Another $2 find last week: a 60-'s or 70's vintage Brockville, Ontario-made Black and Decker 1/4" drill equipped with a Jacobs Multi-Craft chuck made in Sheffield England. I'm sure that the chuck is original to the tool, so it was interesting to me that a Canadian-made Black and Decker power tool would use a British-made chuck.
Arthur Irving Jacobs was a American inventor who had several inventions to his credit before he was 30. As the story goes, "A.I.", as he was better known, skinned his knuckles one day while trying to tighten a drill bit into an old drill press. This prompted him to consider how the chuck could be improved, and he allegedly designed his famous chuck with a toothed sleeve and key in a matter of days. In 1902 he patented his device and one year later he founded the Jacobs Chuck Manufacturing Company.
The company initially had its headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut. At some point, it opened a factory in Sheffield, England. In 1981, the American company bought the Matco Tool Corporation. Three years later Jacobs merged with Chicago Pneumatic, and in 1986 the combined enterprise was picked up by the Danaher Corporation. Danaher sold off Chicago Pneumatic the following year, retaining Jacobs. The Jacobs operation was moved to Clemson, South Carolina. In 1996, the Jacobs Chuck Manufacturing (Suzhou) Co., Ltd. was founded in China. The writing was on the wall. In 2002, the Sheffield, England factory was closed down. (For pictures of its current derelict state, go to Derelict Places ("Documenting Decay.") The urban explorer who visited added this comment:
"I always seem to experience a feeling of wonder when I enter a site for the first time – no matter how decayed it might be. There is something quite breath-taking about walking into a vast derelict factory like this one knowing that only a few years ago it was a major employer providing jobs for hundreds of people and I found myself having a period of reflection thinking about what life in this factory must have been like for them and what happened to all those people when the factory closed down."Ironically, the Sheffield factory site is being considered for development as a nursing home, dementia care home, sheltered accommodation for the over-65's and a "special needs independent living unit." So, perhaps those former factory workers won't have far to go after all.
Jacobs continues as a subsidiary of the mighty Apex Corporation, formed in 2010 when Danaher joined forces with Cooper Tools. In 2009, the South Carolina plant was closed, and production has now moved to China. From the comments I've read on various machinery forums on the web, the quality of the current chucks leaves something to be desired.