More than 50 Years of Power Tool Accessories Innovation

When Lee B. Thomas, Sr. founded American Saw & Tool Co. in November of 1947, he was aware of the progress in the development and popularization of power tools and the inevitable need for replacement of cutting tools that did the job. Mr. Thomas, who had come to Louisville from Chicago a year earlier to manage American Elevator Co., had a long history in the hardware business. As a boy, he worked in his father’s hardware store and during college he studied merchandising. Afterwards he worked for the Ernst Hardware Co. and later became a buyer for R.H. Macy Co., as head of the hardware department. Later, he spent 12 years with Butler Brothers in charge of merchandising. In addition, he also had spent several years as President of Ecko Products, a manufacturer of houseware goods. These combined experiences equipped him to embark on his own major venture, the implementation of his “replacement tool” idea. American Saw & Tool commenced business with one customer, Sears, Roebuck & Co.; one product, a circular saw blade; and one plant, the old American Elevator plant in Louisville, Kentucky. The first shipment of saw blades left Louisville the first week of January in 1948.

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Assisting Mr. Thomas were two former American Elevator employees, W.E. (Gene) Cowley, handling the engineering functions, and John Beam, who managed administrative matters. At first, some of the old American Elevator equipment was used to develop a prototype saw blade. Later, grinders, gear cutters and war surplus machines were adapted to expand the business with its modest capital. Many of the Vermont American products described in this timeline have been designed and first produced through the efforts of Gene Cowley. Additionally, he has provided leadership to the Corporate Engineering group throughout five decades of operation. This group has been instrumental in developing a substantial portion of the Company’s manufacturing processes and specialized equipment for the production of power tool accessories.

Vermont American has been a pioneer and innovator in delivering value to both consumers and retailers for over 60 years. Here are some of the key milestones:

1947 – First circular saw blade is produced on November 25, 1947

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1948 – First shipment of circular saw blades. Through innovative engineering, the company introduces steel dado blades


1949 – Continuing successful product development, the company introduced Bow and Pruning Saws


1953 – Acquires J.V. Pilcher Co., introduces molding heads


1954 – Completes successful acquisition of Deluxe Saw & Tool Co.


1955 – Acquires Multi-Metals, a producer of powder metal parts


1956 – Company develops first-ever Open Face Packaging to pack Circular Saw Blades with open face leading to skin packaging


1957 – Introduces industrial taps & dies


1958 – Company expands beyond industrial taps and dies into consumer tap and die market

1959 – Develops high speed steel router bits


1960 – Company constructs first plant from scratch in Lincolnton, NC


1961 – Corporate name changes to Vermont American; develops the first investment cast router bits


1963 – With the successful acquisition of Maxson Saw & Manufacturing Co., product line is expanded to include reciprocating saw blades, hacksaw blades and band saw blades; Corporate Engineering/ Machine Division is formed


1965 – Introduces carbide tipped adjustable dadoes, dado sets and rotary planner heads


1966 – Introduces first Waterfall Display racks to hardware Industry


1968 – Builds manufacturing plant to produce high speed steel twist drill bits


1970 – Acquires Magna Division for its position in the screwdriver bits market


1973 – Vermont American tops $50 million in sales

1974 – Acquires Rosco Tools


1976 – Vermont American moves into new distribution center in Lincolnton, NC


1977 – Completes Toccoa Division to produce steel circular saw blades


1978 – Completes Auburn Division for manufacture of router bits; Introduces the first thin rim carbide circular saw blades


1979 – Acquires DML Lineberry Division


1980 – Adds warehouse in Ogden, Utah

1982 – Introduces titanium nitride coated power tool accessories


1983 – Fountain Inn Division added to manufacture screwdrivers; Introduces first slack belt sander for radial saws, the first pin router unit and the first high speed steel forstner bits; Introduces Pro-Bore® self-feed bits


1984 – Acquires Gilmour Mfg. Co., Lawn & Garden, Acquires Universal Franchises, Vermont American Australia


1985 – Acquires Vermont GmbH & Westa Werkzehau GmbH, Germany; Establishes Vermont American Canada in Mississauga


1986 – Sets up carbide circular saw blade plant in Australia; Introduces Laser X2™ carbide tipped circular saw blades; Develops first multiple-blade carbide tipped dado

1987 – Acquires The Credo Co., Woodburn, Oregon


1988 – Introduces Dyanite® carbide—a patented process that increases the life of a carbide blade up to ten times


1989 – Vermont American is first manufacturer to apply ribbed-tip technology to power screwdriver bits; First manufacturer to offer Iso-Temp™ toughening process for screwdriving accessories that increases life up to six times by increasing fracture resistance of tips; Merges with Emerson Electric Co. and Robert Bosch GmbH (Sears is a preferred stock holder until 1991)


1991 – Introduces The Claw® hand screwdriver with ribbed-tip technology; Introduces the Sidewinder™ drill bit and Lightning™ circular saw blades


1992 – Acquires Forest City Tool and gains access to the industrial woodworking market; Begins co-sponsorship with The New Yankee Workshop; Introduces the Wood Devil™ spade bit with unique spurs that provide a cleaner, smoother and faster cut

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1993 – Primark Tool Group is formed; VA Singapore is started


1995 – Master Series™ circular saw blades are launched with optimum performance for specific applications and machines; Vermont American and Credo Marketing Groups are moved to Louisville corporate headquarters; VA Asia in Hong Kong is formed

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1996 – Wood Eater® hole saws are introduced, cutting six times faster than standard bi-metal hole saws; New masonry drill bit introduced, twice the speed of standard rotary masonry drill bits; VA Shanghai and VA Japan are formed

1997 – National Retail Hardware Association gives Vermont American more awards for innovative new products than any other manufacturer; Company is the largest manufacturer of power tool accessories in the world


1998 – Company celebrates 50 years of making power tool accessories for professionals and do-it-yourselfers; Ice-Bit™ screwdriver bits are launched, cryogenically hardened for extra-long life


1999 – Acquires Carbbits for masonry drill bit capacity

2000 – Robert Bosch GmbH completes acquisition of Vermont American


2002 – Xtend bits and blades launched as the first line of accessories specifically designed to improve performance in cordless tools


2003 – Robert Bosch Tool Corporation created


2006 – Over 200 New products, including upgrade to Carbide Router Bits, New Quick Change Hole Saw Technology and Threaded Tip Spade Bits for 3X Faster Drilling


2007 – 200 more new products and upgrades, including thin kerf, hard body Titanium saw blades, Demolition Recip blades that cut 30% faster in metal and Diamond Blades that offer up to 85x life vs. standard abrasives

2008 – Revolutionary new packaging and merchandising system make it easy to select the right bit or blade for the job


2012 – National Retail Hardware Association awards Vermont American for packaging and merchandising design

2014 – Hand tools such as wrenches, pliers, sockets and other traditional handtools came back to the Vermont American line up at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas May 6-8th; 12ft POG Power Tool Accessories displays the company’s breadth of line across power tool accessories with an updated product mix optimal for the professional user; To increase brand awareness, user interaction, product and merchandising programs, the company’s existing website has been revamped in a fresh new way to include: resource center that provides end-users with power tool accessory tips and reference charts, online product with where to buy details, Help the Community outreach with Habitat for Humanity to aid community-based projects by donating time and products, launch of the My Remodel sweepstakes where users can upload before and after remodeling photos to win prizes.


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