…For this week’s challenge, we want you to snap a photo of something that is iconic to you.
—The Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge: Iconic
I have had the pleasure of working on two of San Francisco’s iconic structures, The Transamerica Pyramid and the Golden Gate Bridge. My Iconic Symbol, however, is neither one of these structures— it is my pair of 9 inch Klein Non-insulated High-leverage Side-cutting pliers.
I have used Klein pliers almost every day for 45 years; They are the standard tool for electricians everywhere.
“Hand me your Kleins”. “Get the Kleins out of my bag”.
When a wireman (electrician) says the word, Kleins, everyone within ear-shot knows exactly what he is talking about.
A Short History of Klein Tools
M athias Klein, a Blacksmith by trade, emigrated from Germany to Chicago and in 1857 set up shop in the downtown business district. The Communications Industry was just starting and, at best, was just a collection of bare wires strung on telegraph poles.
A telegraph lineman came into the shop one day with a pair of side-cutting pliers that had one side broken in two. He asked Mr. Klein if he could repair the tool. Mathias Klein forged a new half for the tool, riveted it to the old half and sent him on his way.
It wasn’t long before the lineman came back — the other original half of the tool had broken. Mr. Klein forged the second half of the pliers and the first complete set of Klein Pliers was born.
During the rest of the 19th Century, the demand for durable hand tools for professional tradesmen was fueled by the Telegraph, Telephone, Electric light and Railroad industries. Mathias Klein met the challenges and his forge shop grew into a full-sized business with a respected line of hand tools that were sold world-wide.
From this humble beginning Klein Tools has expanded and …today the Klein brand is the #1 preferred hand tool in the electrical industry, as well as one of the leading brands used in the maintenance, construction, and industrial trades. Loyalty to Klein Tools is strong due to Klein Tools’ commitment to professional tradesmen; professionals feel the difference every day. —Klein Tools History
W hen I started working in the Electrical Trade as an apprentice I had to learn not only how to work with pliers, but also how to break them in and then maintain them. Pliers fresh from the factory have a lot of fine residual metal particles and grinding compound lodged in the Joint rivet (the part that stabilizes the moveable half of the pliers) and between the two halves of the pliers themselves.
Opening and closing new pliers is a two-handed operation and requires the application of a lubricant to loosen up the grunge and expel it from between the two surfaces of the tool as the pliers are repeatedly opened and closed. Every electrician that I have worked with has his own method of breaking in his Kliens. Some methods are more retarded than others, but that is just a personal observation.
I have seen guys use Brake Fluid, 3-in-1 oil, motor oil, WD-40, CRC, Zep-45, Liquid Wrench, Marvel Mystery Oil, pure Silicone spray, and just about any other petrochemical compound that you can think of. My own break-in procedure is using WD-40 and lots of elbow grease — opening and closing the pliers with two hands, while stopping to lubricate and wipe up excess oil. This procedure has worked for me over the years as my inventory of Klein pliers has increased (you can’t live with just one pair).
My typical break-in period starts with 8—10 minutes the first day and then 3—5 minutes per day for a week. By that point the daily use, combined with the daily break-in procedures, yields a comfortable pair of working pliers that will get even better over time. Think about how comfortable your Levis feel after repeated laundering and “breaking-in”. A pair of Kliens become a powerful extension of your hand, with a natural heft and feel that is uniquely identifiable to the owner.
I can tell when my Kleins are broken-in when I can hold them vertically by one handle, shake them back and forth and see/hear the two halves hit each other as the handles move open/closed.
It is a beautiful thing when a pair of Kleins are broken-in and ready for service. The company’s tagline, “Professionals feel the difference every day”, could not be more spot-on. I have, at times, used other brands of pliers. Proto, Crescent, Ideal and Craftsman brand pliers do not have the fit that I have come to expect. The curve and shape of their handles are not as comfortable in the palm of my hand. Day in and day out, comfort is what wireman expect of their tools. To put up with any less is not acceptable.
My Very Favorite Pliers
N ow that I have expressed my appreciation for Klein pliers I would like to tell you about my very favorite pair of pliers. When our Determined One (DO) got married and rented a house I did what many dads do, I went through my toolboxes at home and came up with a ‘starter’ set of tools that most home dwellers need.
The DO was, by then, a fully accredited Goldsmith and on his way to specializing in Platinum casting and fabrication. As his skill-set increased, so did his mother’s jewelry collection — all custom work by our son.
Among the tools I gave him was my very first pair of Kleins and, after being inspired by Mathias Klein, my son fabricated a pair of fully-functioning miniature pliers out of Sterling Silver for my birthday.
As much as I love my Kleins, I love this pair even more.
Thank you, Son.
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