- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Ian Nichols
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Approximately 90 percent of the nails in the U.S. now come from China; however, Illinois-based Maze Nails (Maze) is proud to be one of the last and longest standing manufacturers of 100-percent American-made nails. Produced from high carbon steel and reinforced with a double coat of zinc to craft a stronger, rust-proof product, Maze has been setting the standard for more than 166 years.
“If all of the Maze nails produced by our Peru, Ill., plant over our many years of manufacturing were placed end-to-end, they would stretch for over 5 million miles -enough to circle the earth about 200 times,” reveals Roelif Loveland, president and CEO of Maze.
This year, the company is well on its way to producing many millions of pounds of nails, continuing an American-made tradition that’s been going steady since 1848 when Samuel Nesbitt Maze established the family-owned company. “Mr. Maze founded Maze Lumber, a division of Maze Company in 1848 and it’s the oldest lumberyard in the state of Illinois,” shares Loveland. “He was originally a masonry contractor and started the lumberyard along the banks of the Illinois River, where it still prospers today.”
Small lumber yard turned nationwide manufacturer
In the late 1800s, the little lumberyard was selling lots of cedar shingle to local contractors, but the company was also getting frequent complaints about the nails it sold. The bright steel nails were rusting quickly and failing to hold the cedar shingles down. “Mr. Maze decided to make a better product, so he bought his own little nail machine and zinc strips from several local zinc mills in the Illinois Valley area and started making square cut nails out of pure zinc,” recounts Loveland. “Contractors loved these nails because their roofing complaint callbacks virtually disappeared.”
The nail machine, which was originally running just a couple of hours a week was suddenly running around the clock as the word spread and contractors from further and further away came to Peru to buy high quality, rust-proof Maze nails for their jobs. “Construction of the Maze mill followed soon thereafter and Maze has been making nails ever since,” details Loveland. “Maze has been a union shop since 1950 and currently employs members of the United Steelworkers, many of whom have been with the company for well over 30 years.”
A niche in specialty nails
What started as a little lumberyard in northern Illinois is now one of the oldest and largest nail manufacturers in the U.S. Today, Maze nails are sold nationwide through a network of 7,000 dealers and wholesalers across the U.S. “We now have a dealer locator on our website which assists contractors and consumers in finding retailers who handle our products,” notes Loveland.
Since the beginning Maze has been hitting the nail on the head in terms of quality and superior manufacturing, carving out a niche in specialty products. “We do not make ‘commons’ or ‘sinkers,’ which are considered commodity nails,” says Loveland. “Instead, we focus on specialties, like hot-dipped galvanized ring shank nails; painted in a color to match pre-finished siding and packed in 5-pound boxes. Maze was actually the first to pack nails in 50-pound and 5-pound boxes instead of 100-pound wooden kegs. Now that’s a specialty nail!”
Loveland says the company is always developing new nails to cater to popular building products. “Maze now has a line of stainless steel nails for applying popular PVC trim products, for both hand-driving and for use in pneumatic nailers,” he details. “The nails are typically painted white, but ours can be produced in any of 200 colors. Maze has also partnered with producers of fiber cement siding and other popular new sidings with full painted nail programs so that prefinished siding can be installed without the need for time consuming and expensive nail touch ups. This has been a blessing and money saver for contractors across the country.”
Superior, sustainable production
Maze is saving contractors time and money while producing stronger, rust-proof specialty nails, backed by environmentally friendly manufacturing processes customers can feel good about. “Maze is proud of its commitment to manufacturing and providing truly environmentally friendly nails,” asserts Loveland. “Utilizing steel from recycled scrap reduces energy usage and waste-products inherent in the virgin steel process. And, importantly, virtually all by-products from the manufacturing process are reused or reclaimed.”
Nail whiskers are collected and sold for a variety of uses and scrap steel rod, wire and nails, as well as carbide tooling and copper are sold for metal recovery. Zinc by-products are recycled into useful materials such as paint pigments, car tires and more. Nail packaging is made from recycled-content cardboard and among many other sustainable practices, Maze even harvests hydroelectric power from the nearby Illinois River to supply a portion of its electrical demands.
“Our nails qualify as ‘environmentally preferred products,’ as defined by the U.S. Green Building Council,” details Loveland. “Maze fully endorses the LEED green building rating system and our products have been featured in many LEED-certified projects.”
The push for more made in the U.S.A.
One of Maze’s most popular appearances has been on ABC’s World News Tonight, in a segment highlighting American-made building products and one economist turned builder’s dream to construct a homemade entirely of U.S. goods. Every piece of the Bozeman, Mont., home, from the Maze Nails to the screws, bolts, steel, staples and the kitchen sink, is all made in America. “This report and others have really enhanced consumer awareness that there are nails and other superior building products still being made, right here at home,” adds Loveland.
Consumer awareness and the push for implementing more American-made goods is huge for Maze, as the company is in constant competition with cheaper importers, especially China.
But Loveland says foreign competitors cannot match Maze’s level of quality. “Quality is long remembered after price has been forgotten,” he assures. The Maze Nail family continues to deliver the highest quality products, backed by fourth, fifth and sixth generations with a pride and tradition that is uniquely American.
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