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Manufacturers Index - K. O. Lee Co.
Last Modified: Aug 5 2008 8:53PM by Jeff_Joslin
If you have information to add to this entry, please contact the Site Historian.

This company was founded by Knute Oscar Lee in 1888 as a farm machinery sales company. In 1915 K. O.'s son, Clifford Carl Lee, joined the business and the company name changed to K. O. Lee & Son Co.

The company operated a machine shop to perform repairs and modifications for their customers. In 1922 they ceased the sale of farm machinery to focus on traction engine and automobile sales as well as their machine shop operations. They hired a recent German immigrant, Theodore Purnis, as a machinist and engineer. Over the next few years Purnis designed a series of grinding machines for use in engine rebuilding. In 1926 he was co-inventor of a machine and process for repairing valve seats with an insert. That machine was their first to be manufactured for sale.

In the meantime, much of the company's revenues were coming from the importation and sale of binder twine. But World War II cut off their supply lines and also created increased demand for the company's grinder machinery. K. O. Lee had died in 1934 and in about 1941 the company was renamed to K. O. Lee Co.

With the shift in focus to machinery manufacturing the company expanded its product line to include a range of products used in the repair and rebuilding of automobile and truck engines: universal tool grinders, tool grinder fixtures and accessories, expanding mandrels, keyless drill chucks, valve refacers, valve seat grinders, valve seat insert rings, reseater sets, rod aligners, stud wrenches, sanders, AC welders, drills, polishers and reaming drives.

This company is listed in this index of manufacturers of woodworking machinery because their bench grinders are sometimes found in woodworking shops. We cannot provide any information related to their other products; try the K. O. Lee Co. web site instead.

Information Sources

  • Thanks to Cliff Sommers for bringing this maker to our attention.
  • The historical information comes from the K. O. Lee web site.