The Cole-Bar is an unusual tool with an equally unusual backstory.

I first saw this hammer last spring at the National Hardware Show (NHS) and was recently reminded of it by a post on the company's Facebook page—which said the tool will soon go into production.

The idea for the tool—which combines the functionality of a full-size hammer, pry bar, square, bevel gauge, ruler, and 1/2-inch ratchet—came from an 11 year old Indiana boy named Cole Hyde while he was helping his father, Lance Hyde, take down a pole-barn. Tired of handing tool after tool to his father, Cole laid a crow bar over a hammer and said "wouldn't it be nice if you had a hammer and crow bar together like that". Less than a year later Cole died in an accident and for the next 14 years Lance worked on and off to develop the tool—naming it the Cole-Bar in honor of his deceased son.

The tool's ongoing path to becoming a product is unusual too. With a prototype in hand Lance recruited his son Brandon (who I talked to at NHS) and daughter, Heather, to turn it into a product. They patented the Cole-Bar, entered it in a TV tool competition where it made the finals, and then used a Kickstarter campaign (crowdfunding) to fund production. They exceeded their goal; getting 1857 people to pledge (donate in return for the promise of receiving a tool) a total of $135,250. As with any crowdfunded project, if the product fails to be launched there is no guarantee anyone gets anything.

If this particular project succeeds, and the Cole-Bar goes into production, it's hard to see it becoming more than a niche product. The prototype I saw was cleverly designed and well-made, and yet I have a hard time figuring out who would benefit by having such a hammer. Yes, the Cole-Bar is a cool invention and the story of how it came to be inspiring, but I can't see a carpenter wanting to carry one of these things in his belt. When I think about who might benefit from having such a tool the best I can come up with is a contractor who wants a compact spare for multiple tools or someone in a survival situation who needs to travel light while carrying a hammer and crowbar.

Even if not many people buy this tool it's still worth a look because it's so very clever. I've included some patent photos at the end because they're kind of cool too.