History of K.O. Lee (Part 2)
In our first post, we detailed the history of K.O. Lee until 1941 when the company moved into a new 35,000-square foot new facility in Aberdeen, South Dakota and changed their company name from K.O. Lee & Son Company to the K.O. Lee Company.
At this time, the company changed strategies and dropped the repair and machine departments that had been the backbone of its operation to focus squarely on manufacturing of tools that were advertised under the Knock-Out Brand of products.
Under this brand, the K.O. Lee Company produced universal tool grinders, tool grinder fixtures and accessories, expanding mandrels, keyless drill chucks among other tools designed in the company’s own engineering department. With Clifford Carl “C.C.” Lee, the son of founder Knute Oscar “K.O.” Lee, at the helm, the company created distributors across the United States to sell to automotive garages and other manufacturers.
With the outbreak of World War II, the K.O. Lee Company jumped headfirst into the war effort. Three shifts were organized to produce machine and tools for the Allies. For example, up to 200 universal tool and cutter grinders were produced each month and absorbed by other industries responsible for war goods including truck and tractor manufacturers, ammunition and firearms suppliers, instrument makers and aircraft builders to name a few.
When the war effort wrapped up, the K.O. Lee Company had achieved a reputation for quality and reliability. In the 1950’s, the company expanded into industrial tool grinder lines. The outfit branched into surface grinders in the 1960’s and special slicing machines in the nascent semi-conductor market.
During the 1970’s, the company refined its existing products. A new larger 8×18” chuck capacity surface grinder was introduced to compliment the 6×12” and 6×18” models. By 1981, the company had expanded its plant and new departments for casting preparation and powder paint were incorporated. The new facility occupied 127,000 square feet of manufacturing, warehouse and office space.
In 2008, after great deliberation, the K.O. Lee Company sold the business to LeBlond Ltd. where the quality and reliability associated with the K.O. Lee brand live on.
If you’re interested in new LeBlond or K.O. Lee machines or require original OEM parts for your LeBlond, K.O. Lee, Standard Modern, Johnson Press, Deka Drill and W.F. & John Barnes equipment, call LeBlond Ltd. at (888) 532-5663.