Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Vanished Tool Makes: Snail Brand Tools

These old Whitworth wrenches show up now and then in my neck of the woods, with their lovely Snail logo:



They were made by Thomas Smith & Sons of Saltley Ltd., Birmingham.  Thomas Smith is said to have chosen the snail as his brand because his motto was, "The snail may be slow, but he gets there in the end."

The firm began in 1848 when it made velocipedes and small hand tools.  


Thomas Smith.  Source:  I Forge Iron
In 1896 it was operating out of Saltley Mill in Birmingham. In 1937, in addition to custom drop forgings, they advertised spanners, adjustable wrenches, hammers, and hatchets of all descriptions. Based on the adjustable spanner below, at one time they supplied tools for British Ford tractors and/or cars:




(Note the Snail logo below the Ford script on the image above.)

In the 1959, the factory location was moved from Saltley about 10 miles east to Coleshill.  Many of their products (hammers, hatchets, garden tools, spanners (chrome-vanadium & carbon steel) plus their adjustable & pipe wrenches) were exported to India.  At some point the company was acquired by the Chillington Corporation, and remained on their books until at least 1992:


Medium Companies of Europe 1991/92.  Volume 2

1938.  Source:  Grace's Guide
1953
Update:  below some of the Snail trademarks stamped on my tools, and from ads.  I hadn't considered it before a visitor commented below, but it turns out that the snail does point both to the right and left!






14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, I was not aware of Snail Brand tools. These would be just the thing to go with my Citroen 2CV, aka The Tin Snail.

I am jealous!

The Citroen Guy

Anonymous said...

i worked at thomas smith for 14 yrs from 1969 to 1984, they were brought up for their order book just after,but by then snail brand tools were not in production

Anita Hunt Dolan said...

I was born in Birmingham and my dad did his apprenticeship at Thomas Smith & Sons. His father (my grandfather) was a foreman there (since 1915 or so!!). My dad would have worked there in the early 1960's. We moved to the States in the 1980's. However, I have all of his tools and many of them have the 'snail' brand marking! Unfortunately he passed away at the young age of 52, but I still have his tools!!
So sad that they weren't able to continue - their product was definitely one of quality!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi I have one of these snail brand spanners? but the snail is facing the other way and is more ornate may be a copy but is old and whitworth size so maybe an odd one. In all the pictures of these spanners I have seen the snail is heading off to the left!

mark said...

Hello, I came across your website by accident - lots of interesting content, but just to mention that as far as I'm aware, Snail Brand tools are still in production, by Smith Francis Tools of Birmingham -
http://www.smithfrancistools.co.uk/doubleopenendedwrenches.htm

Anonymous said...

Did they ever make knives

The Duke said...

Not as far as I know. At least in Britain, the firms which made hand tools tended to be different from those which made edge tools. Still, it's not beyond possibility.

Anonymous said...

Happy memories

Unknown said...

I belive Thomas Smith was my great great great grandfather and have found a spanner with a snail on it that has been passed down the generations. My grandfather from my Mother's side was a Smith so sure this must be true. Jonathan Corp

Anonymous said...

My first job was at thomas smith & son ,in 1971, at coleshill. I was employed as an estimator, to give prices for speculative drop forging jobs. Incredible memories of the shop floor where they had a range of hammers to make small spanners through to crankshafts. A block of red hot metal was smashed into shape and then machined. Awesome.

Unknown said...

I have a hammer saying snail brand MA But doesn't have the touchmark. It's this a real snail brand hammer?

Unknown said...

I have a hammer saying snail brand MA But doesn't have the touchmark. It's this a real snail brand hammer?

Unknown said...

Snail brand upholstery hammers are the best you can own

Josip Koprivanac said...

Today i bought one little snail brand wrench at my local flea market in Croatia for 3 euros....I did not know of that brand until today and i had to have him. It is old wrench but still great looking.