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Favorite hand tool brands no longer available

Joined
Apr 19, 2006
Location
Manchester, England
I don’t think anybody has mentioned “ Wiss “ tin snips. I had a pair over here. I also had/still have a “ Neff “ “ Adjust-a-box “ adjustable ring spanner. That was also made in the US. The least said about that tool the better.

Regards Tyrone.
 

FamilyTradition

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 24, 2018
Location
Greenfield, Mass
Goodell-Pratt is another forgotten maker of hand tools and small machine tools in the USA. I believe they were absorbed into Millers-Falls. G-P made good hand tools, some machinist tools, and small lathes and bench drills. Not top of the line, but serviceable for light/hobby use.
You are correct, G-P was bought out by Millers Falls during the depression.

The Goodell family had been doing business with Millers Falls for quite some time before that, a lot of their patents for bit braces were assigned to Millers for production.

I have seen at least one example of G-P lathes for use in production. Nowadays one might consider it a hobby lathe, but they were probably decent enough for industrial use in the late 19th century.
 

Joe Michaels

Diamond
Joined
Apr 3, 2004
Location
Shandaken, NY, USA
I believe one of my father's hand braces is a Goodell-Pratt, the other is a Stanley. As for Wiss snips, the kind resembling large scissors were advertised as having an 'inlaid' blade. I.E., each of the two body parts of the snips was forged from mild steel, with a tool steel 'inlaid' on the cutting edges.

A few years back, I was driving en route to Hanford Mills and running a bit early for a meeting there. I saw a sign along the back road from NYS Route 28 to East Meredith, NY. The sign read: 'Bag Sale' and had an address and arrow. I followed it, having no idea what a 'bag sale' was. The folks having the sale had a sawmill and logging operation and also did excavating. In the course of their work, they'd get calls to clean out basements, garages, barns, or old houses. Some stuff went to the landfill or clothing to the local charity. Other stuff got set aside and piled up. This was what was for sale at the end of that summer. The 'bag sale' idea was they handed each person a plastic bag and instructions: 'fill the bag, and what ever is in it will cost you a dollar'. So, I began filling plastic bags. One bag got three pair of old Wiss tinsnips, some miscellaneous Williams open end wrenches, and an assortment of Campbell-Housefield air tools made in Taiwan (a 'Jitterbug' sander, D/A sander, and a air pressure regulator/moisture separator). There was an ancient Sioux recip saw (about like an air driven Sawzall). I was told to put it in the bag, but (stupidly) declined. I got a small vise, and a mess of assorted good older US made hand tools, most of which went to my nephews. The C-H air tools all worked fine once I ran some Marvel Mystery Oil thru them. The sellers were begging me to put more stuff in the bags, but most of the good tools had been picked over long before I got there.
I did make a nice score on the Wiss tinsnips. These are the OLD Wiss, without the cushioned handles.

Another time, en route to Hanford Mills, I saw a sign along that same road reading "Free" with a few cartons of stuff along the shoulder of the road. I stopped and backed up on the shoulder. There was a box with four heavy electric soldering coppers (I am probably one of the few people who does not say 'soldering iron'). These were made by: American Beauty (a maker of clothes pressing irons years ago as well), Stanley, Craftsman, and one unknown. All have the old black cloth jacketed cords with the yellow spiral stripe. All the soldering coppers work fine and I use them. I also got a new whitewash brush (never used), and an old Bernzomatic
(made by Otto Bernz, Rochester, NY) camp stove in excellent condition with two partial cylinders of propane. A specialized vacuum cleaner of the type used by furnace technicians and chimney sweeps was also in the mix and I grabbed it. It also works and is in my shop.

When I was a kid, my father had a hefty American Beauty electric soldering copper. For whatever reason, the heating element in it burnt out. I'd been wanting a heavy electric soldering copper for years, as the Weller soldering gun (there is another defunct US firm, Weller was in Easton, PA) is too light for soldering electrical wiring on vehicles and equipment. I keep a real 'tin can' of "Nokorode' soldering paste, the old white tin can with something about it being used by 'dynamo builders', and a few spools of lead-tin solder for wiring jobs.

