“200-PROOF FUNCTIONALITY.” MalvenWorks is celebrating the new year, 2021, with the introduction of our third Halligan bar configuration– the “All-American” (All-Am). Actually, we’ve been working toward this goal since the day we finalized the purchase of the Aazel company, in 2018. In most respects the project is less the development of a new design than the continued evolution of an old one. Consistent with our philosophy, it’s not a radical design, but rather a subtle refinement of the things that Halligan bars in general (and ours in particular) have always done well. But, we’ve added a little more– a few new features that further concentrate the functional purity of the Halligan.
Our tool designs emphasize creativity– not just ours, but also the user’s. We want to develop versatile tools that give firefighters options– ways of using their ingenuity to overcome the challenges they encounter, whether they’re “routine” or totally unimaginable. That has involved a lot of individuals and groups. First, our work is [obviously] founded on, and indebted to, the original tool design genius of FDNY Deputy Chief Hugh Halligan. At the other end of the spectrum, we have also drawn heavily on the creativity and ingenuity of countless individual firefighters and the widely used ideas that have come out of their field-driven, backroom experimentation.
Last, but not least, we gratefully acknowledge all those friends and co-workers who have contributed to this project– formally and informally– during our years of experience with predecessors Iowa American Firefighting Equipment, the Aazel Company, and more recently MalvenWorks. They, most of all inspired the goal of creating tools (in this case, a new version of the Halligan) that encourage spontaneous creative problem-solving under the most trying of circumstances
THE DESIGN PROCESS. How do we hope to maximize the functionality of our tools and capitalize on the creative ingenuity of their users? We start with a detailed functional dissection of fire service challenges, especially those that Halligan-like tools have historically addressed. First we payed particular attention to our own proprietary designs and design details that already have a proven track record.
A. THE FORKS. A good example of a proven performer would be the forks of all MalvenWorks entry bars. Since their design and performance has been favorably received in field emergency applications and training alike, the new All-Am design will also share this features popular component. Its attributes include:
- Square Shoulders. Precision-fabricated square, flat, durable surfaces for driving in close quarters (this is a favorite detail of Halligan “tuners,” but our Aazel predecessors were the first manufacturers to include them in their production Halligan bars). And, shaft above the fork shourlders is perfectly free of irregularities that might prevent completion of a full, solid strike.
- Bold Depth Cues. Clearly-defined depth indicators that can be seen under low-light conditions and felt through fire gloves (again, although firefighters have long added them to their personal tools (we did), Aazel was the first to incorporate them into production manufacturer).
- Functionally-Gapped Tines. A time-tested gap in the forks that fit over standard doorknob hardware for their removal and mates perfectly with other Halligan forks and most axes, even unmodified axes (again, our predecessors were among the earliest producers to open-up the forks to accommodate these functions). The gap in the forks also nests snugly with our line of fire hooks, for convenient carry in the field.
- “Perfect” Fork Geometry. Slim, uniformly curved, incredibly smooth forks that slip in and defeat the barriers that defeat other Halligans. Ask around; there’s nothing better.
- Sophisticated Production Methods & Metallurgy. Investment-cast, precipitation hardened stainless steel fabrication– it is an expensive combination of military/aerospace metallurgy and painstaking attention to detail.
B. THE ADZE. Clearly, the most prominent characteristic of the new “All-American” (All-Am) Halligan is its curved adze. Despite its simplicity, this version brings some new thinking to the tool:
- Narrow, Refined Leading Edge. On most Halligans, the leading edge of the adze is formed by a “bevel” (a sharpened, chisel-like angle) ramping up to a relatively thick adze. The bevel helps reduce the friction drag of the adze when it is driven, But, a normal bevel still introduces more resistance than the flatter portion of the adze beyond it. By contrast, the hardness and toughness of the All-Am’s metallurgy allows the leading edge of the adze to be reduced to 3/32” thickness, virtually eliminating the need for a conventional bevel. From its front edge to its base, the All-Am’s adze is one smooth, uninterrupted surface.
- Bold, Wedge-Shaped Cross-Section. Most variations of the Halligan bar rely on some semblance of a wedge-shaped fork to separate materials and assemblies as it is driven. The All-Am boldly applies this logic to the design of the adze, as well. But, it’s not “sorta’” tapered; its fully invested. Its taper smoothly expands the gap, bit-by-bit, with every fraction of an inch of penetration– from 1/16th to a full 1-1/8”– rapidly spreading the gap with every strike
- Fluid, Curved Cross-Section. Every slight change of direction, every imperfection in a surface is drag. break or change in a surface is a source of resistance. Close your eyes and run your fingers over our forcing surfaces– you’ll feel nothing but smooth, unbroken flow– right out of the box! And that’s just the beginning. The All-Am’s “perfect” curved adze geometry maximizes the benefits of a “walking fulcrum,” i.e., a fulcrum that gradually moves as the adze rolls, giving limited lift/spread but excellent initial mechanical advantage ( >50:1) in the early stages of the pry, then gradually, as the resistance in the assemble being forced diminishes, mechanical advantage diminishes and lift increases to its full 5”.
