History of Lock Pulling Tools

Here is a great article by Nate Jamison from Midwest Firefighter about the history of lock pulling tools.  There are a few variations of these stories out there and I'm sure each has its own unique blend of history, urban legend, and firehouse rumor.  Thanks for letting us share your work Nate.

Sunila Tool

Invented by Captain Kauko E. Sunila (FDNY Engine 84) who is also accredited as the first person to start pulling lock cylinders to go through-the-lock. This tool started out as a modified pinch bar purchased at a local hardware store. The hook end was somewhat flattened and it’s claw end was sharpened.  It was later manufactured by Bridgeport Tool Company (Bridgeport was stamped on the shaft). It was officially introduced as a cylinder lock puller in the  “Autumn” 1961 WNYF.

Additional Information; Brotherhood Instructors Post: Through the Lock- The Sunillla Tool

Officer’s Tool (A/O Tool)

Taking this “A” style teeth and applying it to other fire service tools original inventor was Captain Bob Farrell (FDNY Ladder 31). As a firefighter and friend of Sunila (Sunila Tool) and McLaughlin (K Tool), Bob took his Ladder company’s FDNY owned Halligan and cut an “A” tool into the adz. His Captain was not impressed with this modification. Since the bar was FDNY property and not the company’s the Captain required him to replace the bar at his own expense. Bob traveled to Chief Hugh Halligan’s home in the Bronx where he sold him the bar at a discounted rate. Bob returned to his Captain with the new bar. Bob asked that since he replaced the bar with the new one, he’d like the one he cut the “A” tool into. The Captain simply told him “NO” and placed the new bar along side of the old one.

Now there are numerous “A” style tools on the market. They came after the K-Tool but the idea did not. No matter what tools they are machined into, they work basically the same. Here are some examples;

(Office’s Tool/A-Tool Kit)

(Mini Pro-Bar/Lil Pro Bar)

Bob Farrell, now owner of Fire Hooks Unlimited, Captain Farrell’s tenure at 82/31 was considered the “The War Years” (60’s-70’s) and was arguably the busiest firehouse in the world. In 1966 Captain Farrell was awarded FDNY’s highest medal for bravery – the James Gordon Bennett medal. Throughout his career, Bobs regard for his men’s safety carried over into the private sector designing and manufacturing fire hooks and fire tools. For nearly three decades, Bob has set the standard for excellence throughout the US in producing high quality products including the Pro-Bar, NY Roof Hook and Hydra Ram.

(Farrell giving out the “Silver Bullet” award in the 1972 documentary, Man Alive: The Bronx is Burning)

(Farrell resetting an alarm box in the 1972 documentary, Man Alive: The Bronx is Burning)

(Farrell swinging away in the 1972 documentary, Man Alive: The Bronx is Burning)

K-Tool

The K-Tool (and its associated parts) was the first tool available to firefighters that was commercially machined to pull lock cylinders. Invented and patented by Lieutenant William McLaughlin (FDNY). McLaughlin was also a registered locksmith and a mathematical  genius. His first K-Tool was made from a block of heavy duty steel.

Bill McLaughlin worked in the South Bronx in 19 Truck. He became the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st Fire Commissioner in the FDNY.

Another version of the K-Tool was made available by Ziamatic. This version was noticeable by the shape of the K. One side of the K was a little bigger than the other. They were sued and lost because of the patent on the original K-Tool.

McLaughlin is retired and living in Florida. Fire Hooks Unlimited still sells his tools. The K-Tool comes in a leather pouch with the 5/32” square key (used for the Horizontal Double Brace/Double Bar, Fox Lock), key tool, and shove knife.The K-Tool is currently the most popular lock puller sold today.

Note: William McLaughlin was a co-inventor of the Pro-Bar in the 1960′s.

R-Tool

The R-Tool was designed years later to pull all types of lock cylinders too large of the K-Tool unit, such as locks that extend out from the door and 1-inch round are easily pulled with the R-Tool.

Rex Tool

(Captain Robert Morris)

Captain Robert “Rex” Morris of Res1cue, FDNY is accredited with the invention of this U-shaped lock puller. He came to Bob Farrell (Fire Hooks Unlimited) in the 1990‘s with a version and after making some modifications it was named the Rex tool. The name Rex is of Latin origin and means King.

This king of lock pullers with the U shaped teeth and head style can pull all of the locks that the K-Tool, R-Tool, and A Tool can pull, combined.

The Rex tool comes with a 5/32” square key (used for the Horizontal Double Brace/Double Bar, Fox Lock), Shove Knife, and a Kerry Key. The Kerry key is a smaller version of the Key tool and is named after Bob Farrell’s daughter.

(Captain Morris’s Rex Tool, Andy Fredericks Training Days 2011)

 

Morris Tool (Lil Rex)

(Andrew Brassard)

Firefighter Andrew Brassard of Milton, Canada Fire Department (Co-owner of Brotherhood Instructors, LLC) was trying to think of a better way to make sure that he always had a through the lock tool with him when they ran short on the truck. The idea struck him one night to cross the K tool with the Rex tool.

The one problem with the Rex Tool was that on very short staffed departments (much like his own department) there simply are not enough hands to carry the Rex Tool. This would leave the tool on the truck a lot of the time while the firefighter (or firefighters… if they were lucky) assigned forcible entry would typically carry the irons and a saw.

So Brassard went to their fire hall and cut the handle off a standard Rex Tool and welded a bracket for the adz of the halligan to fit into (much like the one on the K Tool).

After trying the tool for several months and pulling lots of cylinders, he started to think that he may be on to something. He went to the FDIC and took Captain Robert Morris’s forcible entry class. He was rotating through the different stations of the class when he noticed almost the exact same modification on a Rex Tool on the table. He asked Captain Morris about the tool and he told him that he had been using it for a couple of years. Andrew was beaten by the “King”.

Captain Morris’s Rex Tool modification was slightly different from his own. Instead of making the bracket for the adz he welded a small piece of pipe onto the top of the tool. This would allow the user to put the pike of the halligan through the pipe and pry the cylinder out of the door.

Bob Farrell, Fire Hooks Unlimited sells the “Morris” tool as the Lil-Rex.

(The “Morris” Tool as shown by Andrew Brassard)

(The Lil-Rex by Fire Hooks Unlimited)

2 Comments

  • Ladders says:

    Look at how things have changed. It's quite scary when you can remember when people used to use the old tools of the trade of so to speak.

  • Ladders says:

    I cant believe how quickly things have moved on. Imagine how things will have moved in the next 100 years. wow. Remember cassette tapes… people will be saying.. remember ipads hahaha

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