Our History


  • 1958

    John Peterson, Sr., Eric Kilgore and Bill Clodfelter start Murfreesboro Machine & Tool Co.

  • 1959

    Move to 411 Shirley Street

  • 1959

    John Peterson and Bill Clodfelter buyout Kilgore and move to Nashville, TN. Southern Tool & Cutter Grinding Co. is born

  • 1965

    Southern Tool moves to 401 Spence Lane in Nashville

  • 1967

    Investors buy Southern Tool Co. and rename it Dolphin Tool Co.

  • 1971

    John Peterson, Sr. continues business and renames company Peterson Tool Company

  • 1971

    Moves to 211 Omohundro Drive

  • 1973

    Inside the 218 Omohundro Drive plant

  • 1973

    Early 1970’s marketing materials

  • 1975

    In March of 1975, Nashville sees widespread flooding

  • 1979

    In September John Peterson, Sr. passes after battling cancer

  • 1980

    Peterson displays products at IMTS (International Manufacturing Show) and Thriftedge® catches on

  • 1981

    Pushing forward at the helm of the company, Nancy soon expands to new plant

  • 1982

    Peterson Tool Company moves equipment to 739 Fesslers Lane

  • 1982

    Peterson Tool Company’s new headquarters in Nashville, TN

  • 1988

    Wins First Award from Ford Motor Company

  • 1989

    Nancy S. Peterson presented “Outstanding Achievement Award” by then governor Ted McWherter

  • 1990

    Mrs. Peterson was the first American to earn the prestigious Veuve Clicquot Business Women of the Year Award

  • 1990

    Recognized for the first of many Certified Supplier Awards from Caterpillar

  • 1991

    Advertisement from an early 1990’s campaign

  • 1998

    Peterson Coating Technologies opens for business

  • 2002

    Employee Carl Crawford leaves PTC for a tour in Iraq

  • 2008

    PTC turns 50

  • 2008

    Nancy Peterson and her family at the 50th celebration – left to right: Gretchen Herbert, Christine Mitchell, Mrs. Hearn, John Peterson, Diane Edwards, and Linda Benson

  • 2009

    Nancy S. Peterson marries Billy Ray Hearn


Peterson Tool Company was founded in 1958 by John L. Peterson, Sr. Its first home, with the help of a $500 loan, was an old chicken barn in a town outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Mr. Peterson partnered with two other business men and started Murfreesboro Machine & Tool Company. He specialized in grinding HSS step drills and reamers prior to branching out into form tools for the screw machine industry. He sold tools during the day and ground them at night.

In 1959 Mr. Peterson and his partner bought out their third partner and Southern Tool & Cutter Grinding Company was born. The company moved into a new home on Shirley Street in Nashville.

During the escalation of the Vietnam War in 1964, the inserted form tool (later branded Thriftedge®) was born. A customer approached Mr. Peterson with a problem common to many at the time – with an 18-month lead time for new machines he needed more production out of his current machines. Production of military ordinance was extremely high and continuing to climb. Mr. Peterson proposed the idea of replaceable cutting edges for dovetail form tools and Thriftedge® took off. Thriftedge® has evolved considerably since that day as has the Peterson Tool Company. Southern outgrew their facility on Shirley Street and moved to Spence Lane in Nashville. In 1967 Southern Tool was sold to a group of investors and the company was renamed Dolphin Tool Company. Four years later, in 1971, the parent company of Dolphin Tool (Whale Inc.) declared bankruptcy. Mr. Peterson was able to continue the business which was renamed at that time to Peterson Tool Company. The company then moved to a new location on Omohundro Drive in Nashville.

In 1979, Mr. John L. Peterson, Sr. died of cancer at the age of 45. His widow, Nancy Sanders Peterson, assumed the leadership of the company, only telling customers about Mr. Peterson's untimely death six months later – after she demonstrated her ability to successfully run the company in her husband’s absence. She delivered this message personally to most of her major customers – the manufacturing giants of US industry. She wanted them to understand that the company was greater than just one person and she won their respect in the process.

In 1980, Peterson displayed their products at the IMTS (International Manufacturing Tool Show) and Thriftedge® began to catch on. As Peterson Tool Company continued to grow, their product lines expanded beyond the basic Thriftedge®. Peterson developed Thriftchange®, a quick change tooling system. Thriftchange® revolutionized the way inserted form tools could be utilized. Instead of having dedicated components: holders, anvils, clamps and inserts for each part, the components were engineered to be used interchangeably by many parts within a family. Not only did Thriftchange® reduce overall tooling cost but when changing these components, adjustment of the cross slide was not needed. The new components compensated for any diameter changes or location changes so tool change time was reduced dramatically. A major tool change went from 8-10 hours to 2-3 hours. The multi-spindle machine suddenly became flexible.

It was not long until the company outgrew the factory on Omohundro Drive and construction began on a 25,000 sq. ft. facility on Fessler’s Lane in Nashville. They were convinced that this would be all the factory they would ever need since it was more than four times the size of their original building.

New product lines were developed soon after moving into their new facility. Multi-spindle machines were being expected to hold tighter tolerances and produce more complicated and complex parts. These new expectations of the machines demanded more robust tools capable of handling the stringent precision. Peterson Tool Company answered with Thriftform®, an adjustable quick change form fixture and Thriftshave®, an adjustable shave fixture. Thriftshave® would go on to be one of our most popular product lines as it married the concept of inserts with sturdy shaving requirements. Thriftshave® is capable of holding 8 microns on moderately maintained equipment.

Despite the much larger building, within five years of moving into the new factory, they were out of space. As luck would have it, a 15,000 square foot building became available immediately adjacent to the Fessler’s Lane factory – expansion continued.

After putting more machines into the annex, to reduce lead times, a decision was made to bring the coating operation in-house. The time saving was dramatic: saving 2-3 days in-transit to the outside coater, 2-3 days at the coater for coating, and 2-3 days returning. In addition to speedier deliveries, tighter quality control was also achieved. Peterson took a piece of the expanded space and converted it into a clean room. A new coating machine was purchased and Peterson Coating Technologies was launched.

The next phase of Peterson Tool’s history begins with a wedding. Nancy S. Peterson married retired music executive, Billy Ray Hearn in January of 2009. Nancy Peterson Hearn, affectionately known as Mama to the company’s employees is beginning to step away from the daily operations. She continues to be a vital member of the firm’s management team, serving as Chairman of the Board of Peterson Tool Company. Nancy appointed Diane Peterson Edwards to President and CEO. Diane along with a team of experienced and dedicated people are writing the next chapter of the company history while maintaining the reputation for quality and detail that has made the company a leader and innovator in their field.

The company continues to look for ways to improve upon their product lines and look for new and innovative ways to make their customers more efficient in today’s manufacturing environment. From its humble beginnings in an old chicken farm Peterson Tool has grown to a world class organization and everyone involved with the company are convinced that the best is yet to come.