Hawk Works– Dealing with DOORS

AREN’T THERE ANY APPLICATIONS? If some of you have tried to use this site as to get tips on how to use MalvenWorks tools, you’ve noted that there haven’t been any. That was one of our very first goals for the site. But, except for a few very brief notes on application of the tools (all of which seemed to come up short and came down fairly quickly), We’re going to take another stab at it.

Firefighters tend to have a mechanical sixth sense and figure out things to do with tools that the developers never imagined. So, having to provide instructions for the use of a hand tool almost seems like a sure sign that the tool isn’t working right. Nevertheless, a friend, Andy Levy from the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute, convinced me, long ago, that it doesn’t hurt to stimulate discussion of tool use and uses. So, a quick (but, eventually, very thorough) guide to applications of the tools is underway. And, we’ll be posting installments of these segments as they develop.

The goal is to give just enough information to “jump-start” user experimentation with their tools. So, the format will be very simple. Almost like baseball cards– we’ll try to summarize each application in a concise, standardized way with: 1) the name of the tool head being addressed, 2) the specific feature (subpart) of the tool that is being highlighted, 3) what the tool is being used on (e.g., a part of a structure), 4) a photo of the tool posed as though in use, and 5) a brief explanation. Initially, we’ll concentrate on the Hawk Tool system of parts. Entry tools at a later date/

USING HAWK TOOLS ON DOORS. Although the Hawk Tool was intended to be a versatile overhaul tool, a number of people have mentioned using their tool for light to medium duty forcible entry. So, to kick the project off with a note of irony, the first cluster of Use-Its will focus on applications involving doors.

KNOW YOUR “TOOLS.” In conclusion, make a mental (or even physical) list of situations you’re likely to encounter that have something to do with doors. Envision specific tasks you may have to perform. Then, with your tools in front of you, start inventorying characteristics that allow those tools to contribute to safe, timely, and efficient completion to tasks.

GOT APPLICATIONS OF YOUR OWN? Submit photo(s) of your applications (with either positive, negative, or uncertain(?) outcomes), along with brief explanation(s) and contact info. We’ll convert it to our format, give you credit for the contribution, and post it, ASAP. And, of course, if you’ve got recommendations for how to improve our efforts in this area, send those along to: malven@malvenworks.com.

Iowa-American “Chauffeur’s” Pike Axe, Hampden Township (PA)

SEAGRAVE RESCUE WITH A PRIZE INSIDE. One of the interesting things about fire tool cultural anthropology is that you never know what you’re going to stumble across or where. When looking at an exhibition of new fire apparatus, you get lulled into thinking that all the tools and equipment on board will be new, too. Not so. I found a case in point at a Lancaster Fire Expo, a couple of years ago. As I was browsing in their massive exhibit area, I noticed a nice Seagrave-based heavy rescue being displayed by the Hampden Township Fire Company 30, Mechanicsburg, PA. I was actually on my way to see another unit so, after a quick inspection, I turned around and walked back by the open rear door of the squad body and continued on. But, suddenly it dawned on me that I’d almost missed a real gem, mounted unobtrusively inside the back door.


ABOUT AS ICONIC AS YOU CAN GET (WHILE BEING ALMOST TOTALLY UNIQUE). There, on the left sidewall, within reach from outside the back door, was a well-cared-for example of the [by then defunct] Iowa-American Firefighting Equipment Company’s unique 8-pound “pike” axe (as they consistently referred to it). Other than using them and dragging them along to classes, I hadn’t had a thing to do with these axes during the time that I worked with Iowa-American (IA-AM), but the pick-heads were still among my very favorite tools. How could you avoid it; its appearance says “pure firefighting classic.” And, in its catalog description, IA-AM stated that it “continued their innovative tradition by reintroducing the old-style 8-pound Pike Axe, the traditional tool of [FDNY] truck company chauffeurs.” Lovely. But, the axe was hardly a typical fire service pick-head.

This one is an almost total departure from other axes of its era. Most standard FD axes have a rapidly tapering blade that terminates in a fairly thin, sharp lower cutting edge. By contrast, the IA-AM pick-head shared the blade of its older-model, flat-head sister by employing a broad, deep blade. That flat-head had a slowly narrowing blade that terminated somewhat abruptly in a rather blunt, deep-bellied edge. This was more of a “bashing” edge than a typical cutting edge. In some respects, it seemed to anticipate the breaking (versus cutting) approach to design and usage employed by (in order of blunt severity) various modern offerings such as the Fire Mauls, Iron Fox axes, and Pig/Piglet tools.