- Centering “Nick.” Another new feature of the All-Am’s adze is a sharpened, one-sided notch or “nick” in the center of the adze. It works a bit like a mini-“A” tool. When positioned on angular and contoured surfaces it keeps the adze in place so that when struck, it directs the force of each blow exactly where it is needed. Uses include: a) Cutting Sheet Metal,such as car body panels, garage door panels, metal building cladding, metal storage units, expanded metal lath found in some plaster work, etc.. b) “Grubbing Out” Door Hardware and Locks— Using the nick to position the adze on the edge of the “rose” (cowl at the base of a doorknob or cylinder lock) or “escutcheon” plate (larger flat metal plate) of a mortised lock or latch set, allows for sound, repeated strikes to pull them loose, so they can be pried apart; c) Breaking Bolts and Other Fasteners— Brackets holding door bars, security bars on windows, and other security devices are often connected with mild steel bolts. Using the nick to maintain the alignment of the adze on fasteners often makes it possible to cut or break them with a few concentrated strikes from a hammer; d) Simpifying Common Operations— The provision of a nick in the leading edge of the adze also enhances manual operations that might otherwise tempt the removal of gloves, such as pulling/pushing common hinge pins, manipulating louvers in HVAC grilles, removing broken or loose appliance and/or vehicle trim and parts, etc.
- Details That Facilitate Forcing Outward-Swinging Doors. For outward swinging doors, the subtle inner curvature of the adze, the 1/16” leading edge, and just a hint of a bevel at the tip, minimize resistance when navigating around doorstops. They also minimize the problem of “skinning” the inner door facing. And especially for a curved adze design, the tip of the adze is well suited to insertion from a variety of angles.
- Details That Facilitate Forcing Inward-Swinging Doors. Although others will use “gapping” and other terms for it, here, we will use the term “camming” to describe pushing a door inward by gradually enlarging the spreading force in the space between the door and its stop– like a cam. The All-Am’s adze has been well refined for use with this method. Again, the slender leading edge of the adze slides easily into gaps other tools who have to be driven to fill. Once inserted in the gap, several factors collectively optimize the cam action of as technique: a) Flared Shape— Since the shape of the adze flares out ¼” from its root to its leading edge, the inner-most surface of the adze is most likely to wedge in firmly; b) Sharp Inner Edge— In camming, the doorstop is normally more fixed and stable than the door being pushed. So, the All-Am’s adze is designed to dig the adze firmly into the stop and slide along the door to make the spread. While all other edges on the All-Am are radiused slightly for more comfortable handling, the last 2” of the inner edge of the adze are left relatively sharp, allowing it to dig into the doorstop and hold; c) Perpendicular Alignment of the Adze— Ideally, during a camming spread, the adze should rotate on an axis parallel to the original face of the door– counterintuitively, that means that the adze surface should not necessarily be square with the shaft of the Halligan but rather square with the fork end of the bar that is swinging in an arc while forcing the door. Otherwise, rotation of the fork will tend to pull the adze out of the gap, rather than stabilize it,
- Facilitating Other Uses. If a firefighter is going to carry a Halligan bar, they should be able to count on it for more than just forcible entry– especially overhaul. The curve of the All-Am’s adze creates a shallow hook (like a narrow garden hoe). It is deep enough to balanced and sharp enough to pierce walls, floors, and ceilings, and its surface-area is meaty enough to surround, hold, and pull all types of construction materials and assemblies. These qualities can also be of value in rescue situations where digging and excavation are required.
