Journeyman’s Journal – This is a journal of the art of woodworking by hand

By Peg from MetMo Driver

Hello everyone!

We are a small team of engineers with a passion for investigating and bringing historic tools back to life.

We have spent the last 6 months collecting, studying and reverse engineering a tool first designed in the early 1900’s – the Weltrecord ratchet screwdriver. This was one of the early examples of combining a ratchet mechanism with a mechanical drive handle, creating a pocket tool that would fall somewhere between a brace and a regular screwdriver. 

There were some precursors to this particular design, but this German made piece is unique in that it combines a switchable ratchet mechanism, interchangeable drive bits, collet chuck and the drive arm.

As an operational tool these original versions are still useful today with the ability to put more torque and pressure onto a screw, avoiding slipping and subsequent damage to the screw head.  

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Above: Original screwdriver in use

With modern production techniques and new materials, we were able to take the genius of that early patent and improve in some key areas with our new tool, MetMo Driver.A picture containing weapon

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Taking a look at the original, you can see the whole design is much slimmer than our version, which was most likely a cost issue back when the tool was being produced. Our new driver has a much larger form factor which brings with it some key benefits;

The adjuster pin to change from forward/reverse/locked is now a knurled brass component which is much easier to interact with than the original pin, especially on cold days in the shop when you’re in two pairs of gloves and full arctic survival gear! 

The chuck and reciprocating pin have now been hardened to increase wear resistance and the much larger chuck has a broached hex drive with a neodymium magnet mounted internally to hold all standard bits. This was a major step forward from the old design which used specialised bits and a collet system which has long since seized on our unit. 

The free spinning handle has been helped along by the introduction of a brass bush and the increased size allows you to get much more weight behind it to prevent slipping and damaging a stubborn screw.You can see a how we produced this prototype here: https://youtu.be/c2ywZnQLPeI

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. 

Pictured here is a later version of the early design.

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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” or Deutsches Reichs-Gebrauchs-Muster (in German) 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.

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Above: The original patent drawings and Patent number

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.  

Above: drive bits were of this set size with a D shaped drive dog this set also has an extension arm.

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Close up of the collet chuck, seized in place on this particular model. https://ksr-ugc.imgix.net/assets/036/763/046/c3c69e4b16be8db4421a782cc67c6826_original.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.0.2&w=700&fit=max&v=1648123789&gif-q=50&q=92&s=dfbed7f8af295da3b9b39a43ae48f64c

 Close up of the collet chuck, seized in place on this particular model.

later versions of his screwdriver 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.

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Above: The Iconic stamp and patent mark of the Weltrekord brand

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. More information about the museum can be found at https://www.werkzeugmuseum.org/

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!

Above: 1960s version vs our 2022 re-creation

We have spent the last few months lovingly recreating this original patent, modernising some of the components with much harder wearing materials and allowing for use with a much wider array of drive bits by introducing a standard hex drive at the head.

loving the look of the original exposed mechanism we have kept true to the earlier models of the driver and re-created this as it would have been, with a few enhancements allowing for updated production techniques.    

Above: The final re-creations.

To learn more about this recreation, check out our site at MetMo.co.uk

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