Monday, July 19

factory visit and a bag -textile buff and wheel co.

Last week I paid a visit to the 80 years young Textile Buff and Wheel Co. in Charlestown, MA. Owner Andy Wise and his father were kind enough to take time out and give me an informative tour of their buffer and rag producing operation. You can feel the family atmosphere as you walk in the door; people are cheery, look at you in the eye, and from grandfather to wife to reception they are enthused and (while certainly busy) happy to explain the business.

Love. This. Stuff.

This was my first visit to a factory floor in the States and all those images you are familiar with from ArchivalClothing / ACL / AllPlaidout etc come rushing in. Industrial [you don't say? -ed.] tables and carts, massive air compressors, bales of cloth and canvas, 8x5 metal doors, huge fans to cool those sewing... etc.

The company was originally based in Chelsea, MA but in 1973 a massive fire in Chelsea destroyed eighteen city blocks and the area's rag shops (including the original TB&WCo.). They then moved to the current Charlestown location, almost in the shadow of the iconic Schrafft building (which was still producing candy into the '80s).

The impetuous for my visit was to find out more about a certain canvas work-bag they produce on-site; similar to a coal bag but known in TB&W's internal papers as "bag/canvas/junk" or simply as a junk bag.

Roll of canvas ready to be cut.
Long armed sewing machine to hem the canvas.
Handles are on, ready for the second bottom layer to be added.
Rivets get added to the handles and bottom.

TB&WCo. have produced this bag for over 40 years almost exclusively for the telecommunications industry; you'll see them hanging off the back of the utility truck often times. 24oz (also called #4) canvas with riveted stress points, 20"x15"x6", a double bottom of 24oz canvas and polypropylene handles -it will hold more than you can carry. The canvas used may be from overseas mills or seconds stock that has inconsequential cosmetic defects thus unusable for consumer grade bags. Zero branding or labels.

Ridiculously useful, you just can't have enough of them around.

Again, huge thanks to Mr. Andy Wise for the tour.
I have had a bee in my ear about lining the base of some bags with rhino-liner or similar... Andy gave me a bag and some scrap canvas to practice with so possible post forthcoming. [On a related note; also keeping an eye out for news on ArchivalClothing's current project with another historic area firm, Steele Canvas Basket Co., Inc.]