Alloy Artifacts  

Western Auto Supply Company

[Cover of 1922 Western Auto Supply Catalog]
Cover of 1922 Western Auto Supply Catalog.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Western Auto Supply was an important retailer of automobile parts, supplies, and tools during most of the 20th century. The company grew from a small mail-order reseller in 1909 to eventually reach several thousand company and franchise stores. As a major retailer of automotive service tools, the company helped expand the market for tools, and also indirectly influenced the development of some major tool companies.


Company History

The Western Auto Supply Company was founded in 1909 by George Pepperdine as a mail-order retailer of auto supplies.

Eastern and Western Companies

One little-known facet of Western Auto is that for a major part of their early history, the company was actually split into two legally separate business entities. The founder, George Pepperdine, had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and was advised to move to the West, where the drier air would be better for his health. In 1915 he sold half of the company to Don Davis, who previously had worked as a printer and had helped assemble and publish the company catalogs. (At that time the company had only two stores, one in Kansas City and one in Denver.) The two companies both continued to operate as "Western Auto Supply" and agreed on Eastern and Western regions of operation.

The two companies published regular catalogs of similar format, but some of the catalog contents were different. Thus in citing a catalog reference it's important to note the region.

Bog Manufacturing

One of Western Auto's major suppliers of tools during the 1920s and 1930s was Bog Manufacturing of Chicago. It turns out that Bog Manufacturing was founded and operated by Ben Pepperdine, the brother of the founder of Western Auto. This almost-forgotten connection was rediscovered by Alloy Artifacts during our research into the history of Bog Manufacturing.

Tools from Bog Manufacturing are better represented in the Western region catalogs (which continued to be run by George Pepperdine), but some of their tools were listed in the Eastern catalogs as well.

National Auto Supply

Another almost forgotten aspect of Western Auto's history is that in 1919 George Pepperdine established the National Auto Supply Company in Chicago, in hopes of growing the operation to have a truly national footprint. At that time the Eastern branch of Western Auto had not yet expanded beyond its Kansas City roots, and Pepperdine thought that by building a large retail and mail-order operation in the East, he would eventually be able to merge the new company with his growing Western operations. (Apparently the agreement on Western and Eastern regions applied only to the use of the Western Auto Supply name.)

Building a mail-order operation in the East proved to be more difficult than expected, partly due to greater entrenched competition, and National Auto Supply eventually failed. The entire episode would scarcely merit a footnote except for a surprising twist: it turns out that in 1920 National Auto Supply began hiring people to establish a tool manufacturing operation. This unexpected turn of events was rediscovered by one of our readers, who kindly sent extensive notes documenting the findings.

As expected, the tool manufacturing operations of National Auto are very relevant to the origin of Bog Manufacturing, and we will provide additional information in that article. But the fact that a division of Western Auto Supply engaged in manufacturing is interesting in itself, as previously we had regarded the company as a pure-play retail operation. Additional information on National Auto Supply can be found on page 125 of the Pepperdine biography in the References section, although without any mention of the manufacturing aspect.

Alloy Steel in the Retail Market

Western Auto Supply was one of the first major retailers to recognize and promote alloy steel tools. In 1931 the company began offering alloy steel tools under the "Chromium Vanadium" brand, and became the first retailer to offer double-hex box wrenches, initially manufactured by Herbrand. These box wrenches became very popular and were soon offered by other retailers. (See the section on Box-End Wrenches for more information.)

Suppliers and Contract Manufacturers

Western Auto generally operated as a retailer rather than a manufacturer and as such relied on other companies for production. In their early years Western Auto was just a reseller of other company's brands, and a list of suppliers probably would have read like a Who's Who of the automotive tool industry. Some of the names we have seen in the catalogs (or recognized from illustrations) include APCO, Beckley-Ralston, Bethlehem, Billings & Spencer, Billmont, Crescent, Diamond, Herbrand, Hinsdale, Indestro, K-D, Kraeuter, Millers Falls, Mossberg, Sioux, Vlchek, Walden, and Williams.

By the early 1930s Western Auto had started using private branding for some of their tools, and their major manufacturing partners included Duro/Indestro, Herbrand, and Vlchek. Other manufacturers that have been identified include Barcalo and J.P. Danielson.

Special Order Merchandise

We recently found that Western Auto Supply had a special order program that would have allowed it to offer an even wider variety of merchandise than the catalogs listings would imply. The 1932 Western edition catalog has a two page advertisement for shop supplies and heavy equipment available by special order, and suggests that any of their stores could place such orders. It's not clear whether there were other catalogs covering the available special order merchandise, and we'll need to do more research on this area. Potentially though this means that Western Auto Supply could have functioned as a distributor for commercial and industrial customers.

This could turn out to be especially relevant for Bog Manufacturing and Hinsdale Manufacturing, two suppliers of Western Auto known to have produced extra heavy-duty tools (such as 1.25-drive socket sets) that are much larger than their retail customers would need. Neither company had any significant industrial distributor coverage, leaving us puzzled as to what sales channels were available for such products. The Western Auto special order program may turn out to have been the missing channel.

Western Auto Tools

We have an extensive collection of tools sold under various Western Auto brands and will be adding them to this article as time permits. Many of these tools are already displayed on other pages, but adding them here will allow a better appreciation of the variety of tools sold by Western Auto.


Trademarks

Western Auto Supply: Trademarks Issued
Text Mark or Logo Reg. No. First Use Date Filed Date Issued Notes
Westcraft 547,701 11/03/1942 10/02/1947 09/11/1951 Used for tools.
Wizard 596,370 05/03/1937 09/08/1953 10/05/1954 Used for tools.

Tool Identification

Western Auto Supply sold tools under a number of different brands. Some of these brands were registered as trademarks, but others were simply marked on tools and used in advertising. The following list (in approximate chronological order) shows the known brands used for tools.

Manufacturer's Codes

Since Western Auto Supply used multiple vendors for production, their tools were sometimes marked with a small vendor code, especially when multiple vendors were producing the same type of tool. The main codes used were "D" for Duro/Indestro and "V" (or sometimes "KV") for Vlchek, though it's possible that other codes may exist.


References and Resources

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

A biography of George Pepperdine, Faith is my Fortune by R.L. Clark and J.W. Bates, is available as a PDF from Pepperdine University. It provides background information on the development of Western Auto Supply, particularly in the Western region, and page 125 briefly mentions the National Auto Supply Company.

An interesting history of Western Auto Supply can be found in The Last Western Flyer, published in 2004 by Jim Marchman.


Catalog Coverage

Western Auto Supply published and distributed large quantities of catalogs, and we have examples of many of the catalog editions. These catalogs are extremely valuable not only for understanding the development of Western Auto itself, but also as documentation of the activities of the many supplier companies. In a number of cases the Western Auto catalogs have provided the earliest listings for particular tools.

