Johan Petter “JP” Johansson, born in Vårgårda, Sweden in 1853, became a prolific inventor and successful industrialist whose creativity and ingenuity can still be felt to this day.
Johan Petter, better known as “JP”, was the eldest of six children from a crofter’s family. From an early age he showed a unique ability to solve engineering problems. When he was 13, he rebuilt his father’s hand thresher, which was too heavy to be used by his siblings, so that it could be pulled by a horse. When his mother complained about glass paraffin lamps breaking too easily and so being dangerous, JP learned how to solder tin and make paraffin lamps out of metal instead.
JP first worked as an assistant operator of a steam engine at a local peat factory. He then left Vårgårda at the age of 19 to work as a navigator at Motala. Following military service in 1874, he moved to Eskilstuna where he worked for the Bolinder-Munktell factory and had his first invention patented, a lubricating nipple or nozzle for providing moving machine parts with oil/grease. In 1878 he moved to Västerås where he found employment at a mechanical workshop. Following that, he worked as a blacksmith at a nearby farm.
In 1886 he eventually decided to start his own business, buying a waterfall that would provide power to his new company, Enköpings Mekaniska Verkstad (the Mechanical Workshop of Enköping). A year later, JP had 14 employees and his business was booming. As an employer, he took care of his employees and their families, building both houses and schools.
It was during these years that JP invented the plumber’s pipe wrench, patented in 1888 and the adjustable spanner, first patented in 1891 with two movable jaws, and then a year later, the truly ground-breaking invention of one movable jaw adjustable on a screw thread. Both inventions were creative solutions to the cumbersome and inefficient practice of having to have and carry a set of pipe wrenches or spanners for each different size of pipe, nut or bolt.
JP’s colleague, Berndt August Hjort, distributed both the adjustable spanners and pipe wrenches world-wide under the “Bahco” trademark. In 1916, JP handed over his now large company to his son, Hannes Brynge, and colleague, Berndt Hjort, so that he could concentrate on his other inventions. Bahco, which is still in operation today, has manufactured more than 100 million adjustable spanners. In Denmark, the adjustable spanner is called a ‘Swedish key´ whilst in Russia it is called a ‘sjvedik´ (the little Swede).
After 1916, JP started experimenting with electrical armature and in 1919 opened a new factory, Triplex, possibly best known for the Triplex lamp that he designed with an adjustable pendulum to give better light.
The TIDLÖS team salutes the forgotten hero, Johan Petter “JP” Johansson, who died in 1943 in his 90th year. JP’s ceaseless creativity, ingenuity and productivity led to an extraordinary 110 different inventions being patented and the creation of companies still manufacturing his inventions to this very day.