Tools for Working Wood

 Joel's Blog at Tools for Working Wood

Black & Decker 1980  

02/05/2014

I spent most of the past week helping my parents pack and trying to sort out my stuff that has been at their house. It brings back memories. And that's what my mind has been on all week.

My first job out of college was working at the Industrial Construction division at Black & Decker in Hampstead, Md. They put me to work designing power tools - something that it became readily apparent I wasn't very good at but I learned a tremendous amount in the year and a half I worked there. I learned from my colleagues, I learned by watching. I still quote from my experiences there to the folks here at TFWW. It was an amazing time for me.

Every lunchtime we used to walk most of the length factory to the company cafeteria and back, passing the company store. We used to pop by the store at least once or twice a week where we could buy various seconds of tools, the odd souvenir and things like this very limited edition train car in the picture. In my time there I assembled fairly good collection of C. 1980 power tools from the company store and at the time they were the best tools you could get - I will probably write about them in the future. But while I have great nostalgia for my time there, power tool technology has gotten a lot better over the years. And while I feel that, especially when it comes to traditional tools, the older designs if well done can't be beat, seeing how modern technology can push the design of a fret saw or a coping saw is really interesting and keeps me from constantly looking backwards.

This is a really exciting time to be an iron monger. In the past 10 or 15 years we have seen a revolution in the design and availability of well made and well working hand and power tools. The hand tools in both traditional and new designs work better than ever, and power tools are easier to use, more functional and safer than ever before. This is happening just as the need for these tools is peaking. The end product, furniture, has been left behind. Furniture itself as a possession is less important than it was. For all the advances in tools building a Newport highboy, or a Ruhlman bureau is still really hard to do and takes skill and practice more than just fancy tools. Skill is skill and that won't change, but I hope we are on the verge of something new, and in a few weeks I hope to be reporting on what I think is the most interesting development in hobbyist furniture design in decades.

Tags:Product News, Sales, and Promotions,Misc.
Comments: 6
02/05/2014Eric 
I'm sorry, did you have different 80s era B&D tools than I did? It seems that company has done more to ruin quality power tool manufacturing than every other company combined. Kind of makes me doubt your testimonies on the hand tools on here after reading your glowing praise of B&D. Yeah, I know, there was a time B&D was a good company. A long time ago.

Also, are you ever going to get the 1/2 inch mortise chisel in stock? I've been waiting for months on that one. Seems that forever out of stock is a very common thing on your site.
02/05/2014joel http://www.toolsforworkingwood.com
Eric,
I worked in the Industrial Construction division - no plastic, aluminum housings, real bearings, expensive tools. We made the best power tools made in the USA at that time with real innovation. Our competitors were other industrial tool makers like Milwaukee, Metabo, and Festo. During that time the B&D consumer division was making three grades of not so great tools which were what you would buy in Sears and normal stores. This was before Makita and Hitachi has any real impact in the market. 10 years later all of this was gone. None of the professional grade tool companies in the US are left - they are brands only.
02/05/2014Rich Prehn 
I bought a heavy duty B&D 1/2" drill motor, with a geared attachment which allows drilling at a ninety degree angle (Plumbers' Kit it was called), all metal in a metal box, in the later half of the 70's. It has been used for everything from dock construction to home and boat construction and continues to give me excellent service to this day. The only plastic on it is in the switch and that is the only part I have had to replace over the decades. In general, I agree that we are living in a golden age of hand tools, both hand and power, but I've seen nothing in the current offerings of 1/2" heavy duty drill motors that is better suited to my needs than my old Plumbers Kit.
02/05/2014Jim B 
I've got the same drill shown in the photo and it's still going strong 30+ years later. As a hobbyist not a pro the Festool stuff is more than I feel I need. Besides, I'd usually rather use one of my eggbeaters.
02/05/2014Jack Palmer 
I had a friend that work at the Black and Decker corporate headquarters in Towson Md. I was doing a lot of historic rehab in downtown Baltimore. I was allowed to shop at that store, and bought enough tools to outfit my whole crew. We used and abused those tools in the worst possible conditions and the held up pretty damn well. I loved their circulars saws, some of the best made at the time.right up there with Porter Cable.My brother still has a couple still in the case , never used. Ahhh the memories :-)
02/06/2014michael spexarth 
Yeah, still have Industrial B&D tools, 30+ years later. But in that time, Corporate America killed innovation in power tools by buying and selling tool companies for their business cash and patents. Finally selling them overseas, machine tooling, names and patents included. Here, the Corps concentrated on consumer junk tools, and refused to embrace the R&D needed for microswitching, DC motor design, cordless tools, permanent mag motors, sized-reduced gearing,ergonomics and weight or product quality. They never care for the tools user, just the % profit. My 30yr old B&D 1 1/2 horse industrial D handle router may never be surpassed, but it is a too heavy,single speed, poorly switched (therefore unsafe) machine. I still use it, but my Chinese made Milwaukee 1 1/2 D handle gets the job done with safety and less effort. (Though it won't hog thru 1/4 mile of oak without overheating.)
Name:
Email (will not be published):
Website (optional):
Please enter your comment (HTML is not allowed):
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.
Subscribe
 Joel's Blog
 Ben's Blog
 Work Magazine
Recent Blogs:
English Mortise Chisels - Mid-18th Century to Now - Part 4 - Chisel handles-04/15/2014
English Mortise Chisels - Mid-18th Century to Now - Part 3 - The Body of The Tool-04/10/2014
English Mortise Chisels -Part 2 - Mid-18th Century to Now - What the Catalogs Tell Us-04/08/2014
English Mortise Chisels - Mid-18th Century to Now - Introduction-04/03/2014
Campaign Furniture-03/26/2014
Modern Apprenticeships-03/05/2014
Shellac-02/26/2014
The Biggest Book In Woodworking-02/12/2014
The Woodworking Shows - Somerset, NJ, Feb 21-23 2014-02/06/2014
Black & Decker 1980-02/05/2014
Time Marches On-01/29/2014
Old and News-01/15/2014
Transferring Patterns to Wood and Other News-01/08/2014
This Weekend in Brooklyn, Quiz Show Answers and Gramercy Tools WorldWide-01/01/2014
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy and Healthy New Year - and It's Quiz Time-12/25/2013
Hoops, Handles, & Ferrules-12/18/2013
Decorative Japanese Chisels-12/11/2013
Apparel Oft Proclaims The Man* (upping your game)-12/04/2013
Hock Knife Kits!-11/28/2013
Books You Should Read This Year (If You Haven't Already Done So)-11/27/2013
Older Entries...
Some Interesting Woodworking Blogs
Adam Cherubini
Tom Fidgen
Full Chisel Blog
Heartwood
Hock Tools - The Sharpening Blog
Norse Woodsmith
Jeff Peachy (book conservation)
Pegs and 'Tails
The Produce Savant
Konrad Sauer
Another Chris Schwarz Blog
Robin Wood Woodcraft
Rude Mechanicals Press(Megan Fitzpatrick)
UnpluggedShop.com - Hand Tool News
The Woodshop Bug
Chris Schwarz
Some Woodworking Forums
Family Woodworking
Knots
Saw Mill Creek
Wood Central
WoodNet
Woodwork Forums (Australia)
UK Workshop