Western Auto Supply: Catalog Resources
Title Year Region Notes
      1919 Ford Owners' Supply Book (Eastern):
Ford Owners' Supply Book 1919 East Kansas City edition.
Walden fixed-socket wrenches, No. 4 pressed-steel socket set.
Ray "Jumbo" pressed-steel socket set.
Mosco wheel puller and nut holder.
Other listings for Crescent, Lane "Unique", Red Devil, and Vlchek.
      1922 Auto Supplies Camping Equip. (Eastern):
Auto Supplies Camping Equip. 1922 East Lists Hinsdale No. 12 pressed-steel socket set.
"Speedy" nut-holding speeder, earliest known listing for Bog.
Apco double-hex connecting rod wrench.
Lists Kraeuter universal pliers.
      1924 Ford Owners' Supply Book (Eastern):
Ford Owners' Supply Book 1924 East Lists Hinsdale No. 12 pressed-steel socket set, fixed socket wrenches.
Bog piston ring compressor, "Speedy" speeder, "Dandy" puller.
Apco double-hex connecting rod wrench.
Other tools by Bethlehem, Billmont, Crescent, Kraeuter, and Williams.
      1924-1925 Ford Owners' Supply Book (Eastern):
Ford Owners' Supply Book 1924-25 East Kansas City Fall and Winter edition.
Hinsdale TL-10, 13B, and G-20 1/2-drive socket sets.
Hinsdale fixed socket wrenches.
Bog piston ring compressor, "Speedy" speeder, "Dandy" puller.
Herbrand transmission band and gasoline line wrench.
Other tools by Beckley-Ralston, Crescent, Kraeuter, and Williams.
      1926 Ford Owners' Supply Book (Eastern):
Ford Owners' Supply Book 1926 East Lists Indestro [No. 19] "Utility" socket set, earliest listing for Indestro.
Bog fixed socket wrenches, "Dandy" puller.
Hinsdale TL-10, TL-20, 13B, and G-20 1/2-drive socket sets.
Other tools by Mossberg and Williams.
      1927 Auto Owners' Supply Book (Eastern):
Auto Owners' Supply Book 1927 East Lists Indestro [No. 19] "Dreadnaught" socket set.
Bog fixed socket wrenches, "Speedy" speeder, "Dandy" puller.
Bog piston ring compressor.
Hinsdale TL-10 and G-20 socket sets, RF-1 ratcheting wrench.
Mossberg ratcheting connecting rod wrench.
Other tools by Crescent, Kraeuter, and Williams.
      1927 Tires & Auto Supplies (Western):
Tires & Auto Supplies 1927 West Lists Bog "Multi-Fit", "Dandy" and "Jumbo" socket sets.
Bog fixed socket speeder, flywheel, and connecting rod wrenches.
Bog piston ring compressor, ratcheting connecting rod wrench.
Billings & Spencer open-end and tappet wrenches.
"4-In-1" rim wrench, likely from J.H. Faw.
Diamond adjustable wrenches in 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 inch sizes.
Beckley-Ralston "Favorite" valve grinder.
      1929 Auto Supplies for All Cars (Western):
Auto Supplies for All Cars 1929 West Lists Bog "Multi-Fit", "Dandy" and "Jumbo" socket sets.
Bog fixed socket wrenches, "4-In-1" rim wrench, universal joint.
Bog double-stud ratchet, ratcheting connecting rod wrench.
Vlchek "Fitz All" wrench set, chrome-molybdenum wrench set.
Billings & Spencer open-end and tappet wrenches.
Diamond adjustable wrenches in 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 inch sizes.
Duro valve grinder.
      1930 Auto Owners' Supply Book (Eastern):
Auto Owners' Supply Book 1930 East Lists Indestro [No. 19] "Dreadnaught" socket set.
Hinsdale 47-piece socket set, identified by T-L handle.
Bog fixed socket wrenches and other tools.
Chrome-molybdenum open-end wrenches, probably Vlchek.
      1930 Auto Supplies for All Cars (Western):
Auto Supplies for All Cars 1930 West Lists Bog "Multi-Fit", "Dandy" and "Jumbo" socket sets.
Bog fixed socket wrenches, "4-In-1" rim wrench, universal joint.
Bog double-stud ratchet, ratcheting connecting rod wrench.
Chrome-vanadium 12-point sockets available.
Vlchek "Fitz All" wrench set, Cr-Mo wrench set, tappet wrench set.
Vlchek Cr-Mo "Parabolic" open-end wrenches.
Duro valve grinder.
      1931 Save at "Western Auto" Stores (Eastern):
Save at "Western Auto" Stores 1931 East Lists Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 17-piece Socket Set.
Lists Herbrand "Multihex" box wrenches.
      1932 Western Auto Stores (Eastern):
Western Auto Stores 1932 East Lists Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 17-piece Socket Set.
Economy 47pc and 36pc sets with Indestro ratchet and T-L handle.
Herbrand "Obstructo" obstruction wrenches with script logo.
      1932 Auto Supplies (Western):
Auto Supplies 1932 West Notes "Heavy Equipment" for garages available on special order!
Lists Bog "Dandy" and "Mechanic Jr." sets in 1/2-drive.
Bog fixed socket wrenches, double-stud ratchet, "Dandy" gear puller.
Vlchek chrome-molybdenum "Parabolic" open-end wrenches.
Herbrand Multi-Grip pliers.
Diamond adjustable wrenches in sizes 4 to 18 inches.
      1933 Auto Owners' Supply Book (Eastern):
Auto Owners' Supply Book 1933 East Chrome-vanadium socket sets with pressed-flange ratchet, two models.
Economy 47pc, 36pc, and 18pc sets with Duro ratchet and L-T handle.
Lists "Obstructo" obstruction wrenches, no Herbrand logo.
Lists "Van-Chrome Multihex" and "Perfection" box wrenches.
Lists open+box wrench kits in vanadium steel, likely Auto-Kit.
      1934 Auto Owners' Supply Book (Eastern):
Auto Owners' Supply Book 1934 East Chrome-vanadium socket sets with pressed-flange ratchet, three models.
Economy 47pc, 36pc, and 18pc sets with Duro ratchet and L-T handle.
Lists chrome-vanadium obstruction wrenches, price now cheaper.
Lists tappet wrenches in both chrome-moly and chrome-vanadium.
Box-end wrenches in offset and angled style, no Herbrand trademarks.
Lists open+box wrench kits in vanadium steel, likely Auto-Kit.
      1936 Auto Owners' Thrift Book (Eastern):
Auto Owners' Thrift Book 1936 East First reference to "Chrome-X-Quality" brand.
ChromeXQuality 1/2-drive sets by Duro/Indestro in 4 N69x models.
ChromeXQuality wrenches in open, combination, and box styles.
Lists open+box wrench kits in chrome-vanadium steel, likely Auto-Kit.
      1937 Western Auto's Thrift Book (Eastern):
Western Auto's Thrift Book 1937 East ChromeXQuality 1/2-drive sets by Duro/Indestro in 4 N69x models.
ChromeXQuality adjustable wrenches with "Bet'R-Grip" illustrated.
      1937 Auto Supplies (Western):
1937 Auto Supplies 1937 West ChromeXQuality 1/2-drive sets by Duro/Indestro in 2 models.
ChromeXQuality socket sets by unknown makers.
ChromeXQuality combination wrenches in 12xx series (Herbrand?)
Lists chrome-moly open-end wrenches in 2xxx series (Vlchek?)
      1938 Western Auto Stores (Eastern):
Western Auto Stores 1938 East ChromeXQuality 1/2-drive sets by Duro/Indestro in 4 N69x models.
ChromeXQuality 3/8-drive sets by Duro/Indestro, N705 and N706.
ChromeXQuality wrenches in open, combination, and box styles.
ChromeXQuality adjustable wrenches with "Bet'R-Grip" illustrated.
"Master Quality" adjustable wrenches with Barcalo illustrated.
Carbon-steel 1/2-drive sets by Duro/Indestro in 4 models.
      1953 Western Auto Stores:
Western Auto Stores 1953 N/A  

Early Tools

Western Auto Supply began selling tools very early in its history, as service tools were a necessity for auto owners. Some of the early tools offered by Western Auto were listed by their known brand names, with the illustrations providing a name or logo that would have been recognized by customers. In other cases the catalog illustrations were made very generic, possibly so that Western Auto could source tools from multiple suppliers.

By the early 1920s the company was offering tools made by Bog Manufacturing of Chicago, a company with a family connection to Western Auto. Bog probably sold the majority of its production (except for certain very heavy-duty tools) through Western Auto.

Since the tools offered by Western Auto were sometimes sold under their maker's brand names, it's often not possible to determine whether a specific tool was originally sourced through Western Auto. Accordingly, this section will show tools that are known to have been supplied by Western Auto, but possibly acquired from other sources.


Fixed Socket Wrenches

Fixed socket wrenches were an important part of the automotive service tools sold by Western Auto, especially those intended for Ford Model T service.


Bog "Speedy" 9/16 Nut-Holding Speeder Socket Wrench

One of Bog's earliest tools was a special nut-holding speeder socket wrench appropriately called the "Speedy" wrench. This tool was listed as early as 1922 in the Western Auto (Eastern edition) catalog, although not with any hint as to the maker.

[1927 Catalog Listing for Bog Speedy Nut-Holding Speeder]
Fig. 1. 1927 Catalog Listing for Bog "Speedy" Nut-Holding Speeder.

Fortunately, the "Speedy" wrench was still available in 1927, and Fig. 1 shows the listing from page 30 of the 1927 Bog catalog. The text in the listing explains how the wrench works and lists the common applications for Ford Model T service. (Although the size isn't mentioned, Ford transmission cover bolts required a 9/16 socket.) The listings in the Western Auto catalogs used this same illustration, so we can be confident that they refer to the same tool.

Tools of this type have an interesting history and were first offered by Walden, who based the design on an obscure patent for working on agricultural equipment. Walden acquired the patent and designed their adaptation as the Walden 6418 Nut-Holding Attachment, which could be fitted onto one of their long speeders.

Blackhawk later copied Walden's idea as the Blackhawk 6218 Nut-Holding Speeder, and the Bog model is very similar to the Blackhawk tool.

Bog offered the "Speedy" speeder in only the 9/16 size, but Walden and Blackhawk offered models for 1/2 nuts as well.

[Bog Speedy 9/16 Nut-Holding Speeder Socket Wrench]
Fig. 2. Bog "Speedy" 9/16 Nut-Holding Speeder Socket Wrench, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1922 to Late 1920s.

Fig. 2 shows a Bog "Speedy" 9/16 nut-holding speeder socket wrench, stamped "Bog Mfg. Co. Chicago" on the sliding member, seen as a close-up in the inset. (The inset has been rotated for readability.)

The overall length is 22 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

This tool was listed in the 1922 Auto Supplies and Camping Equipment (Eastern edition) catalog from Western Auto Supply, without identifying the maker, but with the same illustration later found in the 1927 Bog catalog. The "Speedy" speeder is believed to be one of Bog's first tools.

This tool can be viewed in our article on Bog Manufacturing as the Bog "Speedy" Nut-Holding Speeder.


Bog 5/8 Speeder Socket Wrench

[Bog 5/8 Speeder Socket Wrench]
Fig. 3. Bog 5/8 Speeder Socket Wrench, with Insets for Construction and Marking Detail, ca. Mid to Late 1920s.

