Author Topic: A Seldom Seen Craftsman Ratchet  (Read 1946 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Jim C.

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 994
A Seldom Seen Craftsman Ratchet
« on: July 03, 2020, 09:38:26 PM »
In 2014, I attended a tool swap meet in Rockford, Illinois.  Like most of those events, I’m usually there for the hand planes, and I did buy one or two.  Nothing remarkable.  At some point near the end of the day, with my cash mostly gone, I stopped by a table where the seller had a little bit of everything to include some old Craftsman branded ratchets, screwdrivers, wrenches, etc., mostly from the =V= era.  It was about that time that I was starting to buy more classic Craftsman =V= era tools.  I had my eye on a mid sixties speeder ratchet sitting in the middle of his table.  (If you followed the Craftsman Teardrop ratchet type study, the speeder I was looking at had the “V” shaped directional lever.  I labeled those with that V directional lever, Type 2.)  So anyway, it was pretty well worn and he wanted fifty bucks for it, and he wasn’t budging on the price. Its condition didn’t warrant the price and I didn’t have fifty bucks left.  I had about thirty.  As I was walking away, he held up this 3/8” flex head ratchet with a directional lever that was on the ratchet upside down.  I stopped and looked at it for about two seconds and concluded (WRONGLY OF COURSE) that it was something a prior owner had created for whatever reason.  I had never seen a Craftsman ratchet that looked like that, so it had to be some kind of after factory, prior owner alteration. Right?  Well, I could have had it for twenty five dollars…….but I passed.  I never even gave it a second thought.

About three years ago, as I had gotten even deeper into Craftsman =V= era tools, I was having a conversation with a hardcore Craftsman collector/seller.  At some point during that conversation the “altered” flex head ratchet I saw in Rockford came up.  I described it to him and went on to say that I wasn’t going to buy something that was altered by a prior owner, consequently ruining its factory authenticity, blah, blah, blah......The guy just looked at me and shook his head in complete and total disgust telling me it was “an early Craftsman flex head” and I should have jumped on it!  He explained a little more about the ratchet and I quickly realized that I made a big mistake!  Well, of course I kicked myself for a long time.  The next time I saw one was about a year ago (So that’s about 5 - 6 years after I saw the first one.) while I was searching eBay for a few ratchets to include in the Teardrop type study.  As I recall, I think Mr. doom was selling one for A LOT more than twenty-five dollars and I think someone bought it.  I guess the point I’m trying to make is that this is not a ratchet one sees very often. 

If you were to search the old Sears catalogs, the 1959 Spring/Summer catalog lists a 3/8” drive flex head ratchet, as pointed out by doom.  I believe it’s the first time Craftsman offered a flex head ratchet.  We know Craftsman also went on to offer ½” drive flex heads as well, however, the 1959 catalog only mentions the 3/8” drive.  Again referring to the Teardrop Type Study, that puts the ratchet depicted below in the Type 1 category.  If you look closely at its directional lever, it looks EXACTLY like the directional lever found on a standard Type 1, 3/8” drive ratchet, except for the fact that its mounted upside down on the flex head.  That was done so the lever would not interfere with the flexible hinge.  (Maybe I should have thought of that in Rockford, instead of declaring the ratchet to be some kind of fake.)  So, while the directional levers are interchangeable, the actual pawls inside the ratchets are not.  Notice the photo below with the flex head on the left and the standard ratchet on the right.  Now notice the configuration of the studs that protrude from the pawls.  They are 180 degrees opposite from each other.  That pawl in the flex head was factory made to accommodate that 3/8” drive universal directional lever while keeping it from impeding the flex hinge.  The flex head pawl HAD to be made that way.

