The idea of using a bed-of-pins as a completely reconfigurable discrete tool surface (referred to as a reconfigurable pin-type tool) for forming or molding of mechanical components has been around for at least . Interestingly, the state-of-the-art today differs little from early patents except for the introduction of powered actuation and computer control. To help explain why this promising manufacturing technology is not used more extensively in industry, this paper attempts to tell a complete story about reconfigurable pin-type tooling through analysis of the state-of-the-art academic and industrial research, and commercialization of the concept from the original patented concept in 1863. The authors begin by defining what a reconfigurable tool is and by describing what characteristics an ideal reconfigurable tool should have. Next, the history of reconfigurable tooling patents from 1863 to 2003 and related research from the late 1960s to the present is recounted. One major research effort that eventually led to the development of a commercial project was the U.S. government-sponsored Reconfigurable Tooling for Flexible Fabrication project. A critical analysis shows that the state-of-the-art in reconfigurable pin-type tooling meets all specifications of the defined “ideal tool” with the exception of spatial resolution and weight. Finally, the reserved response by industry to adopt reconfigurable pin-type tooling and future of reconfigurable tooling is discussed.