Power Tools History: Timeline of Innovation

Human superiority over all species is attributable to human intelligence. This intelligence has manifested itself in the most evident way in the form of human ability to make tools for making their lives easier.

Evolution of simple hand tools into power tools is a sign of our evolving and ever improving understanding of science and its application for inventing the tools for building the future.

To appreciate the progress mankind has made in development of sophisticated power tools, we have mapped the birth of important international power tool brands as well as their most important innovations throughout the history.

Let's begin.


Credit: Fein Official Website

Wilhelm Emil Fein, a German inventor, created a workshop for electrical and mechanical works in Stuttgart, Germany. It marks the origin of the Fein power tools brand.


Credit: Bosch Official Website

Rober Bosch laid the foundation of Bosch company by opening up a 'Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering" in Stuttgart, Germany. Bosch initially worked in developing components for early automobiles, the most successful of which were spark plugs.


Credit: Fein Official Website

Fein invented the world's first portable electric hand drill.


Credit: Bostitch Official Website

Thomas Briggs founded Boston Wire Stitch Company, a name converted to Bostitch in 1930. Briggs initially developed wire stitching machines for books and calendars that served as a foundation for his company to develop expertise for making stitching and stapling power tools in future.


R.E. Porter and F.E. Cable opened up a workshop in New York for manufacturing power lathes for woodworking and to serve as a tool shop. It laid the foundation of Porter-Cable brand. Within 4 years, the company was manufacturing pencil sharpener, automatic tire pumps and gas lamps.


Credit: Fein Official Website

Recognizing the breakthrough of the handheld electric drill, Fein developed a handheld sanding motor for woodworkers.


Credit: Black & Decker Official Website

Duncan Black and Alonzo Decker laid the foundation of a small workshop in Baltimore, Maryland. Who knew the humble beginning would lead to a multinational power tools company in the 20th and 21st century.

The same year, Namihel Odaira, a Japanese electrical engineering graduate from Tokyo Imperial University, after gaining experience in mining industry and power generation sector, founded Hitachi while developing an induction motor for his mining company. Hitachi and Metabo later became one company to make Metabo HPT.


Mosaburo Makita founded Makita Electric Works in Japan. The company started with sales and repair of electric motors.


Credit: Black & Decker Official Website

Black and Decker makes a breakthrough by developing a portable electric drill with pistol grip and trigger switch. The design developed by Black and Decker resembles modern handheld electric drills much more than what Fein invented due to which Black and Decker is often credited as being the first developer of portable electric drill.


The origins of Milwaukee tool company are traced back to a request made by no other than Henry Ford himself to one of his suppliers A.H Peterson for developing a portable drill that is light in weight. A.H Peterson developed a 5 lbs. portable electric drill named 'Hole-Shooter'. Regarded as the industry's first one-handed handheld drill, Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation was later founded around the same 'Hole-Shooter' but the story has a touch of tragedy explained in this timeline later on.

Credit: Fein Official Website

Fein developed world's first rotary hammer powered by electric motor that converted the rotary motion to translational motion to create a striking mechanism. Although not comparable to the modern rotary hammer, it laid the foundation of rotary hammer power tool.


Credit: Flex Tools Official Website

Flex tools is founded by Ackerman and Schmitt in Stuttgart, Germany.


Albrecht Schnizler develops a handheld drill in Nurtingen, Germany. Metabo was built around producing and selling the same drill.

The Ridge Tool company is founded in Ohio, USA. It made hand tools for plumbing and pipe fitting jobs. It marks origin of Ridgid brand.


Raymond Dewalt, who invented radial arm saw in 1922 lays foundation of the Dewalt company in Pennsylvania, USA. The company started by selling "Wonder Worker" machine developed by Raymond Dewalt that had an adjustable or configurable radial arm saw over a workstation.

