University of Toronto engineering students stole the Waterloo Tool, mascot of the University of Waterloo Faculty of Engineering, on January 6, 1982.
"The Tool", for those unacquainted, is a 60″ long triple-chromed pipe wrench made by the Ridge Tool Company (known for its Ridgid brand of hand tools and power tools). This particular tool is a specimen that dates from 1968 and now serves as the mascot of the University of Waterloo Engineering Society.
Forged in Elyria, Ohio, the $350 Tool was donated to the then cash-strapped UWaterloo in 1968 by the Ridge Tool Company on two conditions: that it be named “The Ridgid Tool” and that it be kept in its original Ridgid orange and black colours. Waterloo, of course, took these to heart – and promptly dipped the whole thing in a bath of chrome just hours after its reception. The “Ridgid” brand name was dropped shortly thereafter.
Skule Cannon on the Waterloo Tool following the 1982 theft
BFC poses with the Waterloo Tool
Following the Welcome Back Stag (a Waterloo social night to kick off the winter term), the Tool was driven back in a convoy of vehicles. However, the lead Tool Bearer made an unexpected stop by himself before reaching their destination. It was then that University of Toronto engineering students attacked him and stole the Tool.
The Tool was kept in secret by members of the Brute Force Committee, who took numerous photos of the Tool, including one with the Skule Cannon placed on top of the Tool.
Following two months of negotiations between the schools, it was finally returned on March 4th, 1982, just before the Iron Ring Ceremony at Waterloo. It was returned encased in a 45-gallon drum of concrete.
The Tool Bearers at Waterloo, with the help of their Frosh, worked through the night to free the Tool from the concrete, and succeeded only to find that "U of T" had been engraved into it.
Shortly after, the Tool was re-chromed to cover up the damage caused by the Tool liberation.
The Tool has not been stolen since... or has it?
The following article appeared in a Waterloo student newspaper, The Imprint several weeks following the liberation:
Cathy McBride, The Imprint, February 12, 1982
Charges may be laid in connection with the January 6 disappearance of the University of Waterloo engineering mascot, the Ridgid Tool.
A group claiming responsibility for the prank has been in contact with the Imprint. In its letter the group said the tool was taken from the trunk of a car in a local plaza. The tool had been at the Welcome Back stag earlier in the afternoon and the thieves followed the car that was transporting the tool. The tool was chained to the car forcing the thieves to use chaincutters.
The letter received by the Imprint received by the Imprint labelled the sender as Paul Lampart of 2 Bloor St. W. Toronto. Don Heath, President of the Engineering Society, said that the pranksters have been contacted and have admitted that Paul Lampart was a pseudonym. Heath added that he received letters from the culprits postmarked Montreal.
Heath called the police because “they (the thieves) went beyond the ethical point of student pranks by damaging the car.” However, Heath is reluctant to press charges especially if the incident was a prank. A professional student convicted would lose his status. Heath says “there’s something inside me that makes me feel it’s an engineering student somewhere.”
Heath is upset and feels that the incident has overstepped the bounds of normal pranks. “I don’t like the fact that they haven’t identified themselves.” At first Heath was worried because he didn’t know if the Tool was taken by pranksters or by car thieves. He also doesn’t like the fact that a car was damaged when the Tool was taken.
The pranksters have been in touch with heath and have offered to pay for any damage they had done. Heath said that “depending on who it turns out to be”, he may accept the payment.
Heath said that the group had phoned him and offered to negotiate the return of the Ridgid Tool.
The police investigation has produced no results.