About a week ago we were lucky enough to get a tour of Estwing tools in Rockford, IL. After our tour we sat down to have lunch and we were talking about the tour and how cool it was. After talking a while we touched on a subject that made us all think about what is going on, but we can get to that later on.
If your not familiar with Estwing, go to almost any job-site and you will see one of their striking tools. Estwing makes one of the top striking tools in the market place. They make a variety of tools such as nail hammers, bricklayer hammers, drywall hammers, axes, bars, geological tools and more. Since 1923 when they first opened their doors, they have been known for their quality of tools and even today when you see the famous blue handles and yellow type, you know it is an Estwing tool.
At the time we didn’t even think about bringing our camera, but now wish we did. Estwing has their main office building and on the outskirt, they have smaller buildings where the tools are formed. Across the street they have their distribution center. The whole process is very cool.
It all starts when semis drop off large, thick steel rods that are solid. We were inundated with information, so some information we forgot, but we think the rods are about 3″ thick. They have a cutter that cuts through this rod like nothing and cuts it into about 3-6″ pieces. It then gets moves to another building where these two guys were heating them up and placing them into the stamp and dye. This was pretty cool. When the dye would come down and hit the hot metal rod to get the shape, we were about 30′ away and you could feel the ground shake. It was amazing the power and force these machines have. After they have their shape they get moved over where the extra metal gets trimmed. It then goes through another process and then buffed to a nice shine. Next it goes back into the main building where workers attach the grip and the stickers. They then packaged them in boxes and they get sent across the street to the distribution building. There is a little more to the process, but this is a majority of how these are made. If you ever get a chance to visit a company that makes hammers or other tools, we would suggest grabbing the opportunity and taking it as it was very cool.
As we noted above, there was one aspect that made us think when we were eating lunch. When we walked into Estwing, we were waiting in the lobby. We noticed an aerial view of the whole property. When our tour guide came out we were asking him questions. One was about the history of the building. From the picture above we could tell they did additions over time. He told us they had seven major additions over the course of their life. He also explained the other building on the outside and how they use to be full and over time they knocked some of them down because they were no longer being used. Over the course of the tour we also found out that at one time they use to run full crews, all three shifts and seven days a week. When we looked at the employee parking lot, it was half full. Long story short, it is amazing what happens to these companies when the economy slows down and we have more companies importing tools. Now if you are familiar with Estwing tools, their slow down has nothing to do with quality. In fact they have one of the highest quality hammers around and are a huge seller. But with the housing market slow down and the overall economy slow down, you can see how some companies might have a hard time. At one time it is weird to think these companies were booming, they expanded to meet the demands of the consumer and one hiccup and these companies are now having skelton crews. We won’t go into the whole issue, but I think you get where we are going with this.
Overall the tour was awesome. We learned a lot about Estwing and their high demand for quality. We had a chance to see how these striking tools were made and would recommend anyone who has the chance to grab it up.