C. “CHISEL” PIKE. A second distinctive feature of the new All-Am is its “pike” (some might call it the “horn,” “spike,” etc.). It’s a simple component, but it has been given new, previously untapped, functionality:
- Rectangular Cross-Section. The All-Am’s pike has roughly the same length, curvature and proportions as our other bars. But, unlike all other Halligans, which have a round or roundish, horn-like form that performs only as a punch, the All-Am takes a unique, new, proprietary approach– along its length, its shape morphs from a traditional round cross-section base to a thin rectangular form. This simple change adds terrific function to the pike without sacrificing its existing utility. It evolves from being merely a punch to being a multifunctional tool– most notably: a) Mini Adze with Mega-Mechanical Advantage— The cam-like shape of the chisel pike allows it to be used like a miniature Halligan adze. It doesn’t offer much lift height, but provides a huge mechanical advantage (over 80:1 versus 15:1, or less, for the standard adze). Uses would include breaking loose and/or spreading extremely tight assemblies (forcing a tight door, window, access panel, etc., pulling the anchor bolts of barred windows and doors, security gates, spreading mechanisms of entrapment sufficiently to free hands, lifting more formidable mechanisms of entrapment enough to create a gap for insertion of heavier for hydraulic/pneumatics spreaders, etc.; b) an attachment point for adaptors to drive rotary tools such as sockets, drills, mini-augers, etc.
- Chisel Tip. The flattened rectangular tip is finished with a sharpened mini-chisel. This sharpened edge allows it to: a) Cut behind and through parts and materials in tight spaces; b) Pry and Separate— Efficiently remove or separate, tight-fitting metal fasteners, plates, hardware and assemblies, burrow in around carriage bolt heads (e.g., barred doors) to provide more access to their heads, etc.; and serve as c) Tool of Opportunity— The addition of shape to the horn also gives it more functional potential as a tool of opportunity—i.e., use as a spontaneous possible solution to challenges that come up, such as driving into a cylinder lock to rotate or otherwise remove its core; use of its screwdriver-like shape to activate or manipulate latch/deadbolt hardware as part of a thru-the-lock effort; facilitating efforts to defeat car trunk and hood latches, etc.
D. MALLET. Although its easy to overlook (and isn’t often thought of as a “tool component” when it is considered), the rectilinear root of the adze end (the area connecting the adze and pike) as, in fact, an important striking tool and a surface to be struck. In the All-Am, its edges have been cleaned up and squared up to provide:
- “Hammer” Surfaces for Striking. The adze end of the bar provides three different surfaces that can be slid, swung or struck to impact and drive other tools or objects. All of them are free from obstruction by other parts. All three surfaces have square corners that are perfect for driving the similarly-squared shoulders of another Halligan’s forks.
- Clean, Clear “Anvil-Like” Strikable Surfaces. The surfaces needed to drive the adze, pike and forks are all perfectly flat, free of obstructions, and perpendicular to the axis of the feature they are intended to drive.
- “Battering Ram” Functionality. Forcible entry takes many different forms. To enhance use of the bar as a “battering ram,” the outer surface of the All-Am’s adze curves back and away from the end of the shaft, allowing the adze-end to deliver a clean, on-center striking blow.
OVERALL? Pricey? Yes. But, look carefully and consider the metallurgy, the attention to detail in manufacture, the refined design. Or, ask anyone who has actually had an opportunity to compare; in terms of precision, functionality, and durability, nothing else really comes close. If it were your bar, you’d accept nothing less.
AVAILABILITY. At present we are stocking the All-American Halligan pattern in the most popular length of 30”, as well as 24,” 27,” and 36” lengths. Bars are available in a fully polished version, and they are beautiful! But, we don’t encourage your purchasing them polished from us: a) We will have very few in stock (they are currently out-of-stock) and b) it is very expensive– we use only Henry’s of Los Angeles to do the polishing; they do a beautiful job(!!!), but it adds a $115. upcharge (which only covers when Henry’s charges us). Buy a standard matt-finished bar (they all start out the same, as matt-finished bars) and polish it yourself or have a local source do the polishing.
SOURCES– THE R.A.G.E. COMPANY. Tim Brozoskie, owner of the Rapid Action Gear & Equipment Company (R.A.G.E), is the longest-standing dealer– and Master Distributor– of MalvenWorks tools. Tim is very active in both the career and volunteer segments of the fire service. He is a day-to-day user of our tools and has been a valued consultant from the very beginning, You won’t find a person more knowledgable of the MalvenWorks line. All purchase inquiries concerning MalvenWorks tools will be directed to him http://therageco.3dcartstores.com/MALVEN-WORKS_bymfg_47-0-1.html.
If you’re looking for field-tested fire and rescue gear, RAGE is always a good place to start. Tim is, himself, a career Firefighter/Emergency Vehicle Driver with Baltimore City Fire Department’s very busy Rescue 1, and a volunteer Captain with the Mt. Carmel Area Rescue Squad, Mt. Carmel, PA. His store specializes in tools and equipment designed and manufactured by firefighters and made in the United States– tools he’s used, himself.