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A wrench

A Wrench by Any Other Name

Most people think the word plumber is derived from the fact that plumbers “plumb” the depths of the land in order to get fresh water and rid ourselves of our waste. Not true. The word plumber comes from the Latin word for lead. The ancient Romans used lead to make piping and small aqueduct like structures to convey drinking water and waste to and from their dwellings. Many historians think that this  use of lead contributed to their down fall because it made them crazy. I do not think, however, that removing lead from Caligula’s diet would have made him any less terrifying. Or Nero, or any of the other bad Roman emperors. They were just mean bastards. The good Roman emperors, and there were a few, drank from the same places.

The toilet was invented by a man named Thomas Crapper. There is the same discrepancy in this fact that there is regarding Thomas Edison inventing things, Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone, Tesla and others. The term crapper is used today to describe a toilet so I guess he wins.

The pipe wrench used today’s proper name is the Stilson wrench. Where I learned the trade in Connecticut, beginning with my father, Lou, aka. Louie the Fox, that is what the wrench was called. He would bark, ” go out and get the 18 inch Stilson.”!!!

When I moved to Nevada and was working at the trade, I soon learned that not one guy I worked with was ever taught the tools proper name. I would bark,” Go out and get the 18 inch Stilson”.!!! I had to say pipe wrench.

The Stilson wrench was invented out of necessity because the first pipe wrenches were just a straight rod with a circular end with teeth inside of it. It had to be completely removed and then repositioned to get a new grip on the pipe.Very cumbersome and time consuming. Mr. Stilson thought up to self adjusting jaws which allowed the worker to keep the tool on the pipe until the joint was tight.

I had a foreman who thought I was full of hot air when I told him this info. I bet him lunch and then went home and Googled  “pipe wrench”  The rest is plumbing history.

Pipe wrenches used to be made of steel but then they began making them out of an aluminum like material, just as strong but much lighter. You had to be a man to use a 4 foot ,steel,  Stilson all day, believe that.

Louie the Fox and my brother and I used the steel version of the tool. I cannot say from personal experience but it was pretty much common knowledge that taking a punch from a pipe fitter was not a pleasant experience. My sprinkler fitter  nephew, Louie, named after his grandfather, The Fox,  can knock out a cow.

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