Getting back to Bernzomatic: the company, as I noted, was originally called 'Otto Bernz', and originally made gasoline blow torches (blow lamps to our UK brethren).
I suspect Bernz got into propane torches early on, as until MAPP gas came along, any kind of compact propane torch was a "Bernzomatic". Another maker of gasoline blow torches and gasoline fired plumber's stoves (also great for melting babbitt) was Clayton & Lambert, of Detroit. As a kid, I remember my father using a Clayton & Lambert gasoline blow torch with a brass tank on it. It threw quite a flame, but was a bit tricky to get going. Dad told me these torches, as well as our Coleman camp stove, had to use what he called 'white gas'. Back in the 50's, almost all gasoline sold at filling stations contained tetraethyl lead as an anti-knock/octane booster. Dad said the 'leaded gas' would foul the jet in the blow torch or camp stove. Dad took a 1 gallon glass jug and we drove to an Amoco station as they had unleaded gas. Nowadays, if you tried to fill a one gallon glass jug with gasoline at the pumps, you would probably be mistaken for a terrorist or arsonist. Nowadays as well, all gasoline is unleaded and contains a portion of ethanol. For those of us who run older motorcycles or older equipment engines, the leaded gas was a good thing. My old BMW motorcycles have had their cylinder heads reworked to convert them to stand up to unleaded gasoline. My old engines in my welders and Gravely tractors are another matter. I add 'top end' oil to the gas and hope it makes up for the missing lead content.

I doubt Bernz is still in Rochester, NY, and imagine the 'Bernzomatic' name is taken by some conglomerate with the torches and other products made offshore.
 

JST

Diamond
Joined
Jun 16, 2001
Location
St Louis
Eh... "soldering coppers". For some reason, if they get heated by a blowtorch I still call them "coppers", but if they plug in, I call them "irons". I don;t know why I make the distinction.

I have a few of both. For sure, you need at least 3 of the old "coppers" if you want to get anything done, two heating, and one being used. Four is better.
 

Joe Michaels

Diamond
Joined
Apr 3, 2004
Location
Shandaken, NY, USA
JST:

I have some 'real' soldering coppers in my shop. These are relics from my father, and he got them from his brother-in-law, a licensed plumber in the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn. Not having a means of heating them in my shop, the coppers, along with a few odd tools from the days of lead pipe work (as my uncle would say in his Brooklyn accent: "wipe a jernt"), sit on a shelf.

My uncle was a WWI army veteran. He became a licensed plumber in the 'twenties. As such, he employed nearly every young male relative at some point or other as a helper.My uncle was not the sharpest guy around, and believed the pre-requisite for being a plumber was brute strength. He also resisted progress. Almost to the end of his time as a plumber, he used a charcoal 'stove' to heat his soldering coppers and melt lead for 'running joints' in cast iron soil pipe. Other plumbers had evolved thru using gasoline fired plumbers stoves and thence to propane (which my uncle garbled and called 'profane'). About the only concession to modern times my uncle made was to buy a Toledo Beaver 'pipe machine'. His plumbing shop was in an ancient building, lit by one or two bare light bulbs in porcelain sockets, hanging on twisted wire cord.He had a roll-top desk, and endless bins of screwed pipe fittings. His shop had a pleasant odor of cutting oil (Hercules dark sulphur), pipe dope (also Hercules, the kind that was a light brown in color), cigar smoke, and just a kind of homey smell of an old plumber's shop.

When I was a little kid, my uncle knew I liked tools instead of 'normal' toys. I was about 4 years of age when he gave me a small pipe wrench and a Nye pipe cutter (which I still have). He and my dad also got a bunch of 1/2" and 3/4" screwed fittings, along with some pipe nipples and gave them to me to play with. Great fun for a little guy, even if I did get cut a time or two on the sharp pipe threads.

