wrench can be clearly identified as Duro/Indestro production by the streamlined raised panel, a motif previously seen on many examples.


Westcraft HR2820 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle

[Westcraft HR2820 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle]
Fig. 91. Westcraft HR2820 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle, ca. 1943-1945.

Fig. 91 shows a 1/2-drive Westcraft HR2820 flex-head handle. The knurled handle has a cross-bar hole, and the end is broached for 1/2-drive.

The overall length is 12.0 inches. The finish is plain steel, indicating that this tool was likely manufactured in 1943-1945.

The distinctive head shape marks this as Duro/Indestro production, and the closest models are the Duro-chrome 666D and Indestro 3221. However, these models were made with male drive studs on the end at least until 1941; the Westcraft female broach may have been a special order, or possibly the models had been changed by then. (The mid 1950s catalogs show the Duro-chrome 666D flex handle with a female broach.)


Wizard and Westcraft Production by Vlchek Tool

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.


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

[Wizard HR2062 13/16x7/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 92. Wizard HR2062 13/16x7/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 92 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. 93. Wizard HR2201 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 93 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. 94. Wizard H2103 7/16 Combo Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 94 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. 95. Wizard H2106 5/8 Combo Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 95 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. 96. Westcraft WBC1012 5/16x3/8 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

In Fig. 96 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. 97. Westcraft WBC1214 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 97 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. 98. Westcraft WBH2628 13/16x7/8 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 98 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. 99. Westcraft WBH3032 15/16x1 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail.

Fig. 99 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. 100. Westcraft HR2080 5/16x3/8 Open-End Wrench.

Fig. 100 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. 101. Westcraft W1416 7/16x1/2 Open-End Wrench.

Fig. 101 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. 102. Westcraft W2526 25/32x13/16 Open-End Wrench.

Fig. 102 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. 103. Westcraft HR2285 3/8 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 103 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 shank of the wrench shows the distinctive design previously see in the Wizard HR2062 example.


Westcraft WBE20 5/8 Combination Wrench

[Westcraft WBE20 5/8 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 104. Westcraft WBE20 5/8 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1946-1952.

In Fig. 104 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.


Other Brands

In this section we'll show tools with other less commonly seen Western Auto Brands, including "Western Giant", "Westline", and the most basic of all, "Western Auto Stores".


The Western Giant Brand

Both branches of Western Auto Supply used the "Western Giant" brand for automobile tires from before 1920 into the 1930s. The brand was later used for automobile accessories, and during the 1930s the western branch used "Western Giant" for tools as well.

Tools found with the Western Giant brand include socket sets, open-end wrenches, and adjustable wrenches.


Western Giant 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench

[Western Giant 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 105. Western Giant 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench, ca. 1930s.

Fig. 105 shows a Western Giant 3/4x7/8 open-end wrench, stamped with "Western Giant" and "Chrome Alloy" on the faces, with "Made in U.S.A." on the shank.

The overall length is 9.3 inches, and the finish is plain steel, with minor pitting due to rust.

The fairly generic production characteristics of this wrench make it difficult to determine the manufacturer.


Western Giant 5/8 Combination Wrench

[Western Giant 5/8 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 106. Western Giant 5/8 Combination Wrench, with Insets for Reverse and Side View, ca. 1934-1935.

Fig. 106 shows a Western Giant 5/8 combination wrench with gently-sloped depressed panels, stamped with "Chromium Vanadium" and "Made in U.S.A." on the shank, with "Western Giant" on the reverse.

The overall length is 6.5 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

The distinctive design marks this as Herbrand production, and the dimensions are virtually identical to the Herbrand 1220 "Multitype" Wrench shown in our article on Herbrand.

Our section on ChromeXQuality tools has two examples of this style of combination wrench, which can be seen as the ChromeXQuality 9/16 Combination Wrench and ChromeXQuality 11/16 Combination Wrench.

These examples suggest that the present wrench was made before the ChromeXQuality era. Since Herbrand didn't start making combination wrenches until 1934, this wrench probably dates from 1934-1935.


Western Giant 6 Inch Adjustable Wrench

[Western Giant 6 Inch Adjustable Wrench]
Fig. 107. Western Giant 6 Inch Adjustable Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1930s.

Fig. 107 shows a Western Giant 6 inch adjustable wrench, stamped with "Western Giant" and "Heavy Duty Tools" on both sides of the shank. The shank is also marked with "Drop Forged" forged into the front, with "Made in U.S.A." forged into the reverse.

The overall length is 6.2 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

This tool can be recognized as Diamond production by the broached hanging hole and forged-in markings.


Westline

Western Auto also sold tools under the "Westline" brand, an unregistered mark typically used for lower priced "economy" tools. This brand is believed to have been used only in the post-war period.

Production was generally by Duro/Indestro or Vlchek.


Westline 0725B 1/2x9/16 Open-End Wrench

[Westline 0725B 1/2x9/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 108. Westline 0725B 1/2x9/16 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 108 shows a Westline 0725B 1/2x9/16 open-end wrench with streamlined depressed panels, marked with "Westline" and a "D" code forged into the shank, with "Forged in U.S.A." forged into the reverse.

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

The streamlined panels and "D" code indicate production by Duro/Indestro.


Westline 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench

[Westline 19/32/11/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 109. Westline 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 109 shows a Westline 19/32x11/16 open-end wrench with a panelled shank, 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 6.5 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 our article on Vlchek.


Westline 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench

[Westline 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 109B. Westline 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 109B 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 our article on Vlchek.


Westline "Select Steel" 1076 11/16 Combination Wrench

[Westline 1076 11/16 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 110. Westline 1076 11/16 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. Mid 1950s to 1960s.

Fig. 110 shows a Westline 1076 11/16 combination wrench with streamlined depressed panels, marked with "Forged Select Steel" and the fractional sizes forged into the front panel, with "Made in U.S.A." forged into the reverse panel.

The wrench is also marked with the model number forged into the front face, with "Westline" stamped on the reverse face.

The overall length is 8.2 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.

This wrench is an example of Duro/Indestro's "Select Steel" line of economy tools and can be identified by the "streamlined" depressed panel construction, an Indestro trademark dating back to the mid 1930s.

Additional examples can be seen in our article on Duro/Indestro in the section on The "Select Steel" Brand.


Western Auto Stores

Sometimes tools were marked with just a simple "Western Auto Stores" brand.


Western Auto 1/2x9/16 Open-End Wrench

Our next figure shows an example of Barcalo's production for Western Auto Supply.

[Western Auto 1/2x9/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 111. Western Auto 1/2x9/16 Open-End Wrench, ca. 1940s.

Fig. 111 shows a Western Auto 1/2x9/16 open-end wrench of obvious Barcalo production, marked "Western Auto Stores" on the distinctive convex shank.

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

This tool can be recognized as Barcalo production by its distinctive convex shank, a style described by design patent #D111,094, issued in 1938.


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