JW Machine Systems delivers purpose-engineered products and unique services to the oil & gas, geothermal, and trenchless directional drilling markets. With a primary focus on supporting customers in the downhole tool business and tubular handling sector, we serve international clients across upstream, mid and downstream markets.

What is ImPROVEN™ technology?

“We’ll see a machine design, or a work process problem that’s been around – and accepted – for decades. Our customers bring us these challenges – and that’s what excites our team. Making work smarter, safer, more efficient and more profitable for our customers is our mission.”

In 1983 we pioneered the modern Breakout Machines that created the standard throughout the industry. Today, we continue this tradition of forward-thinking innovation. Benefitting from more than 40 years of product optimization, we put our expertise to work each day to find new ways to make your job easier, safer and more productive.


Alex Whyte and the story of the Griffith Torquemaster

About Historical
Alex White 200x245
Alex Whyte

Father of the Torquemaster

Growing up with my dad, Alex Whyte, I enjoyed countless entertaining stories about his work, his international travel adventures, and the fun he had throughout his career. He was a great storyteller, always with a humorous twist, accompanying jokes, and for me – many valuable lessons learned.

One story in particular, how in 1983 the Griffith Torquemaster breakout machine came to be, was one of Dad’s favorites. (Transcript toward the bottom of this article.)

By no coincidence, I ended up in the oil & gas industry myself. My career has taken many successful paths, and as luck – or perhaps destiny – would have it, I started my own company in the downhole tool machinery business. Before I knew it, I found myself coming across Torquemasters in many of our customers’ shops; now a well-established and widely recognized National Oilwell Varco (NOV) product line.

Dad was already retired when I took the leap to go into business for myself, establishing JW Machine Systems. He came with me on many trips and customer visits; however, Dad wasn’t one who enjoyed the limelight. We’d tour customer facilities together and often stumble upon a Torquemaster in operation. He’d look around the machine inquisitively, not saying much, but I know he was filled with pride seeing a Torquemaster doing its job.

Now if he did strike up a conversation with someone using the machine, I knew we were going to be there for a while! What Dad enjoyed most was showing and explaining how and why things were designed a certain way (along with a story) knowing he’d be helping the people working with the machines he introduced decades ago.

Always a humorist, Dad would say to me “Gee that’s a good-looking machine. They oughta find the guy who designed it and give him a raise!”

As my company began designing and manufacturing our own TRUTORQUE Breakout Machines, Dad joked “Well had I known forty years ago you’d get into the business maybe I wouldn’t have done such a good job with the Torquemaster.” Ha, ha Dad, very funny. It actually was.

Dad passed away in April 2020. As a small tribute to him, here is “The Torquemaster story” – as only Alex Whyte could tell it.
The following transcript is from the book
“DRECO: A Corporate Odyssey” was published in 1997.

The Torquemaster Story
Alex Whyte accompanied Doug Frame on a return trip to Russia, as Dreco’s “fishing tool expert,” to discuss and negotiate the inventory of downhole tools to be shipped with the first workover rig. Alex, with one eye, Doug Frame and Yuri Golubev were assembled, waiting for the Oil Ministry representatives to arrive. The first to show up was Boris Zeretsky, who introduced himself as the fishing tool expert from Moscow. Doug noticed, in silence, that Boris also had only one eye. Before long the fishing tool expert from Siberia walked into the room. Doug quickly scanned the other faces in the room to see if they had noticed that this was the third guy in the room missing an eye – no one seemed to notice. As they sat down, Doug marvelled at the coincidence. Yuri then proceeded to open the meeting with: “We have five people and seven eyes present, so we can start the meeting.”

Alex Whyte: Designing with Glass Bottoms and Russian Coins
During the meeting with the Oil Ministry people, I asked about their servicing facilities for the tools. They replied that everything would be done on the rig floor, including make-up and break-out. I strenuously objected and advised that a proper break-out machine was imperative. They asked if we made a break-out machine. I was about to say no – we were using Christensen break-out machines – when Doug piped up: “Certainly we do.” When they asked for a brochure, Doug opened up his briefcase and rummaged around for a minute, then declared: “Darn, I must have given away my last copy of the brochure!”

Doug turned to me with a wink and said: “Alex, do you have a brochure?”

So I opened my briefcase on the table and started sifting through the papers. After a few moments I likewise regretfully advised the Russians that we must have given our last brochure away. Almost immediately, Doug said: “No problem. We’ll draw you a picture of one and get it to you tomorrow.”

The meeting adjourned and Doug and I went back to the hotel to design a break-out machine. Fortified with copious vodkas, we drew up a break-out machine using the bottom of a vodka glass, several Russian coins and a book. Mulling over a name for this new product, Doug’s eventual sugges­tion was agreed to over a vodka toast – the Torquemaster!

The next item to decide was the price to quote V/0 Machinoimport. I gave Doug an estimated manufacturing cost off the top of my head and he rounded it up, substantially, to US$70,000. On the question of delivery, because we had yet to design the machine, I suggested that 90 days would be a “ridiculously short delivery.”

We met the Machinoimport representatives again the next morning and submitted our crudely drafted proposal. They said: “OK, come back this afternoon and we’ll have another meeting.”

In the afternoon meeting, without any introductory conversation, they declared: “Great! We like this machine. We want to buy two of them for delivery in 30 days.”

So I was on the first flight back to Edmonton to spearhead the design and manufacture of the Torquemaster. We actually built four prototypes, at a cost of approximately CDN$45,000 each, and within the scheduled delivery dates, after many late nights, of course. The first one went to Kuwait, the next two fulfilled the Russian order and the fourth one stayed in our own shop for a while.