The old Nye pipe cutter gave out one day a few years back. A hardened pin that the cutter wheel turned on broke across a groove for a spring retainer ring. Out of respect for my father and my uncle, I took a piece of O-1 and made a new pin and hardened it. The Nye pipe cutter hangs with a couple of Rigid pipe cutters and a bunch of pipe wrenches. Most of my pipe wrenches are Ridgid, but a few are Reed. One or two lighter pipe wrenches are "Trimo". We gave away the old style pipe wrenches with the wooden handles, and these were either Bemis & Call, or Stillsons. Amidst my tools and momentos of my father, I have a real wiping cloth. A plumber's wiping cloth was traditionally made from mattress ticking material and had blue stripes on a white material. It was sometimes coated with rosin. Dad taught me a bit of lead work when I was a kid. I have never had occasion to use the wiping cloth or the other lead pipe working tools, but they are in the shop, as are
'yarning' or 'calking' irons for driving lead wool and oakum into bell-and-spigot soil pipe joints. I keep a large Coes monkey wrench in the shop. It does come in handy on larger sized fasteners. I have a more beat-up Coes monkey wrench out in the blacksmith shop. I welded a piece of pipe to the top of the fixed jaw, and that is my 'twisting wrench', for twisting bars or other work. That particular Coes monkey wrench was so beat up and had the wood 'scales' on the handle all split and taped up, so I did not feel badly about welding a chunk of pipe to it.

Interesting point about the term "Monkey Wrench". The story I got is that a man named Mr. Muncke (I may be off slightly on the spelling) living in Brooklyn in the 19th century, patented an adjustable wrench. That wrench is what we know today as the 'Monkey Wrench". The designation of the wrench as a 'Monkey Wrench" comes from a corruption of the inventor's last name. Back when Muncke patented his wrench, Brooklyn was still an independent area (Kings County). The merging of the 5 counties (Kings, Queens, New York/Manhattan, Bronx and Richmond/Staten Island) into "New York City" did not happen until sometime later in the 19th century. Muncke was said to have profited handsomely from licensing agreements with manufacturers wanting to make monkey wrenches, so much so that he bought a mansion and grounds in Brooklyn. Coes, of Worcester, MA, seems to have been one of the largest manufacturers of the monkey wrench.
 
Joined
Apr 19, 2006
Location
Manchester, England
Hard as it was I gave away or sold all my engineers tools when I retired. I figured it was better for me to send them to good homes while I was alive rather than to expect my family to dispose of them when I go to the big tool room in the sky. I just kept one or two things of sentimental value along with some practical stuff like some small stillsons ( Trimos like Joe’s ), adjustable spanner’s, screwdrivers, Allen keys, etc.

There used to an Army Surplus shop near to me ( gone now ) that had lots of US made tools for sale in the 1970’s and 80’s. The 10“ Trimos “ pipe wrench came from there along with a smaller 6” wrench that was patterned on the “ Ridgid “ style of pipe wrench.

I like tools but they had to go.

Regards Tyrone.
 

JST

Diamond
Joined
Jun 16, 2001
Location
St Louis
I've used the coppers a few times, mostly for working on copper gutters. I learned quickly that they have to be HOT, much hotter than you think, or they won't do any work before they are too cold.
 

Scottl

Diamond
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Eastern Massachusetts, USA
Eh... "soldering coppers". For some reason, if they get heated by a blowtorch I still call them "coppers", but if they plug in, I call them "irons". I don;t know why I make the distinction.

I have a few of both. For sure, you need at least 3 of the old "coppers" if you want to get anything done, two heating, and one being used. Four is better.
I have a couple of the old style meant to heat over a burner and I have also used an American Beauty electric on the job to solder seams for an RFI shielded room. It tended to get too hot after a while so I plugged it into a variac so I could control it. The tool was heavy enough to easily solder sheet steel seams.
 

FamilyTradition

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 24, 2018
Location
Greenfield, Mass
Interesting point about the term "Monkey Wrench". The story I got is that a man named Mr. Muncke (I may be off slightly on the spelling) living in Brooklyn in the 19th century, patented an adjustable wrench. That wrench is what we know today as the 'Monkey Wrench". The designation of the wrench as a 'Monkey Wrench" comes from a corruption of the inventor's last name. Back when Muncke patented his wrench, Brooklyn was still an independent area (Kings County). The merging of the 5 counties (Kings, Queens, New York/Manhattan, Bronx and Richmond/Staten Island) into "New York City" did not happen until sometime later in the 19th century. Muncke was said to have profited handsomely from licensing agreements with manufacturers wanting to make monkey wrenches, so much so that he bought a mansion and grounds in Brooklyn. Coes, of Worcester, MA, seems to have been one of the largest manufacturers of the monkey wrench.
I have seen so many vintage ones kicking around at auctions, tag sales, and flea markets that I can't even imagine that they could sell any of them new in the hardware stores. I have at least three that I tripped over today while doing work around the house, and I think half a dozen more of various sizes throughout the property. I have quite a few "Ridgid" ones, as well as other various US manufacturers that are either no longer in business or manufacture offshores.
 

