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Putting a New Spin on Saws

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By Mike McClintock
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, June 8, 2000; Page H07

Some of the most significant improvements in hand and power tools have come from unlikely sources.

Among the most unusual has to be a contribution that has saved do-it- yourselfers hours of time and trouble--the invention of the circular saw by a Shaker woman, Sister Tabitha Babbitt.

Until 1810, sawing was strictly a hand-powered, back-and-forth operation. That changed when Sister Tabitha was at her spinning wheel watching Shaker brothers cutting wood and realized that half their energy was wasted because saws cut only on the forward stroke.

She solved that problem by rigging a prototype circular saw--a toothed circular blade cut from a tin sheet and mounted to her spinning wheel.

Another leap forward was the cam-action pliers called RoboGrip, developed by Pennsylvania dentist Hal Wrigley.

The spring-loaded, self-adjusting, one-handed pliers were introduced by Sears, Roebuck and Co. in October 1993, sold out by December and have become the best-selling Craftsman hand tool ever.

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

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