Lock Jaw
a new locking pliers

I   
am always on the lookout for new tools. This is one that I saw in Home Depot two weeks ago. It is sufficiently "awesome" that I just had to buy it even though I don't need it (don't do much with tools - no garage). It cost $20 for the two plier set ... one would have been enough for me but they don't sell separately - yet.

lockjaw.jpg - 16kb The thing about these pliers is that they automatically lock on anything within the range of their jaws. Put it on a a 1/4", 3/4" nut or a 1" pipe and squeeze and it locks like a regular vice grip without requiring any adjustment for size. The only adjustment for this pliers is a small set screw to adjust tightness of lock, i.e. if you want it to lock softly all the time or very hard all the time ... for instance, if you lock on metal you might want to lock it down harder than for holding together two pieces of glued wood which a hard lockdown would damage. I set one in the store for the lightest pressure and proceeded to lock it on everything in sight ... including my finger which I gave up on because it hurt too much even at low setting ... after all, it IS a tool and not a bandaid. It's a fun tool because it does what you'd expect a modern tool to do ... effortless use, or as near to it as you can get.

It works with a spring surrounding a rail that allows the slip mechanism to run down the rail until the cam-part from the other side goes through enough angle to engage the cam on the rail and lock down. The set screw is on the cam so it can be preset to engage the rail at greater angles ... then, when you apply greater force without the cam sliding anymore ... it locks in standard vice grip fashion. Click, you're locked. This is a very simple mechanism and also appears to be extremely robust. It ain't gonna' break very easy. The release mechanism is a push "down" type instead of the ViceGrip pull "up" type. I prefer the down style.

Only thing I think it needs is a better shaped handle and some rubber coating for sure grip. Otherwise ... hmmmmm ... I wish they would make these things in very small sizes ... like 3". I once had a 3" ViseGrip (yes, they once made one back in the 80's) and they made a 4 incher too. But now the smallest you can get is a 5 inch. That 3" ViceGrip was worth it's weight in gold. You could bash it with a hammer and not hurt it, yet it was very light to carry in a small pack I made for odd jobs.

This is the next advance in vicegrip design. I find it amusing that ViceGrip (the business that developed the original tool) sat on their design for some 40 years without making this simple improvement. Well, they got what they deserved.

If you snooze, you looze.
ViceGrip will gradually be put out of business by LockJaw if they have a solid patent on this thing.

Do Engineers Suck?

Although I have great admiration for the output of engineering shown here, I have to ask the simple question ... Why now? why did it take 40 years to make this improvement? Why was this tool not available, say, 80 years ago? It is entirely a geometric design (no new materials were required that were unavailable 100 years ago). Why the lag in development? Of course, you might rightly ask, "Why didn't you develop the idea, smart ass?". And you'd be right to ask the question.

The answer is that I wasn't working on it ... full time ... for one hundred years or even two hundred years. There are people employed full time by Craftsman and a host of other companies ... just to devise new tools ... because they sell more product for the company. What do these engineers do for 100 or 200 years ... sit on their hands? In all of the world ... is it possible that there was not a single designer thinking this thought for centuries ... "Wouldn't it be cool if you didn't have to adjust the tool's span before and sometimes re-adjust after you gripped the object piece?". Come on people, this is not rocket science. It's just one tool with just one more idea tacked on.

And this brings us to the Irwin (owns ViceGrip) Quick Grip. This is a clamp where you just slide the locking piece into position on the object to be clamped and then ... work the pistol grip squeezing the grip till it won't ratchet closer and the object is locked tight. This was the beginning (about ten years ago) of the general idea of "no adjustment per workpiece". There are several tools out there like Robopliers from Craftsman that go in this direction ... automatic self-adjustment.

So, the issue devolves to ... Why did it take two hundred years to get to the automatic self-adjustment concept?

And the answer is ... as always ... The simplest ideas take the longest time to be found because they require "induction" while the incredible complexity that may follow only requires "deduction".

Here are some examles

  • Evolution - here we have the simplest cells taking a billion years to develop ... then, multicellular globs of living matter ... then all of a sudden there are zillions of creatures crawling around in a relatively short span of time. It's the complexity that's the easy part. The hard part is getting the idea of "multicellular and it's concomitant - division of labor among the parts". (So much for Intelligent Design)
  • Mathematics - thousands of years to learn how to add and subtract ... then a couple centuries to get to from Cartesian coordinates to tensor calculus.
  • Transportation - thousands of years to go from horse to car ... then 70 years to go from car to moon landing.
You get the picture. Making the LockJaw was dependent on inducing the idea "self-adjustment". Now, in the coming decades, expect to see everything that can be self-adjusting become self-adjusting. Feedback ... if they would just apply that to government as I've specified. ;o)

Other recent tools

Stanley has a ratchet wrench where you twist the handle either way and it turns the object nut ... in the same direction. It works like a regular ratchet wrench otherwise. So, in a tight space you can put the nut on with a fair degree of tightness without moving the handle through any angle at all. It's way cool. I don't need one but I bought one anyway and gave it to my stepson for X-mas last year. Found at WalMart (but only now and then). It's not a regular item unfortunately ... and it costs a hefty $25.

There was a box cutter (I call 'em airline tickets after 9/11) a few years ago that operated like a switch blade and you could change the blades on the fly by pushing a single button and sliding it out. Too cool to pass up ... another X-mas present!

In general, there seems to be something cool about once per year in hardware. At least cool enough to impress me and I'm not easy to impress. I have to see new "ideas" at work to be truly impressed.



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