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A History of Hand Tools

Tools tell us an awful lot about a society. The more advanced the tools, the more advanced the society. And although many tools now come in gas or electric versions, it doesn’t look like classic hand tools are going anywhere anytime soon.

As suppliers of rentable tools and equipment in the greater Cincinnati area, naturally we at One Stop Rental have an interest in the background of our products. Here’s a brief look at the history of hand tools.

Hammers and Mallets

The first version of a hammer was simply a stone used to pound and deliver repeated blows. As you can imagine, these were somewhat cumbersome to handle. It was the ancient Greeks who began forming hammers out of metal that were much easier to handle. In ancient Rome, when nails became more popular, the clawed hammer was developed, which closely resembles the hammers we use today. Mallets and sledgehammers, on the other hand, were made of wood all the way until the medieval times when they took their more classic squared-off shape.


Evidence of saws can be seen as far back as Ancient Egypt, depicted in hieroglyphics. The Greeks and Romans improved upon this basic Egyptian design by attaching a wooden frame to the metal saw for support and offsetting the teeth of the blade to create a smoother, more accurate cut. But possibly the biggest breakthrough for saws was when rolling strip steel was created, meaning saws could be produced without the wooden support piece. These days, there are numerous versions of the saw, from the basic hacksaw to the table or chain saw. We have a wide variety here at One Stop Rental.

Chisels and Gouges

Chisels and Gouges

The earliest chisels can be found from the Stone Age made of flint. These were then proceeded by chisels made from copper and bronze, and for centuries have come in four basic shapes. These are the firmer chisel, paring chisel, mortise chisel and special purpose chisel. Typically, chisels are used for woodworking and can either be driven into the wood by hand, or by tapping the end of the chisel with a mallet.


Axes are thought to date back to 8000 BCE, when sharpened reindeer antlers were used. Modified versions of these antler axes remained popular all the way up until 3000 BCE, when copper and bronze axes were introduced in the Middle East. Iron axes, similar to the classic axe we use today, were invented all the way back in 200 BC. If it’s not broken, why fix it? Now there are approximately 47 different shapes of axes for various trades.

We hope this brief history of some popular tools has piqued your interest and inspired you to use some of them yourself. To rent the tools and equipment you need, visit us at One Stop Rental in West Chester or Liberty/Fairfield Township, OH. You can also get in touch with us on any of our social channels.