Kaiser Tool Company Celebrates 60th Anniversary

May 28, 2024 1:26 pm

In the 1950s, William (Bill) Kaiser operated a job shop and took in jobs that other manufacturers did not want to do in-house.  Most of the time, these jobs were difficult and he was expected to do them quickly and for very little money.

Bill found that he continuously had to make his own tools to cut small grooves for O-rings or snap rings.  Hand grinding consistent grooving tools took too long and when a tool became dull, he had to start all over again.

He had an idea.  If he could make grooving tools in .001” increments with standardized bodies that could be replaced in a toolholder, he would solve his problem and have a marketable product.

It took Bill almost seven years of working at night (when he wasn’t doing his job shop work) to develop and test the design of the inserts and the toolholders.  He perfected the design and was awarded patent 3,296,683.

Bill and his wife, Hazel, started Kaiser Tool Company (KTC) in 1964 with the purpose of supplying small lathe cutting tools.  Lathe tools were known as bits and the tools were thin.  THINBIT® was chosen as the product name.  The first THINBIT® tools were insert sizes .010” through .050” in .001” increments made from high-speed steel with a 1/4”, 5/16” and 3/8” toolholders.  

From 1964 until 1980, the production and sales of THINBIT® tooling was done at the family home on Weisser Park Avenue in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Manufacturing took place in the garage.  The employees used the bathroom and kitchen of the house.  The sales office was in the attic and was accessed via a set of pull down stairs.  The raw material was purchased at a local hardware store.

Bill continued to innovate and expand THINBIT® products.  Hazel designed the advertising, packed and shipped the tools, took orders, typed the invoices and juggled the money (or lack thereof) to pay the bills.  Their daughter Lenore, our President, grew up with THINBIT® in every corner of the house.

Sales were very slow in the beginning as there was little money for advertising THINBIT® products.  All revenue generated by THINBIT® was used to pay the company’s bills and the few employees.  Bill still had to do job shop work and Hazel worked at an accounting firm to generate their income.  After a decade, THINBIT® sales were sufficient to allow Bill to drop his job shop work and Hazel to leave her accounting job.

In 1980, KTC outgrew the garage and a new facility was built on Sherman Boulevard. The site was located along the St Mary’s river and terrible flooding in 1982 threatened to destroy the business.  The extraordinary efforts of the employees and a few sand bags from President Ronald Regan saved the company.

Lenore took over KTC from her parents in 1982.  She increased THINBIT® product offerings, digitized the shop and office operating systems, expanded advertising and modernized the manufacturing processes.

THINBIT® sales took off and more employees and equipment were added.  Lenore’s husband, Doug, was brought on board in 1987.  Doug utilized some of the first laser marking systems to engrave THINBIT® products with indelible identification codes and began the Laser Images division.

KTC outgrew the Sherman street location in 1994 and built a new manufacturing facility on Centennial Drive. The land purchased was large enough for a new building, future expansion and nature.  The design of the manufacturing area was ahead of its time with painted floors, bright lighting and climate control.  Windows let in natural light and views of animals and trees.

In the 1990’s, Kaiser recognized the advantages of CNC equipment and automation which allowed continued expansion of product lines and a focus on custom tools.

Machines, work cells, inspection equipment and material storage were added and processes upgraded until the manufacturing floor was too cramped to function efficiently.  In 2018, an addition was built to significantly expand the manufacturing space.

Industries served include: aerospace, medical, semiconductor, automotive, research, protective seals, jewelry, racing and those job shop innovators working out of their garages on the next big thing.

Today, THINBIT® is an industry leader in precision cutting tools.  THINBIT® stocks over 100,000 tools and offers millions of standard tools with fast delivery.  Custom tooling is available for all products. Real people answer the phones and provide excellent service.

Bill and Hazel’s premise, during the early days, was always “customer service, quality product and fast shipment”.  These are the foundations of Kaiser Tool Company and what has allowed the company to grow from an unknown entity to its respected place in the industry today.

Thank you for supporting THINBIT® for 60 years.

Leave a Reply