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Manufacturers Index - DeWalt Products Co.

DeWalt Products Co.
Leola, PA; Lancaster, PA; Towson, MD, U.S.A.
Company Website: http://www.dewalt.com/
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery

History
Last Modified: Aug 21 2019 4:12PM by Jeff_Joslin
If you have information to add to this entry, please contact the Site Historian.

The machine information here is only applicable to DeWalt machines from before the 1990s. For information on later (non-"Vintage") machines you will have to consult other sources such as DeWalt's own website.

DeWalt Products Co. was founded in 1924, two years after Ray DeWalt invented the radial arm saw, which he originally called the "Wonder-Worker". This saw was targeted at home builders. The saw was a success and over the next couple of decades the company diversified its product line to cover a range of sizes: blades between 8 and 24 inches diameter, and arms between 12 and 30 inches long.

Ray DeWalt was the first to use a motor directly driving a saw arbor, the motor suspended in a pivoting and tilting yoke attached to a carriage that slid on a horizontal arm. His key innovation was directly powering the sawblade from a motor. Earlier saws, e.g., from Toronto makers Elliot Woodworker, Ltd. and Mackintosh Hutchinson, used belts to transfer power from a motor to the saw arbor.

With DeWalt's success, various competitors attempted to improve on his idea and/or circumvent his patents. Several patents were issued for saws where the carriage was attached to the end of the arm, and the whole arm slid back and forth with the carriage. DeWalt himself jumped on the bandwagon when he patented such a saw, but the original DeWalt design proved to be the winner. Despite the efforts of various competitors, DeWalt dominated the rapidly growing market for radial arm saws.

During World War II, many GIs got their first exposure to DeWalt saws. DeWalt saws were used in the US to to build barracks, housing, crates, and so on. And especially in the Pacific Theater, DeWalt saws were standard issue at military bases to handle all sawing tasks: ripping, cross-cutting, miter and bevel cuts. After the war DeWalt discovered considerable demand for home-shop machines, which before the war had not been a major market for them. DeWalt introduced new product lines of smaller and lower cost saws as well as a series of booklets and magazine articles on how to use your new DeWalt saws in a variety of tasks around the home.

DeWalt Products Co. was reorganized in 1947 as a subsidiary of the newly-formed DeWalt Inc. In 1949, American Machine & Foundry Co. Inc., purchased DeWalt Inc. AMF is more famous for making bowling equipment and for owning Harley Davidson from 1969 to 1981.

From April 1954 Popular Mechanics

Before the Harley Davidson acquisition, though, in 1960, AMF sold DeWalt to budding conglomerate Black & Decker, whose reputation for quality handheld power tools had, at that time, only been slightly sullied by their value-engineered line of homeowner tools. DeWalt was operated as a subsidiary until 1970, when it became the Lancaster Machinery Division. Still owned by B&D, DeWalt now operates as DeWalt Industrial Tool Co., headquartered in Hampstead, MD.

One curiosity of the B&D-era DeWalt is that some radial arm saws were built in Italy and imported here. We have seen a model 7170 10" radial arm saw marked "Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc., Hunt Valley, MD... Made in Italy".

In 1989 the industrial radial arm saw line was sold to two of its former executives, who founded Lancaster Machinery Co. Within a short time Lancaster went under and the rights to the DeWalt saw designs went to The Original Saw Company, which moved production to Britt, IA. For many years, rebuilt saws and DeWalt parts were available from Wolfe Machinery, which wound down their business in 2016. Their next door neighbor, Bradley Tools and Fasteners, has taken over the business of rebuilding DeWalt saws and providing onsite repair and service for all woodworking machines. They also have a parts inventory of DeWalt parts.

DeWalt-Badged Machines

With only a couple of very rare exceptions, DeWalt never designed any machines other than radial arm saws, but several machine types were sold under the DeWalt label. The exceptions date from the late 1920s or early '30s and include a 6" jointer and a hollow chisel mortiser, both of unusual and distinctive designs. The examples we have seen are clearly marked as manufactured by DeWalt.

In 1960, DeWalt acquired the rights to the Bennett Two-way panel saw from Richard C. Bennett Manufacturing Co. During World War II plywood was perfected and its production of plywood was greatly expanded; after the war this new material was re-purposed, especially for building construction. DeWalt had introduced a couple of models of panel saws in response to this new market but they were not particularly successful. DeWalt failed to make much headway with the Bennett saw either.

During the 1949-1960 AMF era, a number of different machines wore DeWalt badges. Some Atlas Press Co. machines were rebadged by DeWalt, including jointer, tablesaw , drill press, sander, lathe and 12" bandsaw. We have also see some 20" DeWalt-badged bandsaws from this era; we believe it was an American Saw Mill Machinery Co. design that was acquired by AMF. A 24" scrollsaw is of uncertain origin.

DeWalt Serial Number Registry

Below you will see a section on the DeWalt Serial Number Registry. The intent of the DeWalt registry is to compile data on DeWalt Products equipment falling into two general categories:

  1. Commercial and industrial series radial arm and panel saws.
  2. Unique one-off or prototype DeWalt Products designs.
This list of commercial and industrial series models would include, but may not be limited to, all G-type models (GA, GE, GK, GL, GP, GS), the TC-series, model 3516, and the SuperDuty saws.

At this time there will be no entry of models aimed at the consumer market, such as the PowerShop models and other saws smaller than 12" and producing less than 3 HP. This limitation is necessary to confine the duties of the registry to the interests of those involved in maintaining it.

Dating your DeWalt Radial Arm Saw

A very good estimate of the production date of your saw can be obtained from Rick Antrobus' analysis of serial numbers versus date of manufacture. Also helpful is a timeline of DeWalt radial arm saw models. For pre-1945 machines the timeline is generally more reliable than the serial-number analysis. After that time, both approaches are quite accurate.

For many makers, variations in company name are useful in dating machines and publications. DeWalt was often inconsistent in its naming, and in the early years we see De Walt Products Co., DeWalt Products Co., DeWalt Products Corp. (earliest use April 1929), and, often, just "DeWalt". In 1949 DeWalt Products Co. was made a subsidiary of the new DeWalt, Inc., so the presence of "DeWalt, Inc." indicates that a machine or publication is from 1947 or later. AMF owned DeWalt during the years 1949 to 1960 so the presence of "AMF" is hard evidence of being from that era. The Black & Decker era began in 1960.

Other Resources

Information Sources

  • Most of this information has been gleaned from patent information and old catalogs.
  • The Henry Ford Museum has a 1944 catalog, "Tools and attachments for DeWalt woodworking machines"
  • The Henry Ford Museum has a 1951 catalog, "The De Walt model R-2 with receding arm : the woodworker for greater production and low woodcutting costs in construction, industrial plants, lumber yards, woodworking plants."
  • Thanks to Erik Strombom for bringing to our attention a Craisgslist ad (San Francisco) for an Italian-made DeWalt saw. The saw is of conventional 1970s DeWalt design.
  • Information on Wolfe's shutdown and Bradley Tools and Fastener's resumption of that business came from an owwm.org forum discussion.