Since the ancient Egyptians began using a hand-powered lathe centuries ago, man has striven to make arduous building and assembling tasks easier, quicker, and more efficient through power tools. We’ve come a long way from those sand-covered turning machines, but the end goal is no different from our desert-dwelling ancestors. Today, nearly every home in every industrialized country houses and uses power tools.
Even though the concept of the power tool has been around for a long time, it wasn’t until the late 1800’s when the first modern-era power tools became possible. The advent of electric motors made highly-efficient stationary and portable power tool technology a reality, and high-speed assembly lines made power tools both affordable and profitable.
The Bosch company was at the forefront of power tool technology in those early years. Founded in 1886 Germany by Robert Bosch, the company initially focused on automobile components with integrated electric parts, and was responsible for such developments as the first low-voltage magneto ignition. Before long, companies in other industrialized nations began developing the first electric power tools, and Bosch introduced its first power drill in 1932. Today, Bosch still engineers and manufactures automotive parts, and its power tool division has grown to include nearly every household and assembly tool on the market – including power drills, belt sanders, circular saws, and more. As part of the company’s growth, it has acquired other successful power tool manufacturers that started during the same early 20th century era.
In 1923, American inventor Raymond DeWalt introduced the world’s first radial arm saw, a sliding circular saw that could make long cuts with accuracy. One year later, he founded the DeWalt power tool company in Baltimore, Maryland; another company that has grown substantially over the last 85 years. At the forefront of portable power tool technology, DeWalt’s power tools are revered by carpenters and homeowners alike for their long-life, durable cordless battery-styled power drill, circular saws, and other power tools; and the company currently manufactures over 200 types of power tools worldwide.
Founded in 1915 in Japan, the Makita Corporation has also staked its reputation on cordless, battery-powered power tools – most notably, the hand-held drill, which Makita introduced in 1978. Nine years later, the company had a full arsenal of cordless, professional-grade power tools for contractors. Today, Makita manufactures over 350 different power tools, both portable and stationary, and the pronounced teal color emblazoned on all of their tools is often mimicked by others trying to capitalize on Makita’s reliable name.
The early 20th century proved to be a hotbed of power tool advancements, and many companies worked hard to develop profit-turning innovations that moved their products off store shelves and into people’s homes. While the term power tool traditionally conjures thoughts of electric drills and sanders, machines like the pipe threader and utility pump are also considered power tools. This is the area the Ridgid company focused on when it was founded in Elyria, Ohio, in 1923. Still a leader in the plumbing tool industry, Ridgid now has a power tool division that focuses exclusively on contemporary power tools and has released its own saws, drills, and even air tools.
A.F. Siebert founded the Milwaukee Electric Tool Company one year later in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Known for manufacturing heavy-duty power tools, Milwaukee is best know for the ‘Sawzall,’ one of the most widely-used reciprocating saws in the world. Like their power tool manufacturing competition, Milwaukee currently produces portable and stationary power tools like circular saws, drills, band saws, grinders and sanders – over 500 different models in all. Unlike their competition, many of Milwaukee’s power tools are released in both 120 and 230 volt models, drawing the line between household and commercial/industrial power.
Best known for the Skilsaw they invented in 1924, the Skil power tool company evolved out of the Michel Electric Handsaw Company when they entered the power tool market. Fueled by the ingenious circular saw invention, the company elevated itself to the upper echelon of the small power tool industry with jig saws, grinders, sanders, and a whole slew of handheld, cordless power tools. In 1996, the Bosch company purchased Skil but still keeps its power tools on shelves worldwide as one of the most popular power tool lines on Earth.
The Delta company has changed hands several times since it was founded by Herbert Tautz in 1919 in his Milwaukee, Wisconsin garage. Tautz focused on small tools but when Delta was purchased by Rockwell in 1945, the company made a profitable shift to the stationary tools – like planers and bench sanders – it’s renowned for today. Delta isn’t the only name this line has carried, however; Rockwell enveloped the company on takeover before selling it to Pentair, which re-introduced the Delta name before selling out to Black & Decker in 2004.
A veritable power tool power house, the Craftsman brand was coined by the Sears company in 1927. At first, the company primarily manufactured common hand tools like hammers and screwdrivers; but soon jumped on the power tool bandwagon and is now one of the top-selling producers of all power tools, both stationary and portable.
S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker founded the Black & Decker small machine shop in 1910 in Baltimore, Maryland; and the duo found their niche in the power tool industry by inventing the electric drill seven years later. The pistol-grip and trigger style drill became popular and is now a staple on construction sites and in households alike. Realizing the profit potential of power tools, Black & Decker has grown and acquired several other popular power tool brands, including DeWalt, Porter Cable, Delta, and Kwikset.
As industrialized nations become increasingly technology-driven, power tool production stands to increase as lightweight, powerful, and longer-lasting batteries try to match the power and reliability of corded power. Versatile contemporary models and thousands of accessories continue to make everything from woodworking to metal machining easier, more efficient, and more profitable for manufacturers, contractors, and homeowners alike. As power tools have become affordable for nearly everyone, only the hammer has resisted an electric redesign destined to change the way we work forever.
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