If ever there was a company worthy of its name, it is the Worthy Mfg. Co.
To those who spray, but are not yet familiar with this company’s clever barrel-shaped screens, allow me to introduce you to one of the most helpful products you will ever come across. Readers, meet the Worthy Strainer.
Designed to quickly slip over the end of a spray gun uptake tube, the strainer sits in the finish and efficiently filters dust and debris from the coating just before it makes its way onto your furniture. It’s a simple design that works superbly. Believe it or not, this venerable little screen, which has been around for more than half a century, is still assembled by hand right here in the U.S.A.
The company has a quaint past that has seen its share of misforute, and almost disappeared a few years back. These days, Worthy is owned by a genial, six-foot-four, fifty-six-year-old entrepreneur with the unlikely name Taylor Taylor. Thanks to Taylor, Worthy is back in force and healthier than ever, but it was not always that way.
It all started just after World War II when an Army GI named Hood Worthy got frustrated while painting Jeeps. To solve the problem of detritus in the paint, he designed a barrel-shaped screen to fit over the stem of his spray gun, then patented it in 1954. Lacking the money to develop his new product, he sold the patent to his sister and brother-in-law, Paul and Betty Lundeen. They produced and sold Worthy strainers in Chicago until 1968, when Paul died suddenly. He left the company not to his wife, but to one of his long-time loyal employees, Jeanie Bowers, who moved it to Florida.
One condition of Paul’s will was that royalties be paid to his widow, Betty. No dollar amount was specified, but true to the will’s request, two generations of the Bowers family continued to send Betty $250 per month for the next 33 years.
Jeanie Bowers ran the company for about 25 years, often pressing the rest of the family into service. After her death, her husband and daughter stepped in. Eventually, Jeanie’s son took over, and moved the company from Boca Raton, Florida, to the small town of Bluffton, Indiana. Having grown up working in the family company, he knew it well. “I’ve been hand assembling these things since grade school,” he once told Taylor.
Unfortunately, he was very seriously injured in a forklift accident. While that was rough on both him and the company, it brought out the best in his friends and neighbors, who obviously thought a lot of him. While he was recovering, friends and fellow church members volunteered their time to run the company. Busy with their own lives, they made screens only after orders came in, causing ever lengthening delivery times. Still, loyal customers hung on in spite of eight-week shipping delays.
Taylor, who used and loved Worthy strainers in one of his previous businesses, bought the company in October 2003, and moved it to Texas. Along with two other full-time employees, he was soon filling orders overnight instead of in eight weeks, and now, the company is growing once again. Taylor expects to continue its growth at about 10% each year for the next decade, which, to our good fortune, will make it ever easier to find these screens. You can buy them direct from the web site, but there are now also distributors, so they will soon be available at more local paint stores.
I was lucky; I discovered Worthy Strainers in 1972 while working as a finisher in South Florida, and I’ve been using them ever since. Long popular with automotive painters, the screens are now finding favor with boat builders and woodworkers. Ironically, the one group Hood Worthy originally designed them for, the U.S. Army, has never become a customer.
Worthy makes only one basic product, though in a few variations and two different sizes, including one big enough for pressure pot stems. Among spray strainers, these are unique. “No one makes anything quite like a Worthy Strainer,” says Taylor “There are wedge-shaped end-of-tube strainers, but those have only 18% of the screening capacity of the barrel screen.” Those of us who’ve used them know that makes all the difference in the world.
One who does know, and swears by Worthy screens, is Wisconsin refinisher Roger Phelps. What does he have to say about them?
“I have used Worthy Strainers for over 20 years and would not spray a finish without one on my spray gun.”
What more can we say?