Back in 1895, Wilhelm Emil Fein invented the first power tool. To be more specific, he invented the first electric power tool, a 5/32 capacity drill that consisted of a motor, a shaft and a chuck. That won him a spot in a German museum and a place in the heart of almost every woodworker on the face of the planet.
Fein is still at it, creating high-quality, heavy-duty power tools for woodworkers and other tool lovers. The company is still in the family and Wilhelm’s grandson, Hans Wolfgang Fein, is the current CEO. It’s a German company with a line of tools for both metalworking and woodworking, but it wasn’t until recently that it entered the U.S. market. The first tool that made a splash here was a pneumatic hacksaw that was designed for spark-free applications (e.g. oil wells).
It Slices, It Dices …
Mike Murphy is the national product manager for the Fein Power Tools USA and says that the company’s Multimaster is the first product that really took off with woodworkers. It’s a hand tool with interchangeable tips that can detail sand, cut, scrape, remove grout and perform a variety of other tasks (one customer even uses it to open his lobsters). When you first see it, you’re going to think “this is a detail sander,” but there’s a lot more to it than that. Mike says that it was introduced in the U.S. in 1986, and in Europe it is primarily used by metalworkers and machinists. When they brought it over, says Mike, “we weren’t really sure what we had when we first came out with this.” It was immediately popular with woodworkers and it opened the door to other Fein tools.
Now, U.S. woodworkers can get the Multimaster, random orbital sanders, half-sheet sanders, shop vacs, and a variety of drills from Fein. Its most recent development is a 3 1/4 HP router that is, according to Mike, the most powerful router out there.
Buying Tools for Your Grandchildren
Fein primarily focuses on power hand tools, says Mike, because it has always been what the company does best. When you pick up one of these tools, you immediately realize it’s a heavy-duty machine, and that’s for a reason. Mike explains that Fein’s philosophy is to make tools that will last. It’s not enough that a tool lasts ten or even 20 years, he says. When you buy a Fein power tool, the company wants you to be able to hand it off to your children or grandchildren (just as Wilhelm handed the company off to his son and grandson).
So next time you fire up a table saw or router or drill, remember to say a quick thank you to the spirit of Wilhelm Emil Fein, the patron saint of all power tools.
– Bob Filipczak