It may sound cliché, but this is your typical small New Zealand business ‘number eight wire’ story. And while on the subject of clichés it’s a story about going from ‘rags to riches’.
Jock and Helen Mathewson own and run a successful paint and panel shop in Masterton. Like any good business owners they are always on the lookout to see if they can save money, cut down on waste and work more efficiently.
A typical day for Jock at work would be a walk through his business from front to back around 20 - 30 times a day. During those trips he would often note the amount of used rags piling up each day. These rags had been used and discarded to the waste bin but more often than not they had only been used for a small application, like wiping up a small amount of glue or paint for example.
Jock says, “A big rag would often be used to wipe up some small amount of paint product so only using a small area of the rag. But because it was paint or similar you couldn’t use the rag to wipe something else in case you wiped that onto it! It wasn’t the fault of my workers it was the fault of my rag sizes! We buy rags by the bags, 20kgs at a time and they are expensive and usually too big. So I thought there must be an easy way to cut these rags into usable sizes and stop creating so much waste.”
So Jock and a couple of his team came up with a few prototypes of a simple rag cutter firstly using card board, then wood, which then progressed to a 3D printed version (about six different versions) and finally a rag cutter made of steel. All using a simple but efficient razor blade you can buy in any old hardware store. The steel version has been mounted on a wall in his paint department for around 18 months sitting just above his bag of rags. The workers use it several times everyday and it still has the original blade.
This is where the ‘rags to riches’ comes in. Jock is using way less rags. His rag bags are lasting two to three times longer, there’s less waste and his company is saving money.
When Jock showed his rag cutter to long time friend Justin, he just had to have one. Like most kiwi blokes, Justin has a work-shop at home where he uses a lot of rags, usually old t-shirts or bedsheets, but always found cutting rags into usable sizes a pain. If he couldn’t find some scissors or a craft knife he’d try starting a rip with his teeth. Not ideal! Justin has had a steel rag cutter mounted in his work shop now for over a year with the original blade and still cuts great. “One of the most efficient tools I have in the workshop.” Justin says. “I’ve mounted it on a post in an easily accessible spot. It’s out of the way but the best thing is it’s always there! I no longer have to look for a tool to cut a simple rag.”
So together these two kiwi lads have spent a lot of their spare time fine tuning the design of the RagCutter, sourcing a local plastics manufacturer, package designing, talking with their web designer and getting their families to help put it all together. It’s been a long and steady process but they are really pleased with their final product and so are those that have helped trial it for them. They are also stoked that they can produce this handy tool locally and are determined to keep it local.