I'll bet you've never heard of Jerome Schnettler or Edward Ristow before. I'll bet just as much that you'd be a little lost without their best-known invention on your jobsite. You see, these men created the first reciprocating saw when they invented the Milwaukee Sawzall in 1952, contributing one of the most indispensable power tools the industry has ever seen. It's no if their names are new to you–only a few toolmakers' names have ever become famous or even well-known.
Fame is a rare legacy in the history of tools. Out of the vast sea of inventors and their inspirations, only a few names drift into our awareness. Despite their genius, the most prolific inventors in the tool industry remain hidden. And, as you'll learn from reading about this year's Hall of Fame honorees, many a tool company can trace its beginnings to humble surroundings–like a rented garage, for instance. That's where Herbert Tautz founded Delta Manufacturing in Milwaukee in 1919, and began a career that revolutionized the woodworking industry. Tautz brought woodworking tools to the people. Based on the massive stationary tools of his day, his innovative designs laid the groundwork for today's lightweight portable power tools.
Draftsmen who rise through the ranks to become company presidents; farm boys who fill their spare time in the tool shed; immigrants who shape new lives for themselves in a new world–these are the makings of our Hall of Fame. This is the heritage of the tool industry. These are the people behind the tools that have changed our lives.
Welcome to the Tools of the Trade second annual Hall of Fame. We are proud to share the stories of this year's honorees with you. They are seven men who changed our lives with their wizardry and genius. Men who went to work each day, just like you, to follow a dream, pursue their passion, and maybe find a better way to do things. Take a close look at the history of tools and you'll marvel even more at how far we've come in such a short time.
Jerome L. Schnettler and Edward W. Ristow
Invented Milwaukee's Sawzall in 1952; designed drills, circular saws, jigsaws, sanders, grinders, and rotary hammers
When Jerome Schnettler joined Milwaukee Electric Tool Co.'s engineering department in 1952, he doubled the department's size. Chief engineer Edward Ristow was a self-taught one-man engineering department then; he had joined Milwaukee in the late 1930s. From the first project they completed together, the two men helped create an environment of innovation and change at Milwaukee that still guides the company today. In the process, they left behind a legacy of inventions that established Milwaukee's place as an industry leader.
Milwaukee's legendary Sawzall is the best-known tool associated with these men. Ristow had been adapting wobble-plate mechanisms to the tool's design, but he wanted to create a powerful, portable, high-speed saw that would cut wood, metal, or composite materials with a reciprocating action. A number of reciprocating drill attachments were already available, but there were no independent tools based on this technology. Schnettler jumped in and produced all the detailed production drawings for every part in the prototype Sawzall.
The Sawzall quickly became popular among the trades. In 1961, the company introduced a two-speed model. A dial-controlled speed saw was added in 1965, and the company introduced the first double-insulated model in 1973. Ristow retired in 1968 after he and Schnettler had contributed to the designs of the company's right-angle drills, circular saws, jigsaws, sanders, grinders, and rotary hammers.
Schnettler's hands-on construction experience, formal engineering education, and drafting talent were a perfect combination for Milwaukee. After working on the Sawzall, Schnettler took it upon himself to modernize the company's production sample boards by drawing every part of every tool Milwaukee made. Until then, machinists used the actual sample parts for measurements and set up on the plant floor. This was the tool industry's 1950's version of converting to CAD.
Schnettler eventually became vice president of engineering and manufacturing, and finally vice president of operations. In 1982, he became Milwaukee's president.
Both men made lasting contributions to the tool industry that significantly improved the way we work on jobsites. We acknowledge their work by including them in this year's Hall of Fame.