Continuing with our story of the hole-shooter from 1918, A.H Peterson company was formed in 1923 to sell the hole-shooter, however, their facility caught fire and went bankrupt. A.F. Siebert both the company in auction in 1924 and named it Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation with the intention to sell hole-shooter.

Credit: SKIL Official Website

Edmond Michel, a French immigrant got inspiration for invention of world's first electric circular saw in 1921 when he was standing in a sugar cane in Louisiana, USA and observed the laborious task of harvesting. However, he perfected his invention in 1924 and named it 'Skilsaw' that was sold through a newly formed company called 'The Michel Electric Handsaw Company' with a co-owner Joseph W. Sullivan. Interestingly, Michel, the original inventor, left the company in 1926 and Joseph W. Sullivan changed the name of company to 'SKILSAW incorporated'.


Albert Fezer and Gottlieb Stoll formed a company for repairing and modifying woordworking machinery in Germany. It was later named Fezer & Stoll and marked the origins of the Festool brand of power tools.


Porter-Cable introduces the first portable sanding machine in the form of a portable belt sander.


Credit: Festool Official Website

Festool introduces the first transportable chainsaw to mechanize manual sawing of trees. However, it was not similar to today's portable chainsaws as it was quite heavy.

Sears, the American departmental store chain launches its own brand of tools named 'Craftsman'. The man behind the idea was Arthur Burrows who was hired the same year to head Sears' hardware department. Burrows convinced Sears of going into creating its own tools brand instead of just selling others.


Four years after invention of circular saw by Edmond Michel (Skil), Porter-Cable improves the design by inclusion of a high speed helical gear drive to make the tool more compact.


Craftsman introduces its first electric drills to enter into competition with Fein, Black & Decker and Milwaukee.


Credit: Festool Official Website

Festool introduces its first portable circular saw, model SB 126, to enter competition with Porter-Cable and Skill.

The same year, Milwaukee started manufacturing electric sanders, polishers, electric hammers and portable hand grinders as per US Navy's specifications to improve the quality standard.


Credit: Bosch Official Website

14 Years after Fein invented an electric rotary hammer, Bosch introduced its own hammer drill known as 'Bosch Hammer'. It was launched with a line of other power tools for demolition jobs.

Credit: Dremel Official Website

Albert J. Dremel, an Austrian immigrant with a career in engineering design, founded Dremel Manufacturing Co. in Racine - a county in Wisconsin, USA. The company would later launch a tool that will spearhead its success in not just American but international market.


Competition in electrical handheld drill machines gets more intense as SKil and Metabo join Craftsman, Fein, Black & Decker and Milwaukee in competition. While Skil launches its first electric handheld drill after a long period of selling only the 'SKILSAW', Metabo launches its successful electric handheld drill, the model no. 750, with 120W power, 6.5 mm drill capacity and 1,200 RPM of speed.


Credit: Dremel Official Website

Remember the Austrian immigrant Alber J. Dremel from 1932? Dremel introduces the world's first rotary multi-tool. To this day, rotary multi-tools are often called Dremel tools because of the constant innovation that Dremel kept introducing into its invention defeating all competition.

While Fein and Bosch introduced portable electric rotary hammers, Milwaukee introduced a lightweight 3/4" rotary hammer convertible to a drill thereby making it the first hammer-drill. The tool was intended to be used for drilling into masonry.


Credit: Festool Official Website

Being second only to Porter-Cable, Festool develops portable disc sanders that become its bestsellers throughout 1930s and 1940s.


Ryobi Seisakusho Ltd. Is founded in Japan focused on the sale of die cast products and having nothing to do with power tools at first. Infact, Ryobi entered quite late into power tools market in 1968.


After being successful with SKILSAW and electric drill, Skil started producing impact wrenches, drill drivers and power tool accessories.


World's first reciprocating saw, the legendary Sawzall is introduced by Milwaukee followed by a lineup of reciprocating saw blades.

Credit: Festool Official Website

Festool introduces world's first orbital sander upping the game in portable sanding machines. It was called the RTE orbital sander and offered an innovative solution to carpenters and automotive paint shops.


