Please note

Because of the lack of published trowel and masonry tool histories, the information here is based on other sources that may be less reliable and certainly are incomplete. These include eBay and tools that I purchase myself that are the starting points for my research. I will write what I know as I learn it. If what you read here interests you, please check back often and look for revisions and corrections. Scanned catalogs are either mine or by Rose Antique Tools and used with permission, and are on Google Docs as pdf files. A few are links to other websites. Your photos and information are welcome. Please click on any picture to enlarge it. Comments are welcome, but any with links will be deleted as possible spam.

Friday, June 13, 2014

History of Dresden Manufacturing Co.

Dresden Manufacturing Co., of Long Beach, California, began in 1944, and by 1950 its owner and president was Harold Francis Baum (1902-1983). A 1950 Long Beach Press Telegram article stated, "Fifty types of trowels for cement, plastering, tile and floor covering trades are manufactured by the Long Beach firm." Unlike the tool makers of 50 years and earlier who began as blacksmiths, Mr. Baum was a businessman. He probably saw opportunity in the construction boom resulting from California's fast population growth in the 1940s and 1950s. Mr. Baum sold Dresden in 1964 to Pacific Tile and Porcelain Co., a ceramic tile manufacturer, with Mr. Baum remaining as president. In 1965, Red Devil Inc. registered Dresden as a trademark. Dresden trademark history

Dresden Manufacturing No. 85 edger
Quote with minor edits from Long Beach Press-Telegram, June 25, 1950, Long Beach, California:
Cement and Plaster Trowels Really Precision Instruments

The term "precision instruments" hardly sounds appropriate for cement and plaster trowels. Nevertheless, the Junior Chamber of Commerce tour of the Dresden Manufacturing Co. revealed that these historic tools just about fit that category.

Fifty types of trowels for cement, plastering, tile and floor covering trades are manufactured by the Long Beach firm.

Steel is compounded and tempered to Dresden specifications for resistance to abrasion, for true surface and springiness. Several thousands of dollars’ worth of steel was bought, field-tested and rejected in the company's quest for the right formula.

The leading types of trowels are made of high carbon spring steel. Others are stainless steel, pressed steel or aluminum.  


Stamped from strips of steel, the blades must pass rigorous inspection. A "strain" or slight wave imperceptible to the untrained eye will flunk a trowel out the line. A lip at a corner or edge or a warped surface also will send the tool into the discard.

Ordinary rivets won't do. They must be of hardened steel; countersunk so they will not pull out under the journeyman's pressure. Then they are machined to uniform smoothness with the blade. Handles are hardwood, mounted on a light aluminum shank.

Heavy stamping is done at the company’s plant in Stanton. The Long Beach headquarters factory, 3422 E. Anaheim St., is equipped for punching, machining, drilling, wood shaping and turning, sawing, sanding, and "braking” (bending) the tools for corners, steps and edges. An ingenious device for threading the ends of the aluminum shanks is made from an automobile gear shift.


Dresden Manufacturing Co. was established six years ago. H.F. Baum, president, purchased the firm last year. Shortly afterward, Joe Lee, graduate engineer formerly in the petroleum industry, joined the firm as vice president and assumed charge of production.

The line of products has expanded to the complete range requested by the trades. Latest additions are in the tile and floor covering fields.

Trowels for the mastic used in laying these materials bear notches along one side and end. These determine the amount of mastic to be left on the surface. Four tooth sizes are manufactured. Without the notches the journeyman would have no way of judging the depth of the mastic. Lee perfected the notched trowels for the company.

With more and more home-owners laying their own asphalt tile or linoleum, Dresden is about to market a complete kit for the amateur. Included will be a spreader, string, knife, scriber for scoring the material, tape measure and instructions.

Currently, the journeyman tools made in this Long Beach industrial plant are sold through jobbers in all parts of the United States. Orders received from Canada, Puerto Rico, Panama and Hawaii have stimulated the company to investigate the possibilities for foreign trade. Their preliminary reports it won't be long before the names of Dresden will appear in the construction Industries of a number of nations.

PRECISION – The smooth surface of a plaster wall or patio requires a perfectly "true" trowel at well as a competent journeyman. Dresden Manufacturing Co., 3422 E. Anaheim St., produces more than 50 types for the trade. Customers are located in all parts of the United States In the top photograph, Joe Lee demonstrates how a hardwood handle is shaped by the spinning blades in the center. A pattern follows the solid center below the blades and guides the wood block into the cutter. In the background Dean Beaver prepares to take a "California" handle off the lathe. In the bottom picture, H. F. Baum (left), president of the company, and O.E. Papin watch Bearer set jig for riveting the spring steel blades to the aluminum shanks. Esther Strissel operates the device which forces the handle over the shank. The plant is set up for production of 1000 trowels daily. 

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