It's no surprise that lots of popular product brands are subsumed under larger corporate umbrellas that operate in the background, largely unseen and unknown by consumers. The woodworking and DIY tool industry is no exception. But the next time you adjust the Jacobs® Chuck on your drill or drill press, or take out your Allen® hex key wrenches, you may appreciate knowing who makes these quality tools we use and trust.
Four years ago this month, Apex Tool Group was formed by joining two top tool manufacturers: Danaher Tool Group and Cooper Hand Tools. The merger into Apex, which is headquartered in Sparks, Maryland, has brought together 36 brands of tools and enables Apex to service the industrial, vehicle service and assembly, aerospace, electronics, construction and serious DIY tool markets. The company has operations in some 30 countries with 25 manufacturing plants in North and South America, Europe, Australia and Asia.
If you use a Lufkin® Tape to step off a sheet of plywood, that’s an Apex tool. So are Weller® soldering irons, Nicholson® files, Delta® truck boxes, Jobox storage chests and many others. Do you use a Wiss® aviation snips now and again? Apex Tool Group owns that brand, too.
"The legacy Danaher brands were focused on mechanics and industrial tools, while the Cooper brands were focused on construction and trades," says Tobias Bridges, Apex Tool Group's product manager. "This provided Apex with an opportunity to cross these brands into all channels, expanding our reach of customers and users globally."
And who doesn't have a Crescent® adjustable wrench in the toolbox -- or at least a competitor's facsimile of the original adjustable wrench that Crescent Tool Company introduced in the early 1900s? Those wrenches, and other Crescent premium wrenches, are an Apex brand that's still made in the United States, Bridges says. But Crescent's offerings have expanded into other hand tools as well, for cutting, fastening, demolition and clamping.
In fact, last January, Crescent launched a new series of quick-grip style hand clamps that should be useful for woodworkers, DIYers and jobsite folks. The system is called Connect™, and it enables you to attach two 6- or 12-in. capacity clamps together using a unique Twin Lock accessory that joins the clamps by their bars. What's the virtue here? Well, one clamp can be attached to a workbench or other surface for support, and the other clamp grips the workpiece. The two clamps working together become a portable vise. Twin Lock also lets you rotate multiple clamps around one another while they remain connected, so you can achieve almost any clamping position with them.
"The inspiration for these clamps was the concept of a 'third hand,’" Bridges says. "When holding things together, it's always helpful to have another person assist in positioning objects while gluing parts or applying holding pressure."
Aside from the aspect of connecting them together, Bridges reports that the clamps offer sustained clamping force of up to 500 lbs., which is as much as 60 percent more clamping force than supplied by other comparable quick clamps.
The jaws of Connect Clamps also have a couple of other unique features. For one, you can detach the fixed jaw by unlocking a bar lock lever, move it to the opposite end of the bar and flip the jaw around so the clamp switches from clamping mode to a spreader function. That should be useful for applying opposing clamping force, such as you'd need for breaking the joints of a chair spreader in order to re-glue it. The fixed jaw also has a stepped-tooth inner edge. By removing the jaw's rubber pad, the stepped surface can help you gain purchase on pipes or other cylindrical objects up to 1-1/4-in. in diameter. It's a task that's difficult to do with most hand clamps.
Bridges says product development on the new Connect Clamps began more than a year ago when the company observed end users needing to support materials on jobsites where there were no traditional workstations or benches. Once prototypes were available, Apex shared them with focus groups of end users that included cabinet builders and woodworkers, framers and finish carpenters, plumbers and those from many other trades. "Their feedback helped Apex identify modifications to the design and develop new feature opportunities that we had not thought of before."
But, creating innovative new tool solutions like Crescent Connect is Apex's bread and butter. "We use tools and we live tools!" Bridges says. "We love those 'Aha!' moments when we get with our end users during the product development stages, knowing that they have a problem and we can work together to create the solution for them."
You can learn more about the Crescent Connect Modular Clamp System and watch a demonstration video by clicking here. They're available for purchase online and at major hardware and home improvement retailers nationwide.
To learn more about the Apex Tool Group and its family of tool brands, click here.