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Lufkin Lives On: Wooden Rules Rule

Edward Taylor Lufkin founded and setup manufacturing operations for the E.T. Lufkin Board and Log Rule Company in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1869. The Lufkin Company expanded and moved to Saginaw, Michigan, in 1883. In subsequent decades, Lufkin added a variety of products to the lineup, such as steel and woven measuring tapes; and metal, wood, spring-joint, boxwood folding and specialty rules.

Following World War I, Lufkin added small precision tools such as dial indicators, and electronic measuring equipment. During World War II, the Lufkin Company was presented with Army-Navy E Awards five times in recognition of its production excellence and efficiency. Only 5% of the total number of plants that performed war-related work received this award. Also, at one time, the Lufkin Company was considered to be the largest manufacturer of linear measuring devices in the world.

The hard maple in Maine’s northern forests drew Lufkin to the Anson Stick Company, in North Anson, Maine, a company which he purchased in 1951. By 1955, the Lufkin organization reached its peak of 1,400 employees. By ’66, the company discontinued its precision tool operations; this business was subsequently purchased by the Pratt & Whitney Machine Tools Division of Colt Industries in November of that year.

The Lufkin Company was purchased by Cooper Industries in 1967, and was added to their Hand Tools Division. Cooper saw Lufkin products as industrial-only items, and offered them only to industrial distributors and users.  By the late 1990s, various factors combined and Cooper sold the Anson plant and, with it, Lufkin’s original product lines.

The Meisner family purchased the plant, primarily to acquire the sawmill and kilns. All of the equipment and processes to produce the original Lufkin products were included in the sale. A number of distributors and industrial customers contacted the new owners and asked that they produce the Lufkin line of flatwood and lip rules as well as L-squares. The Meisner family accommodated such requests, formed the Skowhegan Wooden Rule Co. Inc., and not only rebuilt and refined Lufkin’s processes, but also re-employed some of the local workers who’d crafted these products for generations.

Skowhegan never relaxed any of Lufkin’s standards. Solid brass is still used for tips, lips, fittings, and fasteners. Markings continue to be engraved into the wood instead of printing them on.  Each tool is blackened by hand for longevity.

While Lufkin’s products met a dark corporate fate, the Meisner family recognized and illuminated the importance of Lufkin’s work and upholds his legacy today.

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