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Reinventing a Trusted Partner:

The 1951 Ridgid 400

Reinventing a Trusted Partner: The 1951 Ridgid 400


In the 1940s, as the demand for indoor plumbing increased, Stan Bridgman's father supported his family taking on a variety of plumbing contract jobs. In the hot, Arkansas summer of 1951, one of those jobs was to install steam heat for a nursing home in Midway. The project led Stan's father to buy their family’s first power tool, a Ridgid 400 pipe threader. Stan, then 11 years old, remembers being impressed by this purchase from his father, who denied Stan’s request for a chain saw to cut the wood his family needed for winter heat because in his opinion, their cross-cut saw would do just fine.

Over 70 years later, the Bridgmans can say they got their money’s worth. Stan inherited the Ridgid 400, used it to help support his family through a range of hands-on careers and keeps it at the ready for work he still does today.

What Is a Ridgid 400?

Designed for heavy-duty use, today’s version of the Ridgid is a powerful threader, designed for the sole purpose of creating precision threads on pipes. Ridgid pipe threaders are well known for their durability and are used mostly for gas plumbing and construction work.

Because of his age and size in 1951, Stan remembers spending all day using the Ridgid 400 to work with pipe sections he couldn’t even pick up himself. He remembers his dad picking up a length of pipe and putting it in the machine for Stan to repeatedly measure, cut off and thread.

“I was just 11 years old,” Stan joked. “Aren’t there laws against that now?”

Because of how the machine was designed back in the 1950s, however, Stan was able to uncover many more uses for his dad’s treasured tool as he matured.

“I still have that machine and it’s in good working order.” —Stan Bridgman

A Versatile, Hard Worker

In the early 1960s after earning his mechanical engineering degree, Stan moved from the farms of Arkansas to Texas to work in the oil field service industry, then in aircraft and government ammunition production. When it came time to raise a family, he and his wife returned to Arkansas. Stan's business ventures back home included starting his own HVAC/R company, and purchasing an established fence and iron company.

Fencing construction is seasonal, so Stan realized he needed to keep his team busy — and earning money — all year. That’s when he re-discovered the Ridgid 400 his father had purchased so many years earlier. He figured out the tool worked great for making pickets and cutting pipe for post from bulk pipe in 22- and 24-foot lengths. He and his team inventoried the pipe lengths in winter for use when the ground thawed. Then they got to work installing fencing, gates, dog pens and other enclosures until it was time to start cutting pipe again.

After selling the fencing business, Stan’s career took many turns and his Ridgid 400 proved its value with each new venture. While still doing the HVAC/R work, Stan earned his master electrician and gas fitters licenses. He discovered the Ridgid 400 did well pulling large wires through conduit by serving as a capstan puller. Stan would reinvent himself many more times throughout his career, and his Ridgid 400 was always an able partner.

Stan points out that while the machine is over 70 years old, he’s been able to keep it going by finding replacement clamps, vises and jaws when they wear out. “The original power cord never deteriorated at all and still works fine,” he said.

“Today’s machines also aren’t as versatile and can only be used for threading pipe. My machine has many more uses beyond the original for which it was intended.”

—Stan Bridgman

Back on the Farm

Stan has spent most of his life on a farm and says he tried living in town for a while when he retired, but decided it just wasn’t for him — and neither was retirement. Now in his 80s, Stan operates a commercial kitchen service business from his farm in Alpena, Arkansas, where they now live. In addition to running the business and operating the 35-acre farm, he says they still do some gas plumbing work and use the Ridgid 400 for threading pipe or whatever its next task may be.


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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.