In the mid-1930s, the Union Fork & Hoe Company (UF&H) needed to add a shovel to their tool lineup. Edward Durell, the company’s president, had to decide what kind of shovel to make.
There were three types on the market at the time:
- Hollowbacks made from a single sheet of steel heated and folded into a blade and socket.
- Strapbacks featuring a steel blade with two steel strips attached to it to form the socket.
- Solid shanks featuring a blade and socket formed from one piece of bar steel.
Durell studied the options. He figured the strapback design was on its way out. The solid shank weighed a ton and cost a ton to make. The hollowback was lightweight, but it was weak at the folds and at the point of the blade.
Hitting a Wall
Durell wanted to make shovels with the strength of the solid shank and the economy and lighter weight of the hollowback. He reasoned that he could have the best of both worlds if he could make a hollowback that was thicker in the center. He approached some steel mills about making steel for his design, but they could only provide uniform, flat sheets.
. . . and Going Around
Despite being the son of one UF&H’s founders, Edward Durell did not come into the presidency through the boardroom door. He started as a sawmill manager in 1919, working out of this office, a converted paymaster wagon:
By the time he became president, he had a lot of experience in the company’s mills and factories, so he was used to solving production problems.
Durell sketched out a plan for rolling steel sheets with thicker bands running through them and took it to Allegheny-Ludlum Steel. Durell agreed to buy the steel rollers if Allegheny-Ludlum would roll the sheets, and they struck a deal. In 1937, he produced his first batch of the new shovels. He named them “Razor-Back” after the famous domestic hogs, which have a tough ridge running along their backs from snout to tail.
Razor-Back Is Born
A marketing campaign was launched, offering to send a sample in a burlap bag to any store in the U.S. for 50 cents. They filled their first order for five dozen to a Texarkana hardware store.
Today Razor-Back is the national brand of choice for the professional end-user. Today the shovel blades feature 14 gauge steel shovel blades for ultimate durability and a Lifetime warranty.
Razor-Back has evolved with time and today continues to meet professional end-user demands with innovative features such as extended socket for strength (Supersocket®), PowerStep® and various grip features.
Busy Hands, Busy Mind
One of the great things about working with your hands is how it makes you work with your mind, too. Durell was a hands-on worker, and that’s probably why he was also a great innovator.
Seeing a better way, solving problems, working to make it happen. That’s what people do with our tools every day, and what we’re continually doing to sustain the Razor-Back legacy.