Hang onto your hats, we have a real deep dive into the history and original patent of the Weltrecord ratchet screwdriver, its inventor and where it was made!
Introducing Mr Baumann
The original inventor was a German chap named Conrad Baumann, who ran a company called Conrad Baumann Werkzeugfabrik (roughly translated as toolmaker) that operated from around the end of the 1800’s. The drivers were sold under the Baumann-Weltrecord brand, translated into English as the Baumann-world record.
Conrad was a tool maker by trade but also an inventor, with patents on various screwdrivers, as well as an innovative form of shirt buttons akin to folding cufflinks! But I digress.
Getting back to the patent that we used to redesign the MetMo Driver.
The funny thing here is the original design was not a patent at all but instead a specialised German design mark! Let me explain - Thanks to rapid industrialisation and interest in international trade after the founding of the German empire in 1871, the imperial patent office introduced the “German Imperial Utility Model” in 1891 and would act in a similar way to modern day design trade marks or design rights, but also prove that it was a genuine product of Germany.
On a product, this Utility Model would be designated by the letters DRGM much in the same way we use the TM or C symbols now. This system was used from 1891 to 1945 and early examples of the Weltrekord ratchet screwdriver have DRGM stamped into the handle, putting the original design date anywhere between those dates.
We had hoped that through contacting the historic patent office in Germany, we'd be able to narrow the date down, but all of these early records were lost when the second world war ended. What we did find was a tool catalogue from 1942 that listed the Conrad Baumann brand and suggested it had been in business for around 10 years prior to that, so we know it was already an established and widely distributed product at this time.
The history doesn’t stop there though, in 1950 a German patent was filed with the US patent office under the same company name outlining the same details of a ratcheting screwdriver and is the first written record of the ratcheting screwdriver encompassing removable bits with an independent drive handle.
Conrad goes on after this to file two more patents, one in 1959 that officially ties his 1950s patent to his original DRGM mark that would have been lost. Another was published in 1967 a much more complex and refined design, that took advantage of the latest engineering techniques of the time, the addition of a moulded plastic handle, smaller mechanics and reduced size overall, combined with a collet style chuck. But interestingly still designed to only work with the supplied bits.
later versions of his screw driver have the 1950’s patent number stamped into the handle instead so if you see the DRGM mark you have a pre-1945 model on your hands. There are more of the later versions available at auction, identifiable by the semi translucent plastic handle, however there seems to have been a design flaw with the collet style chuck on these later models that has resulted in this part no longer holding onto the bit as would have originally been intended.
The last known record of Conrad’s business was in 1975 where his business was given an official registration certificate to supply the US government. At the time the early power drills and cordless battery drills were starting to take off and Conrad would have been reaching the end of his career. It is possible it was bought out by one of the other tool companies in the area, but like many small businesses we may never know its fate in history.
The area where Conrad set up shop has a rich heritage in toolmaking, on Gerber str, Remscheid-lüttringhausen in Germany located in the northern Rhine region. This area had seen rapid economic growth in the early 1800’s with mechanical engineering and toolmaking as the main industries. In the early 1900's Remscheid was the centre of the German tool industry.
Then during the second world war this manufacturing area was considered a threat and in 1943 the town was almost completely destroyed by a British bombing raid as part of the RAF’s battle of the Ruhr, involving over 270 aircraft.
To this day the town has a very high concentration of well-known quality tool manufactures whose history’s date back hundreds of years, starting out specialising in a single tool much like how Conrad had started. It is also home to the German tool museum, something I am keen to visit when I get the chance.
To the best of my knowledge this screwdriver first went into production over 100 years ago and was produced for around 70 years. But there are very few remaining so they were never mass-produced items. With the early wooden handled pieces most likely made by hand in small volumes by Conrad himself.
So there you have it the most comprehensive history of the Baumann-Weltrekord ratchet screwdriver around!
I have tried to be thorough with the research on this, but if I have missed anything, please let me know. Further to that point German is not my first language, so any translations that are incorrect I apologise in advance!
I hope you have enjoyed this update, if you haven't already seen our previous update on the making of the prototype, I recommend you check it out as we've had some wonderful feedback on that one, so thank you to everyone that watched and shared it!
Until next week, everyone take care and if you are the long lost relative of Conrad, please get in touch!
To find out more about this project head over to our crowdfunding page Here!
Thanks, until next week!