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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Great American Nail Manufacturer (the only one)

The nail is the recipient of my tools pounding. The process of roofing is mostly pounding nails with some measuring and cutting added in. I mean it takes a pounding, a thrashing, hard impacts meant to withstand the forces of Mother Nature, Father Time, and my men’s steel. After we’re through hatcheting them we leave the nails to do their job, for decades, on the roof, in a hot, cold, humid, inhospitable clime that very few materials can survive, unless of course, they are engineered for these sorts of things. This is where these forgotten little pieces of metal rest. The only ones you remember are the escapees who sometimes try to hitch a ride in your daughter’s tire until they destroy it as far away from home as they can. If the embedded ones fail to stand like Gurkha soldiers, and that is until the end, then everybody looks bad.
“Those darn Acme shingles just won’t stay on the roof.”
“The roofer I went with is a bum. His roof flies off every time the wind blows.”
“Your Honor, we wish to prove that the defendant is a criminal. He used cheap Japanese nails.”
I’ve heard all these comments before but the last one was not worded quite that way and they weren’t directed at me, except for the last one, and I told the homeowner that we used the same cheap nails brand X does but there from China, not Japan.
I’ve personally driven nails in Dallas, Irving, Garland, Plano, Richardson, and Italy. That was SEO speak. One more, Mesquite, Fort Worth, Arlington Grand Prairie...I'm cheating now.
Seriously, as you by now know I can be, I want to dig into the nail and it’s history and how better to do that that to talk with a man who knows nails, Tom Koch, sales manager of Maze Nails.

Hello Tom. For how long have you guys been making nails?
W. H. Maze Co., located here in Peru, IL, was founded in 1848 as a lumberyard. But, we’ve been making nails for well over 100 years.

How’d the company get started?
We got into the nail business in the late 1800’s due to roofing nail complaints on cedar shingles. Back then, iron “cut nails” were used to install those shingles. But they often rusted away and in just a few years otherwise perfectly good cedar shingles were sliding off the roofs. Mr. Maze bought an old nail machine and started making cut nails from pure zinc to give away with their cedar shingles. Other lumberyards heard about these “rust-proof” nails and asked to buy them and other types of cut nails. More nail machines were added and eventually Maze Nails was spun off as a separate division in our current location back in 1922.

Aren’t all nails made overseas?
The vast majority are, but not all. In my 35 years with Maze, I’ve seen many fine American companies exit the nail manufacturing business. Virtually every steel mill had a nail-making division back then. Most tried to cut costs (and often quality) but simply could not compete with the low, low, import nail pricing. Nail manufacturers in China, for instance, pay their workers about 3 – 5% of comparable U.S. manufacturing wages with few if any benefits. They don’t have to comply with EPA, OSHA or other mandates as we do. We have stuck to our guns.

Thank you,

Jon Wright