Fig. 3 shows a Bog 5/8 speeder socket wrench, stamped "Superior Bog Quality" on the shank.

The overall length is 19.3 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

Bog speeder socket wrenches were listed on page 57 of the 1927 Tires and Auto Supplies (Western edition) catalog from Western Auto. The wrenches were available in sizes 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, and 3/4.


APCO Early 5/8 Double-Hex Offset Box Wrench for Ford Connecting Rod Service

[1922 Catalog Listing for APCO 5/8 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 4. 1922 Catalog Listing for APCO 5/8 Offset Box-End Wrench.

In 1922 APCO introduced a significant new tool, an offset box-end wrench with a double-hex (12-point) opening. The specific application was for Ford Model T connecting rod service, but the wrench was more significant as the first example of a double-hex box-end wrench. In later years box-end wrenches in various styles would become a major new tool category.

Western Auto began offering the new APCO wrench in that same year, and Fig. 4 shows the listing from page 122 of the 1922 "Ford Owners' Supply Book" (Eastern edition) catalog from Western Auto.

[APCO Early 5/8 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 5. APCO Early 5/8 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Side View, ca. 1922.

Fig. 5 shows an APCO 5/8 double-hex offset box wrench, marked with "APCO" and "Pat. Applied For" forged into the handle.

The overall length is 6.7 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The patent pending notice refers to patent #1,424,069, issued to F.W. Blackmar in 1922.

This tool is displayed in our article on the Frank Mossberg Company as the APCO Double-Hex Offset Box Wrench.


Bog 5/8 Offset Socket Wrench for Ford Connecting Rod Service

[1927 Catalog Listing for Bog Connecting Rod Wrench]
Fig. 6. 1927 Catalog Listing for Bog Connecting Rod Wrench.

One of the most common specialty tools for servicing Ford automobiles was the connecting rod wrench. Fig. 6 shows a listing for a Bog Ford connecting rod wrench, as found on page 57 of the 1927 Western Auto (Western edition) catalog. The text notes its application for servicing the Ford fourth connecting rod.

[Bog 5/8 Offset Socket Connecting Rod Wrench]
Fig. 7. Bog 5/8 Offset Socket Connecting Rod Wrench, with Insets for Construction and Marking Detail, ca. Mid to Late 1920s.

Fig. 7 shows a Bog 5/8 offset socket wrench for Ford Model T connecting-rod service, stamped "Bog Mfg. Co. Chicago" on the shank.

The overall length is 12.3 inches, and the finish is black paint.

The Ford Model T fourth connecting rod was infamous for its inaccessible location, making this tool a necessity for service.

This tool can be viewed in our article on Bog Manufacturing as the Bog 5/8 Offset Socket Wrench.


Mossberg 624 5/8 Ratcheting Offset Socket Wrench for Connecting Rod Service

Our next figure shows the fancy version of a Model T connecting rod wrench, with a built-in ratchet for more convenient operation.

[Mossberg 624 5/8 Ratcheting Offset Socket Wrench]
Fig. 8. Mossberg 624 5/8 Ratcheting Offset Socket Wrench, with Inset for Top View.

Fig. 8 shows a Mossberg 624 5/8 ratcheting offset socket wrench, marked "Frank Mossberg Co." and "Attleboro, Mass. U.S.A." with the M-Diamond logo.

The overall length is 10.6 inches, and the finish is nickel plating, with losses due to wear and rust.

The ratchet mechanism is similar to that used on older bit braces, with dual pawls alternately deactivated by a rotating ring. The selector ring actually has three modes of operation, with one position leaving both pawls engaged so that the socket is locked in place.

This wrench was listed on page 114 of the 1924 Ford Owners' Supply Book (Eastern edition) from Western Auto Supply. Although not identified by name, the illustration matches the Mossberg Tool.

This tool can be viewed in our article on the Frank Mossberg Company as the Mossberg 624 Connecting Rod Wrench.


Bog [No. 812] 5/8 Ratcheting Socket Wrench for Connecting Rod Service

[Bog No. 812 5/8 Ratcheting Connecting Rod Wrench]
Fig. 9. Bog [No. 812] 5/8 Ratcheting Connecting Rod Wrench, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. Mid to Late 1920s.

Fig. 9 shows a Bog [No. 812] 5/8 ratcheting offset socket wrench intended for Ford connecting rod service. The barrel is stamped "Bog Mfg. Co. Chicago U.S.A." with the fractional size, as seen in the small inset.

The overall length is 10.3 inches.

This tool is listed on page 5 of the 1927 Bog catalog.

This wrench is listed on page 57 of the 1927 Tires and Auto Supplies (Western edition) catalog from Western Auto. The illustration matches this tool and appears to have "Bog" on the handle.

This tool can be viewed in our article on Bog Manufacturing as the Bog 5/8 Ratcheting Socket Wrench.


Hinsdale F4 11/16 Offset Socket Wrench for Ford Flywheel Capscrews

[Hinsdale F4 11/16 Offset Socket Wrench]
Fig. 10. Hinsdale F4 11/16 Offset Socket Wrench, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1919 to Mid 1920s.

Fig. 10 shows a Hinsdale F4 11/16 offset socket wrench, stamped with the Hinsdale name and Round-H-Circle logo.

The overall length is 11.4 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

This wrench was designed for servicing the Model T flywheel bolts, a job requiring an offset in the shank to clear obstacles. Similar wrenches by other manufacturers include the Blackhawk 4122 Socket Wrench and Walden 3822 Socket Wrench.

This wrench was listed on page 117 of the 1924 Ford Owners' Supply Book (Eastern edition) catalog from Western Auto Supply, as part of a group of five wrenches identified by the Hinsdale logo.

This tool can be viewed in our article on Hinsdale as the Hinsdale F4 Offset Socket Wrench.


Bog 11/16 Offset Socket Wrench for Ford Flywheel Capscrews

[1927 Catalog Listing for Bog Ford Flywheel Wrench]
Fig. 11. 1927 Catalog Listing for Bog Ford Flywheel Wrench.

The Western Auto catalogs typically listed a number of specialty tools for servicing Ford automobiles. Fig. 11 shows a listing for a Bog Ford flywheel wrench, as found on page 57 of the 1927 Western Auto (Western edition) catalog. A close look at the illustration shows the text "Superior Bog Quality", matching the example in the next figure.

[Bog 11/16 Offset Socket Wrench]
Fig. 12. Bog 11/16 Offset Socket Wrench, with Insets for Construction and Marking Detail, ca. Mid to Late 1920s.

Fig. 12 shows a Bog 11/16 offset socket wrench for Ford flywheel capscrews, stamped "Superior Bog Quality" on the shank.

The overall length is 12.2 inches. The finish is plain steel with extensive pitting due to rust, but with a few traces of the original nickel plating.

This wrench was designed to service the Ford Model T flywheel capscrews, which due to their awkward location required a special wrench with an offset shank. Several other companies produced similar wrenches, and examples can be seen as the Walden 3822 Socket Wrench and Blackhawk 4122 Socket Wrench.

This tool can be viewed in our article on Bog Manufacturing as the Bog 11/16 Offset Socket Wrench.


Walden-Worcester 1620 "Tomahawk" (1/2x5/8)x5/8 Triple Socket Wrench

[Walden 1620 (1/2x5/8)x5/8 Triple Socket Wrench]
Fig. 13. Walden 1620 (1/2x5/8)x5/8 Triple Socket Wrench, with Inset for Detail, ca. 1918+.

Fig. 13 shows a Walden 1620 (1/2x5/8)x5/8 triple-socket wrench, stamped "Walden Worcester" with "Made in U.S.A." and "Pat. Oct. 22 1918", and with "Tomahawk" plus "Trade Mark Reg. U.S. Pat. Off." noted below.

The overall length is 9.7 inches.

This wrench was listed on page 114 of the 1924 Ford Owners' Supply Book (Eastern edition) from Western Auto Supply, and the text of the listing mentions "Tomahawk", a Walden trademark.

This tool can be viewed in our article on Walden-Worcester as the Walden 1620 "Tomahawk" Triple Socket Wrench.


Bog (1/2x5/8)x5/8 Triple Socket Wrench

[Bog (1/2x5/8)x5/8 Triple Socket Wrench]
Fig. 14. Bog (1/2x5/8)x5/8 Triple Socket Wrench, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1920s.

Fig. 14 shows a wrench popular for Model T applications, a Bog (1/2x5/8)x5/8 triple socket wrench, stamped "Bog Mfg. Co. Chicago" on the shank.

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

This tool can be viewed in our article on Bog Manufacturing as the Bog (1/2x5/8)x5/8 Triple Socket Wrench.


Sockets and Drive Tools

Socket sets and drive tools were an important part of Western Auto's tool business, and the early socket tools included both pressed-steel and machined socket construction, as well as both hex drive and square drive designs.


Hinsdale [No. 12] 1/2-Drive Pressed-Steel Socket Set

[1922 Catalog Listing for Hinsdale No. 12 Socket Set]
Fig. 15. 1922 Catalog Listing for Hinsdale No. 12 Socket Set.