BobH

Aluminum
Joined
Jan 23, 2005
Location
Wingdale NY
I have a bunch of soldering coppers but my favorite it the one that goes on a prestolite torch. The flame fires into the back of the copper. Works like an electric but with more balls. Bob
 

Joe Michaels

Diamond
Joined
Apr 3, 2004
Location
Shandaken, NY, USA
Pipe wrenches, at least for residential piping/plumbing, are becoming a thing of the past. With the progression from screwed piping to copper pipe with sweated joints, and now, PEX, and even some 'cross-linked' polymer tubing for hydronic heating, and CPVC or PVC piping for DWV (drainage/waste/venting) there is almost no need for pipe wrenches for residential piping & plumbing. The exception would be making up gas lines (propane or natural gas). Even then, a lot is done with copper tubing and flared fittings, or with a semi-rigid plastic tubing for underground service.

When I was a kid, just about every home-owner, no matter how 'un handy' and regardless of their everyday profession, had a couple of pipe wrenches and a pair of 'water pump' pliers along with a few screw drivers. The pipe wrenches were often the really old style with wooden handles, as made by Bemis & Call, or Stillson. Most homeowners knew how to repack a faucet or valve, and how to change a faucet washer. Packless faucets and 'unilever' kitchen sink faucets were just making their appearance. Houses were heated with single-pipe steam heat, so homeowners knew how to take-up on a packing nut or repack a radiator valve. Houses were also piped for hot & cold water using screwed pipe, often 'red brass', sometimes some screwed galvanized. The average homeowner when I was a kid in the '50's, knew how to do a few repairs before calling a plumber.

Now, true monkey wrenches and older pipe wrenches wind up in 'modern art' or 'metal sculpture'. Large open-end wrenches such as Williams made, the kind with 'Japanned' handles and ground-finished heads, wind up in these sculptures as well. I've seen perfectly good tools butchered, hot-bent, and bird-shit welded into 'art'.
Sad commentary on many levels.

I use my pipefitting tools, and keep a rack on the basement machine shop wall for pipe wrenches and cutters. Diestocks (2 Ridgid 'drop head' ratchet die stocks and pipe dies from 1/4"- 1 1/4" or thereabouts) and 'Toledo' and 'Jarecki' collapsing chaser type die stocks for up to 2" pipe are in wood boxes.

I once attempted to buy some cutting oil (sulphur & lard based) at Lowes. Their website showed they stocked it in the Kingston, NY store. I attempted to find the cutting oil on the shelves and struck out. I asked a salesperson in plumbing and they were clue-less. They had the bright idea I ought to just buy my pipe to them and they would cut and thread it with their pipe machine since their pipe machine had cutting oil. I explained I lived 30 miles up the road, was cutting and fitting pipe as I went along putting in a coal fired boiler, and bought my pipe in single random lengths (20-22 footers), and had the pipe and fittings on hand at my house. The sales person got a manager and he could not find the cutting oil until he used a palm-held device. We went to the coordinates and shelf number shown on the device, and there was a sales banner for Lenox products (solders, PVC cement, etc) hanging over the front of the shelves, hiding the cutting oil. A few more minutes of exploring and claiming the stuff did not exist, while the manager's device claimed it did... and then, the Lenox banner was pushed aside and the cutting oil was found. More questions as to why I needed the stuff, exclamations that I was the first customer to ever buy cutting oil, and similar followed. After that, I went to a REAL plumbing supply and bought cutting oil (handy also for chasing threads in the lathe and drilling/tapping) by the gallon.

As generations age out, the old tools at yard sales and flea markets dwindles. For a time, every yard sale had a few old handsaws, pipe wrenches, claw hammers with wood handles (and a few nails or screws driven into the eye of the head to try to tighten the handle in the eye), and maybe a crowbar or some well-used wood chisels and maybe a hand brace or old carpenter's plane, rusty framing squares, and similar. Now, it is plastic junk, toys the household's kids outgrew, obsoleted video games, and housewares for the most part. It gives support to my belief we are breeding helpless generations to succeed us.
 

