I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for an Ames® tools factory visit. Among the numerous things that I was lucky to see, I also learned that Ames dominates the snow tool category throughout the US and Canada, and they produce many of the tools that you purchase through department stores under privately owned labels. But they stay true to the Ames standards of quality.
The Ames name appears consistently throughout U.S. history. The company slogan is “Tools that built America” – and appropriately so. Captain John Ames was a blacksmith who believed in the value of good tools. Beginning in 1774, Ames shovels, rakes, and other tools have been used in projects like building the interstate system, Hoover Dam, Mount Rushmore, and these American made tools were even in the trenches and on the front lines helping soldiers throughout WWI and WWII. Being somewhat of a history buff, I found this extremely fascinating.
The visit was appropriately called “Tool School,” and those of us along for the ride learned for more than you might think on a factory visit. We were taken through a guided tour of the Ames manufacturing facilities, as well as the distribution center. Easily one the most interesting parts of the process was actually witnessing the shovels being forged. The shovel blanks are loaded into a hot oven on one side, and they come out on the other where they are picked up and loaded into the press. The press has two actions: the first to form the classic shovel shape, and the second to close the barrel where the handle will go – which is another very cool part.
They showed us a cutaway of a D-handle that many of their tools have to display how the wooden dowels for the D-handles are split and driven clear into the handle. This reduces the chance of the handle becoming loose, and it is a unique characteristic of Ames’ products.
Ames officially announced that as of May 6, they will go by just Ames, which is a big move away from the Ames True Temper name that many people have come to know. The Ames brands still include the original Ames line, Razorback, Jackson, their new True American line (everything in this line is made in the US), and probably their most widely recognized True Temper name.
After all was said and done, I’d have to say that what I enjoyed learning about the most was that the majority of Ames tools are American made tools. I like being able to put faces and names behind the tools that many of us gardeners, builders, etc. use on a daily basis.