Product description of Iowa-American’s 8-pound “Pike” Axe from their 5th catalog, 1995/1996. It clearly shows the pick-head’s evolution from the flat-head version which preceded it by several years.

By far, though, this axe’s most distinctive characteristic was the shape of its pick. In profile it had a vertical front edge that curved backward toward the top to intersect with a perfectly vertical back edge. However, the IA-AM’s was more vertical in front and its rearward curve was unusually abrupt. The pick itself was rather short in proportion to the overall height of the axe. And, then there was its shape– while the pick on virtually every other pick-head fire axe is rectangular or square in cross-section, this one’s was triangular. It tapered uniformly from front to back leaving a fairly sharp rear-facing edge. So, all-in-all, the weight, huge, broad blade, cast stainless steel (in most cases) material, and unique pick came together to form a perfect symbol of truck work, even though it wasn’t much at all like the vast majority of axes actually in use. That happens.

Iowa-American Phase III Hawk Prototype, Newton (IA) Fire Department

LADDER 56, NEWTON (IA) FD. Tanner Owen (bottom photo, with a new Hawk Tool he got for graduating from his paramedic program) was, for several years, a member of the Nevada Community Fire Department, my long-time affiliation. He is one of a long string of gung-ho Nevada firefighters who have found their way into the career fire service. Soon after his arrival at Newton, he sent several photos of the small, working museum of Iowa-American tools carried on the department’s Ladder 56 (photo below). I’ll address some of the tools at a later time. I’ve written about the beauteous “Chauffeur’s Pike Axe” elsewhere (https://wordpress.com/post/malvenworks.com/4434) and will expand on that topic and others in the future. For now, Ladder 56’s toolbox provides a platform for writing about Iowa-American’s terrific impact on the fire equipment industry. I’ll start here with some attention to the phase III Hawk prototype that’s shown in the top and left bottom photos.

The focus here will be on Newton’s phase III Hawk tool prototype. Judging from the small, raised “IAF” (Iowa-American Foundry) cast into the body of the tool, this would appear to have been produced in the late 1980s or early ’90s. This is also around the time that Iowa-American (IA-AM) introduced its Multi-Length Hook System (MLHS)– parts of which are shown in the photo at the top of the tool compartment.

Among the parts of Newton’s MLHS is their Hawk, phase III prototype. It’s also shown separately. Here, the Hawk Tool design process was at a significant transition point. In one piece, you could clearly see both the initial influences of the Halligan hook and, for the first time, hints of the future Hawk Tool’s own distinct identity. With discovery of the idea of joining a downwardly-curved longitudinal blade with a second, transverse (“cross-cut”) blade, the design of the tool really took off and became its own unique tool.

But, phase III was also a frustrating time for me. I would have liked all the various design steps to stay under wraps, shared only with Iowa-American and the guys that I taught with. Instead, virtually everything that was actually developed to a test-bed prototype was immediately added to the catalog for sale, warts and all. The phase II prototype was named the Multi-Function Hook (Model MHF-1) and entered in the catalog. Virtually overnight, the phase III prototype was also given a name– “Falcon”– and added to the catalog, Model FT-1. Inexplicably, despite their numerous imperfections and functional shortcomings, both remained in the catalog as separate, and distinct offerings until the company’s dissolution in the early 2000s. Frustrating. Yet, all whining aside, it has left behind a terrific physical trail of the Hawk Tool’s history that is fun to talk and write about.

Thanks to the Newton firefighters and Tanner Owen, in particular (who got a Hawk tool for graduating from his paramedic class) for these photos and their long-term commitment to the tools.

Iowa-American “Stinger,” Montgomery Co. (MD)

MICHAEL SKIDMORE, LIEUTENANT, MONTGOMERY CO. (MD) FIRE & RESCUE SERVICES. Robert “RJ” James, a good friend and accomplished spotter of fire antiquities sent in this shot of an apparently long-time “worker” on one of Montgomery Counties rigs, where Lt. Skidmore rides the seat. It looks as bright and ready-to-go as the day it was assembled– if not far more so. Visible are its yellow fiberglass handle and what could be the original orange silicone grip. In any case, it’s finished off with the currently popular spiral wrap. At the time, almost all of Iowa-American’s hooks had fiberglass handles– most of them were solid 1″ round stock. But, a narrower, taller oval-shaped version and the classic (beefy!) Nupla “I-beam” handle were also options.