Fig. 15 shows a catalog listing for a Hinsdale No. 12 pressed-steel socket set, as found on page 120 of the 1922 Auto Supplies and Camping Equipment (Eastern edition) catalog from Western Auto. This is one of our earliest catalog listings for Hinsdale.

The contents of the set are given as a 9 inch ratchet handle, an 8 inch extension, a universal, 14 hex sockets, and 6 square sockets. The illustration of the ratchet closely resembles the Early 1/2-Drive Ratchet shown in our article on Hinsdale. (Presumably a drive plug would have been included with the ratchet.) The drive tools make it clear that Hinsdale considered this to be a 1/2-drive set, with no provision to drive the sockets on the outside of the base as Mossberg and others had done.

The hex socket sizes are listed as 13/32, 15/32, 17/32, 19/32, 5/8, 21/32, 23/32, 25/32, 27/32, 29/32, 31/32, 1-1/32, 1-3/32, 1-5/32. The square socket sizes are given as 17/32, 21/32, 23/32, 27/32, 29/32, and 1-1/32.

The listed socket sizes here reflect the Mossberg-originated convention of marking pressed-steel sockets with their oversize allowance, rather than the intended service size. Thus it is very interesting to note that two years later, in the 1924 Western Auto listing for this same set, Hinsdale had started marking its pressed-steel sockets with the intended service size! This changeover seems to have been in progress at the time, as the 1924 listing has a mishmash of service size and oversize specifications.

Readers can view the 1924 listing for this set with the Hinsdale No. 12 Pressed-Steel Socket Set in our article on Hinsdale.

[Hinsdale No. 12 1/2-Drive Pressed-Steel Socket Set]
Fig. 16. Hinsdale [No. 12] 1/2-Drive Pressed-Steel Socket Set, ca. 1923-1925.

Fig. 16 shows a Hinsdale [No. 12] 1/2-drive pressed-steel socket set, all neatly contained in a wooden box with an organizer to hold the tools in place. The label on the inside of the lid reads "Hinsdale Manufacturing Company" with "Tools of Quality" and "Chicago", and the Round-H-Circle logo is printed in red between the "Hins" and "Dale".

The tools in the set consist of 14 hex sockets, 6 square sockets, a double-male extension, and a universal joint. The original drive tool was a ratchet, probably the Hinsdale Early 1/2-Drive Ratchet, but was no longer with the set when acquired.

The sockets in the set are all marked on the base with the fractional size, plus "Made in U.S.A." and the Hinsdale Round-H-Circle logo. The hex sockets have sizes 3/8, 7/16, 17/32, 9/16, 21/32, 11/16, 3/4, 27/32, 29/32, 31/32, 1-1/32, 1-3/32, 1-1/8, and 1-1/4. The square sockets have sizes 1/2, 19/32, 11/16, 25/32, 7/8, and 1-1/4.

Note that a number of the socket sizes in this set are marked with the intended service size, as Hinsdale abandoned the older oversize marking some time after 1922. This leads to an estimated manufacturing date of 1923-1925 for this set.

This socket set was illustrated (with "Hinsdale No. 12 Socket Wrench Set" visible) in the 1922 and 1924 Western Auto catalogs, but no longer appeared in the 1927 catalog.

This set can be seen in our article on Hinsdale as the Hinsdale No. 12 Pressed-Steel Socket Set, with additional photographs and information.


Slip-On Wrench Set

[1922 Catalog Listing for Slip-On Socket Wrench Set]
Fig. 17. 1922 Catalog Listing for Slip-On Socket Wrench Set.

Have you ever heard of the Slip-On Tool Company? Neither have we, but we thought our readers would be amused by the scan in Fig. 17, found on page 119 of the 1922 Western Auto (Eastern edition) catalog. With its "50-In-5" phrase, this is obviously a play on the "5 Do the Work of 50" motto used by the Snap-On Wrench Company in its early advertising.

We're guessing that the ad writer for Western Auto must have had some fun creating this listing, a bit of a parody on one of the hot products of the day. But since there's actually a price on the set, maybe Western Auto sold some of them — but unfortunately we don't have a set.

The drive tools in the illustrations appear to be 1/2-drive, and the set has been constructed to match the specifications of Snap-On's early sets. There is no hint of the maker in the text of the listing, and the illustrations seem to be intentionally generic — possibly the maker wanted to remain anonymous! The sockets do look similar to some of Bog's production though, with the wide knurled bands and tapered walls.

This listing is significant in showing that Western Auto was closely following developments in the tool industry and was keenly aware of the trends of the day.


Indestro [No. 19] 1/2-Hex Drive Socket Set

[Indestro No. 19 1/2-Hex Drive Socket Set]
Fig. 18. Indestro [No. 19] 1/2-Hex Drive Socket Set, with Inset for Top View, ca. Mid to late 1920s.

Fig. 18 shows an early Indestro [No. 19] 1/2-hex drive socket set in a clever "streamlined" holder resembling a locomotive. The set consists of an Ell-handle, eight sockets, and a screwdriver bit. The set itself is not marked, but the Ell-handle is stamped "Indestro Mfg. Co." and "Chicago U.S.A." on the shank, as seen in the top inset.

The socket sizes are, from the right, (screwdriver bit), 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 11/16, 3/4, 7/8, and 15/16. The sockets are marked only with the fractional sizes.

The sockets have hex (6-point) broachings and a reduced base, and a knurled band is provided to assist with hand turning.

The overall dimensions are 9.4 inches long by 1.5 inches deep by 2.1 inches high. The finish is a thin nickel plating, with extensive losses due to rust.

Although not marked with a patent notation, the holder is covered by patent #1,869,945, filed by H.G. Rice on October 8, 1926 and issued on August 2, 1932, with assignment to Indestro Manufacturing.

This set was first listed on page 114 of the 1926 Ford Owner's Supply Book (Eastern edition) catalog, where it was called the "Utility Socket Wrench Set". In the following year the No. 19 set was referred to as the "Dreadnaught" wrench set on page 114 of the 1927 Auto Owner's Supply Book (Eastern edition).

The set can be seen in our article on Duro/Indestro as the Indestro No. 19 Socket Set, with additional information and photographs.


Bog "Jumbo" 7/16-Hex Drive Socket Set

In the mid to late 1920s Western Auto offered a series of hex-drive socket sets of various sizes, all manufactured by Bog. The largest of Bog's hex-drive sets was the "Jumbo" socket set, a collection of tools likely intended for automobile owners.

[1927 Catalog Listing for Bog Jumbo Socket Set]
Fig. 19. 1927 Catalog Listing for Bog "Jumbo" Socket Set.

Fig. 19 shows a catalog listing for the "Jumbo" set from page 56 of the 1927 Western Auto (Western edition) catalog. This set was one of a number of Bog products offered in the 1927 and 1929 Western Auto Supply catalogs, and from the catalog listing we have an inventory of the tools included in the set.

The "Jumbo" set featured 7/16-hex drive tools consisting of a ratchet, speeder, Tee-handle, extension, universal, and a valve grinding attachment. The sockets included 11 hex sockets with sizes 7/16 to 15/16, three square sockets with sizes 7/16, 9/16, and 5/8, and one coupler socket.

[Bog Jumbo 7/16-Hex Drive Socket Set]
Fig. 20. Bog "Jumbo" 7/16-Hex Drive Socket Set, ca. 1925-1929.

Fig. 20 shows the Bog "Jumbo" 7/16-hex drive socket set in its metal case, consisting of a ratchet, speeder, Tee-handle, extension, universal, and a valve grinding attachment.

The hex socket sizes are, starting in the top right corner, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 19/32, 5/8, 11/16, 3/4, 25/32, 13/16, 7/8, and 15/16. The three square sockets are stored to the left of the speeder, with sizes 7/16 (missing), 9/16, and 5/8 (missing).

Based on the catalog description, our set appears to be missing the coupler socket (the upper left hole), two square sockets (7/16 and 5/8), and a double-male extension. (Note though that there are no tabs to hold an extension, so our set may be an earlier version without an extension.)

The hex drive universal shown in the set was acquired separately, but is believed to be the correct tool, based on comparison with photographs of other Jumbo sets.

The set was contained in a seamless metal case with a shelf of cutout holes to organize the tools.

[Close-up of Decal From Bog Jumbo Socket Set]
Fig. 21. Close-up of Decal from Bog "Jumbo" Socket Set, ca. 1925-1929.

Fig. 21 shows a close-up of the decal from the "Jumbo" set.

This set is displayed in our article on Bog Manufacturing as the Bog "Jumbo" Socket Set with additional photographs and information.


"Multi-Fit" 7/16-Hex Drive Socket Set

Bog also produced smaller socket sets in addition to the "Jumbo" model shown previously. The 1927 and 1929 Western Auto catalogs show a "Dandy" socket set of intermediate size, a "Multi-Fit" set in a very compact box, and a "Utility" set consisting of just sockets and an Ell-handle.

[1929 Catalog Listing for Bog Multi-Fit Socket Set]
Fig. 22. 1929 Catalog Listing for Bog "Multi-Fit" Socket Set.

Fig. 22 shows a listing for the "Multi-Fit" set from page 84 of the 1929 Western Auto (Western edition) catalog. The set as illustrated consisted of a ratchet and drive plug, an Ell-handle, an extension, and six sockets.

