Wards Linesman Pliers Refurb

Wards Master Quality Pliers

1920S TO EARLY 1940S

I really didn't need another pair of Linesman pliers, this makes three.  But, as you can probably already guess, a few weeks ago I made another trip to my favorite used tool store creatively named The Tool Box.  Bet you know what's coming!

I was really there for the nut drivers I recently cleaned up, and I came across this pair of pliers.  Mind you, had they not been from Wards, I probably wouldn't have taken them.  Probably.  

My Love for The Retail Giants

I say "probably" because there's a couple factors working against me, factors that made it almost impossible for me to pass them up.  First, I've had an affinity for linesman pliers ever since I worked for an electrician a thousand years ago.  Next - ever since I was a kid fingering through the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, admiring the BB guns, baseball gloves, toys, and just about anything you could think of, I've loved those two stores (and let's not forget JC Penney).  

And Christmastime - oh Christmastime!  Leading up to Christmas in the '70s I think I spent hours laying on the living room floor, or on my bed poring over those catalogs.  It was a kaleidoscope of greed and coveting, but at the same time, it was a world of fantasy, dreams of things we could do and maybe one day - be.   

These were halcyon days indeed, rife with memories as vivid as the smell of the leather on my ball glove and the grass in the yard!  And of course, these days of yearning in the catalogs lead to...

On top of that, dad, like most of the men I knew back then, and men for decades before, loved Craftsman tools, and Wards tools were their direct competitor.  I have this nostalgic love of those old stores so of course I grabbed these Wards pliers - I had no other choice!

Montgomery Ward - Master Quality

Wards Master Quality was a brand used by Montgomery Ward & Co., a mail order company out of Chicago, and a direct competitor to Sears.  Although Wards were in business from 1872 through 1997 the Wards Master Quality brand was probably only used between the 1920s and the early 1940 when it was discontinued because of the cut-backs that arose from WWII.  At some point, Wards tool line became Lakeside, as I talked about with my tin snips post.  

Mind you, like Sears and Craftsman, Montgomery Ward didn't actually make tools themselves but contracted for all kinds of goods, including tools, manufactured for them with their own brand on them. Finally, something I learned while researching for this post, Montgomery Ward tools had three levels of quality:
  • Eclipse Quality-Good
  • Lakeside Quality-Better
  • Master Quality-Best
And, in case you haven't picked up on this - these linesman pliers are top of the line!

Condition and Cleanup

When I picked up these pliers at The Tool Box, they were in excellent condition - aside from the patina and a little surface rust.

The cutters were in perfect shape, but the knurling in the jaws needed to be filed a little.  So, after about 10 minutes with the wire wheel on the bench grinder, these pliers were already looking pretty good!

There was still some minor pitting and staining from the rust, but not enough to worry about.  Besides, there's no intention of making these a show piece!  I also found some guy's mark on one of the handles...

In my sometimes addled mind, I feel that leaving a part of the original owner's mark is a way of  that guy being remembered through future generations - anonymous as he (or she) may be.

It's not the tools that you have faith in - tools are just tools. They work, or they don't work. - Steve Jobs

Sanding and Polishing

The next step was to make these babies shine.  I just used increasing finer grits of sandpaper to shine the pliers - again not worrying too much about the staining or minor pitting.  I think the sanding took no more than a half hour - perfect for puttering in the shop!

After that, about 20 minutes of polishing with some Flitz and my rotary tool and these old pliers were looking, well...less old:

The Grips

In my early 20s I worked for an electrician.  The master electrician was a good guy, he taught me a lot about electricity, wiring and installation.  I made $6 an hour which, at that point in my life, was the best money I had ever made!  It was at this job I got my first pair of Klein linesman pliers.  They were the 9" version and these beautiful ruby/maroon handles.  

If I remember correctly, I paid the boss $3 a week for about 2 months 'til they were paid.  Sadly, I have no idea whatever became of those pliers.  Anyway, back in March when I cleaned up My Linesman Pliers, I discovered these same maroon handles were available from Klein on Amazon.  I've been putting them on other pliers ever since, including these Wards!

Pliers Rack

So here's another fun part - you know how when you're in a project on the house and as you proceed you become aware of another thing that needs doin'?  That happened here.  When I finished these pliers, it dawned on me that I needed to make some changes to the way I store pliers.  I don't like to just store my pliers in tool boxes, so for years I had them on these magnetic strips, and before that on finish nails I put in that huge board above the workbench.

After making the uber-simple rack for the nut drivers, I figured it was time for a rack for the pliers.  While also simple, it is a tad more sophisticated...

Clearly simple.  As is always the case, I studied out various options on how they're built.  At one point I got myself so bound up about it that I decided to use this old towel rack I've had stored for about 20 years.  It wasn't so much the design that was causing this anxiety, it was more about what kind of wood to use, I didn't want this rack to be big and clunky.  Yep - what kind of wood to use.  The things we do to ourselves!  Well, after finishing these Wards pliers I just grabbed a piece of scrap lath and got to cutting.  The single part of the construction that tickles me is the top of the horizontal piece.  I planed that to round over the edge so the pliers would hang a little better.

And here are the Wards linesman pliers in their natural habitat, they're the first ones in the row of ruby/maroon-handled pliers!

Thanks for taking the time to stop by!
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