There’s something else to take note of and that’s the main gear.  If you go back to the Teardrop type study, page 9, reply #128, I went into some detail about tooth count numbers that were stamped on various pawls and main gears in a few of the Type 1, 3/8” and ½” examples in my collection.  We know the Type 1, ½” and 3/8” models were first introduced with 40 teeth and 32 teeth respectively.  Those counts were later changed to 32 and 24 respectively.  Now take a look at the photo below that depicts the flex head main gear.  See that “24” stamp on it?  Why was there a reason to stamp that tooth count on the gear? Were there Type 1 era 3/8” flex head ratchets with 32 teeth?  Did the main gear in the flex head shown below come from a repair kit where there was a need to distinguish between early production 32 tooth ratchets and later production 24 tooth ratchets?  Remember, the pawl teeth in 32 tooth ratchets were slightly smaller than those found in the 24 tooth ratchets, as detailed in the Teardrop type study, so the stamp would have been necessary for quick identification when compared to a 32 tooth gear.

DadsTools proposed another theory.  His thinking is that if evidence suggests something exists, although you haven’t actually seen it, then it must still exist. It makes good sense.  Based on this theory and the 24 tooth stamp on the gear, there is evidence to suggest that a 32 tooth flex head might have been manufactured as well, but we just haven’t found one yet.  I guess I’m a little more skeptical.  I like to see it before I accept its existence.  Still, it’s certainly not impossible.  What I do know is that there is a Type 1 era 3/8” drive flex head ratchet.  One other point to make, again, relying on some of DadsTools research, is that the Sears catalogs cannot be counted on to provide the most accurate information.  While the first mention of the Craftsman flex head ratchet appears in the 1959 catalog, its very likely that Sears was selling them possibly a year or two earlier.  We saw that specifically with the start dates of the Quick Release Teardrop ratchets and the first RHFT ratchets.  DadsTools makes a strong case showing that those ratchets were in production at least a year or two before they were advertised in any Sears/Craftsman catalog. So who knows?  Maybe a Type 1 era 32 tooth flex head exists.  If you’d like to learn a little bit more about his research, check out the Craftsman RHFT ratchet type study.  It’s a great read!

Based on the extreme rarity of the Type 1 flex head ratchets, it’s easy to not even know of their existence, and conclude that the first Craftsman flex head ratchets started with the V shaped directional lever models, or Type 2 examples. The ratchet depicted below proves that’s not the case.  The last photo in the reply immediately following this post depicts what I believe are the first three 3/8” Craftsman flex head ratchets.  Although I did not address flex head ratchets in the Teardrop Type Study, based on my observations, it appears that Teardrop Type specific flex head ratchets were usually available with similar handle stamps, patent info., etc.  I’m not going to say that EVERY Type covered in the Teardrop study also had similarly stamped/configured flex heads that could be associated with them, however several did, including Type 1.  Maybe Tool Talk member, Todd F., will check in. He has an impressive collection and many of the Type specific flex head ratchets that would fall within the parameters of the Teardrop Type Study. 

Jim C.       
« Last Edit: October 02, 2020, 08:10:01 AM by Jim C. »
Our Go-To Type Study Member

Offline Jim C.

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 994
Re: A Scarcely Seen Craftsman Ratchet
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2020, 09:40:20 PM »
Additional photos:

Notice the “24” stamp on the main gear. 
« Last Edit: July 04, 2020, 07:18:30 AM by Jim C. »
Our Go-To Type Study Member

Offline DadsTools

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 38
Re: A Seldom Seen Craftsman Ratchet
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2020, 04:21:15 PM »
Very interesting find, and a good analysis. As you mentioned, I discovered during my RHFT study that the catalogs cannot be always relied on for manufacturing dates, especially for the starting date of an item. The RHFT's rapid succession of patent dates in such a short span left no gaps open to speculation, and exposed some realities that would have otherwise remained indeterminable. Once one shakes off the almost religious dogma of accepting the catalog like a bible, the mind can be opened to consider the evidence in its own right.

