By Author(s): Peter F. Kertzie 
Published Wednesday, April 29, 2009
| From the May 2009  Issue of FireRescue 
When first asked to review the Weddle Tool Company’s W Tool—a manually operated hydraulic rescue tool—I thought, “Oh boy, another tool to add to our rig that will never get used.” But I wanted to keep an open mind, so I went to www.weddletoolco.com  to see what the W Tool was all about. Surprisingly, I was impressed with its potential for forcible-entry operations right off the bat.
The Web site features simple animation that shows how easy it is to operate the W Tool. The site also claims that, if used correctly, the W Tool will do minimal or no damage when forcing inward-opening doors—the big selling point.
When evaluating new tools, I first want to know how much we really need the tool. So my first question was, “Do we need a way to get into buildings without causing excessive damage?” I have no problem destroying a door when flames are blowing from the structure and we need to rescue someone. Minimizing damage to the door is not a concern here. It’s all the other runs that cause my stomach to turn when we have to force entry—an alarm going off in the middle of the night in an empty building, a check-the-welfare call, an EMS call where the patient just needs help getting up, a lockout, etc.
Hand tools will get us in a door but usually with considerable damage. A Rabbet tool is dependable but will likely cause some damage to the lock, door and frame (it’s still a good tool, though). In many cases, a K-tool can be used with minimal damage, but it requires the user to use a bit more finesse. So the answer is a resounding “yes”; we do need a tool like this.
When I received the tool, I called a truck crew to come take a look. Truckies look at new tools like kids opening presents on Christmas. We opened the package together, and the tool radiated American-made quality.
The W Tool’s design incorporates three basic components: a manually operated 6,000-lb. hydraulic power head attached to a telescopic main body constructed of an outer 2" x 2" square steel tube; an inner 1.5" x 1.5" square steel tube that’s 27 inches long designed to adjust in length telescopically to 39 inches; as well as top and bottom plates constructed of half-inch plate steel. The top plate is designed to receive multiple heads (not yet available) that will allow the tool to perform multiple rescue tasks, while the bottom plate is equipped with two steel purchase points to allow for use as a rescue strut.
The W Tool is designed to help truckies push the door frames apart just enough to allow the throw to clear the striking plate of the door. We used the tool first on a heavy wood door with a wood frame. Slowly the tool spread the frame. A slight splintering noise was heard for a moment and then pop—the door opened. Amazingly, there was no damage. This door had a short throw on the lock.
We then moved to a metal door hung in a metal frame. We used the tool as instructed, and the tool did separate the frame from the throw and the door was opened. There was some minor dimpling of the metal frame where the tool’s ends had been positioned.
We also tried the tool on a double-hung window. We managed to spread the frame far enough to remove the sashes without breaking the windows or the frame.
So does the W Tool do what it’s designed to do? If there’s plenty of space between a door and its frame, the tool indeed causes no damage. But if there’s no space around the frame, at least some damage will probably occur. So if you accept that there may be some—albeit minimal—damage, then the tool does exactly what the manufacturer claims.
In addition to forcible entry, the tool has many other uses. It can be used as a smoke ejector hanger and even as a battering ram. Additionally, the W Tool can be used for vehicle stabilization, structural collapse/stabilization, trench rescue/cave in/confined space and auto accident with entrapment/dash displacement.
The tool features a built-in LED light so you don’t have to hold a flashlight to see what you’re doing—a great feature.
We did notice a couple things that could be improved upon in future versions. The pre-drilled holes for making length adjustments are several inches apart. This caused a lot of manual turning of the threaded end to get the tool expanded to the correct size on certain openings. A couple more of these holes would help.
When we tested the tool in a horizontal position, we had to do so with the handle on the top. And when we tested it in a vertical position, we had to use it with the jack on the top in order to expand.
In general, heavily secured doors with deadbolts and long throws will require the frame to be spread wider than less-fortified doors. In these cases, I don’t see how it’s possible to avoid doing at least some damage. Sometimes you won’t know if the tool can be used without doing damage until after the damage is done, but this is normal for any method of forcible entry.
The W Tool costs $1,395, and it’s available with a variety of adapters and accessories. There’s also a 30-day money back guarantee. Plus, if something happens to the tool outside the 1-year warranty period, the Weddle Tool Company will recondition the product for a minimal fee.
All in all, this tool will enhance the work we do and reduce property damage when forcing inward opening doors. It’s definitely a tool made by firefighters for firefighters, and I like it!
- Causes little to no structural damage;
- Has a long list of potential uses; and + Includes a built-in LED light.
- Could use a few more pre-drilled holes for making length adjustments.
Weddle Tool Company
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