Note though that text has a couple of errors, as it lists seven sockets and doesn't mention the drive plug — the ratchet was a new addition and one socket had to be removed to make room for the drive plug.

[Bog 7/16-Hex Drive Multi-Fit Socket Set]
Fig. 23. Bog "Multi-Fit" 7/16-Hex Drive Socket Set, ca. 1929.

Fig. 23 shows a Bog "Multi-Fit" 7/16-hex drive socket set in its compact metal case, consisting of a ratchet and drive plug, an Ell-handle, an extension, and six sockets with sizes from 7/16 to 3/4.

The set as shown matches the illustration in the 1929 Western Auto catalog, and in particular the ratchet is clearly illustrated. The "Multi-Fit" set in the 1927 Western Auto catalog did not include a ratchet, indicating that this particular set is a later example.

An earlier version of the "Multi-Fit" set was illustrated on page 15 of the 1927 Bog catalog. At that time the set consisted of an Ell-handle, an extension, and seven sockets ranging in size from 7/16 to 7/8.

This set is displayed in our article on Bog Manufacturing as the Bog "Multi-Fit" Socket Set with additional photographs and information.


Bog No. 643 1/2-Drive Double-Stud Gearless Ratchet

[Bog No. 643 1/2-Drive Double-Stud Gearless Ratchet]
Fig. 24. Bog [No. 643] 1/2-Drive Double-Stud Gearless Ratchet, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1929 to Late 1930s.

Fig. 24 shows a Bog [No. 643] 1/2-drive gearless ratchet with a double-stud head, stamped "Bog Mfg. Co." and "Chicago" on the shank.

The overall length is 10.0 inches.

This ratchet is listed as a No. 643 "Clutch Grip Ratchet Handle" in the 1929 Bog catalog, with a price of $3.25 (dealer net). The 1929 Western Auto (Western edition) catalog also shows a double-stud ratchet handle with an illustration matching this example. It was still listed in the 1937 Bog catalog.


Other Early Tools

Western Auto Supply sold a wide variety of tools in its early years, and this section shows only a small sample of what could be shown. Some examples of other tools would include Billings & Spencer open-end wrenches, Crescent adjustable wrenches, Vlchek hammers, Vlchek wrench sets, and J.H. Williams open-end wrenches.


Kraeuter 305-7 "The Victor" 7 Inch Slip-Joint Universal Pliers

[Kraeuter 305-7 Victor 7 Inch Universal Pliers]
Fig. 25. Kraeuter 305-7 "The Victor" 7 Inch Universal Pliers, with Insets for Handle Pattern and Detail, ca. 1920-1921.

Fig. 25 shows a pair of Kraeuter 305-7 "The Victor" 7 inch slip-joint universal pliers, stamped "Kraeuter & Co." and "Newark, N.J. U.S.A." on the handle. These pliers have an unusual mix of markings on the underside of the handles, with "Forged Steel" forged into the lower handle, but "Kraeuter U.S.A." forged into the upper handle and visible in the photograph.

The overall length is 7.3 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

The middle inset shows the Dimple-Diamond gripping pattern on the handles, the earliest of the major handle patterns used by Kraeuter.

This model of Kraeuter pliers were listed on page 114 of the 1922 Western Auto (Eastern edition) catalog, under the text heading "Genuine Kraeuter Slip Joint Plier".

These pliers can be viewed in our article on Kraeuter & Company as the Kraeuter 305-7 Slip-Joint Pliers.


Kraeuter 356-10 10 Inch Slip-Joint Combination Pliers

[Kraeuter 356-10 10 Inch Combination Pliers]
Fig. 26. Kraeuter 356-10 10 Inch Combination Pliers, with Insets for Side View and Marking Detail, ca. 1924-1933.

Fig. 26 shows a pair of Kraeuter 356-10 10 inch combination pliers, stamped with "Kraeuter" and the model number near the pivot, with "Kraeuter U.S.A." forged into the underside of the handles.

The overall length is 9.8 inches, and the finish is nickel plating, with some losses due to wear.

The top inset shows a side view of the pliers, illustrating the "Don't Slip" gripping pattern on the handles.

The screwdriver tip and two-position slip-joint indicate production before 1934.

This model of Kraeuter pliers were listed on page 112 of the 1924 Ford Owners' Supply Book (Eastern edition) catalog from Western Auto, under the heading "Kraeuter 10-Inch Pliers".

These pliers can be viewed in our article on Kraeuter & Company as the Kraeuter 356-10 Slip-Joint Pliers.


Diamond "Tool Steel" 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench

[Diamond Tool Steel 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench]
Fig. 27. Diamond "Tool Steel" 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. Early to Mid 1920s.

Fig. 27 shows an early Diamond 8 inch adjustable wrench, marked "Diamond" and "Tool-Steel Drop-Forged" with the Diamond-Horseshoe logo forged into the shank, with "Diamond Calk Horse Shoe Co." and "Duluth, Minn. U.S.A." forged into the reverse. The wrench is also marked with a forged-in code "A330" near the adjusting knurl.

The overall length is 8.1 inches, and the maximum opening is 1.0 inches. The head thickness was measured at 0.58 inches.

The finish is plain steel.

Diamond wrenches were listed by name on page 56 of the 1927 Tires and Auto Supplies (Western edition) catalog from Western Auto, with the illustration showing the "<Diamond>" logo. The wrenches were available in 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 inch sizes.

This wrench can be viewed in our article on Diamond as the Diamond 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench.


Bog [No. 415] 4-Way Multi-Socket Rim Wrench

In 1927 the Western Auto (Western edition) catalog offered a "4-In-1 Rim Wrench" with a locking capability, possibly made by the J.H. Faw Company. Although generally similar to the Bog tool in the next figure, the socket carrier and handle shape were sufficiently different in appearance to rule out Bog as the maker.

[1930 Catalog Listing for 4-In-1 Rim Wrench]
Fig. 28. 1930 Catalog Listing for 4-In-1 Rim Wrench.

By 1930 the Western Auto (Western edition) catalog was offering a "4-In-1 Rim Wrench" with a socket carrier that closely resembles the Bog tool here, as can be seen in Fig. 28, a scan from page 86 of that catalog. Note that both the socket carrier and the handle shape closely match the Bog tool.

Although the description still mentions a locking capability, the wording is identical to the earlier listing and thus may be simply a cut-and-paste error.

[Bog No. 415 4-Way Brace Socket Wrench]
Fig. 29. Bog [No. 415] 4-Way Multi-Socket Rim Wrench, with Insets for Top View and Marking Detail, ca. Late 1920s to 1930s.

Fig. 29 shows a Bog [No. 415] 4-way brace socket wrench for servicing demountable rims or lug nuts, stamped "Bog Mfg. Co. Chicago" on the bend of the shank.

The four sockets are permanently attached to the rotating carrier and have sizes 5/8, 11/16, 3/4, and 7/8. The carrier turns freely and is not fitted with a locking mechanism.

The overall length is 15.9 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

This tool was listed on page 18 of the 1929 Bog catalog, where the text calls it a "Big Boy Rim Wrench". The price was $2.65 dealer net.

In addition to the listing in the 1930 Western Auto catalog, this tool was also listed on page 92 of the 1929 Western Auto (Western edition) catalog, with the same illustration and text as shown in the scan from the 1930 catalog.

An example of a similar 4-way socket wrench can be seen as the Walden 1452 4-Way Rim Wrench, and a similar tool with a different socket mechanism can be seen as the Blackhawk 5104 4-In-1 Rim Wrench.


The "Chromium Vanadium" Era: 1931-1935

In 1931 Western Auto began using "Chromium Vanadium" as a brand for alloy steel tools, in particular wrenches and socket sets. In the previous decade the use of alloy steel had become standard for professional grade tools, spurred on in large part by Bonney's highly successful line of "Chrome-Vanadium" wrenches. Western Auto correctly predicted that alloy steel tools would become very successful in retail markets as well.

During this period Western Auto sometimes listed tools under their brand names. The best known case of this are the Herbrand Van-Chrome "Multihex" wrenches, which were first offered in 1931, with the catalog noting the Herbrand "Van-Chrome" and "Multihex" trademarks. These "Multihex" wrenches were highly significant in being (to our knowledge) the first box-end wrenches offered to the general public by a high-volume retailer. Box-end wrenches had become very popular with professional mechanics in the late 1920s, with Blue Point (Snap-on), Bonney, Blackhawk, and others offering the tools.


Major Suppliers

Duro/Indestro and Herbrand were the major suppliers of C-V tools to Western Auto. Based on our research, both Indestro and Herbrand supplied C-V tools in 1931, Indestro with C-V alloy socket sets and Herbrand with the 1931 listing of wrenches under its own brands in the Western Auto catalog. Duro Metal Products came in as a wrench competitor with "Perfection" brand box wrenches in 1932. (Note that Duro and Indestro were still separate companies in 1931, but are believed to have merged in mid 1933.)

Shortly after this the companies began marking production for Western Auto with "Chromium Vanadium" as a brand, instead of their own brands.

