Maine Pallet Manufacturer Is Going, Growing Strong
Sharp Tool Co. Helps Corinth Products Keep Cutting
By Alan Froome
Date Posted: 12/1/2003
EAST CORINTH, Maine -- If you drive 20 miles northwest from Bangor, Maine on Route 15, you come to the small community of East Corinth. This is the home of Corinth Products, a family-owned pallet manufacturing and sawmill business.
The company was founded in the early 1960s and is today owned by Peter Higgins, who bought it from the original owner in 1979. Peter manages the day-to-day operations of the company with the help of his son, Burley, and daughter, Stephanie, both vice presidents.
Corinth Products manufactures pallets and lumber. The company buys hardwood logs from timberlands owned by John Hancock Insurance Co., including beech, maple, oak and yellow birch. Timber harvesting is done by Wagner Forest Products in Bangor. Corinth Products also buys kiln dried, planed pine boards from a sawmill in Quebec.
Every pallet produced is made to order. “We can supply 200 different sizes, and some customers order 10 or 15 different sizes at a time,” said Peter.
One of the company’s strengths is that it can respond very quickly and efficiently to urgent orders. Peter cited a recent example. “We were asked to supply 300 pallets of a particular type, and we delivered them the next day.”
“We have never let a customer down,” he added.
A big reason the company can respond so quickly and fill orders on a ‘just-in-time’ basis is its two Viking nailing machines, which can be reprogrammed readily for a different pallet, Peter noted. “We can change the machine set-up so that 15 minutes later, a different pallet is being made on the (Viking) auto assembly machines.”
When Peter bought the company, customers were complaining about pallet and lumber quality. At the time, Corinth Products was equipped with bandsaws for resawing material into pallet components. “There is so much black magic involved in maintaining bandsaws that I changed over to circular carbide saws,” said Peter, “and the quality problem went away.” For blades and blade service, Peter does business with New England-based Sharp Tool Co., and he recommends the supplier. Other principal suppliers to Corinth Products, beside Viking, are Pendu Manufacturing, Cornell Industrial, and Brewer-Golden Eagle Inc.
Corinth Products, like many other pallet plants and sawmills, uses and recommends Sharp Tool saw blades and service. Any mill relies on its saws and blades to provide good quality lumber – a good finish and accurately sawn. In some ways, a sawmill is in partnership with its blade supplier and sharpening service in order to be successful. In this respect, Corinth Products is no different and relies strongly on Sharp Tool.
“Sharp is utterly reliable and very good technically,” said Peter. For example, when he first built the sawmill, he experienced some problems with the scragg mill, which was running blades provided by a different supplier. “Sharp came up with a different saw recommendation, which not only solved our problem, but Pendu adopted the specs for their other customers as well.”
Sharp Tool is located in Hudson, Mass., about 35 miles west of Boston. It has been in business since 1959, when Walter Morrette and a partner first started up with a combination trucking and saw blade service. The company originally was based in Newton, which is less than 10 miles west of Boston. Walter launched the company when carbide saw blades were the newest saw blade technology. Carbide actually was first used in the early 1940s, but like all new ideas, it took a while to prove itself. Sharp Tool found a niche in the industry, repairing and servicing the new carbide circular saw blades. Walter’s partner left the business after a few years. Walter later added bandsaws and chipper knives to the product line and eventually dropped the trucking side of the business to concentrate fully on saws and cutting tools.
Sharp Tool today is owned and operated by Walter’s son, Paul, who bought the company from his father and became president in 1982. Paul made it his mission to increase sales and expand the distribution network. He has led Sharp Tool to become a nationwide saw blade supplier.
With customers across the U. S. and Canada and overseas, Sharp Tool has annual sales approaching $5 million. The company, which moved into a modern 16,800-square-foot building in 1993, has nearly 30 employees. Carbide circular saw blades and carbide narrow and wide bandsaw blades remain the company’s main focus. Sharp Tool also has separate departments to perform pre-tinning of tool tips and to repair and service tools, some of which can be difficult to replace.
“We can pretty much repair any saw blade as long as it is cost effective for the customer,” said Paul. If a tool is beyond repair, Sharp Tool often can replace it from stock. It also can custom manufacture a replacement. Reconditioned blades and tools are delivered to customers by one of several service trucks on a weekly basis.
Sharp Tool recently developed a new type of carbide blade that is designed to cut through nails and other metal, which is encountered in used lumber in pallet recycling operations and also in some logs that may originate from farms.
Sharp Tool also distributes and services Wright Machine and Simonds saw grinding and sharpening machines. Sharp Tool’s staff of technicians can train filers in the use of the new machines and issue operator certification.
When asked what Sharp Tool’s biggest advantage is, Paul replied, “I feel it’s our experience. We hire good people and keep them. A lot of our staff has been with us for a very long time.”
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