Scottl

Diamond
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Eastern Massachusetts, USA
I have a bunch of soldering coppers but my favorite it the one that goes on a prestolite torch. The flame fires into the back of the copper. Works like an electric but with more balls. Bob
I have an old Blue Point (Snap-on) butane torch that has a small soldering copper attachment that works the same way.
 

michiganbuck

Diamond
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Location
Mt Clemens, Michigan 48035
the Yankey automatic screwdriver

Good to cut off the spindle and weld a T-handle at the end, you can put body weight on that T-handle and turn a very tight/stuck screw

 

JST

Diamond
Joined
Jun 16, 2001
Location
St Louis
................................................. It gives support to my belief we are breeding helpless generations to succeed us.
Clearly...........

There is a "forum" for neighborhoods in many areas, called "Nextdoor". The one here often has people posting asking for someone who can paint a door, or hang some pictures.

Call me crazy, but those things seem like about the most basic possible things to do.

OK, busy people might not have time to do everything, but there are enough of these helpless folks that it seems to be a regular trend.

As for plumbing, that has gone into the crapper. I had a plumbing issue right over the shop equipmnt that I just did not want to mess with. It was a complicated bunch of piping in the main water pipe that had a leak at a joint about 5 rusty joints in from the nearest unions, and no room to work. I'd had enough house repair, I was about to go out of town for a week, and so I called a plumber (it's also the law that you have to use a plumber, here in town).

Surprise.... Plumbers do not "do" iron pipe anymore. They do not solder copper anymore. So he used copper, and the "crimp with o-ring" compression joints. At least no PEX, and he used dielectric unions.

I had to find some clamps and #6 cable to jumper around that insulated section of pipe to preserve house grounding.
 

dundeeshopnut

Cast Iron
Joined
Mar 27, 2020
On the subtopic of cushioned handles, for most tools I generally dislike them but, they are a lot warmer when doing a repair outdoors in winter. I had a pair of fence pliers that had them and they were really nice to use for extended periods as I'm sure anyone here who has had the "pleasure" of using them, you are pretty much squeezing/prying with your max grip strength. Wooden handles on claw hammers? Good riddance. Lost track of how many broke when using the claw for what it is made for. I keep some old ones in all my tractor toolboxes for emergency repairs or "adjustments". All have a piece of pipe for a handle. LOL
 

FamilyTradition

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 24, 2018
Location
Greenfield, Mass
I can't imagine the amount of money people spend to have someone else fix their houses, cars, etc. I would be on the street if I didn't do most of the stuff myself. That is, if I can even get the "professionals" to do it.

After the last bad experience trying to get a contractor to come do work on the house, I have settled on doing everything myself unless I absolutely have to get someone in. Didn't show up to do the work and then got pissed at me because I did it myself.

Truck got smashed up a few months after I bought it (other driver was at fault). Went to a few body shops, insurance check in hand, and never got a call back from them. One was on the way home from work and I stopped in often, as he said to come back because he was busy. After the 4th or 5th visit the guy goes "Well, it's easy enough, you should be able to do it yourself."

Just recently did brakes on that truck, and although it does take me a bit longer than a shop does, I save $$$ with auto shop rates being at least $100/hour in my area. And then comes the crowd that says I should just buy a new truck - still cheaper to spend $200 in parts and 8 hours swearing at it and busting knuckles than to have a payment. And on a brand new truck these days - that's like $300-$400 a month! Not sure where these folks think I get that money from.

Oh right, this was a thread about hand tools! :D

the Yankey automatic screwdriver

Good to cut off the spindle and weld a T-handle at the end, you can put body weight on that T-handle and turn a very tight/stuck screw

I picked up a No. 30 at a local antique store last year. I thought it was just the neatest thing. I don't know how the bits go in, mine just has a round bore?