C-V Production by Duro/Indestro

Duro/Indestro's first products for the C-V line were Indestro socket sets, which were offered in 1931 in the Western Auto catalog.

Their first wrenches for the C-V line were probably the "Perfection" Wrenches, which were first offered by Western Auto in 1932. These appear to have been deliberate copies of Herbrand's Multihex wrenches and were likely done to try to win more business with Western Auto.

The Indestro "Polygon" wrenches were very similar to the Perfection models and were likely sold through Western Auto from 1933 onward.

C-V Production by Herbrand

In the early 1930s Herbrand tools were sold through Western Auto catalogs under the Herbrand name, and the catalog descriptions specifically mention the brands Van-Chrome, Multihex, and Obstructo. During this period Western Auto frequently used the term "Chromium Vanadium" as a brand name for their alloy-steel tools, and at least some of the Herbrand production for Western Auto was marked with this brand.

It's worth noting here that the "Chromium Vanadium" marking was also used extensively by Duro Metal Products, perhaps initially for their Western Auto contract production, but later for their own tools as well. Duro and Herbrand each had specific production characteristics, but in some cases there may be some uncertainty as to the maker of a particular tool.

Western Auto later developed a "ChromeXQuality" brand, and Herbrand was chosen as a supplier some of those tools as well, as will be seen in the next section.

Other C-V Production

Sockets marked "Chromium Vanadium" have also been found from Armstrong. Since normally a tool company would use a shortened form like "Chrome-Vanadium" for a purely descriptive marking, it's likely that tools marked with the full element names were produced for Western Auto.


Box-End Wrenches

In 1931 Western Auto first offered box wrenches with its listing of the Herbrand Van-Chrome "Multihex" series of deep offset box-end wrenches. These wrenches turned out to be extremely popular, as this was the first time the general public had seen this type of wrench. The event proved to be highly significant for the tool industry as well.

[1932 Catalog Listing for Herbrand Van-Chrome Multihex Wrenches]
Fig. 30. 1932 Catalog Listing for Herbrand "Van-Chrome Multihex" Wrenches.

Fig. 30 shows the catalog listing for Multihex wrenches in the following year, as found on page 99 of the 1932 Western Auto catalog (Eastern edition),

The illustration shows part of the "Herbrand" name, and the guarantee below mentions "Van-Chrome" and "Multihex", both trademarks of Herbrand, making it clear that these are Herbrand wrenches.

But there's also another brand offered in the listing. The table at the right of the listing shows the wrench sizes and prices, with two columns, one for "Genuine Multihex" and one for "Perfection" brand. Note that the Perfection wrenches are almost 50% cheaper ... only one year after the initial offering, and already we have some serious competition! We'll have more to say about "Perfection" later.

The Great Box Wrench Price War

Western Auto's introduction of box wrenches in 1931 appears to have touched off some far-reaching changes in the tool industry. Within a year their much larger rival Sears Roebuck had begun offering offset box wrenches (probably made by Duro), and within two years was offering Craftsman brand box wrenches. These wrenches were offered in the same set of six wrenches covering 12 popular sizes, which became something of a de facto standard for offset box wrenches.

Duro's aggressive pricing for the Perfection box wrenches began what we like to call the "Great Box Wrench Price War", with prices falling substantially for several years. The declining prices seem to have caught the attention even of makers selling into more protected industrial and professional markets, such as J.H. Williams and Bonney Forge & Tool. In the mid 1930s Williams offered sets of Cromal offset box wrenches at substantially lower prices than their standard tools, and Bonney began their first experiment with economy tools with a line of TuHex offset box wrenches.

Out on the West coast Plomb discovered the high-quality offset box wrenches being sold at retail for prices it couldn't match, and in a design that would have been impossible to make in quantity using its hand-forging process. Plomb ordered contract production from Duro for its Wilpen series of offset box wrenches, beginning a process that saw the company convert from hand-forging to drop-forging by the end of the decade.

And back in Fremont Ohio, Herbrand began a transformation into a full-service tool vendor catering to the professional tool market, perhaps hoping to avoid the vicious price competition that came with high-volume retail markets.

It would be a bit of an overreach to attribute a cause-and-effect relationship between all of these changes and Western Auto's introduction of box wrenches, but it's clear that Western Auto had a significant influence on the industry.

After this somewhat long-winded introduction, it's time to look at some box wrenches. It turns out that we have a number of examples of Herbrand "Multihex" wrenches that were made in 1931, based on the special version of the logo to celebrate the company's 50th anniversary in that year.


3723 "Van-Chrome Multihex" 3/8x7/16 Offset Box Wrench

[Herbrand Van-Chrome Multihex 3723 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 31. Herbrand "Van-Chrome Multihex" 3723 3/8x7/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Detail, 1931.

Fig. 31 shows an early Herbrand 3723 3/8x7/16 offset box-end wrench, marked "Van-Chrome" and "Multihex" with the Herbrand script logo, and with "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 8.5 inches, and the finish is nickel plating with polished ends.

The top inset shows a side view of the wrench, illustrating the deep offset of this design.

The middle inset shows a close-up of the Herbrand script logo, and the text "Fremont, O" and "Since 1881" can be seen if the photograph is enlarged. This is a variant of the usual "Fremont, O. U.S.A." marking, and is believed to have been used for the company's 50th anniversary in 1931.

Some readers might find it an odd coincidence that we are able to present multiple wrenches all from 1931, but we don't see it that way. The fact that Herbrand's 50th year happened to fall in the same year as Western Auto's introduction of box wrenches is probably a coincidence, but our ability to find numerous examples of the tools just reflects the much higher sales volume of the retail market.


3727A "Van-Chrome Multihex" 5/8x11/16 Offset Box Wrench

[Herbrand 3727A Multihex 5/8x11/16 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 32. Herbrand 3727A "Multihex" 5/8x11/16 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Detail, 1931.

Fig. 32 shows an early Herbrand 3727A 5/8x11/16 offset box-end wrench, stamped "Van-Chrome" and "Multihex" with the Herbrand script logo, and with "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 10.0 inches. The finish is nickel plating, with losses due to wear.

The top inset shows a side view of the wrench, illustrating the deep offset of this design.

As with the previous example, the Herbrand script logo includes the text "Fremont, O" and "Since 1881", a form of the logo believed to have been used for the company's 50th anniversary in 1931.


3729A "Van-Chrome Multihex" 3/4x25/32 Offset Box Wrench

[Herbrand 3729A 3/4x25/32 Multihex Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 33. Herbrand 3729A 3/4x25/32 Multihex Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Detail, 1931.

Fig. 33 shows an early Herbrand 3729A 3/4x25/32 offset box-end wrench, stamped "Van-Chrome" and "Multihex" with the Herbrand script logo, and with "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

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

The top inset shows a side view of the wrench, illustrating the deep offset of this design.

As with the previous example, the Herbrand script logo includes the text "Fremont, O" and "Since 1881", a form of the logo believed to have been used for the company's 50th anniversary in 1931.


3731B "Van-Chrome Multihex" 13/16x7/8 Offset Box Wrench

[Herbrand 3731B 13/16x7/8 Multihex Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 34. Herbrand 3731B 13/16x7/8 Multihex Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Detail, 1931.

Fig. 34 shows an early Herbrand 3731B 13/16x7/8 offset box-end wrench, stamped "Van-Chrome" and "Multihex" with the Herbrand script logo, and with "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 12.7 inches, and the finish is nickel plating with polished ends.

The top inset shows a side view of the wrench, illustrating the deep offset of this design.

As with the previous examples, the Herbrand script logo includes the text "Fremont, O" and "Since 1881", a form of the logo believed to have been used for the company's 50th anniversary in 1931.


Perfection Brand Box Wrenches

Referring back to the catalog scan in Fig. 30, the 1932 Western Auto catalog offered a series of six "Perfection" offset box wrenches, listed next to the corresponding wrench of their top-quality [Herbrand Van-Chrome] "Genuine Multihex" brand. The Perfection wrenches were available in the same sizes as the Multihex line, but were offered at a significant discount, $2.98 for the set of six, compared with $4.85 for the Multihex set.

We've found a few wrenches marked "Perfection" and believe that these are the items sold by Western Auto. The wrenches closely resemble the Herbrand Multihex wrenches and are also very similar to the Indestro "Polygon" examples. These observations suggest that the Perfection wrenches were made by Duro as intentional copies of the Herbrand models, probably in an attempt to win more business from Western Auto.

The "Perfection" brand wrenches were offered in 1932 and 1933, but by 1934 Western Auto was no longer mentioning the Herbrand trademarks or the "Perfection" alternative. The same wrench sizes were still available, but were now listed in "Extra Quality" and "Standard" versions. The "Extra Quality" wrenches came with a lifetime guarantee and a rust-proof finish, but no details were given for the "Standard" wrenches. However, for both quality levels the prices had dropped — a set of six "Extra Quality" wrenches was now $3.38, and the same set of "Standard" wrenches was $2.19.

Although the skimpy details make it difficult to be certain, we suspect that the "Extra Quality" wrenches were same Herbrand "Multihex" models but in a generic "Chromium Vanadium" branding, and that the "Standard" wrenches were once again the Duro production, but now branded as "Indestro Polygon". Examples of Indestro "Polygon" wrenches are fairly common, which strongly suggests that they were sold through a high-volume retail channel such as Western Auto.


