I just returned home from a two-day trip to Stanley Black & Decker University in Towson, Maryland. I was invited there by DeWalt to tour its research and design facilities, meet with engineers and product managers, and—best of all—test a bunch of new tools. For a tool fool like me, it was pure heaven!
I’ve been a big fan of DeWalt since the introduction of its very first line of portable power tools nearly 20 years ago. Prior to that, the company was renown for its radial-arm saws, a tool invented in 1936 by Raymond DeWalt. Black & Decker (B&D) bought DeWalt in 1960, divested itself of radial-arm saw manufacturing in the late-1980s, but—in a most brilliant move—retained the DeWalt brand name.
Then, in 1992, B&D resurrected DeWalt and launched DeWalt portable power tools, and I was lucky enough to be one of the very first persons to see this new tool line. I was an editor at Popular Mechanics magazine in New York City at the time, and one day in late 1991, I met with four executives from DeWalt. They came into my office towing three large cases.
We spoke briefly, then they opened the cases and took out these bright yellow and black tools. I had never seen anything like them before. They looked like giant, mechanical yellow-jacket hornets. You have to remember, back then all tools were either gray or black, or gray and black. Now here was DeWalt, introducing sun-bright yellow tools! Little did I know that these tools would, in a remarkably short period of time, become the most popular portable power tools ever produced. But I digress. . . .
The main reason I was invited to Towson was to witness one of the most significant announcements in DeWalt’s 19-year history: The company was introducing its first-ever line of hand tools. And as with DeWalt power tools, these ultra-heavy-duty hand tools are specifically designed and built for professional contractors.
The initial 2011 offering will include about 130 tools in 10 different categories, including: cutting tools, wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers and pry bars, marking and layout tools, tool storage and work support, and pliers and snips. Nearly 100 of the tools are available now, or will be very soon, and the remainder should be in stores by the end of the year.
During an extensive hands-on period in the DeWalt workshop, I got to try many of the tools, including the MIG Weld Framing Hammer, a lightweight 15-ounce, solid-steel hammer that delivers the nailing-pounding power of a 28-ounce hammer; and the Folding Retractable Utility Knife, a full-size, heavy-duty knife that folds in half and features a string-cutting slot, push-button blade-change mechanism, and on-board blade storage. I also got to play with an amazing new sliding compound-miter saw, five-in-one hacksaw, and a 100-foot auto-retract tape measure, the world’s longest retractable measuring tape.
So all in all, it was a great trip. I returned home with a newfound appreciation for all that goes into designing and manufacturing quality tools. And then, less than a month later, I get a call from my contact at DeWalt. He’s got more news: DeWalt is about to launch a brand-new line of 20-volt lithium-ion cordless tools. The initial offering will include nearly 20 tools, including several multi-tool combo kits, and a wide assortment of lithium-ion battery packs and battery chargers.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. DeWalt does hold the Number One market share in cordless tools and has more than 63 million 18-volt batteries in use today. And it didn’t earn that enviable position by being complacent.
Looking back, I feel fortunate to have had front-row seats for the historic launch and subsequent exponential growth of DeWalt over the past two decades. And I’m looking forward to the next call, which usually starts with, “Hey Joe, I’m calling about DeWalt. Got a minute?” My response: “You betcha!”