So I can personally bear witness that Sears indeed sold certain tools in its stores prior to their first listings in catalogs. Based on the court records from the Roberts/Sears lawsuit, Sears sold 500,000 quick release teardrop ratchets between June of 1965 and about March of 1966. The QR ratchets didn't even show up in any catalog until the 1966 Sears Spring/Summer edition, and not even in the Craftsman tool catalog until 1967. So how many of those 500,000 were sold just in the stores? A lot.

So there's little doubt in my mind from looking at your artifact and the analysis that this Type 1 FH was indeed being made prior to the first listing of the Type 2 with the butterfly V selector in the 1959 cat. Based on the finding of the QR RHFT and TD ratchets, it may have been offered up to two years in the stores before 1959.

Also, based on all the available photos, it appears to me that the geometry of the selector switch on this T1 FH is specific to this ratchet. It looks a little different to me than it's T1 standard counterparts. I think it's safe to say its original.

As for the time of the tooth count switchover , I should first mention I spent some time as a commercial buyer of several kinds of items including office furniture and PC computer components. It has been my continuous experience that when a product has a noteworthy beneficial feature, the mfr will shout it out--when it doesn't, they'll stay silent. Case in point was the intorduction in PCs to the USB 2.0 standard. With any motherboard having the new spec, the mfr would cite it multiple times in the literature and on the box. If the mb had the old USB 1.1, not a word. This is normal mfr practice for a very long time.

The earliest Sears catalog I have access to is the 1957 tool catalog, which spells out the original 40T/32T tooth count. Then other catalogs (the main and the tools) continue to list the tooth count through Spring of 1958. Then in the Fall of 1958 onward, guess what? No more tooth count listed. I wonder why.....hmmm. I know the games these mfrs play with specs. So I would say that the reduction in tooth count happened sometime in mid-1958.

Which to me, gives us a date for this particular Type 1 3/8" flex head with the 24T count between mid-1958 and the February 1959 Robert Vose/Moore design patent application for the V-selector (issued July 1959).

But wait! One might say that when the FH first appears in the 1959 Spring cat, it's sporting the T1 selector--you can see the flat top of it in the profile image. Same as in the Fall catalog.

Well, this is where the catalogs can lie to you. Mfrs file patents for a reason. They don't send in the app and just sit on it twiddling their thumbs. They are going to start punching that product out as soon as it's registered. That's why you see so many products with PATENT PENDING on them. They don't wait. So we can be confident that as soon as that Feb. 1959 design patent for the V-selector was on file, they started pounding them out like new pennies.  So, even though they're showing you the old T1 selector in the 1959 catalogs, they weren't making them anymore past Feb 1959. The FH photo in the 1959 cats is the Jim's FH from the previous year. It's actually the proof this was being made as early as 1958.

Still have doubts? Take a look at the 1960 Spring cat showing the 'new' V selector. Now take a look at the socket sets on pages 1178 and 1179. The ratchets in the sets are all the old Type 1 selector, not the new V. They're showing you old, re-used images--the ratchets in those images don't even exist anymore. They're still showing these now-extinct Type 1 ratchets in the sets on page 896 of the 1961 Spring cat. So you can't fully trust the images in the catalogs. (all hand-re-drawn photos and old re-used images). They can lie. Sometimes a lot.

I'll put a steak dinner on Jim's TD Type 1 flex-head at mid-1958 to early 1959. As Jim says, this is before the flex-head first showed up in the catalogs. They were no doubt selling it first in the stores. That makes it rare too.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2020, 10:16:29 AM by DadsTools »

Offline Jim C.

