Empire Manufacturing: Smoothing Out Life’s Rough Spots

Empire Manufacturing: Smoothing Out Life’s Rough Spots

Corrosion and heat are two perennial problems in wood shops. Sooner or later, most serious woodworkers have to deal with them. Depending on the local climate, humidity or salt quickly damages tool surfaces, and too much friction can heat up a blade and rob it of its temper. Up until recently, woodworkers didn’t have access to the kind of heavy-duty protection used by the wood processing industry. But thanks to Empire Manufacturing, that’s all changing.

With its line of lubrication and maintenance products, Empire has enjoyed great success with manufacturers of finger jointing systems and thin kerf saw blades and among molding, millwork, window and door industries. Founded in 1996 by Tim Goldberg and Tom Winegarner, the company was based on their prior experience working at Sandaro Industries. After several mergers and acquisitions, the two joined together to create Empire. With an emphasis on nontoxic formulas and customer service, the company quickly established industrial markets for its products.

And now, according to company president Tim Goldberg, Empire has come out with a special line of products geared toward the DIY and home hobbyist market. But entering the retail market has brought unique challenges.

“We put together a Woodworkers Tool Care Kit that included the OptiSlide, OptiCut XL, the Router Bit Lubricant, and OptiShield with a retail price of $24.95.” Tim recalled, “We sold around 10,000 of the kits, but some of the retailers discounted the kits so low that they couldn’t make any money. It was a disservice to the product.”

The company is planning to release a new kit in the near future, but this time it will include its breakout TopSaver product & which Tim describes as their rust remover, lubricant, surface sealant and conditioner for metal surfaces.

“A lot of the competition attack the work surface with acid,” Tim explained, “but not TopSaver. Nor does it contain any Teflon®. It goes on wet, and as you massage the surface with the scrubbing pad, it releases the oxidation molecules from the pores of the steel. And even though corrosion is going to start immediately, TopSaver seals the pore and deprives the rust of a place to take hold. The initial cleaning may take you five minutes, but next time there’s a little surface rust, it’s easy to clean up with a paper towel and a little TopSaver.”

The need for TopSaver came into sharp focus for Tim at a woodworking show in Anaheim. As he walked the aisles, he saw people using everything from WD40 to furniture polish to protect the work surfaces of their tools. To demonstrate the product, Tim put it through what he called the “Coke can test.”

“It never leaves a permanent ring.” Tim explained, “but we’ve also gone eight to 10 weeks with thousands of people putting their hands on a table saw, and the TopSaver application protected it from the acid in their hands.”

Retailers have told Tim, point-blank, that he has great products and they use them at home, but until someone walks through their store and asks for it they can’t sell it. The challenge ahead is to get TopSaver and the company’s other consumer-oriented products in front of the customer and create a market. Tim also noted that packaging was being upgraded as part of an overall marketing program that will include extensive advertising in woodworking magazines.

“The customer is really getting a value here.” Tim claimed, “It helps them clean their table saw, drill press or jointer, and everything they need will be included in the package. I did an evaluation, and it only takes 1/2 oz. to cover a table saw, clean it, wipe it off, and cover it again.”

Tim is confident that the products will have a big impact on the market and the industry.

“There is a lot of progress to be made over the next few years. And it’s not just for the JETs, Powermatics, Deltas and the Generals; it’s for everyone. From the hobbyist scroll saw to the production of heavy equipment, our lubricants and applications will have a big impact.”

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