A history of hand tools shows tools became more and more important as civilization became more advances. A workman’s tools were the means by which he could earn a living. They were also used to help make daily life easier.

Humans began molding copper in about 6000BC. They soon learned that copper was too soft to be effective as a tool, but mixed with tin it made bronze, which was very strong. This happened around the same time as the razor was invented to shave hair and men began to go beardless.

Carbon was alloyed with iron to create steel in the first millennium AD. Similar in weight to bronze, steel was much stronger and more durable. Tool making really took off from this point…


  • Iron axes like we use today were first crafted between 500-200 BC.
  • Vices, grips, and benches appeared in the societies of the Greeks and Romans. Pegs were driven into pre-drilled holes in the bench to hold work in place. Metal clamps have been used since the 1400s.
  • Egyptians used wooden mallets. Handled hammers were made from bronze, iron and steel from the time of the Romans, and the claw hammer is the result of the use by Romans of nails. Tradesmen eventually developed hammers that were designed specifically for their type of work, including saddler, building, upholstering, etc.
  • Iron tongs, a basic precursor to pliers, were used by Roman blacksmiths. They used claw hammers to remove nails.
  • Ancient Egyptians used copper hand saws. Wooden support frames were added to saws by the Greeks and Romans, and saw design improved immeasurably after 1650.
  • The circular saw was invented by Tabitha Babbitt in the early 1800s. She is also credited with inventing the head of the spinning wheel and false teeth.
  • The spanner or wrench was patented in 1922 by Jack Johnson, the first world heavyweight boxing champion of African descent.
  • The chain saw was invented in 1926 by Andreas Stihl. It required two people to operate it and it weighed more than 120 pounds. In 1929, he invented the fuel powered chain saw, which was referred to as “the tree-felling machine”.
  • The Phillips head screw was invented and first used in the Cadillac assembly line in 1936, patented by Henry Phillips. It remains the most popular screw in the world.


A history of hand tools shows from basic Stone Age tools to screw extracting pliers, we’ve come a long way!