The Speedy Basin Wrench Resto

From the Chicago Specialty Mfg Co

Two of the earliest "projects" I did here at 173 was replacing the kitchen sink faucet, and the bathroom sink altogether - faucet and all.  As a matter of fact, I just replaced the bathroom sink faucet earlier this month - and that's what brought the Speedy Basin Wrench to my recent attention.  

The What?

I remember struggling mightily to remove the old faucets from the water supply lines on those two early projects.  It wasn't that the pipes were so old they were stuck (although that's true too), it's more that I just didn't have many tools back then and had to reach into tight spots with tools too large for the opening.   That's where the basin wrench comes in.  What's that you ask?  From Wikipedia's explanation:  A basin wrench consists of a long shaft with a pair of jaws at one end and a handle at the other end. The two jaws form an assembly that automatically closes and grips the fastener.  Additionally, the jaw assembly is able to flip over the shaft so the jaws work for both tightening and loosening.  The tool is specifically made for tight spaces, particularly in plumbing.    

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water. - John W. Gardner

Chicago Specialty Manufacturing Co.

I've never heard of Chicago Specialty.  Of all the tools I've ever had, and the tools dad has ever had, I've never once heard the name.  They're hard to find on the web, but I was able to sort out that they specialized in plumbing tools.  

They had facilities in Skokie, Illinois, Sun Valley, California and Brantford, Ontario.  The company was sold off (to a food company of all things) and eventually disappeared sometime between 1987 and 1992, after the last of their 1950s trademarks expired.


Here's the best part of this cost me absolutely nothing.  Nada. Zero. Zilch.  The worst part is..I have no idea where it came from, hopefully it's not because I've been around so long that I've just forgotten.  The two theories that bounce around in my head is that I found it in some dark and rainy parking lot (had to add a little drama there, which is certainly erased by explaining that!), or it was inherited from the Moshers.  Either way - I didn't buy it!  And - check out what I found on the internet...


The great thing about that Ebay picture is that it confirmed my suspicion that the tool was originally painted red.  And, if you look closely, this picture shows flecks of red still clinging to the wrench...

Of course this fits right in with my plan for it - paint it red!  Here's the wrench after wire brushing on the bench grinder...

The only problem with the wrench was the handle was missing.  Initially, my plan was to just slap an appropriately sized bolt on the bottom...

But I thought that solution was just a little too...something...lazy maybe?  So I went to Lowes and picked up a steel rod and a couple of rounded nuts and thought that would look nice.

But I wasn't able to cut some threads on the steel.  As a matter of fact, I've almost never been successful using my tap and die set.  I need to watch a video for some tips on this!

After way more time than it was worth, I finally settled on just using a couple standard nuts and peened over the ends of the handle.  I think it'll work just fine.


That gives you a glimpse of the final product.  I think we all knew from the very beginning this wrench would end up red.  The fact that it was originally red just gave me permission (as if I needed permission!).  

After a little more prep and a quick spray of primer, on went the Krylon Cherry Red.  The only thing I did differently than the original was to leave a little steel gleaming at both ends.  And, after a couple coats of Carnauba wax (gotta love the smell of this stuff!)...

Here she is!

I like the shiny steel at the ends, I think it gives the wrench a little visual interest!

Natural Habitat

As is my wont, here's a shot of the Speedy Basin Wrench in the wild...

Thanks so much for stopping by - enjoy this fall season, my favorite!
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