Sunday, December 7, 2014

Twelve-in-One Combination Tool, a vintage tool review.

Thought it might be fun to review vintage tools that are still commonly available. First up we have the Twelve-in-One patented in 1927 by Thomas Setzer Hutchison, a very interesting man in his own right but we will get to that later.


The Twelve in One combination tool is made of German silver, is approximately 12" long when fully extended, and was advertised to perform the following functions:
1934 Advertisement

  1. 12" Ruler
  2. T-square
  3. Bevel gauge
  4. Depth gauge
  5. Try square
  6. Marking gauge
  7. Inside measure
  8. Compass
  9. 30° angle
  10. 45° angle
  11. 60° angle
  12. Adjustable extension ruler


Does it? Well yes although some of the functions overlap. Hutchison's invention has two sets of grooves so that mating rulers can be locked at 90°, in the middle as a t-square or on the end as a try square. I measured these angles with an engineer square and also with the line drawing technique and found them dead nuts square. Setting the gauge for 30/45/60 degrees involves aligning one arm to lines scribed in the other, this is less precise than grooves but when checked against drafting triangles I found the markings to be accurate.

Is the Twelve in One tool worth owning? Yes. It is a lightweight, very compact tool that fits nicely in your pocket. The angles are accurate and it performs all its functions well considering it is simply two pieces of metal and a thumbscrew.  I use it most often as a depth gauge, square, and bevel gauge; in that order. The lines are a little hard to see on mine for use as a ruler but it's passable in a pinch. I've yet to use it as a compass because I always forget but it does work well as a marking gauge. The thumbscrew is easier to tighten than loosen, whether that is a benefit or detriment I'll leave to the individual. I wouldn't mind if the thumbscrew were just a tad taller, maybe 1/32". These can be found on ebay under various titles. Many sellers have no idea what they are and may be listed as combination tools, 12 in 1, twelve in one, Nashville tool, dozen tools in one, and other variations. At least one other company manufactured them, a CWS Co. based in Chicago.

About Thomas Hutchison, he was a lifelong soldier who rose through the enlisted ranks and eventually commissioned as an officer. He served with distinction in the Spanish American War and retired a captain. After the war he served as police commissioner fighting for reforms in animal cruelty and child care. Apparently life in Nashville was too tame and he volunteered for the Greek Army and fought in the First Balkan War. After finally retiring he invented this combination tool. Hutchison died in 1936.