Perfection P-27 5/8x11/16 Offset Box-End Wrench

[Perfection P-27 5/8x11/16 Offset Box Wrench]
Fig. 35. Perfection P-27 5/8x11/16 Offset Box Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1932-1933.

Fig. 35 shows a Perfection P-27 5/8x11/16 offset box wrench, stamped "Perfection" with the fractional sizes on the front, with "Chromium Vanadium" on the reverse.

The overall length is 9.9 inches, and the finish is nickel plating, with extensive losses due to rust.


Indestro "Polygon" 3/4x25/32 Offset Box-End Wrench

[Indestro Polygon 3/4x25/32 Offset Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 36. Indestro "Polygon" 3/4x25/32 Offset Box-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1933 to Mid 1930s.

Fig. 36 shows an Indestro "Polygon" 3/4x25/32 offset box wrench, stamped "Indestro Polygon" on the shank, with "Chromium-Vanadium" and the fractional sizes on the reverse.

The overall length is 11.3 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

Although this example has a plain finish, Indestro "Polygon" wrenches have been found with nickel plated finishes as well.

More examples of the Indestro "Polygon" brand can be seen in our section on Indestro Box-End Wrenches.


Chromium Vanadium 15/16x1 Offset Box-End Wrench

This next figure shows a wrench with only a generic "Chromium Vanadium" marking.

[Chromium Vanadium 15/16x1 Offset Box Wrench]
Fig. 37. Chromium Vanadium 15/16x1 Offset Box Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Marking Detail, ca. Mid 1930s.

Fig. 37 shows a Chromium Vanadium 15/16x1 offset box wrench, stamped "Chromium Vanadium" with the fractional sizes on the shank, seen as a close-up in the lower inset.

The overall length is 14.7 inches. This wrench is extensively pitted from rust and has lost most of its finish, but traces of nickel plating remain on the ends.

The construction of this wrench closely resembles both the Herbrand "Multihex" wrenches and the "Perfection" wrench, making it difficult to determine the maker. However, there is a subtle detail in the size marking that tips the evidence slightly in favor of Herbrand production.

A careful look at the "15/16" marking shows that the slash is wider at one end, and this detail can be seen in other Herbrand examples such as the Herbrand 3729A Box Wrench and [Herbrand] Chromium-Vanadium 1/2x9/16 Short Box Wrench. In contrast, the Duro/Indestro size markings have a slash with more equal width.


Chromium Vanadium 1/2x9/16 Short Box-End Wrench

The next two figures show examples of production by Herbrand for the Chromium Vanadium brand.

[Chromium Vanadium 1/2x9/16 Short Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 38. Chromium Vanadium 1/2x9/16 Short Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Side View, ca. Mid 1930s.

Fig. 38 shows a 1/2x9/16 box-end wrench marked "Chromium Vanadium" with the fractional sizes. The overall length is 4.6 inches, and the finish is nickel plating with polished ends.

This wrench closely resembles the Herbrand 6725-B Multihex Wrench shown in our article on Herbrand.


Chromium Vanadium 5/8x11/16 Short Box-End Wrench

[Chromium Vanadium 5/8x11/16 Short Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 39. Chromium Vanadium 5/8x11/16 Short Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Side View, ca. Mid 1930s.

Fig. 39 shows a similar example, a 5/8x11/16 box-end wrench marked "Chromium Vanadium" with the fractional sizes.

The overall length is 5.1 inches, and the finish is nickel plating with polished ends.

This wrench is very similar to the Herbrand 6727A Multihex Wrench shown earlier, and the figure below shows a side-by-side comparison of the two wrenches.

[Comparison of Herbrand 6727A (Bottom) and Chromium Vanadium 5/8x11/16 (Top) Wrenches]
Fig. 40. Comparison of C-V Wrenches:
Herbrand 6727A 5/8x11/16 Box Wrench (Bottom)
Chromium Vanadium 5/8x11/16 Box Wrench (Top).

Fig. 40 shows a comparison between a Herbrand 6727A 5/8x11/16 wrench on the bottom and the present 5/8x11/16 Chromium Vanadium wrench on the top. As the photograph illustrates, the design and construction are very similar, with the Herbrand 6727A having a slightly more refined finish. (The edges of the Chromium Vanadium wrench still show some trimming marks.)


Sockets and Drive Tools

In this section we'll look at the alloy steel socket sets offered by Western Auto Supply.

[1930 Catalog Listing for Chrome-Vanadium Sockets]
Fig. 41. 1930 Catalog Listing for Chrome-Vanadium Sockets.

Fig. 41 shows the earliest known Western Auto catalog listing for alloy steel sockets, found on page 85 of the 1930 Auto Supplies for All Cars (Western edition) catalog. The listing offers chrome-vanadium 12-point sockets in six sizes, and although no maker is listed, the illustration resembles sockets from Bog.

In the following year Western Auto would adopt "Chromium Vanadium" as a brand and offer full sets of alloy steel socket tools.


Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 1/2-Drive 17-Piece Socket Set

Western Auto began offering alloy steel socket sets under the "Chromium Vanadium" brand in 1931. As luck would have it, we were able to acquire one of these early "Chromium Vanadium" sets, and it came with a rarely found "extra", a dated receipt from 1931! The receipt showed that the set had been purchased at a Western Auto Supply store in Texas, and the price on the receipt even matched the $5.35 price in the 1931 catalog. The set turned out to have been made by Indestro and is one of our most important Western Auto artifacts.

In addition to providing a snapshot of Indestro's early alloy steel socket sets, this set also establishes Indestro as a supplier to Western Auto, and shows the early use of "Chromium Vanadium" as a brand.

[1931 Catalog Listing for Chromium Vanadium 17-Piece Socket Set]
Fig. 42. 1931 Catalog Listing for Chromium Vanadium 17-Piece Socket Set.

Fig. 42 shows a listing for a Chromium Vanadium 17-piece socket set in a metal box, as found on page 109 of the 1931 Western Auto (Eastern edition) catalog, The set consisted of a brace, a sliding Tee handle, a "ratchet", a universal, three extensions, and 10 double-hex sockets ranging from 7/16 to 7/8. (The "ratchet" in the description was actually a clutch-type ratchet adapter, as will be seen shortly.)

The 17 piece set was priced at just $5.35, and a smaller set was offered for $3.25.

We're very fortunate to have a nearly perfect example of the 17-piece set, as seen in the next figure.

Indestro Chromium Vanadium 1/2-Drive 17-Piece Socket Set]
Fig. 43. Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 1/2-Drive 17-Piece Socket Set, 1931.

Fig. 43 shows an Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 1/2-drive 17-piece socket set from 1931, dated by means of the sales receipt from Western Auto Supply. The set consists of a speeder, sliding Tee handle, ratchet adapter, three extensions, universal, and ten double-hex sockets from 7/16 to 15/16.

All of the sockets and tools are marked "Chromium Vanadium", except for the universal, double-male extension, and one socket.


Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 1/2-Drive 13 Inch Speeder from 17-Piece Socket Set

Indestro Chromium Vanadium 1/2-Drive 13 Inch Speeder]
Fig. 44. Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 1/2-Drive 13 Inch Speeder, with Insets for Marking Detail, 1931.

Fig. 44 shows the Indestro 1/2-drive 13 inch speeder from the 17-piece socket set, stamped "Indestro Mfg. Co." and Chicago, U.S.A." on the shank with "Chromium Vanadium" on the reverse.

The overall length is 12.9 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.


Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle from 17-Piece Socket Set

Indestro Chromium Vanadium 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle]
Fig. 45. Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle, 1931.

Fig. 45 shows the Indestro 1/2-drive sliding Tee handle from the 1931 socket set, stamped "Chromium Vanadium" on the sliding head.

The overall length is 10.0 inches.


Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 1/2-Drive Extension and Universal from 17-Piece Socket Set

Indestro Chromium Vanadium 1/2-Drive Extension and Universal]
Fig. 46. Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 1/2-Drive Extension and Universal, 1931.

Fig. 46 shows the unmarked 1/2-drive double-male extension and double-female universal from the 17-piece socket set.

The overall length of the extension is 6.0 inches, and of the universal is 2.6 inches. The finish is nickel plating.

The double-male extension was required when using the double-female universal supplied with the set.

In addition to the double-male extension, the set included two standard 1/2-drive extensions, with lengths 4.5 inches and 9.5 inches. Both of these are stamped "Chromium Vanadium" and are nickel plated.


Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 1/2-Drive Ratchet Adapter from 17-Piece Socket Set

Indestro Chromium Vanadium 1/2-Drive Ratchet Adapter]
Fig. 47. Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 1/2-Drive Ratchet Adapter, 1931.

Fig. 47 shows the Indestro 1/2-drive ratchet adapter from the 17-piece socket set, stamped "Chromium Vanadium" and "1-2" with stars on either side.

The overall length (extended) is 3.2 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

The 1931 Western Auto catalog called this tool simply a ratchet rather than a ratchet adapter. By 1933 the Western Auto socket sets included a true ratchet instead of the adapter, a model based on Duro's patent #1,902,878.


Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 1/2-Drive Double-Hex Sockets from 17-Piece Socket Set

Indestro 1/2-Drive Chromium Vanadium 12-Point Sockets]
Fig. 48. Indestro 1/2-Drive Chromium Vanadium 12-Point Sockets, with Inset for Detail, 1931.

Fig. 48 shows nine of the ten Indestro sockets from the 17-piece socket set. (The 7/16 socket didn't match the others and appears to be a replacement.)

The sizes are, from the front left, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 21/32, and 11/16, and in the back row, 3/4, 13/16, 7/8, and 15/16. All of the sockets are stamped "Chromium Vanadium" and have a star symbol on each side of the size, a characteristic marking for Indestro sockets. The inset at the top shows a typical "Chromium Vanadium" marking.

The sockets have a coarse knurled band around the base, probably intended to help with turning a loose nut by hand.

The socket construction is cold-broached with a bored recess at the base. If you look carefully at the full-sized photograph, you can see chatter marks typically left by cold broaching.


Heavy-Duty 3/4-Drive Tools

Although we currently don't have a specific catalog reference, Western Auto appears to have offered heavy-duty 3/4-drive sockets and drive tools under its "Chromium Vanadium" brand. These tools may have been sold under the company's special order program, a newly-discovered facet of Western Auto that needs additional research.

The next several figures will show an examples of 3/4-drive socket tools believed to have been produced for Western Auto.


Armstrong "Chromium-Vanadium" H-1230 3/4-Drive 15/16 Socket

[Armstrong Early H-1230 3/4-Drive 15/16 Socket]
Fig. 49A. Armstrong Early H-1230 3/4-Drive 15/16 Socket, with Insets for Broaching and Marking Detail, ca. 1930s to Early 1940s.

Fig. 49A shows an Armstrong H-1230 3/4-drive 15/16 socket, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the Strong-Arm logo, and with "Chromium-Vanadium" on the base.

The "Chromium-Vanadium" marking (with the full element names) is unusual, as Armstrong generally used a "Chrome-Vanadium" marking.

One well-documented case is that Western Auto Supply used "Chromium-Vanadium" as a brand for its alloy tools in the early 1930s, and their suppliers (e.g Duro/Indestro, Herbrand) used this marking for contract production.

Western Auto catalogs did not list 3/4-drive socket tools, but it's possible that Armstrong might have supplied tools to Western Auto through the special order program.


Armstrong "Chromium-Vanadium" H-1231 3/4-Drive 31/32 Socket

[Armstrong Early H-1231 3/4-Drive 31/32 Socket]
Fig. 49B. Armstrong Early H-1231 3/4-Drive 31/32 Socket, with Insets for Broaching and Marking Detail, ca. 1930s to Early 1940s.

Fig. 49B shows an Armstrong H-1231 3/4-drive 31/32 socket, stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the Strong-Arm logo, and with "Chromium-Vanadium" on the base.


Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 2364 3/4-Drive 8 Inch Extension

Indestro Chromium Vanadium 2364 3/4-Drive 8 Inch Extension]
Fig. 49C. [Indestro] "Chromium Vanadium" 2364 3/4-Drive 8 Inch Extension, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. Mid 1930s.

Fig. 49C shows an [Indestro] 2364 3/4-drive 8 inch extension, stamped "Chromium Vanadium" and "Made in U.S.A." with the model number on the shank.

The overall length is 8.1 inches, and the finish appears to be nickel plating, with losses due to wear and rust.

This extension was identified as Indestro production by the model number.


Tappet Wrenches


Chromium Vanadium 5/8x11/16 Tappet Wrench

[Chromium Vanadium 5/8x11/16 Tappet Wrench]
Fig. 50. Chromium Vanadium 5/8x11/16 Tappet Wrench, ca. Mid 1930s.

Fig. 50 shows a Chromium Vanadium 5/8x11/16 tappet wrench with a ribbed shank, stamped "Chromium Vanadium" and "Made in U.S.A." with the fractional sizes.

The overall length is 9.5 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.

This wrench was probably made by Herbrand, which is known to have produced tappet wrenches with ribbed shanks. A similar example can be seen as the Herbrand T-23 Tappet Wrench.


Angle-Head Obstruction Wrenches

[1932 Catalog Listing for Herbrand Obstructo Wrenches]
Fig. 51. 1932 Catalog Listing for Herbrand "Obstructo" Wrenches.

Another style of wrench offered in the early 1930s was a type of angle-head obstruction wrench. Fig. 51 shows a listing for Herbrand "Obstructo" angle-head wrenches, as found on page 100 of the 1932 Western Auto (Eastern edition) catalog. Note that "Van-Chrome" and the Herbrand script logo are visible in the illustration.

Herbrand's obstruction wrench design had equal opening sizes on each end, but with different offset angles. Six sizes from 3/8 to 3/4 were available.

As had been the case with the Herbrand "Multihex" wrenches, Duro later made copies of the "Obstructo" wrenches, and even retained the same model numbers.

Although the "Obstructo" brand was shown in catalogs, we haven't seen any examples of the brand actually marked on angle-head wrenches. (It was marked on Herbrand's S-shaped box wrenches though.) Herbrand later registered "Obstructo" as a trademark and gave August 1, 1931 as the first use date, so the listings in the Western Auto catalog came very soon after the introduction.


Herbrand 1827 9/16x9/16 Obstruction Wrench

[Herbrand Van-Chrome 1827 9/16x9/16 Obstruction Wrench]
Fig. 52. Herbrand "Van-Chrome" 1827 9/16x9/16 Obstruction Wrench, ca. 1931 to Mid 1930s.

Fig. 52 shows a Herbrand 1827 9/16x9/16 obstruction wrench, marked with "Van-Chrome" forged into the shank, and with the Herbrand script logo on the face.

The overall length is 6.6 inches, and the finish is nickel plating with polished faces.

Herbrand's obstruction wrenches were introduced in late 1931, and the forged-in "Van-Chrome" marking suggests that this is a relatively early example, likely dating from 1931 to the mid 1930s.

Although we can't prove that this wrench was sold through Western Auto Supply, it should be representative of the early Western Auto obstruction wrenches.


Other Chromium Vanadium Tools


"WK Co" "Chromium Vanadium" 5 Inch Ignition Pliers

WK Co Chromium Vanadium 5 Inch Ignition Pliers]
Fig. 53. "WK Co" "Chromium Vanadium" 5 Inch Ignition Pliers, with Insets for Marking Detail, ca. Early to Mid 1930s.

Fig. 53 shows a pair of "WK Co" "Chromium Vanadium" 5 inch ignition pliers, stamped with "WK Co" and "Jamestown" in a triangle logo, with "Chromium Vanadium" and "Made in U.S.A." on the reverse.

The overall length is 5.1 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.

We haven't yet identified the manufacturer associated with the distinctive "WK Co" logo. The "Jamestown" marking presumably refers to Jamestown, New York, an area with numerous tool-related businesses.


Auto-Kit No. 100 Open+Box Wrench Set

In 1933 the Western Auto catalogs began offering sets of open+box wrenches in compact kits held together with a bolt. Based on the illustrations and descriptions, we have identified these as "Auto-Kit" brand wrench sets produced by J.P. Danielson.

Although the Auto-Kit wrenches were not marked with "Chromium Vanadium", they were marked for vanadium steel, and the catalog descriptions confirm the use of vanadium steel. The small size and forged-in markings on both sides of the Auto-Kit wrenches would have made it difficult to add company-specific brands.

This next figure shows an example of one of these wrench sets.

[Auto-Kit No. 100 Open+Box Wrench Set]
Fig. 54. Auto-Kit No. 100 Open+Box Wrench Set, with Inset for Side View, ca. 1935-1937.

Fig. 54 shows an Auto-Kit No. 100 open+box wrench set, consisting of six open+box wrenches held together by a tapered pin and nut. Each wrench is marked with "Auto-Kit" and "Made in U.S.A." forged into one side, with "Forged Vanadium Steel" and the fractional sizes on the reverse.

The wrench sizes (listed box end first) are 5/16x7/16, 7/16x1/2, 1/2x9/16, 9/16x5/8, 5/8x3/4, and 3/4x7/8.

The overall length of the set is 7.4 inches, and the individual wrench lengths are 4.0, 4.5, 5.1, 5.9, 6.6, and 7.4 inches. The finish is cadmium plating.

In addition to the markings noted above, each of the wrenches is marked with a forged-in code, and four of the six wrenches also have a "Pat. Pend." patent notation.

The patent pending status refers to patent #2,083,131, filed in 1935 by K.A. Tornebohm and issued in 1937. This patent describes a set of nested wrenches held together with a tapered pin, and the patent illustration shows a set of wrenches closely resembling the present example.

This wrench set was listed on page 68 of the 1934 Auto Owners' Supply Book (Eastern edition) catalog from Western Auto, with an illustration that closely matches the present example. The description noted the use of vanadium steel.

This set can be viewed in our article on J.P. Danielson as the Auto-Kit No. 100 Wrench Set, with more information and additional examples of Auto-Kit wrenches.


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