Latest patent date on mine is Nov. 3, 08. I don't suppose they are talking about 2008?
On the subtopic of cushioned handles, for most tools I generally dislike them but, they are a lot warmer when doing a repair outdoors in winter. I had a pair of fence pliers that had them and they were really nice to use for extended periods as I'm sure anyone here who has had the "pleasure" of using them, you are pretty much squeezing/prying with your max grip strength. Wooden handles on claw hammers? Good riddance. Lost track of how many broke when using the claw for what it is made for. I keep some old ones in all my tractor toolboxes for emergency repairs or "adjustments". All have a piece of pipe for a handle. LOL
I agree with you, I think some of this stuff has changed for the better. A lot of my older tools with the metal handles, I find myself wrapping a rag around them to use as a cushion.

I don't think plastic and rubber elements in tools are particularly bad, it's just most of the junk we are offered these days is cheap or designed to break. Good build quality, design, and material quality are what is lacking in a lot of modern hand tools.
 

michiganbuck

Diamond
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Location
Mt Clemens, Michigan 48035
YANKEE screwdriver QT: (mine just has a round bore?)
Mamy /most you pull the collar downward and the locks the but int that round bore.

The end flat keeps it from turning..and the V notch keeps from falling out.
Bit:
 
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FamilyTradition

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 24, 2018
Location
Greenfield, Mass
YANKEE screwdriver QT: (mine just has a round bore?)
Mamy /most you pull the collar downward and the locks the but int that round bore.

The end flat keeps it from turning..and the V notch keeps from falling out.
Bit:
Thanks for the info. It didn't have a bit that came with it so I was not aware they were special bits. Of course, I hadn't looked too far into it until you mentioned the screwdriver design.

I think Millers Falls and Goodell Pratt also made a version of the Yankee screwdriver. I saw a MF one at an antique store when I went on vacation to Tennessee. I regret not picking it up. Also there was a set of Greenfield 10-32 taps. I picked those up as they were still in the original box.
 
Joined
Feb 4, 2004
Location
Metuchen, NJ, USA
Joe,
Two brands I would have mentioned in response to your original question have already been mentioned: Bonney and Utica.

Couple of comments on sub-topics:

Gasoline blow torches with an open hook on top and a notch over the flame opening are designed to balance a soldering copper in the flame. Rest the front of the shank in the notch over the burner, then hook the back of the shank under the open hook. The weight of the copper pulls the front down, so the handle wants to rise up - until it is constrained by the hook. Back of the copper will be in the hottest part of the flame.

Keeping the copper clean and tinned is easier with a block of Sal Ammoniac handy.

My father ( 1912 - 2009 ) spoke of using a folded piece of rubber inner tube to blacken the sides of a hot copper. I can't recall WHY.

Beware of the fumes from "Nokorode" paste flux; they will rust your other tools! Also, it tends to wick up into stranded wire by capillary action, where it can cause mischief hidden by the insulation.

I learned the hard way that it is possible to use too much flux!

Yankee screwdrivers: Every old time hardware store used to have a compartmented box of optional and/or spare Yankee bits. _When a hardware store closes and sells off, BUY THIS BOX!_ You can use the bits you don't need as trade goods.

In addition to countersinks and nut setters, Yankee made 1/4" and 3/8" square drive "bits", also an arbor with threads to match the smallest size Jacobs chuck! ( Though twist drills don't do all that well with the bidirectional motion of a Yankee driver. )

There are current-production adapters to use ordinary 1/4 hexagonal screwdriver bits in a Yankee chuck.

Non-Yankee spiral screwdrivers, especially Millers Falls, may require bits with cruciform shanks. These are "unobtainium". I've seen some branded Craftsman which are clearly MF.

Millers Falls in general: Last week I bought a nickle-plated MF brace with Cocobolo handles. It has 1868 and 1872 patent dates on the chuck. Very good condition with no scars on the wood. I coughed up a whopping $5 for it. ( As if I needed another brace! Although, I used it to repair a friend's house before I even got it home! )

Braces in general: You mentioned the pipe reamers that fit into carpenters braces. Other useful tools with the tapered-square "bitstock head" include screwdrivers, countersinks, square-drive socket arbors, three-jaw chucks, and holders for round dies. I "sort of collect" bitstock tools.

A screwdriver bit in a brace can make good time when manually driving a lot of screws. Here too, there are adapters to fit 1/4 hex bits.

John R.
 








 
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