In 1911, Harry Kramer set up a small factory in the basement of his home to manufacture chamois cases for pocket watches. (Chamois is soft leather that is obtained from a mountain goat.) At that time, the better watches were sold in chamois cases to protect the watch inside and also act as a polishing device. Harry’s cases were very well liked and business flourished.
After many years, a man who desperately needed chamois buffing wheels to polish jewelry approached Harry Kramer. Harry’s supplier was not able to meet the demand, leaving Harry to produce the buffing wheels himself. Harry had never made a buffing wheel before but accepted the challenge.
When pocket watches went out of style, Harry began to make chamois and cloth polishing wheels for the jewelry industry. His son Herbert, then in his late teens, suggested that since they were already calling on the jewelry trade to sell their polishing wheels, why not build the polishing machines also? And so the production of Kramer machines began.
A Reputation for Quality
Over the years, the Kramer earned a reputation for quality repairs of tumbling barrels and other machines. Plastic jewelry was now more popular and tumbling was promoted as an economical means of mass finishing. Herb was a natural-born machinist and soon decided that they themselves could fabricate better machines than the ones being sent to them to repair. By the late 1940’s, HW Kramer Company was producing a full line of tumbling machines that were greatly admired for their strength and durability.
Herb Kramer knew the importance of respecting his customers and his employees. He also recognized the benefit in knowing the details of his products and the processes surrounding them. With this philosophy, Herb Kramer achieved a high degree of customer loyalty and an incredible amount of referral business.
In 1971, the Kramer factory moved to larger quarters to accommodate its 22 employees. Harry slowly turned over the company reigns to his son Herb, who by this time had two of his own sons working in the factory. One son, Charles, developed the tumbling compounds to be used in the machines. His other son, Robert, developed the Kramer machinery.
Harry retired in the late 1960’s. By this time, vibratory finishing equipment was starting to show up in the market, offering much faster time cycles and a controlled action that was safer for the parts being finished. It was then decided that Kramer must produce vibratory finishing machines to stay competitive.
They would have to be of the highest quality to maintain the reputation already established by Kramer’s tumbling machines. Robert studied engineering and machine design in college and used this knowledge to design a series of vibratory finishing machines. It took three years of prototypes and study to produce the final product.
New Challenges and Opportunities
Kramer Industries took an exciting turn in 1999 with new ownership and new management and many new opportunities. While the Kramer family is no longer directly involved, their history is still a driving force for the company. The expansion of the product line into abrasive blasting along with increased focus on markets outside Kramer’s normal comfort zone resulted in significant growth in a short period of time. After 9/11, Kramer recognized that penetrating new markets and industries and expanding our reach across North America and around the world was critical to that growth.
The 21st century has brought new challenges and opportunities. Building off our more than 100-year history, Kramer Industries has fully embraced our expertise in surface finishing. Alongside the high-value barrel and vibratory tumblers, Kramer has significantly expanded the line of both portable and cabinet abrasive blasting systems, as well as abrasive blasting media. Kramer Industries remains a full-service company, offering media, compounds, advice, solutions and a full line of barrel finishing, vibratory finishing, parts separating equipment and abrasive blasting equipment. Recent expansion with a Tech Center and full-service Job Shop continues to cement Kramer’s position in the surface finishing arena. It is expected that Kramer Industries will continue to prosper in the surface finishing industry for years to come, Right From The Start.