Chandlery September 1, 1998 Issue

Wichard Safety Hook

We think highly of Wichard, the French stainless steel maker. So far, the company has made nothing deserving of anything less than wholehearted approval. Most of what they make is forged.

Most widely known for its torsion-bar snap hooks, Wichard also makes wheel-operated backstay adjusters, beautiful shackles (from plain vanilla “D’s” to quick-release versions), toerail padeyes, shackle keys, marlinspikes and knives.

Now another winner…a locking safety hook for a life harness tether. In fact, the patented hook was the winner (out of 111 new products) of the innovative new product prize at the 1997 European marine trade show in Amsterdam.

What makes it doubly noteworthy is that there is a need for a good foolproof safety harness hook. (The only other one we know of is a British-made Gibb, whose double gate requires a digital two-step both to engage and disengage.)

With a grip safety like that on a Colt 1911 model automatic pistol, the new Wichard hook has a yellow plastic shoe, hinged at the small end of the hook, that must be squeezed before the torsion gate can be opened. It’s all done in a single squeeze. Releasing the plastic shoe locks the gate. It takes a bit of practice to operate—mostly to decide on a grip. (It easiest to thumb the bright yellow shoe and use the crooked index finger on the gate.)

The 304L stainless steel hooks have a breaking strength of 6,100 lbs. (nearly 50% greater than standards set by the Ocean Racing Club) and can be rigged to either spliced line or sewn webbing.

As with all Wichard hardware, they are smoothly finished and polished. That’s important to avoid snagging strands of line, a major objection with most carabiner hooks. Such snags can delay or even prevent disengagement from a rope jackline. An all-web system (tether and jackline) is preferred, because webbing neither snags nor rolls underfoot.

The hooks will appear soon in chandlers. They’re not yet in the West Marine catalog, but West already is stocking them—$23 list, $17.99 discount. (Wichard USA, 507 Hopmeadow, Simsbury, CT 06070, 860/658-2201.)

Good Reading About Screws
Having had some reader inquiries about where to buy plastic caps that fit on the heads of screws or bolts, we received a catalog in the mail that answers the question.

The catalog, intended primarily for woodworkers, is from an outfit called McFeely’s.

It has screw head caps, in nine colors including teak (medium brown) and walnut (chocolate), for square drive screws, and Snap Caps™, which uses a cap that snaps over a special washer that fits under flathead screws. Also in the catalog are trim washers in black oxide plate, nickel plate, solid brass and stainless steel, and flat head and button head wood plugs in birch, oak, walnut and cherry (no teak).

McFeely seems to specialize in square drive screws (which it says were invented in Canada in 1908) and has a truly amazing assortment in silicon bronze, statuary bronze plated, stainless, brass, zinc coated, 2024-T4 aluminum and corrosion-proofed steel. The latter is called No-Co-Rode, and we’ll try to overlook that overly inventive nomenclature.

Darin Lawrence, McFeely’s technical director, said that most of the stuff is made in Canada, but that they’re now getting some excellent stainless fasteners out of Taiwan.

Like any good catalog, McFeeley’s contains lots of explanations and tables about screw sizes, head types (including the new trim head), drill bits, torque testing of various metals, proper screw lengths (they have 1/4" screws that are up 12' long), stainless steels classifications and a few tools—including the “Overdriver Pro,” a screw driver with planetary gears (two gear ratios: 4:1 and 1:1) that is so good that after we acquired ours several years ago we garage-saled our big, ancient, beloved Yankee.

Example: We’ve been doing this for years, but McFeely’s says that soaping screws to make them easy to drive is BAD NEWS because the soap absorbs water, which can lead to stains, rust and rot. Canning paraffin, beeswax, carnauba wax or the stuff McFeely’s sells (Lloyd’s Akempucky) is better.

(McFeely’s, 1620 Wythe Rd., Box 11169, Lynchburg, VA 24506-1169, 800/443-7937.)

Because the subject came up when we reviewed hatches, we’re still looking for a supplier of stainless or bronze anti-theft screws and bolts, the kind whose slots lack the shoulders to back them out. Lawrence said that because thieves rarely carry square drive screw drivers, square drive fasteners tend to serve the same purpose.

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