Maze Nails: Providing Durable Fasteners to a Global Market
- Written by: Maze Nails: Providing Durable Fasteners to a Global Market
- Produced by: Maze Nails: Providing Durable Fasteners to a Global Market
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Maze Nails (Maze), a division of the W.H. Maze Company (WHM), is a nail manufacturer located in Peru, Ill. Samuel Maze founded WHM along the banks of the Illinois River as a lumberyard in 1848. The original business was close to a canal linking Peru to Lake Michigan, easing transportation of goods. In the business’ early days, Samuel used a barge – The Elk – to haul local grains to Chicago and bring back white pine for WHM contractors.
As the company flourished, WHM started to diversify. “Lumberyard customers started to complain because of the nails they were sold to attach cedar shingles,” says Roelif Loveland, current president of Maze. “The nails were failing badly. The heads were rusting off and the shingles were blowing off their homes in the wind.”
Samuel’s son, Walter, was running the family business in the 1880s. Walter purchased a machine to make his own nails out of pure zinc. “The beauty of solid zinc nails is that they are totally rustproof and would basically last forever,” explains Roelif. “Pretty soon other local lumberyards came to the Maze yard and wanted to buy some of their zinc nails.” By the turn of the century, WHM was manufacturing nails for wholesale distribution in addition to the continued operation of the lumberyard.
Zinc nails were a hit with retailers and customers alike, as the new material held up very well in the elements. Unfortunately, zinc is softer than steel. Contractors wasted a lot of nails, which bent under pressure while being hammered into a roof.
“Additionally, the price of zinc began to skyrocket during World War I,” says Roelif. The team had to find a happy medium that was cost effective, but durable. “The engineers at Maze developed a nail made of steel and then dipped it into 1,000-degree molten zinc,” he explains. “It became a huge product for us. Still, almost 100 years later, we’re selling them all over the world.”
Maze utilizes American materials and labor, producing nails in house with a staff of 100. “We manufacture our steel nails, and we use a double hot dip galvanizing process,” notes Roelif. “We dip the nails twice to make sure the entire surface of each nail is dependably covered.”
While the premise of the company’s product line is basic, there is always room for innovation at Maze. The company continues to produce the ring shank and spiral shank nails Maze engineers invented in the 1930s. Maze also has a division that produces collated nails for pneumatic tools.
The recent dip in the housing market has made a serious impact on construction suppliers. “Home building has been brutal,” says Roelif. “It’s been difficult the last four or five years. About 90 percent of the nails used in this country are imported from China, so that leaves the few remaining domestic nail manufacturers with just 10 percent of the depressed market.”
While imported nails may be cheaper, Maze maintains an advantage over the competition. Customers can rely on enduring quality and take pride in a domestically sourced product. Many of the company’s suppliers are close by, and many businesses in the supply chain are employing local labor.
The company has developed longstanding relationships with suppliers, especially Keystone Steel and Wire in nearby Peoria, Ill. “We’re only 60 miles from them,” Roelif explains. “They’re our major supplier for steel; and they’re an American-based company. We’ve been working with them for over six decades.” Zinc operates on a commodities market. While the suppliers may change, Maze locally sources as much as possible to insure the flow of high-quality material.
Maze will celebrate 165 years in business in 2013. Roelif has not laid out any plans for a big celebration, but continues to cultivate an atmosphere of good relationships with employees, customers and suppliers that are based on honesty, quality and gratitude. The company’s geographic footprint is constantly expanding, reaching out to new markets. The team’s home base remains in Peru, Ill., after a century and a half, but customers are spread across North America with most wholesale clients located in the United States and Canada.
Roelif is the fifth-generation operator of Maze, and Samuel’s great-great-grandson. The company has remained a family operation, and will continue to operate as one. Roelif prioritizes good relationships with employees, maintaining that members of the business are members of the family. Although the business is growing, customers and suppliers have come to know Maze for friendly, helpful service and unmatched attention to quality. Maze Nails is a unique institution, as Roelif and his team are wholeheartedly dedicated to innovative products, local materials and knowledgeable service.
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