These days, the phrase “going green” often refers to topics like sustainable energy, buying locally and reducing, reusing and recycling. All good things, to be sure. But, the folks at Grex Power Tools might suggest a completely different meaning for the popular vernacular: they’re hoping you’ll consider a lime-green air tool when you’re in the market for your next nailer, sander or airbrush.
And, they’re fired up about that neon-green color. “We think it’s attractive!” says Daniel Huynh, Grex’s director of business development. “A lot of our end users have shared with us that they love the color scheme…It sets us apart.”
Finding a place in what Daniel considers to be a very competitive pneumatics tool market isn’t easy. A vibrant paint job certainly calls attention to itself, especially when you consider the bewildering number of different nailer options there are these days. But “flash” wasn’t the primary objective of Frank Wong, president and founder of Grex, when he launched the company in 1995. He wanted to develop a line of top quality nailers, staplers and other air tools that would help woodworkers and carpenters increase their productivity. He saw opportunity in the pneumatics industry to make better tools and provide solutions that end users would come to appreciate and respect. But, even with the best of intentions, there was a learning curve to overcome.
“Frank started the company with an entire line of finish nailers; fine, medium and heavy wire staplers; and framing and coil nailers. The first shipment came from an OEM supplier because we really didn’t know the industry well at that point. The tools were of good quality, but we needed feedback from end users. We needed to spend more time with research and development. We also needed to get to know our suppliers and develop those relationships to learn how to improve the tools,” Huynh says.
So, over the past 15-plus years, that’s exactly what Grex has continued to do from its Alhambra, California, headquarters. CAD design for Grex tools, research and development, sales and marketing all happen in one place. Daniel says that company reps spend considerable time in the field making site visits to woodworking shops and jobsites to see how their tools are being used. They also get a lot of feedback from a nationwide network of Grex tool dealers. “We’re humbled and proud to say that we’re still working with the same manufacturers and suppliers we started with, so we can continue to make improvements to our tools a little at a time…those long-term relationships help to ‘flatten’ our development challenges and are very important to us.”
Daniel says that performance, durability and ergonomics are the three cornerstones that support the company’s commitment to product improvement and innovation. It explains why, for example, the company continues to build nailers with all-metal construction and won’t switch to plastic magazines. Small improvements, such as designing a narrower safety from cast-hardened steel on the company’s brand-new 1850GB Green Buddy18-gauge brad nailer (coming soon) will enable it to shoot into tighter corners and angles. And this dedication to quality manufacturing seems to be working. Grex’s P635 23-gauge Pin Nailer, for instance, earned our “Best Bet” award in a 2007 pin nailer tool test. The company’s pin nailers have also won several awards from other woodworking and trade magazines.
Pin nailers continue to be Grex’s most popular tool. They offer four different models, including two pinners that have a lockout feature, which stops the nailer from firing when it reaches the last few nails in the magazine. The lockout prevents dry-firing, a real benefit for fasteners that are so small and hard to see when driven. It also helps extend the service life of the tool.
Currently, Grex Power Tools manufactures 40 different types of pneumatic tools, as well as the nails and staples that they recommend for their tools. Eight years ago, an air tool line was added to provide orbital sanders, die grinders and drills. In 2006, Grex expanded into air brushes and compressors as well. “At the time, we thought, if we can nail it and sand it, what can we provide to help finish it? Our airbrushes actually opened up a huge new market for us. It’s not just woodworkers and refinishers that use our airbrushes, but also cake decorators, scale modelers, sign makers, artists and people working with ceramics. Our airbrushes provide a precise spraying pattern, which gives them the control they need.”
Given the now diverse product line, what’s next for Grex? Daniel says pneumatics will continue to be the core of the company’s business for the foreseeable future. “There is still a lot more value we can bring to pneumatic tools in general and more improvements we can make to our own tools in particular…We’re going to continue to hold tool quality as priority one, followed by improving every aspect of the overall tool experience of the end user from loading and shooting to reloading and repairs.
“It’s taken us a while to get here, but we’re here to stay.”