About Atlas Welding Accessories
Atlas has a long reputation of making quality, durable, welders' choice weld cleaning tools.
Since 1939, Atlas Welding Accessories has been one of the largest welding supply wholesalers in the United States - with more than 1,500 distributor customers. And it all started with a welder's hammer.
In the late Thirties, the use of mineral and cellulose-coated arc welding electrodes was spreading rapidly. However, those coatings produced a lot more slag, or scale, than bare wire electrodes. Welders had to chip off the slag to clean the welds for inspection and / or to make additional passes. The tools they improvised for this purpose were not effective or safe.
Then Jack Honhart, a Detroit-area welder / businessman, hit upon the idea of combining a chipping hammer and a wire brush in a single tool - the first of many styles of "Tomahawks" was born. Honhart was a self-taught welder and a noted problem solver, whose background included teaching welding, supervising welding during the construction of a Brazilian refinery, and inspecting welds in trans continental pipelines. He once worked for Murex Processes of England, a pioneer in coated electrodes. In the mid - 1930s, Honhart and H.A. Jackson founded the J & H Holder Company. The company became Jackson Products when Honhart sold his interest to his partner after one year. (Atlas founder Jack Honhart found time to tend to a World War II Victory Garden outside the garage that was Atlas' first real home and the birthplace of the Tomahawk line of weld-chipping hammers.)
Growing pains at an early age
The Tomahawk idea came to Jack Honhart in his basement workshop. It soon became clear that more room was needed to undertake a commercial venture. So, the inventor and his wife, Betty, rented a garage in downtown Detroit and launched Atlas Welding Accessories.
Beginning with a list of welding distributors purchased from R.L. Polk and a roll of 3-cent stamps, the Honharts wrote to anyone they thought might be interested in the new chipping hammer. The strong response convinced them they were on the right track.
At first, Atlas bought forged heads, assembling them into finished hammers. Business grew quickly as welding was proving itself a strong alternative to traditional riveting. So the garage was soon too small. The operation was moved to the basement and large garage of the family home in Detroit (it was wartime and manufacturing was permitted in residential neighborhoods).
In 1943,a larger shop was rented. By the end of the decade, the company had built its own building in Ferndale, complete with a warehouse and full manufacturing facilities. By now, Atlas was making its own forgings and was virtually self-sufficient. But Jack Honhart saw opportunities for much more than chipping hammers.
Adding the wholesaling function
As the 1940s drew to a close, the number of welding distributors was increasing rapidly. These distributors needed more products to sell, and they didn't have time to deal with dozens (or hundreds) of separate manufacturers.
So, in 1950, Atlas Welding, with a network of distributor customers already in place, took on a unique dual identity as a wholesaler of welding supplies as well as a manufacturer. The first product line added was the Naco wire scratch brush. This was followed quickly by Petersen Vise Grip pliers, and then by tip cleaners and soapstone holders. New items were added every year, but only after careful selection. Then, as now, every product had to prove itself in use.
Service, advice, and problem solving
Atlas is staffed by experienced, well-trained people who put the customer first.
"Our order people take a customer's call and check their computers for an item's price and whereabouts," says Keith Honhart. "They know instantly if the item is in stock at their location or at one of the others. If necessary, they can transfer an order directly to any branch so it can be processed immediately."
In addition to handling orders, people on the Atlas desks are often called upon for advice and problem solving. They are familiar with all applicable codes and standards. They have even been known to recommend products Atlas doesn't carry if that's what a customer needs.
Looking to the future
Keeping up with changing needs, of course, is a constant challenge so Atlas is constantly looking to the future.
"Our distributors cover a wide range of industries," says John Honhart. "Today they're calling on construction sites, medical labs, schools - they're even filling balloons for parties. We have to keep up with all of them. (The original Atlas catalog has changed a lot since the company pioneered this type of merchandising in the 1950s.)
"We can only sell so many welding helmets and hose assemblies," explains John. "The only way for Atlas to keep growing is to offer those new products our distributors can sell."
Some of those new products will be wholesaled, and some will be manufactured by Atlas. All, however, will meet Atlas standards of quality. Somehow it is fitting that new products should be the key to the future for a company which was launched by a new product over half a century ago. Atlas Welding Accessories excels at furnishing distributors with proven products of the present but is carefully looking to the future for prospective profit-makers.