Making Our Own Tools

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This cut-down side of a simple staple puller made a great tool for removal of dashboard knobs.

This cut-down side of a simple staple puller made a great tool for removal of dashboard knobs.

If you work on old cars there’s a good chance you have made a tool or two in your lifetime. We recently ran into the need for a tool to remove the chrome collar from a heater control knob on a 1948 Mopar model.

The chrome knob was affixed to the D-shaped stem with a small spring clip. Jiggling around the clip got the knob to pop off the stem. Getting the stem out seemed to be another matter, but we remembered dealing with something like this with our first car—a ’55 Chevy Del Rey—back in 1965.

Back then, Dad showed us that the threaded insert holding the heater controls to the collar had two tiny slots in it, one on either side of the stem. If memory serves correctly, there was a tool similar to a deep-well socket, but with two little tangs on the end. The tool slid over the stem and the tangs fit into the tiny slots so the collar could be rotated.

When you turned the socket with the tangs in the end, it moved the slots and this allowed the insert to be removed from the collar. Then you could slide the control unit backwards and remove it.

Dad didn’t have the tool, so what he did was catch the corner of a screwdriver or small chisel in one of the slots and hammer until the collar started to move counter-clockwise. This worked, but it chewed up the slots. Since the Mopar was a customer car, we certainly didn’t want to do that.

Next came a search of the entire shop looking for a tool that might do the job at hand. We didn’t find any, but we spotted a cheap “alligator jaw” staple puller and got an idea.

After drilling the tiny rivet out of the staple puller. We separated the two jaws and took one over to our grinding wheel. We ground the jaw end of the metal (and a little bit of the plastic) away until we had two tangs. Then we test fit these into the tiny slots in the knob assembly. They were a little too far apart to fit just right, so we squeezed them together a tiny bit with a pair of regular pliers.

With this simple modification, the tangs fit perfectly into the tiny slots. This allowed us to remove the ring, so that the heater controls could be pulled out of the dashboard. Our little tool worked fine.

If you created your own tool, send us an email to tell us about it.

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