The last stop during my recent trip to Germany as a guest of Festool was at Miller Maschinen und Werkzeug, a tool distributor in the small town of Aichstetten. I expected to see an excellent tool store, but was unprepared for the scale of the place and the variety of tools and accessories on display. Within minutes of entering I realized this was one of those "kid in a candy store" moments.
The showroom contained a greater variety of tools and accessories from Festool than I have seen in any one place, including Festool's headquarters and factories (more on them in an upcoming story). But it was not just the one brand that had me excited; Miller also carries DeWalt, Makita, Mafell, Fein, Jet, Metabo, Lamello, and power tool brands that are not sold in the U.S. There were hand tools too: Knipex, Wera, Bessey, Wiha, Sola, and several unfamiliar brands. Oh yes, and industrial machinery such as panel saws, edge banders, and thickness sanders from Felder and several other companies.
Some of the power tools I saw were European versions of ones sold here. The corded models had "Schuko" plugs and motors wired for 240 volts 50 Hz. Cordless tools were the same as here except for the labeling—which by law has to state the nominal voltage. Tools and batteries labeled 12- and 20-volt max in the U.S. are labeled 10.8 and 18 volts in Europe.
The most interesting tools I saw bore familiar brand labels but were different models than are sold here—or were types of tools that can't be purchased in the U.S. It tells you something about the construction practices in different parts of the world when a particular tool is popular in one country and unavailable in another.
Click on the slideshow to see what some of these tools are. Be sure to see the captions and links below the photos. There's a bonus for those of you who click through to the end. But don't rush to get there, because there's a lot of cool stuff to see along the way.