Credit: Bosch Official Website

Bosch introduces the 'Bosch Combi', a bigger brother of Dremel tool. It was a comparatively larger rotary tool with options of attaching a drill bit, a screwdriving bit, a sanding attachment or a hedge-cutter attachment to perform various DIY tasks with the same tool.


Porter-Cable introduces the first portable band saw.


Credit: Flex Tools Official Website

Hermann Ackermann and Hermann Schmitt introduce the world's very first angle grinder, the model DL 9. Who knew it was going to become one of the staple power tools in workshops and garages.


Metabo introduces its first portable drill driver, the model 76108/10.


Makita launches its very first power tool - a portable electric planer. A portable groove cutter was launched later in the same year.


Credit: Black & Decker Official Website

A very important year in power tools history. Black & Decker initiated a revolution in power tools industry by introducing the world's first cordless electric drill powered by Ni-Cd battery.


Makita introduces its first electric drill and electric circular saw. The brand is slowly establishing its position in power tools market after already having launched portable electric planer and portable groover cutter in 1958.

Meanwhile, Festool gets ahead in innovating the circular saw by introducing circular saw guide rail to pave way into development of the specialized tracksaw.

The same year, Black & Decker introduces cordless hedge trimmer just after a year of introducing the revolutionary cordless drill. The company realizes the potential of cordless tools earlier than other brands.


Porter-Cable joins Festool in competition by introducing its first orbital finishing sander.


Black & Decker leads the cordless innovation by making cordless hammer drill for a NASA contractor to be used in Apollo moon program. The drill was designed to operate under extreme conditions.

Credit: Bostitch Official Website

Bostitch introduces the world's first portable coil nailer, the model N2. It developed a roofing coil nailer for construction industry the same year.


Metabo introduces its first angle grinder with an automatic safety clutch.


Ryobi enters power tools market.


Bostitch introduces Model N 16 portable framing nailer for 6 to 16 penny nails.


Credit: Makita Official Website

Makita enters the cordless arena with its first cordless drill powered by a 7.2 volt battery system.


Credit: Black & Decker Official Website

DustBuster - World's first handheld electric vacuum is introduced by Black & Decker.

The same year, Metabo introduces its first cordless drill after Black & Decker and Makita.

Year didn't end there. Milwaukee introduces its first angle grinder - a 4-1/2" size model.


With its first Coil Roofing Nailer introduced in the market, Bostitch is developing its reputation as a specialist of nailer and stapler tools.


Credit: Bosch Official Website

Bosch enters the cordless arena with a heavy weight contender - Bosch cordless hammer drill.


Credit: Fein Official Website

Fein introduces the world's first oscillating tool as a solution for automotive industry to easily remove silicone used for bonding glass.

The same year, Porter-Cable introduces model 518 3 HP Router Tool controlled by microprocessor.


Credit: Flex Official Website

Flex tools introduces motorized handheld polishing tool for automotive and woodworking (furniture) industry.

The same year, Fein introduces a safety angle grinder - a model with electric brake to stop the tool within 3 seconds of turning it off as well as a tool-less disc change mechanism.


Dewalt enters the cordless arena with a bang. It introduces 30 new cordless tools including drill, circular saw, drill drivers, impact wrenches and the first hammer drill with three modes i.e. drill, driver and hammer drill.


Porter-Cable introduces the first reciprocating saw with tool-less blade change mechanism.


Credit: Festool Official Website

Somewhat late as compared to competitors but Festool introduces its first cordless drill - the CDD 12 model.


Credit: Black & Decker Official Website

Black & Decker introduces a portable electric sander of the shape of a computer mouse and named it 'Mouse Sander'.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee follows Dewalt into the cordless arena by introducing its own line of cordless tools in late 1990s. It included cordless Sawzall, rotary hammer, right angle drill, hammer drill, drill driver, circular saw and impact wrench. The battery and charger system is common for all tools to make their power tools a family compatible with each other's batteries.


