Shop Talk

The Beginning of DeWalt, a Power Tool Giant



    Although they’re an industrial giant in the modern power tool and woodworking communities, Dewalt Inc. wasn’t always the global enterprise it is today. Before huge factories and hundreds of power tools, there was simply Raymond E DeWalt, a young craftsman with a gift for innovation.

    From the time he was a child, Raymond E DeWalt watched and learned from his father the intricacies of woodworking and complex construction. Upon leaving school as an adolescent, he continued to follow this path and earned his keep at mills and construction sites as jobs were available. The young DeWalt, though, learned also from his father that a life in mill-work was difficult one, and in order to simplify his own life and to capitalize on both the physical and economical expenses of hard labor, he used the advantages of his youth and experience to continually refine and enhance the machines around him to meet the certain needs and specifications of different jobsites.

    DeWalt’s ingenuity and expertise in the field were largely and always evident and soon he was offered a position as the head of a major woodworking mill that manufactured nearly everything from a simple six-panel box to a complex home. As fate would have it, DeWalt’s mill had more work than it could handle and as the President of the company allowed no budget space for additional labor costs, DeWalt simply had to get more efficient production from the existing force. DeWalt, accordingly, was forced to get creative, and the result was the first working prototype of what we know today as the radial arm saw.

    Designing a yoke which attached directly to a saw and motor, and mounting this mechanism to a standard arm, DeWalt’s machine could be raised and lowered, could slide back and forth, and could tilt to any bevel; consequently, DeWalt gleaned from this machine the productivity of four men, he vastly increased production, and he cut labor costs in the process
    . By 1922, and as Superintendent of Seabrook Farms, DeWalt perfected his radial arm machine and forever altered the woodworking, crafting, and building industries.

    Just two years later in 1924 DeWalt formed the DeWalt Products Company
    and purchased a plant and office building in Leola, Pennsylvania where he marketed the “Wonder-Worker,” the electrical, universal woodworking machine he’d developed at Seabrook Farms. In 1929 Dewalt Products Company upgraded their facilities with a new and modern plant and office building in Lancaster, PA where after adding 40,000 square feet of manufacturing space, an 8,400 square foot showroom, and a 16,000 square foot warehouse, they still remain today. In 1947, DeWalt Products Company completely reorganized and reincorporated itself under DeWalt Inc
    . Later, only further augmenting their enterprise, DeWalt Inc. extended its operations to Canada and acquired the United States and Canadian patent rights to the Bennett Two-Way Panel Saw.

    In the spirit of DeWalt’s first radial arm saw, 1967 crashed another wave upon the shores of the tooling community as DeWalt introduced the bench grinder and soon followed this introduction with that of intense metal cutting machines for both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. In 1992, DeWalt introduced their first line of portable electric power tools and accessories especially designed for professional commercial and residential workers. Just two short years later in 1994, DeWalt launched their new and generally ground-breaking system of cordless power tools which included more than 30 full-blown, full-fledged, jaw-dropping power tools

    in the line-up. Among them, a 14.4V cordless drill/driver, which was, at the time, the most powerful cordless tool on the market, and the first ever drill/driver/hammerdrill combination tool. The system essentially allowed both commercial and residential workers to work more efficiently than ever and with a trusted, high-quality, high-performance power tool.

    By 2001 the DeWalt Inc. enterprise included over 200 electric power tools and over 800 accessories to enhance them. Now, for nearly a century, DeWalt’s evolving line of woodworking products and power tools has shaped and innovated the progression of the tool industry and of the craftsmen who work and build within it. Accordingly, DeWalt remains one of the most trusted and high-performance brands in the industry.