Our Legacy: Driven By Innovation
In 1906, Fisher Barton’s Technology Center building was originally home to Washington Cutlery and soon made a name for itself with the highly regarded ‘Village Blacksmith’ line of butcher knives, cleavers, chisels and screwdrivers. It wasn’t long before they added garden tools to the line, and then they were off and running, meeting the turf care industry’s needs with the best blades in the business. Over time, through acquisition and innovation, our company history has evolved into Fisher Barton, a group of world-class manufacturing companies all driven by a common mission: to meet the most difficult customer challenges through innovation and a mastery of materials, and deliver premium, longer-lasting products to many of the world’s most important industries.
Washington Cutlery Co. relocates from Milwaukee to Watertown, citing superior advantages of the city and "energetic solicitation of the Watertown Advancement Association" as a couple reasons for the move.
At this time, the company employs between "50 and 60 hands" and its facility spans 16,000 square feet.
Washington Cutlery manufactures the "Village Blacksmith" brand of butcher knives, cleavers, tools, corn knives, sickles, cold chisels, screw drivers, punches, etc., and their products are sold principally in the United States.
Washington Cutlery adds garden tools to their line, such as hedge shears, grass snips, pruning shears, and many more gardening and lawn care items.
All of Village Blacksmith's products are high quality goods, and the production reaches some 700,000 pieces annual, which are sold in more than 3,000 hardware stores. Wholesalers take care of the major portion of the distribution under the trademark, "The Village Blacksmith Folks".
Officials of Village Blacksmith announced they plan to rebuild the forge unit of their plant as soon as possible, which was swept by a $50,000 fire.
The cutlery items were phased out of Village Blacksmith's product line in the 1950's. In the mid 1960's, the company began to manufacture aftermarket lawn mower blades. The lawn mower market changed from push reel machines to walk-behind rotary machines with Briggs & Stratton engines. Several Wisconsin manufacturers were interested in Village Blacksmith making blades. i.e., Allis Chalmers, Simplicity, Bolens, Ariens and Gilson Brothers. Lawnmower blades became a larger part of the VB business. It was during this time that Village Blacksmith needed more heat treating capacity which was purchased from Ajax Electric. It was fortuitous that VB decided to purchase an austempering system to increase heat treat capacity beyond the needs of the garden tool line. Austempering produced a very ductile product which is very desirable for rotary lawn mower blades and it fit the business perfectly in the years ahead.
Village Blacksmith is sold to McGraw-Edison.
Dick Wilkey founds Locke-Brothers Inc., a sales agency that was the sales force for companies producing forgings, plastics, stampings, castings, and lawn mower blades. Village Blacksmith was a client. Locke-Brothers was responsible for all OEM sales into the lawn and garden market.
McGraw-Edison decides to close the Watertown facility and lawn mower blade production is moved to Jefferson City, MO, citing a desire to focus on the consumer side of their business. It was felt the OEM business would be dropped.
Dick parts ways with McGraw-Edison, seeing an opportunity to start a manufacturing company.
Fisher Barton starts manufacturing lawn mower blades, operating out of a 2,400-square foot rented building in Oconomowoc, WI.
Fisher Barton ships first lawn mower blade to Bolens in Port Washington, WI.
Fisher Barton outgrows the Oconomowoc building and relocates to the former Village Blacksmith location on Frederick Street in Watertown. Fisher Barton Blades will operate here for the next 40 years.
McGraw-Edison discontinued their blade division and the heat treater that had been moved from Watertown to Jefferson City in the 1960's was purchased by Fisher Barton and moved back to Watertown. This move alone more than doubled the company's heat treating capacity.
Product liability issues in the late 1970's and 1980 prompts Fisher Barton to invest in technology. Fisher Barton begins relationship with the University of Wisconsin. Graduate student Joe Salerno writes Master's thesis examining material used in manufacturing lawn mower blades. Fisher Barton obtains data previously unavailable to design engineers.
Fisher Barton undergoes significant remodeling and expansion to accommodate growth.
Fisher Barton begins manufacturing lawn mower blades for John Deere.
The first metallurgical lab is established, setting Fisher Barton apart from the rest of the industry.
Fisher-Barton co-sponsored UW Graduate research study. Research based on wear resistant coatings for lawn mower and agricultural blades.
Acquisition of Accurate Brass and Aluminum Foundry in Waukesha, WI. The company is renamed Accurate Specialties Inc. (ASI). This is the first acquisition for the company to diversify, offering bronze gear blanks to serve the Power Generation industry.
Fisher Barton is awarded a technology transfer grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct a Thermal Spray Research study with Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM.
Fisher Barton begins providing thermal spray coatings. This will eventually expand into a stand-alone business.
Fisher Barton is again out of room to house its growing business and builds a 15,000-square foot building on the south side of Watertown. This building is expanded over the next several years and will become Fisher Barton Specialty Products.
Fisher-Barton Specialty Products (FBSP), Watertown, WI created and all non-lawn mower blade products are transferred from the Blades plant to FBSP.
Thermal Spray Technologies (TST) founded and outgrows its location at the Blades facility. TST relocates to space at FBSP.
