Hello! Does anyone know what kind of steel is used for the tools the
water companies use to turn on and off a water main leading into a
house? They're about 5 feet long, T-shaped, with a socket on the long
end and a chisel tip on one end of the "T", and a spike on the other
end. Any ideas?
I see mostly rebar used for these tools. Locally, the top of the stop valve
looks like large flat head screw in reverse, a protruding ridge, rather than a
slot. Its pretty simple to heat a piece of 1/4" flat and fold it over to form
a wrench. Water meters around here aren't buried very deep, so in a pinch, I
can use a large adjustable wrench with a large screwdriver to twist it.
if you need one you can go to home depot and buy one, pretty cheap and
cheaply made(mild steel)... i made one myself out of a piece of 3/4 inch
pipe(cut groove in one end with a hack saw and then beat the center
part in to make the groove to turn the valve( need a pipe wrench to turn
the pipe(or you can go overboard on the home made tool by putting a
handle on it with some pipe fittings)....
The handle and shaft are typically rebar. The socket is usually a
piece of narrow channel welded to the end of the shaft, although plate
or angle could be used as well. The head of a slag chipping hammer
could be attached to form the chisel tip.
There's not usually any tool steel in these devices.
Beecrofter wrote: The tool is called a "street key" In some places it is a
5 sided socket.
Five-sided sockets are universally used on fire hydrants, since no commonly
available wrench will fit. Seems to me that this would not be a good idea
for the main water valve to a house, since it would make emergency shut-off
Around here, the wrenches are just steel. But the "socket" on the end
for the stop valve you mention is pentagonal, not hexagonal. Same as
the cover plate hold-down is. Can't give you sizes. Should be
available at any plumbing or underground specialties wholesaler.
Thanks all you guys! I actually don't want to make or use one. The
water company left one in my yard when I moved into my house six years
ago, and despite numerous calls to them to come get it, they never
have. So, I decided to see what I could do with it. Doesn't sound
like much, though, if it's rebar. At least, not what *I* would do
with it, that being knifemaking. :-) But thanks all for your
It also makes it hard for deadbeats to turn on the water again once
it's been shut off. It's the sort we have around here. Meter pit
cover has a 5-sided recessed bolt, really hard to get visegrips to
I have one too... I suggest wiping it down with a thin coat of oil, and
carefully packing it away where you can find it in a hurry.
It's not exciting to look at, and you won't use it often... but one day
you might be REAL glad you can lay your hands on it. They have a way of
stripping the 'urgent' factor out of many pluming emergencies.
I was in the hardware store years ago with my neighbor. They had a pile
of good 'DWP' quality street key's they'd picked up somewhere... and I
mentioned I'd always wanted one, but could never justify actually buying
Soon after he gave me one as a 'gag gift' kind of thing (another story).
Within weeks it was used for real at the same neighbors place when his
shut off valve failed. Not too long after that, it was a big hit in the
neighborhood right after the 94 LA earthquake... and has seen service
probably 5 or 6 times since.
It's probably not rebar, unless it has the characteristic ridges and
marks, just black steel pipe or heavy wall tubing, or hot rolled stock
of some sort. Worth more as a usable curb key than scrap.
Paint it red and keep it handy in the garage, and make sure the wife
and kids know where it is. The first time you (or a neighbor)
discover a new geyser in your front yard, or a leak inside the house
and the hand valve is stuck open, that curb key will come in handy.
Unlike a sheared fire hydrant where they'll hurry, the water company
can take their sweet time getting there. No hurry, the water leak is
past the meter so you are paying the bill.
LA DWP has padlock hasps on their curb valves to lock them in the
OFF position. Better than an odd 5-sided wrench, you have to cut the
lock off, and that's a twofer - they can get you for both "theft of
services" and "destruction of city property".
I have made many, many of these.
First the vaults do commonly use a five sided bolt to secure the
hatches, just like fire hydrants use on their caps and on the
operating nut (the one on top).
The Key being discussed is most likely a mainline valve key which will
have a square receiver that will slip over a 2" square nut. The 2"
square nut is the industry standard for operating nuts on buried water
main valves. This is true for butterfly, gate and knife valves. The
only deviation is inside of a vault or pump house when a hand wheel is
The pick end on the handle is for prying the lid or cover off of the
valve box in the street. DO NOT DO THIS!! BAD! BAD! BAD! Authorized
personnel and all that rot. That said I have made them (mainline
shutoffs) mostly of 5/8" cold rolled steel. You can use 1/4" flat to
make a box end that will fit over the 2" square nut or go to your
local supplier and buy 3" of 2"+ square tubing w/a wall thickness of
3/16" or 1/4".
The shut off by your water meter is normally a slotted affair and only
about 18"-24" long. They are normally in two sizes. One is 5/16"
thick and the other is 3/8" thick. Unless your utility has given you
permission or installed a shutoff on your side of the water meter you
could get in trouble for even touching "THEIR" valve. Again having
mentioned that I make them out of 3/8" cold rolled steel on a wooden
jig (for the tee) the slotted end I always make in the thicker size
and 2" long. I have heated and bent flat bar for this but it is a lot
quicker to set up a wooden jig and cut all your pieces then just do a
mini assembly line. They do not have to be thimble tight on the
slotted operating nut. Just remimber "Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosy".