A relative newcomer to the gear manufacturing market, this company is showing its respect for the industry by providing the best cutting tools available.

As someone who enjoys the challenge of learning new things, John Ketterer was delighted by what he found when Engineered Tools Corp. — or “ETC,” where he is director of operations — entered the gear-manufacturing market about six years ago. A trained metallurgist who’d already spent many years working for a carbide manufacturer when he joined ETC in 1991, he found gear making to be “the most fascinating metal removal operation I’ve ever witnessed,” he says. “The processes are unique, and highly technical, so you’d better know what you’re talking about going in, because your customers sure do.”

In business since 1940, and acquired by Glen Perkins, its current owner and president, in 1988, the company had long been a manufacturer of precision ground carbide and ceramic cutting tools, wear parts, and assembled components. Subcontracted to conduct precision grinding on carbide gear cutting stick blades, Ketterer and his colleagues began to consider developing a line of tooling specifically for gear manufacturers. As he began researching the market’s potential, he grew increasingly convinced that ETC could play an important role. “We have great respect for the companies that are already involved in producing tooling for cutting gears, but we really thought there was a place in the market for the way we do business,” he says. “Glen Perkins agreed, giving our team his approval and the resources we needed to enter the gear cutting tool market. ETC has long been known for providing excellent value, the highest quality, and the best customer service available, and our gear clients have really responded to that mix of attributes.”

Ketterer says he’s proud of the quality of ETC’s cutting tools for manufacturing all types of bevel gears, recalling a conversation he once had with a customer. An experienced gear cutter, he said that every company representative makes their first visit with one good set of “sticks,” meaning a set of 34 carbide blades. The question was, how many did they have to go through to arrive at that one set of exceptional blades? The quality usually began to fade as stock blades started to arrive, rather than those that had been hand-chosen for demonstration purposes. “When I go to visit a customer for the first time I pull a set of cutting tools straight from our stock,” he explains, “and I don’t even send them back through inspection. Then I’ll tell the customer ‘these are the same blades you’ll be receiving on day one and on day 1,000, and they will all work equally well.’”

In return these industry veterans have opened up their storehouse of knowledge, standing as an invaluable resource as he continues amassing information about various gear manufacturing processes and equipment. “If a standard cutting tool manufacturer received an RFQ from a gear manufacturer, they’d have 100 questions before they could even begin to work up the quote,” Ketterer says. “The term ‘pressure angle’ would mean nothing to most people in the metal removal industry, for instance, but it means everything to a gear manufacturer and to the companies that supply them, like us. In fact, I have a client in procurement who calls me ‘The Answer Man’ because he knows he can call me with a question about gear cutting tools and I’ll be able to clear things up for him.”

A clue to why ETC has proven to be such a good fit may have to do with the fact that the company prides itself on providing “old world craftsmanship” using cutting-edge technologies — which should sound very familiar to anyone involved in the gearing industry. “You see these old-school wizards who’ve spent their entire career on the shop floor cutting gears, and now their skills are bolstered by CNC technology, so it’s a really interesting combination of knowledge developed over decades being improved by technologies that weren’t even around not that long ago.”

With gear manufacturing customers found all around the globe — it is providing all the tooling for one of its client’s new plants being built in India, in fact — Engineered Tools Corp. will continue its upward trajectory with an emphasis on quality, precision, and support. “It’s a pleasure working in the gear manufacturing world, and not only because I find the work so interesting,” Ketterer says. “There’s a level of respect between companies, and even competitors, that you just don’t see very often anymore. And I find that very refreshing.”

MORE INFO  Call 989-673-8733, e-mail info@engineeredtools.com, or go online to