MYNORTHWEST HISTORY

Tool duel: Big wrenches come out of the woodwork

Aug 28, 2023, 11:25 AM

wrenches tool...

Michael Krasik found three giant wrenches 50 years ago and had them sandblasted and chromed; note ballpoint pen at left for size comparison. (Courtesy Michael Krasik)

(Courtesy Michael Krasik)

When KIRO Newsradio revealed the backstory of Vallantine Motor Works’ giant red rooftop wrench last week, the news (news? sure!) got the attention of a Seattle man in possession of a similar jumbo item with a very different pedigree.

“The big wrench piece was lovely,” Michael Krasik, a 75-year-old inventor, wrote in an email. “But I once made a couple of really big wrenches that have been conversation pieces in a Portland bike shop and my Seattle home for about 50 years.”

More from Feliks Banel: Reviving Lake Washington’s phantom shoreline

Just how big and how heavy are these escapees from some giant toolbox somewhere?

“My big wrench is 36 inches long and was a real construction tool in its day (with 3-inch and 3.5-inch jaw openings),” Krasik wrote. “It is a heavy piece of metal at 34 pounds (just weighed it for the first time ever).”

How did Krasik come by his contribution to what’s suddenly a growing pantheon of oversized spanners?

“This is one of three identical pieces I found (to my delight) and bought 50 years ago from a Portland scrap yard,” Krasik continued. “They were totally/completely rusted, so I had them sandblasted and chromed to look like my other Craftsman wrenches, and they came out looking great.”

“One of the wrenches was on display for [years] in the window of the Northwest Bicycles store in Portland,” Krasik wrote, though the shop ultimately changed hands and the wrench went into storage. The third wrench is now in Salem, Ore., at the home of Krasik’s brother.

“My kids grew up with this fun piece, and its name has always been ‘big wrench,’” Krasik continued. “[It] always gets a surprise look from our houseguests.”

“They naturally try to pick it up (thinking it’s not real) and generally it won’t budge,” he said.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea, please email Feliks here.

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Tool duel: Big wrenches come out of the woodwork