Vintage Channellock Restoration

My 1963 New-Old No. 420

Probably just about everyone reading this post has heard of Channellock pliers.  Much like Kleenex, Xerox, and Band-Aid, the name Channellock has become synonymous with tongue-and-groove water pump pliers even though this was originally a proprietary name for a style of pliers patented by the Champion De Arment Tool Company, who eventually changed their name to reflect the success of their pliers - Channellock.

Another Tool Shed Purchase

This is one of my favorite parts of these little restoration projects, finding the tool at the local used tool store - The Tool Shed.  Every once in awhile I stop by the place and pick up a tool or two, specifically looking for the old and rusty gems.  When I picked up these pliers, I didn't even know they were Channellocks, I just thought they were a nice pair of old water pump pliers.  Oh - and keep your eye out for a future post on those snips too!

And as you can see, I got 'em for $1.50!  Who gets Channellocks for a buck 50?

A few catch lines from vintage Channellock 420 ads:
1950's and 60's

Dismantling and Wire Wheel 

Wow!  Nothing like using a $2 word for a 10¢ task!  Seriously, I think someone had taken the pliers apart before, because the bolt was barely peened over.  So, the nut came off the bolt with the first try!  In this picture you can see the half on the left had already been run through the wire wheel, which took all of a minute or so.

Brand, Model and Year!

It was after wire wheeling that I noticed these were Channellocks.  Not only that, they were the most popular model the company made - the 420! Now, I wasn't jumping up and down in celebration or anything, but I certainly felt a little sense of joy at finding such a classic! 

Here's a vintage ad for the 420s:

As always, I did a little research on these pliers and, based on the trademark and other stampings on the pliers, as described by the Alloy Artifacts website, I was able to determine these were likely made in 1963 (an auspicious year!).  If you're interested in vintage tool histories, look this site up, it's a treasure trove!  I didn't include a link because the site isn't "secure" but it's a pretty reputable site.  

Rothman gave me another sharp look, and then he looked down at his desk. 'Lou' he said softly, 'do you know how many days a year an ironworker works? Do you know what his life expectancy is? Did you ever see an old ironworker? Did you ever stop to figure that there's all kinds of dying, but only one way of being dead? ― Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me


At the same time as the joy I felt on my discovery, there was this sudden flashback to my childhood. Dad often referred to his Channellocks and back then I never really appreciated the concept, and how hand such an adjustable tool could be.  The finny thing is, the single clear memory I have of Dad's pliers was actually a painful moment.  We were ("we"...ha ha ha) were putting in new pipes in the kitchen at 812, and had to do some soldering.  In those days I was a tool monkey and a clamp on legs.  In other words I chased after whatever tool dad needed, or held things in place, in this case - a copper pipe.  See the tall cabinet in this picture?  That would become a pantry, but it also hid some of the pipes that went up to the bathroom.  

Anyway, it was here, with four arms squeezed into this space that, if my hazy memory is correct, I was using dad's Channellocks to hold the pipe while he soldered above.  Suddenly, and I can see this in slow motion like on Monday Night Football,  that the iron smelter belched its molten steel onto my thumb (well, a drop of solder anyway).  Yeah, I was a bit dramatic when I was a kid.  Hey - I still have the scar! 

Back Together and Comparison

I decided not to clean up this pair of pliers to like-new condition.  I know it sounds weird, but I just thought leaving some wear on them was just a bit more thoughtful of the guy that had these pliers before me.   Before I put them back together I used my thread pitch finder to identify the die needed, then ran the die over the bolt just to clean up the threads a bit.

Then, after a bit of cleanup I put them back together and, just like when I took the pliers apart, reassembly was easy.  It was right about that time I thought about my Channellocks that I've had for a couple years...

Turns out my newer pair are no. 420s also.  Side-by-side you can really tell the design is almost identical.  At some point (clearly after 1963) Channellock started putting blue handgrips on their pliers.  Turns out, in 1988 they trademarked the color as  "Channellock Blue", which seems to have been a new concept in trademark protection at the time.  Of course, now every tool maker has their own distinctive color.

However, there is one significant difference between the old pliers and the new.  Take a quick glance at this picture - can you figure it out?

Once they were put together, it was time for a couple coats of paste wax to help slow the aging process - for the pliers.  

Not Quite Done Yet

At this point I was all set.  The 420s were stowed above the bench and it was time to move on.  But then I saw this guy called 357 Mag Dad on YouTube raving about a metal polisher called Flitz.  So I ordered some to try it out.  I agree with Mag Dad, it's a nice product but I'm not sure it's much different than other polishes.  

That said, Flitz did bring the 420s to a pretty nice shine. In this next picture, you can see a nice mirror finish while at the same time you can see the remainders of "patina stain."

Okay, I'm Done

This was another fun little project to help me keep my sanity.  I think I mentioned recently that work is starting to get better so I've been able to get started on a couple house projects.  Updates will be posted on those at some point!  But I do want to say - these Channellocks have already become my favorite pliers.  I love the feel and balance, and they just fit right.  Not bad for a buck 50!

Thanks for stopping by!
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