Alterative Name(s): Tubular Spanner
No.2 Size 'Duigan' box spanner with 30 mm hexagonal socket head, cast steel or malleable iron barrel floating operating arm. Manufactured to a design invented and patented by Reginald Charles Duigan of "Cooraminta", Elliminyt, via Colac, Victoria, in 1931 (Commonwealth of Australia patent no.4570/31, 19th October, 1931).

Reginald Charles Duigan was the younger brother of John Robertson Duigan whole built and flew the first Australian powered aircraft at "Spring Plains", Mia Mia, via Redesdale, Victoria, in 1909-1910. Born in Melbourne on 15th September 1888, he was educated at Brighton Grammar School, where he excelled in both sporting and academic pursuits. Unlike his elder brother, who completed studies in electric engineering and motor mechanics in London, Reg Duigan had no formal technical education but showed a strong mechanical aptitude from an early age and was an eager participant in many of his brother's experimental projects. After finishing school he began working as a manager of 'Spring Plains', a 10,000-acre pastoral property owned by his father at Mia Mia, near Redesdale, in central Victoria. It was there that John joined Reg after returning from England and began working on his biplane.

The two brothers shared an interest in motorcycle riding and tinkering the engines of motorcycles and early motor buggies used on the property to improve their performance. Amongst Reg's earliest inventions was an ingenious self-opening counter-balanced gate that was installed at the front entrance to the property and could be activated by a driver without getting out of the motor car. In later years Reg applied for patents on a number of his own inventions, including the 'Lock-Grip' wire strainer in 1916 (his most commercially successful design), a device for opening split wheel rims in 1926 and the box spanner in 1931. At the time of submitting the box spanner patent application, Reg Duigan was living at 'Cooraminta', a property at Elliminyt near Colac and described his occupation as an 'inventor and investor'.

Physical Description

145 mm long x 30 mm diameter cast steel or malleable iron barrel with a 30 mm (internal width) x 25 mm deep hex socket at one end and castellated head at other end. A 150 mm long x 9 mm diameter floating operating bar or lever with a right-angle bend at one end is fitted through a hole in the centre of the castellated head and secured by a 15 mm diameter ball fixed to each end so that the bar cannot be removed. The bar is free to be slid into the centre of the barrel or extended and rotated so that is locks into one of six semi-circular slots in the castellated head enabling the spanner to be easily turned in either direction to tighten or loosen a hexagonal head bolt or nut. The barrel has been painted externally with an on orange paint which has partially worn off.


The Duigan box spanner provides an insight into the story of the Duigan brothers and their pioneering role in the early development of Australian aviation. It was one of several inventions patented by the younger brother Reginald Charles Duigan and later commercially developed. In its concept it is an elegant and deceptively simple piece of industrial design solving the age old problem of loosing or dropping the cross-bar on a conventional box spanner while retaining the compactness of a box spanner's basic form. It is tempting to surmise that Reg Duigan may even have conceived of the invention while perched up on an aircraft changing spark plugs or making other adjustments to an aero engine, where to drop a part of one's spanner would require a frustrating climb down to the ground to retrieve it.

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