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At A Trade Show, Power Tools Fit For The Amish

Posted: February 21, 2013

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The Amish don't drive and don't connect to the electrical grid. Yet a growing number of Amish people are leaving farming for manufacturing. That means they need tools — and power.

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The Buckeye Tool Expo in Dalton, Ohio, is held in a massive hall filled with bearded men in black hats and women in white bonnets. A few horses and buggies are tied up outside.

The Amish have chosen to forgo many of the delights of the modern world, but they still need to drill, sand and cut wood. This trade expo shows off all the loopholes that let the Amish get their hands on power tools.

One table has the kind of loud, candy-colored machines you might drool over at Home Depot. But instead of running off of electricity (which many Amish people don't use), the tools are powered by compressed air.

"It's almost unlimited the tools you can convert to air," the guy behind the counter tells me. "Drills, impact wrenches, saws, table saws."

There are more than a hundred vendors at the show, all selling some Amish twist on technology.

The Amish were traditionally farmers, but in recent years, more young Amish men have started working in trades, like making furniture and cabinets — the kind of work where a power tool can bring in a lot more money.

But the more technology the Amish adopt, the more technology they need. So, for instance, as some of the Amish built bigger workshops and factories, they found out that gas lamps just weren't working.

So Elva Otto, an Amish man, launched a company called Day Star to sell industrial skylights — special reflective tubes that funnel sunlight from the roof down into the workshop. It's a way to get more light without using electricity.

"Most people can take something and plug it into the wall," Otto says. "We can't use electricity for this, so then we get creative and figure out how to make something work."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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