FBSP purchases a 1,000-ton stamping press and doubles the size of the plant to 30,000-square feet.
Fisher Barton purchases Fountain Industries in Fountain Inn, SC. It is renamed Fisher-Barton South Carolina (FBSC), to address shifting lawn & garden markets to southeastern U.S.
TST moves out of shared Fisher-Barton space to 40,000-sq.ft. location in Sun Prairie, WI.
Patented MARBAIN® material is introduced to the mower blade and agricultural markets, providing material that is up to 40% harder than standard steels.
FBSP expands to 50,000-square feet and begins manufacturing agricultural components.
50 Millionth lawn mower blade shipped in 1996.
FBSP expands to 100,000-square feet to increase heat treating capabilities with Super Allcase® furnaces to provide quench and temper, and carburized products to market.
100 Millionth lawn mower blade shipped in 2003.
Fisher Barton begins lawn mower blade manufacturing in South Carolina.
Fisher-Barton Inc. Watertown blade plant renamed Fisher Barton Blades. Fisher-Barton Inc. becomes corporate entity.
Fisher Barton launches 80/20 – a set of business management tools designed to improve performance and promote growth.
Corporate headquarters relocated to Waukesha, WI.
150 Millionth lawn mower blade shipped in 2008.
Acquisition of Lineage Alloys, Houston TX.
To build on 37-year organic growth success, Fisher Barton strategy shifts focus to include growth through Mergers & Acquisitions.
Acquisition of Zenith Cutter, Rockford, IL (subsidiary in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). Fisher Barton enters the Industrial Knives market, with industry focus on Plastics, Corrugated/Converting, and Recycling.
Grand opening of corporate $2MM Materials Laboratory in Watertown, WI. The laboratory is located at Fisher Barton Specialty Products.
200 Millionth lawn mower blade shipped in 2012.
Fisher Barton Blades relocates from the Frederick Street location to Air Park Drive in Watertown, a move that doubles its manufacturing floor space.
Fisher Barton begins renovations for the new Technology Center at the former Fisher Barton Blades and Village Blacksmith building at 700 South Water Street.
TST expands capacity from 55,000-sq.ft. to 144,000-sq.ft., opening new facility in Sun Prairie, WI. Capabilities expand on thermal spray applications to include Machining & Finishing and Vacuum & Atmosphere Controlled Heat Treating. TST enters the Energy and Oil & Gas industry, providing low-cost solutions for the hydraulic fracturing market.
Fisher Barton named John Deere Agriculture and Turf Division Supplier of the Year.
250 Millionth lawn mower blade shipped in 2015.
Fisher Barton opens its state-of-the-art Fisher Barton Technology Center. This world-class research and development facility combines state-of-art-equipment with the most talented company-wide talent to deliver new, innovative products to our customers world-wide.
Fisher Barton promotes LaserEdge® laser-hardened mower blades that are two times harder than Fisher Barton’s industry premium MARBAIN® material.
Corporate headquarters relocated to Watertown, WI.
LaserEdge® hardened mower blade program discontinued in favor of LaserEdge® EverSharp™ mower blades that “Cuts Itself Sharp,” launching at the 2016 OPEI GIE+EXPO in Louisville, KY.
Fisher Barton develops a composite bronze thermal spray application and friction brake pad improvements to enter the Tension Brake Disk market for Utility Construction Reel Trailers.
300 Millionth lawn mower blade shipped in 2018.
Blades production consolidated to Watertown facility – expanding blade capacity to 15M+ blades/year.
350 Millionth lawn mower blade shipped in 2022
Lineage Alloys sold to Tungco. This strategic sale allows Fisher Barton to focus on value-added metallurgical and surface finishing processes to support customers across its core industries.
Fisher Barton makes major donation to Watertown's 4.5 million Town Square Project. The Richard Wilkey Fisher Barton Perfomance Plaza will be home to concerts and events
Fisher Barton has broken ground on the construction of our new industrial building and site development for Accurate Specialties’ Turning Center of Excellence on Bluemound Road. Expanding our capacity with this high-speed, fully automated 56,000 sq.ft. facility adjacent to our Accurate Specialties division offers our customers additional manufacturing capabilities for close tolerance components, shafts, and bearings that compliment Fisher Barton’s already robust offering.
Zenith Cutter, a Division of Fisher Barton, the leading manufacturer of industrial knives celebrates its 100-year anniversary. Founded by Richard Blazer, Zenith Cutter was established in Loves Park, Illinois, in 1923, as a manufacturer and distributor of cutters for the woodworking industry. In 1953, Zenith Cutter began expanding its product lines and entered the corrugated industry.
Fisher Barton proudly celebrates its 50th-anniversary commemorating half a century of groundbreaking achievements in the manufacturing industry. Fisher Barton remains committed to its core values of innovation, excellence, and customer satisfaction. The company’s CEO, Scott Hoffman, expressed his excitement about the upcoming celebrations, stating, “This 50th-anniversary milestone is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our employees, past and present, and the trust of our valued customers. We look forward to continuing our tradition of excellence for the next 50 years and beyond.”