Imagine you own a classic car; one perfect for driving in the various car events and shows around Metro Detroit in the summer. It’s early August, so you decide to make your way out to the Clinton Township Gratiot Cruise. While you’re on the way, something big goes ka-thunk – every car owners’ worst nightmare. You’re almost to M-3, but decide it’s best to pull over and figure out the issue. As an experienced classic car owner, you’ve got your tool set and hydraulic jack on hand. But one rusty bolt won’t come off no matter how hard you push and pull on your socket wrench. Ultimately, the only option is to take it to a mechanic and you miss the cruise completely.
This is similar to the issue Al Gunther faced several years ago while working on his daughter’s car. A rusty bolt prevented him from doing necessary maintenance and he had to pay a professional to do the job. This got Al thinking. As an engineer who has worked for the Big Three, he knew there had to be a better solution to the socket issue. But to come to that, he had to get at the root of the problem: leverage.
You see, Al realized that he could use two breaker bars, in the hands of two people, but he could only use one tool on the socket at a time. His idea – why not have an adapter that would allow two or more tools to turn the socket at the same time, doubling or even tripling the torque that could be applied? That was the inspiration for the Torkster, a made-in-Michigan product perfect for a car-lover’s toolbox.
How does it work? Well, because of the product’s innovative design, the concept is fairly simple. The Torkster is a round device made out of hardened steel with two half-inch square drive holes on two sides, two half-inch pipe thread holes on the other two sides and a half-inch insert driven through the center of the device. At one and a half-inches thick, the insert fits nicely within the Torkster and allows another half-inch drive tool to be used on its back side. So essentially, you attach the Torkster to a socket, insert multiple breaker bars and then use that leverage to easily remove something like a rusty bolt. To get a better idea of how the tool works, you can watch a ‘how-to’ video starring Al here.
Now, I should mention, the most interesting part of the entire Torkster story are its historic implications. The square drive socket wrench was patented more than 100 years ago and is used across the world. But after doing some research, Al realized that no one had ever tried to patent a way to attach more than one wrench to a socket. The Torkster would be a major update for the classic tool. This makes Al more than just an inventor, he’s an innovator. And through his company, Big Al’s Tools, he’s also an entrepreneur – something that he says runs in his family.
Al’s grandfather owned his own business, as did his father, mother and several of his cousins. His father’s business, a small fleet of ice cream trucks driven throughout New Jersey, required long hours and years of hard work. When Al was old enough, he wanted to take over the business, but his father didn’t want that life for him and insisted that he go to college, get a degree and find a 40 hour-a-week job. Al did as his father wished, getting an engineering degree and moving to Michigan to work for the Big Three. But when the recession hit in 2008, he was laid off from his job. So Al mustered his entrepreneurial spirit and opened his first business – Global Engine Cooling Solutions. The company, a full-service provider of engineering consultation, employee training and technical sales support, gave Al the confidence to venture into other businesses too. Soon after, Big Al’s Tools was born and with it, the Torkster.
As previously stated, the Torkster is nearly entirely made in Michigan. Al believes that sourcing materials locally boosts the quality of his product, and as an autoworker, he thinks it is important to support hometown suppliers. His current partners include a steel wholesaler in Detroit, Sharp Screw Machine Products in Chesterfield, Sturdy Broaching in Warren, Michigan Paper Die in Detroit and Suburban Heat Treat in Warren. This all means that if you purchase the Torkster, you can feel good knowing you are buying local. Which begs the question – where can you get the product? Currently, the only way to buy it is online here. So if you’re driving in the Gratiot Cruise in just a few short weeks, you might want to check the site out as soon as possible, place an order and give your toolbox an update.
To learn more about Big Al’s Tools and the Torkster, visit https://torkstertool.com/home.
Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.