Stanley non-sparking beryllium copper tools

Stanley non-sparking beryllium copper tools

Jacob, Walter W

The Stanley Works, in 1936, introduced a new line of non-sparking tools made of an alloy of copper containing 2 to 2 1/2 percent beryllium. Beryllium is an element (atomic element number 4) discovered around 1848. It is found in a series of complex minerals, usually in silicates. Stanley stated in its advertising that the presence of beryllium in this new alloy imparted remarkable qualities in that it could be formed and machined in a soft condition and, after heat treating, resulted in a tough, hard material of high tensile strength, similar to spring-tempered steel.

Most beryllium tools were made from casting and then were heat treated to give them hardness. Stanley’s beryllium copper tools exclusively were wrought from beryllium bars that had been found through laboratory tests and actual experience to have the best physical properties, especially in toughness and tensile strength. The level of quality of this material resulted in a greater manufacturing expense.

Sales literature gave examples of the strength and hardness of Stanley-wrought beryllium copper tools: “A Stanley Beryllium copper cold chisel cut off the heads of 3 1/4 in. steel rivets [with] no damage to [the] edge of [the] chisel; sheared off [a] section of 1/8 in. thick cold-rolled steel 3 in. long [with] no damage to [the] edge of the chisel; using [the] corner of [the] chisel edge [it] scored a groove one in. long in [the] surface of wrought iron pipe … ; using [an] undamaged chisel edge [it was driven] end-wise splitting [the] wall of 1 in. wrought iron pipe down a distance of 1 1/2 in. Pipe wall [was] approximately .140 inch in thickness. No damage [was done] to chisel edge.”^sup 1^

Wrought beryllium copper tools were almost as durable as similarly designed steel tools, but were non-sparking and non-magnetic. Stanley-wrought beryllium copper tools were manufactured for use in industrial plants where flammable liquids or gases were used. A spark from a conventional tool could set off an explosion or fire. Lacquering plants, processors of cellulose nitrate, oil companies, and public utilities are examples of companies where these tools were used.

In May 1936, Stanley issued a twelve-page pocket catalog illustrating their nonsparking tools.2 This catalog described twenty-five wrought beryllium copper tools. A brief description of each tool follows.

The No. B3 ball peen hammer shown in Figure 1 was at the top of the list. This hammer was 24 ounces. and sold for $13.80 in April 1937 (compared to $1.20 for the top of the line drop-forged steel No. 312 ball peen hammer). The cost of the beryllium hammer was eleven and a half times more expensive than a regular forged ball peen hammer. Stanley also made a 32 ounce (2 pounds) ball peen (No. B4) priced at $18.60, which was thirteen and a quarter times costlier than a drop– forged hammer.

Besides the two ball peens, a one pound scaling hammer, No. B7, (Figure 2) or boiler pick, and a ten and a half pound handled sledge (No. B 10) were offered.

A hand cold chisel (No. B 15) with a 7/8-inch bit made out of 3/4-inch octagon beryllium was manufactured. Also produced was a diamond point chisel (No. B 18) with a 1/2-inch point.

Two screwdrivers with green painted rubber handles and standard style blades were offered in 6-inch (No. B30) and 8-inch (No. B31) blade lengths. Figure 3 illustrates a No. B31 standard blade screwdriver with an overall length of 13 inches.

A series of scraper and spatulas were also manufactured. The scrapers included two hand scrapers, three floor scrapers, and a deck scraper. The hand scrapers had s-inch wide blades. One of them had a flexible blade (No. B38) and the other had a stiff blade (No. B39). Both had tropical hardwood handles. The floor scrapers were socket types to be fitted to a wood handle (Nos. B45 & B46) or one with a half inch standard brass pipe handle (No. B43). The No. B45 floor scraper had a square edge 6-inch wide blade (Figure 4) and the No. B46 had a rounded edge 6-inch wide blade for scraping rounded surfaces in tanks and barrels. Floor scraper No. B43 used a 1/2-inch standard brass pipe handle of any length and had a 3 3/4-inch blade width.

A No. B4R deck scraper was also offered (see Figure 5) which was 16 3/4 inches overall and had a 4 inch triangular blade, which was a 1/4 inch thick.

Three spatulas were also in the beryllium copper tool line. They had blade lengths of 3 inches (No. B50), 6 inches (No. B51), and 12 inches (No. B52), available with tropical hardwood handles and fastened with non-sparking rivets.

A 1 1/2 x 6 inch flanged wedge (No. B56) with a 1/4inch taper was offered with an 1/8-inch thick bit and was used for set-up work.

Beryllium fork tips (No. B66) were also manufactured to be attached to the prongs of standard forks for handling such things as celluloid scrap and gun cotton. These tips were attached to the prongs of a fork by soft solder or by drilling and fastening with brass rivets.

A straight drift pin (No. B67) 7 1/2 inches in length and 13/16 inches in diameter was offered for lining up holes.

Two pry bars made of 3/4-inch octagon stock 18 inches long were manufactured with or without a claw. The No. B68 without claw was used for opening manhole covers on tanks and tank cars and for lining up holes. The No. B70 pry bar had a fork in the end making it a very useful tool for certain kinds of work.

Another interesting beryllium tool that Stanley manufactured was a railroad or clay pick (No. B69) with a special eyeless pattern head which was permanently fastened to an Everdur bronze head. This head is a bronze eyeless glove-like fixture to which the handle was bolted by Everdur bronze bolts (see Figure 6). The pick is 27 3/4inch in length and has a 30inch wood handle.

To complete the line, two wrenches were of fered. First designated as No. B80 was a heavy duty 18-inch Stillson pattern pipe wrench (Figure 7). This wrench had a capacity of 1/4 to 2 inches

Last, but not least, what tool kit is not complete without a monkey wrench. Stanley’s monkey wrench No. B81 (Figure 8) was a heavy duty 12-inch wrench of a special design that permitted more leverage as the size of the nut increased. The capacity was 2 1/4 inches.

Stanley’s non-sparking wrought beryllium copper tools were first introduced in 1936, with a twelve-page pocket catalog printed in May of that year. These tools were illustrated in the 28 December 1936, retail price list for Catalog 134. The beryllium tools were also listed in the 15 April 1937 retail price list. Susequent lists do not show any of the non-sparking Stanley tools. These tools were probably only offered for one year. The enormous production and high retail costs resulted in Stanley dropping the line.


1. Reduce Explosion and Fire Hazard with Stanley Nonspraking Tools Made from Wrought Beryllium Copper. New Britain, Conn.: Stanley Tools, may 1966. Not paginated.

2. Ibid.

Walter Jacob writes regularly about Stanley tools for The Chronicle.

Copyright Early American Industries Association Sep 2000

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