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 994
Re: A Seldom Seen Craftsman Ratchet
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2020, 01:45:21 PM »
Hey Dad,

Thanks for a great follow up on the original post.  I’ll admit that I was happy too have had another shot at one of these ratchets.  I still cringe when I think about my first encounter with this particular model. I had no clue as to what I was actually holding in my hand.  No clue.  And then when my friend enlightened me, it really sunk in.... I really screwed up.  He thought I’d be lucky to ever see another one.  Well, in a six year period I’ve seen three.  In a one year period, I’ve seen two.  There’re certainly rare, but not impossible to find.   What I am relatively certain of is that it represents Craftsman’s first flex head ratchet offering.  The directional lever physically looks like the standard TD Type 1, 3/8” drive lever and the stamped tooth count on the main gear is similar to those I’ve seen on other Type 1, 1/2” and 3/8” pawls and gears.  It was an exciting find.  I guess the third time is a charm!

Jim C.
Our Go-To Type Study Member

Offline Todd F.

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 63
Re: A Seldom Seen Craftsman Ratchet
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2020, 07:29:58 PM »
Thanks Jim. What a fantastic find. Once again you have pointed out another gap in my collection. I will have to add the “Type 1, 3/8 Flex Head“ to my wish-list of daily eBay searches right alongside the Type 4 Teardrop. When I read your post, I pulled out my 59 catalog and there it is, plain as day, (with the help of a magnifying glass) the profile of the type 1 lever. Congratulations. At least I can say I never held one in my hand and passed it up.  Southern California is not a great place for tool swap shows. I’m stuck with whatever pops up on eBay.

As far as every Type covered in the Teardrop Study having a Flex-Head counterpart, I can verify all except the Type 9b (1/2 and 3/8) and 10b (1/2). The only -VV- Flex-Head I have (or have seen) from the pre-part number change in 1979, is the 3/8” -VV-, no oil-hole 42791. The -VV- forge marking has always been hard to find.  It only shows up once in the pre-1979 RHFT (standard and Flex-Head) and then, only in the 3/8” versions.  (Type 6 in DadsTools, RHFT type study).  The only place a pre-1979, -VV-, 1/2” shows up anywhere is in your Teardrop Study, 9b and 10b. BUT, we all know that just because we’ve never seen one, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Always searching.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2020, 03:55:19 PM by Todd F. »
remember - there's a fine line between collection and obsession

Offline Jim C.

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 994
Re: A Seldom Seen Craftsman Ratchet
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2020, 11:33:40 AM »
Hey Todd,

Thanks for the congrats and for providing a list of Teardrop era flex heads that you’re aware of.  I figured you’d have most of them.  I’m currently re-writing a lot of the Teardrop type study for purposes of getting the Type timelines a little more accurate.  I’m almost done, so stay tuned. 

As for the Type 1 flex head, well I’m not afraid to admit my blunders.  I had the thing in my hand and had no idea what I was holding.  No clue.........  It was dumb luck that I got a chance at another one.  They’re out there!  I’ve seen three for sure since 2014.  The question is whether or not there’s a Type 1, 1/2” drive flex head.  I’m more of a “show me” person.  Seeing is believing.  While I won’t rule out its existence, I’d like to see one before I say for sure. 

I hate to say it, but there’s a lot more holes in my collection than there is in yours, so keep the faith.  At least we know they exist.  If I find another one I’ll let you know.

Jim C.
Our Go-To Type Study Member

Offline Todd F.

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 63
Re: A Seldom Seen Craftsman Ratchet
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2021, 02:29:04 PM »

As far as every Type covered in the Teardrop Study having a Flex-Head counterpart, I can verify all except the Type 9b (1/2 and 3/8) and 10b (1/2).


UPDATE: I have found and purchased a type 9b, 3/8 flex head. So, I can confirm the existence of flex heads for all the ratchets in the "Tear Drop Study" except for 1/2 inch type 9b and 10b. (thru type 13 at least).
Of course just because they have not been seen doesn't mean they don't exist.   

Todd F.
remember - there's a fine line between collection and obsession

Offline Jim C.

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 994
Re: A Seldom Seen Craftsman Ratchet
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2021, 08:55:04 PM »
Pretty cool Todd!  Your collection is almost complete!   If I find anything you’re missing I’ll contact you first.

Jim C.
Our Go-To Type Study Member