Franz Wertheim 1872
Johann Baptist Weiss 1873

Wilhelm Franz Exner got to the point: In 1874, the factories of Wertheim Weiss & Sohn were among the largest tool manufacturers in Europe. And this was made possible above all by the competition of two famous personalities: Franz Freiherr von Wertheim and Johann Baptist Weiss.

Woodworkers made their own tools for centuries, at least as far as the wooden components were concerned, iron and steel parts were contributed by the local blacksmith. This small-scale structure was regulated (and also created) by the guilds. The first specializations in the manufacture of carpentry tools were documented in the 17th century in the Netherlands and England. The era of industrialization began in England in the 18th century.

In Austria it was Franz Gruber who was first mentioned in an address book as a woodworker toolmaker during the monarchy in 1809, he was also the first to begin the industrial production of carpenter tools. The later major manufacturers are closely linked to his name: Johann Weiß sen. learned toolmaking from Franz Gruber in Vienna, Franz Wertheim from Krems took over the factories in Vienna and Scheibbs after the death of Franz's son Anton. Wertheim and Johann B. Weiss then transformed toolmaking to an industry from the 1840's on.

The third big name among manufacturers in Austria is Josef Herrmann. He too had a direct relationship with Gruber: he was a foreman in Gruber's factory for years before he founded his own factory. The great success of the planes from Weiss & Sohn is largely due to Josef Herrmann's plane irons, which his factory manufactured for Weiss for 70 years.

In addition to the big two, there were of course a number of smaller manufacturers of planes and carpentry tools in the Austrian monarchy, such as Christian Weiland, Daniel Ammon and Johann Jiroschek in Vienna. Or Ottokar Skrivan and Johann Horak in Prague, Jakob Weisz in Hungary. And a few more. Some of them were more successful, while others only left names in address books or newspaper reports, sometimes only individual tools.

 

Their stories will also be told here.

​© 2023 Hobel Austria, Reinhard Pascher

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