Leave your mark

In the past I have written a number of times about the risk of rolling out the locking mechanisms of karabiner gates and by doing so inadvertently opening them, a fairly frequent occurrence in tree work, I would suggest.

Some testing that the UK’s HSE did on roll-out showed that one of the locking mechanisms that offered a good level of protection against this phenomenon was Petzl’s Ball Lock. Back in the day this was a type of gate locking mechanism frequently used by arborists. One of the issues with the original Ball Lock was that it was made out of plastic and really did not tolerate outside loading of the gate well, this was liable to cause cracks in the plastic – which could be surprisingly hard to spot.

Since then, the locking mechanism has seen a number of evolutions, with various different barrel and ball combinations, up until the most recent version of the Ball Lock karabiners…

But… what I loved about the original version, plastic or not, was the fingerprint on the concave indentation in the barrel (see pic above), housing the green ball which needs to be depressed as one of the motions to unlock the gate! The first time we were in Crolles visiting Petzl, I was like Yes, fine, let’s talk. But before we go any further: Whose fingerprint is that on the Ball Lock barrels?! I have spent years wondering! It turns out it was some engineer who stuck his print on the original mould.

I mean… wow. How cool is that? Talk about leaving your mark! Because that fingerprint then went global on thousands upon thousands of karabiners.

Ok, maybe my fascination dates back to being the kid who could never resist sticking his fingers in the glazing putty on windows before it set (just don’t tell my mum!). Yet still, I think that is quite a claim to fame! And what a way to break the ice at a dinner party: Mais oui, my name is Fabrice. We ‘ave not yet met, but certainement you know my fingerprint!

But hey, guess what? Progress took all the fun away: Today we are left with two bland parallel knurls on the barrel either side of the green ball. Oh well. And I thought the future was supposed to be fun.

Talking about roll out, this is something other karabiners manufacturers have offered up various solutions for over the years, such as ISC’s Springlock (below left) or DMM’s Durolock (below right).

No fingerprints in sight.

Sigh… when will the world start to listen to me?