MW Hx Skidmore Mont. Co

When he first saw the end design now referred to as the Raptor, Iowa-American’s owner Marty Vitale said it reminded him of a scorpion’s tail and wanted to call it the “Stinger.” Seemed OK to me. I expected it to be an additional end option for all of IA-AM’s hooks (the two existing end options being D-handles of two different sizes). But, when it showed up in the catalog, the Stinger designation referred only to the combination of a Hawk head on one end and Stinger on the other– i.e., the whole tool (such as Lt. Skidmore’s, in the photo) was a Stinger, not just the new end part.  As far as I know, IA-AM didn’t end up producing any of their other hooks with what has become the Raptor end.

Hawk Works– Dealing With FENCES (CHAIN-LINK)

EXPANDING THE BOUNDARIES. The goal of these periodic tool application segments is to provide some food for thought, specifically to focus attention on considerations that will help users maximize the functional potential of the tools they carry. And, if one of those tools of choice happens to be a Hawk Tool, we hope the concepts presented here will trigger the user’s own creativity and further expand its day-to-day utility.

DEALING WITH CHAIN-LINK. One mischievous feature that shows up commonly at structure fires is chain-link fencing. Its significance can range anywhere from being a minor nuisance to forming a critical, life-threatening barrier to access and escape. Clearly, there’s no better defense than knowing our district (including known and likely barriers), weighing options, and arriving with a solution in hand before encountering a problem. But, things are seldom as simple as that. Ultimately, when you encounter the unexpected– or the unimaginable– you may have to couple your experience, your ingenuity, and the “tools” at hand to formulate a solution. Here’s some food-for-thought with regard to chain-link fence:

Raptor-- Fence, Bend Side Ties

These last two illustrations are best thought of as two steps in the same process. Collectively, they involve using the talon (curved point) of the Raptor tool end to disconnect chain-link fence mesh from its supportive metal tube framework. After using the talon as a wedge to spread and disconnect fasteners from the mesh (illustrated above), the mesh can be rolled to the side to create a fairly quick duck-under passage through the fence. But, for greater convenience, you might as well go ahead and shorten the top tube– by kinking it, as shown in the lower illustration– and sliding it out of the way or removing it all-together.

Raptor-- Fence, Bend Top Pole

SO?… The point of these illustrations is not to suggest these as instructions for using the tools. It’s more to encourage a process of listing some of the tasks you’re potentially going to encounter, then trying to come up with as many ways as possible to use the tools that you actually carry to deal with them. So, the goal is to cultivate and promote creative use of tools in general.

Nashville (TN)– The Hawk’s First Dance in Nashville

C.F.T. RAIDS THE EXPO. In mid-October, 2019, our good friend Robert James, RJ, and members of Capital Fire Training’s (CFT) travelin’ roadshow, took Nashville by storm,  delivering an ambitious array of lectures and HOT classes at the 2019 Firehouse Expo. Among their collaborators were Edwin Feagins and other members of Nashville’s Rescue 13.MW RJ & Rescue 13 Expo

HAWK TOOL FINDS A NEW HOME. From time-to-time, RJ takes along a few of our tools on teaching assignments. A couple of “Monster” Halligans and Hawk Tools went with him to Nashville. As things turn out, one of the Hawks stayed behind. Apparently, the NFD troops have been takin’ the tool out at night, showing it a good time. In any event, it looks like it’s been adopted by Rescue 13 and will be making the NFD its new home.

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 10.55.40 AM




Rockville (MD)–Hawk Rides New Aerialscope

ROCKVILLE’S A PRETTY BUSY PLACE. Running out of three houses, the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area, is a busy outfit. They ran a total of 20, 239 incidents in 2018.  In February of 2019, Rockville’s Board of Directors announced its purchase of a new 2018 Seagrave Aerialscope, to be designated Tower 703 and running out of Station 3. In 2018, its predecessor, a 2007 Pierce rear-mount aerial tower owned by Montgomery County (MD) Fire and Rescue, answered well over 2000 calls. That was an increase of 200 over the previous year. So, the Seagrave will have its work cut out for it.

RIDIN’ ON THE “HOOD.”  Of course, we’re delighted to have our tools riding to work anywhere on anybody’s fire apparatus. But, as noted elsewhere in an earlier post, Phase II Hawk on Charlotte (NC) Truck 13, we take special pride when one secures a particularly prominent spot. And, a ride on the front bumper extension (as what we call the “hood ornament”) is about as prominent as you get– a real cause for celebration.

Screen Shot 2019-09-29 at 6.57.09 PM0Well, we’re celebrating. Good friend Robert James, a Rockville Captain, sent us a photo of a bright green 6′ Hawk/Raptor, mounted on new Tower 3’s “hood,” with a big smile on its face. And, for icing on the cake, Capt. James included a video clip of the tool being used to drive a Halligan to gain entry at a recent structure fire. Life is good.

Iowa-American Hawk Phase II, Frederick (MD)

CITIZENS TRUCK COMPANY NO. 4?  Here’s another of Trevor James’ classic B&W shots of fire action in Frederick, Maryland. We don’t have any background details on this photo, but, given their unique inventory of Hawk Tool prototypes, there’s a high probability the that this phase II Hawk prototype’s off of one of their rigs.

Hawk Hx Phase II Trevor James Time

CITIZENS TRUCK COMPANY NO. 4. On the other hand, there’s not a bit of doubt about the example in the photo below. It was caught during return-to-service activities outside Citizens’ house, after an apartment fire.

Hawk Tools & Mr. Tire

And, finally, even though its been used before, here’s another catch by Trevor that’s the pick of the litter. It not only shows what’s probably the same 15-20 year old tool pictured above, it also catches it going to work on the roof, as though its never going to retire. Keep on truckin.’

Veteran “Falconers”

“VETERAN ‘FALCONERS’?” “Falconry” is the ‘hunting of wild quarry, in its natural state, by means of a specially conditioned bird of prey’– generally a hawk, falcon or eagle. Since fire in a structure is pretty “wild quarry in its natural state,” we couldn’t resist the temptation to extend the falconer label to those who are hunting fire with a Hawk [tool], as well.

KNOW A VETERAN FALCONER? This series of posts recognizes firefighters who: 1) have had a good deal of firefighting and/or rescue experience, and 2) have lots of experience with, and at least a slight partiality to, the Malven Hawk tool.  If you know a person who fits our description of a veteran falconer, please email us photos and background information.  We’ll spotlight them in a future blog.  Contact Fred Malven:  malven@malvenworks.com.



Hawk Tool Geneology

IOWA-AMERICAN HERITAGE. Given Iowa-American Firefighting Equipment’s relatively short life, it is surprising how widely distributed their products were. Their forcible entry tools, for example (Halligans, Hayward Claws, San Francisco bars, etc.), show up all along the West Coast, from California to Washington.  And, we’ve run across their well-known 8-pound pick-head axes in places as widely separated as Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Atlanta, Georgia, and Indianapolis, Indiana. There is even an example of their equally popular 8-pound flathead axe– one found in the devastation of the World Trade Center– on display in the 9/11 Memorial in New York.

Iowa-American (IA-AM) started as one of many producers of common fire service hand tools, primarily those used by the Fire Department of New York– the New York pike pole, the Halligan hook and Halligan bar, plus the previously mentioned flat-head axe. They also offered refined versions of other popular East Coast hooks, including the so-called Universal hook and Sheetrock (or Drywall) hook. Perhaps most notably, they started producing several unique, “signature” tools for individual departments, like Boston’s  “Rake,” San Francisco’s ultra-light hook, and a derivation of the defunct Chicago Fire Insurance Patrol’s “Patrol Bar,” making them accessible to the fire service at large. However, in spite of their broad range of offerings, as they launched an aggressive marketing campaign, it became clear, that Iowa-American had virtually no original, unique new products of its own design.

THE FIRE SAFETY GROUP. During this same period of time period– the early 1980’s– the Fire Safety Group (FSG), an ad hoc group of Iowa firefighters, was delivering a variety of two-day weekend courses aimed at a renewed awareness and expanded application of traditional municipal hook and ladder or “truck company” methods to suburban and rural fire operations (see background on the Fire Safety Group at the Hook + Ladder University website). IA-AM supported the group by providing some of its tools for use in FSG’s courses.  And, in return, FSG instructors provided regular feedback and recommendations concerning those and other IA-AM products.

