Tool enthusiasts: ID this widget!

My local machine shop teacher has this Widget that he has been as yet unable to identify.

More pics here, here, here and here. A little more detail and notes here.

We’d like to know what it’s for, who made it, etc. if at all possible.

He’s written Vise-Grip, who was unable to ID it- they sell grip parts to quite a few secondary manufacturers, who use the locking assembly for any number of gadgets, clamps and pliers doodads.

He’s also sent it to the maker- I don’t know where he found that info, I don’t see a name on it- where a retired engineer looked at it and declared he had no idea what it was.

That’s pretty much all the info I have. I don’t know if it’s related to aviation, or railroading, or the oil field. It could be something a single technician uses, or it could be just one of a series of parts used by a large crew. It could be something for a steam plant or a nuke plant. It could be used in machining, or carpentry, or taxidermy or surgery. It could be for setting an assembly in the first place, or it could be for checking that assembly each shift. I have no idea.

Any and all info greatly appreciated. :smiley:


Sorry to disappoint, but it doesn’t do anything. It was probably made by a couple of apprentices.

The three separate components are all readily recognisable (the vise grips, the guage, and the pipe-wrench), but they’ve obviously been haphazardly put together to look like a real tool.

How can you be so sure? It does look haphazardly put together, but that often means someone put together a tool for his very specific and unusual application.

It seems fairly obvious to me that the tool is used to set something at a specific angle relative to gravity (plumb line). You’d grab one part of the something with this tool, turn the gauge to the desired angle, then rotate the something until the spirit level is horizontal. But I’m afraid I have no idea what the something could be.

It looks like a custom made tool for a specific purpose. My guess, because of the 360 degree guage, it is clamped onto something then turned to a specific setting. Boeing, my employer, has thousands of such tools in their tool catalog.

That’s possible, and you’re not the first to say so.

However, the “pipe wrench” portion you refer to has no teeth- it’s not designed to grasp something like conventional pliers or a pipe wrench.

Also, at the very least, the “lower” jaw- the one with the gauge- is a specifically-forged piece made by Vise-Grip. It’s not a welded piece or custom-machined for shits and giggles, it was forged by the factory.

It’s possible the dial was added later as a joke/gag, but at the very least the Vise-Grip and it’s lower jaw WERE indeed meant for some purpose (other than as a normal locking plier.)

And, even if it is the case the things a gag tool, that dial wasn’t made just as a joke- what did it come off of?

Ah. My thinking was based on the lack of a second jaw.

On closer inspection, the piece of spring steel on the back of the guage is the second jaw.

A 1920’s style vise-grips?


Have you considered that it might be just a gauge? Imagine working in a very tight spot where one needs both hands; this tool could clamp onto something non-functional in the work area relatively easily. It looks like (and stop me if I’m wrong) the levelling gauge can be rotated. By clamping the tool down with the nut slightly loosened, you could then get a good visual reference for how far off level something was without having to reach in with a bubble level every five seconds.

That’s my WAG and I’m sticking to it for at least another minute or two.

I once knew a guy who sold and installed sattelite TV antenna systems. He had to get the dish pointed in just the right direction, at just the right angle off plumb. He eventually found just the right tool at Sears, but this widget could have been made to solve the same problem.

OK Doc, i may not have the answer, but could possibly give you a use (however limited) for such a tool. However, i am making a leap of faith in supposing that the scribe mark on the inside rim of the guage corresponds with the ‘finger’ on the back side of said guage.

To wit: Suppose that you had to cut 2 keyways in a shaft exactly on the same centerline. Cut 1 keyway, clamp the unit onto the end of the shaft with the ‘finger’ laying in the keyway, set zero on the dial to the scribe mark, rotate shaft until level, cut opposite keyway. Similarly, you could cut a keyway at any angle that you desire by the same method.

Actually, i could see you using this as an ‘indexing tool’ that would allow you to cut accurate splines, or even ‘geometric’ shaft ends (hex, octagonal, etc.) very accurately with say, a shaper or bridgeport milling machine, provided that the shaft was not of too great a diameter.

You did say machine shop didn’t you?

While I have never seen one quite like this, it looks like it could be used for checking aircraft propeller pitch or control surface travel.

Does the dial rotate?

Yes, the dial rotates, but it’s not “free swinging”. You have to twist it manually for whatever nefarious purpose it’s for.

octothorpe, that’s actually one of the more plausible explanations I’ve heard so far. At least insofar as the thing locks to a shaft with a keyway.

Having the wheel degreed with full resolution kind of obviates it as just indexing the keyways though- two keys is rare, and even 36 splines is about the finest you’ll see.

Also, it doesn’t seem as though the jaws would fit all that large a shaft, though it can probably do up to about 1", and the angle/curve of the jaws does seem that it’d keep the shaft pretty well centered to the key.

As for it being a machine shop tool, no one knows. My machine shop instructor has it, but in this area, it could be from a oil refinery, fertilizer plant, machine shop, aircraft shop, heavy boatworks, engine/diesel shop, you name it. Like I said, it could be used in anything from surgery to taxidermy