American Scroll Saw from the early 1920s, back when the company was Delta Specialty Co. Photo: David Sampar
In 1919, Herb Tautz started Delta Manufacturing Company in his garage. In 1923 he started manufacturing a small scrollsaw based on a design licensed from its inventor, Carl Moberg. The picture above shows one of the several versions of this saw. The saws were sold through a subsidiary, Delta Specialty Co., and bearing the "Delta Specialty Co." name.
In the late 1920s and into the early '30s, Delta rebadged a 12" bandsaw made by Heston & Anderson. Beginning in 1929, Tautz started identifying Delta Specialty Co. as "a subsidiary of Delta Manufacturing Co." In early 1932 the "Delta Specialty Co." name was dropped.
A Period of Ownership Changes and Acquisitions
In 1939, Tautz sold the company to Marshall Fields; Tautz went on to found TAUCO Export Corp., which rebadged and sold Delta products overseas. In 1942, Marshall Fields sold it to Timken Detroit Axle Co., part of an early conglomerate controlled by Willard Rockwell. In 1945, Delta was sold to Rockwell Manufacturing Co., which had until very recently been known as the Pittsburgh Equitable Meter and Manufacturing Co., and which had just purchased Crescent Machine Co. In late 1945 or early '46, Rockwell bought Arcade Manufacturing Co.; although both Arcade and Rockwell/Delta had a "Homecraft" line of machinery, none of Arcade's Homecraft designs were ever sold by Rockwell/Delta; they did, however, use Arcade's foundry and machining facilities.
Label from a Delta Homecraft machine.
In 1948, Rockwell/Delta bought Red Star Products, Inc., makers of a line of turret-arm radial arm saws that competed well against DeWalt radial arm saws. It appears that the saws and their motors were manufactured for Rockwell by A. O. Smith Corp., which had already been making motors for Rockwell, and possibly for Delta before the purchase by Rockwell.
In 1953 Rockwell/Delta purchased the Callander Foundry and Manufacturing Co., a Canadian company that made the Beaver Power Tools line that dominated the Canadian hobbyist market. In 1960 they bought Porter-Cable Machine Co., maker of handheld power tools. In 1963 they bought Buckeye Tool Co., maker of pneumatic tools.
In the early 1970s, Delta manufactured the Penncraft machines for department store chain J. C. Penney.
The Rockwell International Years
In 1973, Rockwell Manufacturing Co. merged with North American Rockwell Corp., and the resulting operation was Rockwell International Corp. The former Callander Foundry continued to operated as Rockwell International of Canada, Ltd.
The Rockwell International era was marked by an emphasis on corporate financial performance and quality suffered on some products. In 1981, the line of handheld power tools was sold to Pentair Corp., which operated it as the Porter-Cable line—a name that had disappeared shortly after Rockwell had bought the Porter-Cable Machine Co. In 1984, Rockwell International sold the "machine tool" (woodworking and metalworking machinery) division to Pentair. Pentair operated it as the Delta International Machinery Corp., which included the Canadian operations.
The Pentair Years and Black & Decker
In the early '90s, Delta bough the Acme National subsidiary of R. A. Ness & Co.; their main product was an edge sander that remains the basis for Delta's edge sander. Also beginning in the early 1990s, Lindquist Machine corp. of Green Bay, Wisconsin, manufactured all of Delta's American-made drill presses, an arrangement that continued for about fifteen years. In 1995, Delta bought rip-fence maker Biesemeyer Manufacturing Corp. In the late 1990s, Pentair merged Delta's and Porter-Cable's manufacturing operations in Jackson, Tennessee. In 2000, the two divisions were formally merged.
On July 19, 2004, Black & Decker Corp. announced that it would purchase Pentair's power tools group, including the Porter-Cable, Delta, DeVilbiss Air Power, Oldham Saw, and FLEX brands. B&D already owns the DeWalt brand.
In January 2011, Stanley Black & Decker sold the Delta brand to a Taiwanese power tool manufacturer, Chang Type Industrial Co., Ltd., that was already manufacturing benchtop tools for them. The new company is Delta Power Equipment Corp. The CEO has said that the Delta products currently manufactured in the United States will continue to be made there.
Keith Bohn's 1939 Unisaw, S/N A-100—the earliest Unisaw known
Parts and Manuals
Delta provides owners manuals and parts lists for a variety of machines, including many of those from the Rockwell and Homecraft lines. Check the Delta website first; some manuals are available there for free download. To request a manual and/or parts list, call the Delta Hot Line at (800) 223-7278. Be sure to have either a model number or serial number handy. If you are calling from Canada and need information regarding Rockwell/Beaver machines, you can call Delta in Canada toll-free at (800)463-3582. There is a small fee for manuals sent by mail.
Be sure to check out the "Publication Reprints" tab, above, where you will find a list of over 500 manuals and catalogs covering the entire history of Delta, from the 1920s to the present. Well, there isn't much information past the mid-1980s but Delta can provide information on those more recent machines.
Resources from other web sites
Delta-branded Products from Other Makers
Delta mostly made their own products, but especially in the early years they sometimes OEM'd machines from other makers. For example, Delta's No. 385 12" bandsaw was manufactured by Heston & Anderson/Blue Star Products for Delta back in the late 1920s to early 1930s. And the Model 23-600 6" old-style bench grinder was made by Doerr Electric Corp.
- Thanks to Keith Bohn and many other members of the Old Woodworking Machines forum for contributing almost all of the information here.
- A search of Google Books provided a few snippets from 1925 to 1930 mentioning Delta Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, Wis.
- The earliest mention we have seen of Delta Manufacturing Company in an ad is from the December 1929 issue of Popular Science: "Delta Specialty Company / Division of Delta Manufacturing Co. / 1661-67 Holton St. Milwaukee, Wis."
- The "Delta Specialty Co." name appeared in the April 1932 issue of Popular Mechanics: "Delta Specialty Company (Division of Delta Mfg. Co.)". The following month, the ad read, simply, "Delta Manufacturing Co."
- Information on the January 2011 sale of the Delta brand came from the Popular Woodworking Editors' Blog.
- Further information on the January 2011 sale came from an article on the Fine Woodworking website. The buyer is Chang Type Industrial Co., Ltd., of Taiwan, a company also known as TOTY. "The new company has been renamed Delta Power Equipment Corp."