An Overview of Snap On and Blue Point Wrenches

Snap-on was founded on the socket that “snaps on” but they quickly came into their own with wrenches as well.  The whole story is obscure, but what I do know is this:

Snap-on was rejected in a Saint Louis tool convention by all the major distributors of tools in the 1920s. Distributor sales were the normal method for tool companies. With this channel cut off a reassessment was needed.  Traveling to the garage mechanic and selling direct worked for the first orders, reshaping this method into a larger effort was the obvious solution.

The answer came in two parts. A sales arm for Snap-on existed in several independent traveling sales people. They formed a company called the “Motor Tool Specialty Company”. The early catalogs were printed by the sales arm and feature Snap-on tools sold by the “Motor Tool Specialty Company”. This distinction allowed the sales arm to sell sockets sets and other tools to fill out a full line – a function the distributor would normally perform.

Wrenches and screwdrivers are the tools really most needed to complete the offering. Blue Point Wrench Company seems to have been another shell used to buy and re label products. 

The “Motor Tool Specialty Company” and “Blue Point Wrench Company” brands were never independent functioning companies; they were created in an act of “puffery” to make Snap-on look bigger than it really was and facilitate distribution. 

A lot of speculation surrounds Blue Point. The entire story is not clear, but there are a few details which can be pieced together into a plausible guess. The “Blue Point” mark started out as “Blue Points”. The “S” was dropped in the mid 1920s.  The “Blue” in Blue Points may have been inspired by the blue color resulting from oxidation in the hardening process for steel.  The smaller versions of these wrenches were made by Forged Steel Company of Newport PA. (Defective manufacturing rejects being found in the cement foundations of the company’s loading dock during a remodel) This relationship did not start until the mid 1920s, but the tools appear from an earlier period. They are obviously OEM wrenches. I speculate the earlier tools are from Milwaukee Tool and Forge (MTF). MTF also appears to be the source of socket blanks and early ratchet designs. The Williams Wrench Company may be the OEM for many of the Blue Point wrenches as well. 

Early Blue Point and Blue Points wrenches are confused. Many design and manufacturing variations exist with obvious no pattern or reason. I believe (my speculation) there were several OEM sources that made wrenches to lose specifications confusing to Snap-on and others. The Blue Point Wrench Company gradually enforced design standards for their OEM sources. 

One of the early changes was in the labeling. The earliest wrenches do not carry a size code or a part number. When labeling started the numbers are a set of 2 – 2 digit codes like 1618. These numbers are the size of the wrench in 32nd. So a 1618 is a two headed wrench with one side 16/32 and the other 18/32 or a ½ by 9/16. The head angles, thickness and designs change, so letters are added. For example S = Supreme, B = Brake, LTA = Long Tappet, C=Carburetor etc. 

This unified the OEM products by the 1930s. With the Forged Steel Company (FSC) purchase they capture the manufacture arm. When FSC closed and the operations moved to Mount Carmel Ill, the main wrenches were rebranded Snap-on with no design changes.