As third-generation owner and president of Acorn Manufacturing, Eric DeLong has not only maintained the business founded in his grandfather’s garage in 1937, but he’s even expanded it.
Now in Mansfield, Massachusetts, Acorn Manufacturing is one of three related businesses owned and managed by DeLong. The others are Tremont Nail, the oldest maker of square-cut nails in the nation, and Overboards, which makes architectural covers for baseboard heating units.
Acorn’s forged-iron builders’ hardware starts with milled steel that’s been rolled to impress a surface pattern resembling weathered steel. Individual pieces of hardware are stamped in small batches at various pressures, using a 125-ton die press. Complex pieces, including the Warwick strap hinge shown, are first laser-cut and forged, then hand-hammered.
Anything with a curl or bend is subjected to hot-forged treatments, usually by hand. Most hardware gets a black, matte finish via a rust-inhibiting electrostatic coat of zinc phosphate. “Like a super patina,” DeLong says.
Product diversity has been key to Acorn’s longevity. When DeLong acquired Tremont Nail in 2006, nails made up only 25 percent of sales. Now it’s 50 percent. “Hardware goes in a 10-year cycle,” he explains. “The nail business has done very well for us.”
These are no ordinary nails. Remarkably, the 29 varieties made here are heated and cut on machines made between 1850 and 1900. Stronger and with almost twice the holding power of wire-cut nails, forged nails “will actually cut into the grain of the wood rather than splitting it,” creating a superior hold. The nails can last for 100 years or more.
On that note: DeLong is proud that many Acorn employees have been here for decades. “We benefit from many skilled, longtime employees. And we’ve even got a fifth-generation employee working here.”