17 November 2021
By Tim Koch
Tim Koch gets tooled up.
Teng Tools is an international company known for its range of over 3,000 automotive, engineering and mechanical tools. The firm was founded in 1985 by Henri Tengvall from Sweden who spotted a gap in the quality tool market.
The company took its name and logo from the Japanese demi-god, Tengu. The Teng Tools website says that Tengu “was characterised by strength, courage and innovative thinking, properties that our product range have inherited”. Tengu masks with their characteristic red devilish faces and long noses are used for Noh stage plays and certain Shinto festivals and also as a decoration as they are thought to frighten bad spirits and bring good luck.
In 1988, Henri set up a warehouse in the UK and around this time he and three colleagues arrived at the Sons of the Thames Rowing Club in Hammersmith, West London, wanting to learn to row. Although I was at Sons at this time, I am not sure how much or how little support was given to the four middle-ages novices but, encouraged or not, “The Tengs” (as they became known at Sons) bought themselves a coxless four and I think that they taught themselves to row by trial and error (this was in the days when health and safety was a minority interest).
Henri must have soon discovered that at the time, a rower needed two spanners to rig a boat: a 10mm for the rigger bolts and a 13mm for the top nuts. The only spanner that had this combination in one tool at this time came from a Volkswagen toolkit – an expensive way of buying a convenient device. However, it did not take the owner of a tool making company long to produce a combination 10mm/13mm ring spanner (US: box-end wrench) that he called the “Rigger Jigger”. The rest is rowing history (though a 17mm spanner is still needed for bottom nuts).
According to the Rock the Boat website, the “Teng Tools Rigger Jigger” that it sells is “the official trade-marked brand”. Presumably then, no other 10mm/13mm spanner combination is allowed to call itself a “Rigger Jigger” – though I imagine that the device itself cannot be patented.
In the United States, Resolute may be the only boat maker that uses metric and not imperial hardware. The U.S. standard seems to be 7/16 inch (11.13mm) for rigger bolts (the only metric measurement that many Americans seem comfortable with is 9mm).
Sadly, while researching this article I found that Henri died in 2018. An edited obituary, published in a Swedish trade magazine and translated by Göran Buckhorn, reads:
Henri Tengvall, the creator of Teng Tools, died on March 9 at the age of 78, mourned and missed by family and an innumerable crowd of friends and acquaintances.
Henri was the born entrepreneur, always enthusiastic, always full of new ideas and always open to listening to both people and the market.
For our industries, Henri was synonymous with the creation of his life, Teng Tools… The brand was introduced in England in 1985 and quickly became a leading name in the market. The business concept was to offer quality tools with a lifetime guarantee in a zone between the high price and the hobby range.
(After selling Teng Tools, Henri) settled on Möja (an island in the Stockholm archipelago) and started breeding sheep, then got involved (with) the construction of local marinas… and much, much more.
For many years Henri lived and worked in Taiwan where he also met his life partner. In Europe, next to Sweden, England was home.
Many will miss Henri Tengvall’s alert eyes, fast, infectious smile and convincing enthusiasm.