ORIGINS OF THE HAWK TOOL. Having made extensive use of IA-AM’s version of the Halligan hook in field training and in emergency operations, MalvenWorks founder Fred Malven experienced the tool’s numerous virtues as an overhaul tool. But, he also noted its limitations in performing certain other closely-related “support operations” functions. Having had previous interest, formal training, and experience in product design, he took on development of a tool that addressed these more broadly-based functions, as well. This was the beginning of what was to become the Hawk Tool. Its design followed a fairly normal, step-by-step, phased product development process. Over a period of three years, the project produced a nearly continuous stream of sketches, working drawings, wood study models and working prototypes. The prototypes were intended to be building blocks, steps toward the development of a single new tool. They were never intended for sale. But, with the success of a series of glossy catalogs, Martin Vitale, Iowa-American’s owner, was anxious to get new tools on the market. Consequently, virtually every time a newly revised prototype was prepared for field evaluation, a fair number of them were produced, added to the company’s catalog, and sold, side-by-side with previous prototypes and the company’s other hooks.

Although this rush to market incomplete designs was irritating and frustrating, at this point in time, the move has netted some fortunate outcomes from a historical archival standpoint. First, due to the success of the firm’s catalog marketing, each of the various prototypes enjoyed a surprising volume and geographical distribution of sales. So, there is a good physical record of each phase of the design process. And, since many of them are still in day-to-day use, the effectiveness of early design intentions can be studied through the experience of current users.

As designers and long-time, regular users of the Hawk Tool, we’ve always been interested in finding and documenting early examples of the tool, and even earlier examples of prototypes. And, whenever available, we’ve really relished accounts of user experiences with the tools– good, bad, indifferent; exciting or mundane. Only recently did it occur to us that some of our customers might also be interested in the history of their tools. So, in this section, we will gradually put together an account of significant steps in the development of our tools, starting with influences on the Hawk Tool.

OVERVIEW OF HAWK TOOL DEVELOPMENT. But, first, at the risk of sapping all of the fun of discovery out of the process, we’ll begin with a brief summary of Hawk Tool design process. It began with the goal of creating a multi-purpose “support operations” tool combined some of the best attributes of other tools we’d used. Because of its popularity (and its availability, due to our collaboration with Iowa-American Fire Equipment) much of the early work (especially phases I & II) involved modification of the highly successful Halligan HOOK. Readers will need to remember that this discussion revolves around FDNY Chief Hugh Halligan’s hook design, not his even more famous Halligan BAR.

In general, the design process progressed in five phases:

  • Phase I added width and a sharper, keener edge to the Halligan Hook’s “bottom” (i.e., downward-pointed) blade.
  • Phase II further flattened the downward blade, “corrected” the Halligan’s unnecessarily blunt point, and added some length and angle to the Halligan’s rear-facing “adze.”
  • Phase III (the first significant departure from the Halligan) introduced the first of three distinctive features of the Hawk Tool, the so-called “cross-cut” blades– one downwardly-rounded, longitudinal edge intersecting at 90° with the original downward-pointing, transverse blade.
  • Phase IV introduced the tool’s most distinctive feature   But, for now, suffice it to say that the evolution of the tool can be distilled down to five steps or phases before it reached (much later) its current configuration. The most significant end-products of each phase are summarized below.

MW Vintage Hawk Tools Phases
The early influence of Chief Halligan’s hook on the Hawk design process is clearly visible in the Phase I and II prototypes. Only at Phase III did the tool take on a character of its own. Inspired by Prince Georges County (MD) firefighter Richie Clemens’ Clemens Hook, the new design focused on surpassing the Halligan’s performance, especially in terms of 1) “chopping” ability, 2) ability to penetrate walls, ceilings, and floors, and 3) overall versatility (especially the multi-functionality of its working edges). NOTE: The Phase V Hawk was the final (“finished?”) design offered by Iowa-American for series production. The design underwent significant revisions before being reintroduced as part of the Aazel Corporation’s line, in late 2011, and might be considered a Phase VI Hawk Tool.

In future posts, we will identify and discuss some of our interesting encounters with the Hawk’s ancestors.