Tool and Die Makers

The toolmaker’s trade consists of transforming metal into the items that are needed for the production of the vast majority of all other products – they make the tools that manufacturers need to produce their goods. These toolmakers are also responsible for making clamps and jogs that are used to hold the metal during processing.  They also may modify standard tools or create new ones in the course of their work. Die makers work by creating devices that are used to shape hot metal in forging and stamping operations. In several aspects, die and tool makers are similar to highly specialized and skilled machinists. Although a machinist typically constructs one part of the machine, the tool and die maker is able to construct the whole machine and can adjust the machine in order to make it more effective.  Similar to other professions that have worked with metals, these craftspeople typically worked in locations where heat and fire were a potentially serious problem.

Asbestos and the Toolmaking Industry

In order to protect the building and the workers from the potential heat and fire risks, many employees utilized asbestos. The material was used to make insulation around the forges and boilers in order to control the escape of heat into the surrounding area. This served to make the forge more effective and efficient and make the environment of the work area more comfortable. The insulation prevented sparks from starting fires and asbestos used in clothing and gloves protected the workers from burns. Therefore, tool and die makers were at particular risk of asbestos exposure from the materials that were commonly used in their work. Asbestos is a mineral which is able to be woven into cloth. Asbestos fibers are flexible and lightweight as well as chemically inert, fireproof, and resistant to heat and electricity. However, these good qualities are heavily outweighed by the hazardous and potentially fatal effect that the mineral has on those who have been exposed. Studies have demonstrated that asbestos is highly damaging to the body and leads to serious conditions such as asbestosis and even cancer. Individuals who regularly worked with the material were largely unaware of the potential dangers, and those private employers and government agencies who were aware neglected to convey these risks to their employees or provide protective gear that would prevent asbestos exposure.