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Bryden Allen Crack-a-jack
6:50:50 PM
John Ewbank refers to a “Crack Jack” or “Crack-a-Jack”, an invention by Bryden Allen, several times in his writings. Does anyone know what this was, and if there is a picture anywhere?

Also very interested in Allen’s hook designs, which Ewbank notes were better than the imported hooks. Does anyone have one?

E. Wells
4:50:33 PM
I think the crack jack maybe was also refered to as a cracker? Must be a few people that could answer in more detail, some kind of early hex. There is one still stuck in the top of Stonewall Jackson at a fairly steep bulge. And a removable one in a belay on Ginsberg if anyone cared to take it. Whether they are true crackers im not sure.

E. Wells
5:02:53 PM
A hex with big holes drilled into the contacting surfaces maybe? Is this a cracker?

E. Wells
5:34:48 PM
After looking in the nuts museum website what i am thinking about were just 1976 chounard hexes. I also realise some purple chord on some hexes i still use is possibly from the 70s or 80s rather than the 90s as i had assumed. Hmm...probably should replace it.
7:58:25 AM
My extremely vague recollection is of something that had a threaded part like an old fashioned car jack. It could be wound in or out to suit the size of the crack.
10:11:57 AM
BA, did you ever see one in person?

Kieth Bell recently mentioned that Allen felt it needed improvements, which might be why Allen did not describe it on his extensive website.

It wasn’t until late 80s that BigBros came out as a functional product, but I think the idea had been played around with by various tinkerers besides Allen prior. There might have also been some prototypes made in Europe, but not sure if later or earlier than Bryden.

Funny how Ewbank indicates it as a great Bryden invention, wondering if there might be some wry Aussie humor in his praise of the device (at least two mentions in Thrutch).
3:39:26 PM
When I started out in 1972, crackers were the name for generic bar stock hexes, as made by Ewbank and others such as Clog, etc. Chouinard hexes and then hexcentrics came later.

I don't recall anything specifically named a "Crack Jack" or the like, but I would bet good money that I had heard about some sort of expanding tube chock in the '70s. (In particular before I visited the USA in 1978.)
One Day Hero
6:57:36 PM
On 16-Oct-2022 deuce4 wrote:
>It wasn’t until late 80s that BigBros came out as a functional product,
>but I think the idea had been played around with by various tinkerers besides
>There might have also been some prototypes made in Europe,
>but not sure if later or earlier than Bryden.

I've read a tidbit somewhere about a very early difficult ascent on gritstone where the chap "fashioned a protection device which expanded into the horizontal break"

Always assumed it was a rudimentary threaded device or maybe a car jack.
8:08:13 AM
On 16-Oct-2022 deuce4 wrote:
>BA, did you ever see one in person?

12:12:26 PM
so, John M, could you please show us a couple of references of this alleged Crack a Jack ? As did KB, I climbed with Bryden several times and had several long drives (eg Sydney- Arapiles; return) and i cant say i recall him discussing it. But, as they say, there you are. I'll even wander over next time i stay w my (non climbing) cousin in Cremorne & exchange notes
2:42:27 PM
I am all laid up atm recovering from hip replacement, but both references I read were articles in Thrutch by Ewbank with praise for Bryden’s inventions. When I get back to my research I will post them, I took photos from Noddy’s collection.

Thrutch really is a classic magazine, of a classic era of climbing. I would be very interested in buying a complete collection if anyone had one to sell!
6:03:47 AM
Here is one of the references:

( I pasted the text of the other one in another attempted post, but kept getting some error about invalid characters, even after I "zapped gremlins" using BBedit.)

4:44:56 PM
I remember John mentioning it at Escalade 93.
"The best contraption was the thing Bryden called the crackajack, which didn’t work at all but was a great idea. It was made from two lengths of rod, each about three inches long. One piece was solid, about three-quarters of an inch in diameter, with an external thread. The other was hollow with a larger diameter and a corresponding internal thread. This piece had a winding lever attached to it, and both pieces had sharp teeth filed into the ends, if you can picture it. The Inquisition would have loved it. The idea was to crank it up in any crack from three to six inches wide, hang from it on a sling and then place a bolt. The trouble was you needed two hands to get it started! Also, the lever wasn’t long enough to exert enough torque to get the teeth to bite. None of this mattered to us. We loved it any¬way and carried it everywhere in its own special bag made from green japara cotton. I favored wooden wedges. At one stage I was so crazy about them that a casual observer would have thought I was on the way to build a small bungalow at the top of the cliff"

9:50:07 AM
Sounds similar to a bigbro but without the spring loaded design.
1:20:35 PM

I wonder the identity of “Ghost”? Anyone know?

Duang Daunk
1:40:35 PM
On 5-Nov-2022 deuce4 wrote:
>I wonder the identity of “Ghost”? Anyone know?

Ghost, on this Site was Hex.
He constantly found himself with time out temporarily banned from posting due to upsetting others and the Moderators, and constantly reinvented his username identity, but was always anonymous.

He was obsessed with Kim Carrigan and Australian climbing history in general, and very knowledgeable on the subject.
He frequented the USA Climbing Sites during his periodic bans from here.

Some people speculated that Hex was Tasmanian based as he is a supporter of saving the Tarkine.
He hasn’t surfaced here in any form for a long time.
That’s my 5c worth. Others may know more.

Someone else that hasn’t been seen much on this Site since suffering a horrific climbing multiple injuries accident while leading a climb in the Blueys is Macca.
Macca climbed a lot with John Ewbank and has a truckload of climbing gear that probably includes some of John’s old pieces. He is active on the Blue Mtns Facebook climbing Site and may have further info for you?
7:08:01 AM
interesting about the anonymity on Supertopo. I compiled a list of people as a PDF from the "Who the hell are you people", but there are still people I communicate with, who know the ins and outs of the 70s, 80s, who won't tell me their true identity. Very odd!
(deuce4=John Middendorf, btw.)

THIS: Letter sent to Stephane Pennequin, master collector of clean gear:

The reason that I don't tell people about my version is because it was a complete failure. It was a bit like the left hand side of the second one you show in your picture. So the sling was attached to the left side, which would take the main force. The right hand had a small lever attached with a tube (to encase the screw) to push on the right wall.
But it didn't work. It was awkward to wind it up tightly and it broke with only my body weight on it. I chucked it away within a month and forgot about it. Billy More made it so I couldn't hurt his feelings and tell him it was useless. So I said it needed more work and forgot about it. I have no photos.
I have used all the many wonderful jam devices and they are mostly terrific. But mine wasn't. My contribution to protection was my carrot, bash-in bolt system as described in my site. For clean climbing this is good because the bolts can always be put in on lead, using a hand drill. But a jam device would be much better when possible.

So my contribution to clean climbing needed to be forgotten.
But thanks for your interest,
Bryden [Allen]
27 February 2013
7:10:20 AM
Funny how Ewbank kept bringing up the design, the only fan of the design apparently!

There are 18 messages in this topic.


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