PVC and me – A brief history:
I have decided to focus my upcoming blog posts on PVC and my connection to it. It has played a huge role in my life, so I want to share my experiences and how I work with it.
This post will talk about my history using the products and how my experiences have gotten me to where I am in my career today. In future posts, I will address fabricating and designing products and I will describe how I make some of my products.
In 1980, shortly after arriving in America I found a job working in a factory that was once used by the famous Wurlitzer Company of organ and jukebox fame to produce player pianos.
Unfortunately for me, I was not producing anything as elaborate or romantic as the player piano, but instead garden accents such as wooden lawn furniture, chairs, tables, benches and picnic tables. I developed a passion for working with wood and became a hobbyist.
Unfortunately for me again, the business could not sustain itself and I found myself out of work.
In 1982, the owner of the old company announced that he had found a new material that was going to revolutionize the lawn and garden industry. That material was PVC, and that was the beginning of a whole new world for me. Over the last 30 years, PVC has played a major role in my life, sustaining my family and I.
Photo: This is where it all began. The model 479 ladder was the first item we produced in PVC. This was followed by the 479 HR or high rise.
If this were my resume, I would say that my experiences in PVC were:
- Learning to heat and form it to produce ladders for above ground swimming pools.
- Fabrication of arbors, trellises, planters, gazebos, sign post and mailbox posts.
- Designing and manufacturing fence, deck and railing products.
- Customer service, marketing, installation and application training.
Photo: Having the ability to bend plastic allowed us to expand into the lawn and garden industry with some unique products, such as arbors, trellises and gazebos.
Photo: There was even a product line dedicated to my name!
Photo: As we grew the business, things got a little more elaborate (and we could afford colored pictures).
I have worked in all aspects of the PVC industry, and today as I start to wind down and prepare for retirement, I am looking forward to designing and producing products of my own. My company is Sadler Garden Collections, and I am preparing my portfolio for the future.
Photo: The 1980s were good years to grow the PVC business. People were ready to purchase maintenance-free items that only required the occasional cleaning and no painting.
In the 1967 classic movie The Graduate, when Mr. Robinson (Murray Hamilton) said to Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), “One word Ben…Plastics”. I wonder if he knew just how big the plastics industry would become.
Photo: One of my personal favorites was the Aristocrat arbor with and without seats. I initially designed this to be the entrance to a booth for a show that we were participating in. Several thousand of these sold through mail order catalogs and garden product distributors. They were also a nice addition to a vinyl fence gateway or entry.
Of course, there are many different kinds of plastics used today, but the primary one that I use is called rigid PVC or Poly Vinyl Chloride. Here is an overview of how it is made:
PVC is produced through a process called extrusion, which is similar to icing a cake, whatever the shape of the tip, is the shape of the icing, and the icing is basically a few ingredients mixed together that will flow through the tip, or in our case the die. That’s an incredibly simple explanation for what is actually a complex operation with a whole host of quality checks .
The ingredients in a PVC extrusion are mixed in the same fashion, but they include items that will enhance the product to work in the environment that you want to use it in. For example, I want my products to be used outside and to withstand the elements without breaking down, fading, or needing to be painted, so I use a good quality fence/railing grade material.
Photo: We branched out into the residential fence market around 1984, and were one of the originators of the industry. There are now PVC fences in just about every town in the USA. It took a while, but the majority of the public are now aware of PVC fencing. Above are some of the first residential styles.
Resin is the base ingredient in a PVC extrusion, and added to that are other ingredients such as impact modifiers to keep the product pliable without cracking, and titanium to prevent fading from the UV rays. Other ingredients prevent chalking, enhance gloss and help it to flow through the extruding machine.
Fortunately for me, I have an excellent supplier for my extrusions who is very progressive and way ahead of the PVC technology curve.
As a hobbyist I see the extrusions as hollow shapes that make perfect containers for use as bird feeders, bird houses and containers to hold and grow flowers. I attach decorative post caps to the top and bottom to enhance the look of the product. Each piece is fully functional and has all the attributes of PVC: easy to clean, never need painting, will not rot, fade, splinter or allow insect infiltration and will last for many, many years. What more could you want from a product?
Photo: I utilize the inside of the extrusion as a holder for seed, plants, and nesting birds. Product shown is the Gothic Tray Feeder.
The current portfolio for Sadler Garden Collections includes: commercial and residential planters, sign posts, decorative mailbox posts, and an array of smaller items such as bird feeders, flower planters, bird houses and lawn sign holders.
All of my standard products can be found online at www.myretirementgig.etsy.com.
I also offer custom designs. Whether it is a variation of one of my standard products, a color change or something completely different, I will be happy to give you my best response to your request.
So, 30 years on, I have seen the industry evolve from plain white shiny vinyl to a full color pallet with textures, and variegation. It’s the next generation of products, and I am still passionate about it.