Ridgid introduces CT-400 - a portable pipe jointing tool for the HVAC and plumbing industry.


Credit: Flex Tools Official Website

The inventor of world's first commercial angle grinder - Flex makes its mark again by introducing angle grinders with microprocessor based electronics for improving performance and safety.

The same year, Bostitch introduces another nailer tool - a portable metal connecting nailer. Bostitch has established itself as specialist of staplers and nailer tools.


Credit: Makita Official Website

While Black & Decker started the cordless revolution in power tools in 1961, Makita develops brushless motor power tools for aerospace and defense industry in 2004 to start the brushless revolution.

The same year, Positec Tool Corporation from China launches the WORX brand to enter the power tools market with cost effective options.

Meanwhile, Festool introduces its first woodworking router - the OF1400.


Makita and Metabo HPT introduce Li-ion batteries in their cordless power tools.


Credit: Festool Official Website

Festool introduces KAPEX KS 120 - its first compound mitre saw.

Meanwhile, Positec Tool Corporation from China launches, the owner of WORX brand, introduces another brand 'ROCKWELL' that focuses on comparatively premium power tools products than WORX.


Ridgid introduces its first cast iron soil pipe cutter.


Five years after Makita and Metabo HPT, Dewalt and Fein also introduce Li-ion batteries for their cordless power tools.


Chervon (HK) Ltd. In China launches a new power tools brand 'EGO' focused on outdoor power equipment.


Credit: Dewalt Official Website

Dewalt launches its XR series of cordless power tools featuring brushless motors.


Ridgid introduces RE6 - an all in one wire cutter, crimper and punching tool.


Metabo HPT introduces its cordless electric nailer with a unique air spring technology.

We will keep updating this timeline with the help of your suggestions and our further research. If you think we left out an important innovation, do let us know in the comments.

If you like our post and the information we have presented, please share this article with your friends.

Other Articles You May Like

people, man, arc-3047306.jpg


We explain the difference between Milling and Welding - two manufacturing processes used for making stuff.

man, flashlight, night sky-5976712.jpg


To find the best spotlight for long distance, we rank 12 popular models while giving application-wise recommendations along the way.

man wearing automatic dark welding helmet


Intro to welding skid with examples of custom made welding skids for pickup trucks & flatbeds. We also give important design considerations.


We look into the history of power tools industry to trace when the top brands were born and when important power tools were invented.


From Fein to Makita, we compare 15 popular models for finding the best oscillating tool based on common applications.


A detailed look into the use of brushless motor technology in power tools and comparison of tangible vs. theoretical advantages.


Are you looking for the best chop saw for the money? In this post, we compare 7 popular models to find the best chop saw for metal.


Dremel 8220 to Dremel 4300, we find the best dremel tool for your application from as well as the best rotary tool alternative to Dremel.

A Sample Torque Wrench Calibration Certificate


We bring a complete guide on torque wrench calibration from the basic concept of calibration to calibration certificates, we explain it all.


We research the market to bring you the best impact driver for mechanics, woodworking, construction, HVAC and DIY applications.


Our top picks for the best miter saw stand for each of professional, DIY, heavy duty and light applications from Bosch and Dewalt to Toughbuilt and Bora.


Our top picks for the best brad nailer cordless & pneumatic for woodworking including baseboards, cabinets, trims, quarter rounds, crafts and DIY.

ballpoint, blue, close-up


We find the best torque wrench for different applications as cost effective alternatives to the premium Matco & Snap on torque wrench.


Our take on the best hammer drill for applications ranging from construction work, concrete drilling & screwdriving anchor bolts to home use and DIY.


Our recommendations on the best wire strippers for electricians, electronics technicians, HVAC technicians, auto electricians, DIYers & homeowners.


We compare 9 models to find the best cordless circular saw for home use, professional use, framing and roofing.