• Sue Nordman

Mattison Grinders & Magna-Lock Chucks

Obsidian Manufacturing Industries, Inc. brands have crossed over and collaborated many times as well as with some very well-known historic industrial brands. One of the most iconic brand collaborations in our archives is when Mattison Machine Works of Rockford, Illinois, and Hanchett Manufacturing Co. (later known as Magna-Lock Corporation) of Big Rapids, Michigan worked together for nearly 50 years.


Mattison Machine Works building
At one time, Magna-Lock USA was owned by Mattison Machine Works

Brand collaboration has been around a long time in the marketing and sales worlds but there has been an increase in talk about it with the rise in social media marketing. With brands collaborating on social media to use the combined marketing synergy, they have been very successful with breaking into other markets. But years before social media marketing, brands were collaborating or co-branding in the simplest of ways to form alliances and reap the benefits.


Mattison grinders and Magna-Lock chucks had a relationship that produced thousands of grinding machines with superior quality workholding. The manufacturing industry grew to rely upon these products for exceptional craftsmanship and outstanding performance for many years. Much of the machines and workholding are still in use today even though the companies that first fostered the brands have both shuttered.


Magna-Lock USA archives first shows a relationship between Mattison Machine Works and Hanchett Manufacturing Co.’s in the late 1950’s when Hanchett sold their rotary surface grinder product line to Mattison. It could be very true that they were working together long before that, but this event is when things really picked up for both companies according to our records.

Side by side comparison of Hanchett and Mattison brochure pages of 36" rotary surface grinder.

Hanchett Magna-Lock was formed in 1948 when Ralph V. Hanchett and two of his sons-in-law purchased the electromagnetic chuck product line from Hanchett Manufacturing Co. and started off on their own. Hanchett Manufacturing Co. continued to make saws, swages, and grinders but the workholding was separated then even though we have documentation that the work

holding was being manufactured several years prior to the break off in 1948.


Knowing this information, it is quite easy to figure out that Hanchett Magna-Lock Corporation supplied the electromagnetic chucks for all those grinders that Hanchett was manufacturing. With that being so, it was a natural fit for Mattison to continue to supply Magna-Lock workholding on the grinders once they purchased the product line and began production. The majority, if not all, of those chucks were made in Big Rapids, Michigan by Hanchett Magna-Lock then Magna-Lock Corporation and then Hitachi Magna-Lock; those being all the same company with name and ownership changes.


To this day, many people do not know that Mattison never manufactured the workholding that was supplied and shipped with their new grinders during the late 1950s through the mid-1980s. The chuck is not considered part of the grinder but is a separate machine tool. Servicing and spare parts for the chucks would not be a function of Mattison brand but instead of Magna-Lock brand.

Magna-Lock product serial number log from 1960s

Through the 1950s to the mid-1980s, key personnel at both Mattison and Magna-Lock worked in collaboration to make top quality industrial equipment with superior workholding. It is said by former employees of Mattison that semi truckloads of Magna-Lock workholding would arrive each week during the 1960s and early 1970s when Mattison grinder manufacturing was booming. Magna-Lock serial number books can support this claim by pages upon pages of chucks listed as sold to none other than Mattison Machine Works.


In the late 1970s as the economy began to deteriorate for many reasons, manufacturing began to be off-shored more and more, grinder sales for Mattison began to lag as well as workholding sales for Magna-Lock. With what was once a profitable partnership in supplying high quality equipment and machine tools across the globe, the two companies now found themselves looking to reorganize and find new markets to survive. Most often when this occurs, restructuring and, unfortunately, closure of businesses is inevitable. This was the case for Hitachi Magna-Lock Corporation by the mid-1980s.

Magna-Lock, big rapids, michigan
The Magna-Lock factory in Big Rapids, MI prior to its closing in mid 1980s.

In 1985, Mattison purchased the workholding product lines of Hitachi Magna-Lock Corporation except for the lift magnet and permanent chuck lines and moved them to their Rockford, Illinois location. Mattison Machine Works later known as Mattison Technologies, Inc. began manufacturing workholding under the brand Magna-Lock USA at this time and the brand was born.

It was at this time that the co-branding partnership really took off. Mattison capitalized on owning both brands and housing them under the same roof. The strategic alliance formed by the two brands opened the company up to new markets and growth. They would continue to manufacture the workholding under the Magna-Lock brand name until Mattison closed its doors in the late 1990s.


The Mattison closure was due to the repercussions of labor lawsuits, the lagging manufacturing industry, and economic issues. As notice was given to employees, the doors were closed at the iconic manufacturing campus located on Blackhawk Park Avenue in Rockford, Illinois in January 1996. Because it happened so quickly, employees scrambled to grab what they could and exit the building.


Former employees from the time when the factory was humming and business was booming were saddened to hear the news of the closure. The Mattison family had created a legacy in the community that many still remember to this day.

CMI Announcement of Magna-Lock Purchase

Soon after the doors closed at the factory, arrangements were made for selling the assets, inventory, proprietary documents, and intellectual property of the company and its brands. DeVlieg-Bullard purchased nearly everything only to auction off and sell it. Magna-Lock USA including its equipment, fixtures, inventory, proprietary documents, and intellectual property for all products including electromagnetic and vacuum chucks, chuck controllers, accessories, and vacuum systems, were sold to Don Blachford, President of Centro-Metalcut, Inc. (CMI) in June 1997.


It was later learned that a few filing cabinets, some inventory, fixtures, engineering documents, and other items were misplaced at the auction. As events unfolded over the next several years, it was discovered that other individuals acquired the missing Magna-Lock items with their purchase at the auction. Unfortunately, integrity is not equal in all individuals and the missing items have never surfaced to be rejoined with the Magna-Lock USA brand and the rightful owners.


The end of the Mattison era left many people seeking employment. Several former Mattison employees found opportunity in the closure of the plant by pivoting in the face of unemployment. Using their experience and knowledge gained at Mattison along with crossover marketing, a few leveraged business relationships to maximize the impact for their new companies.


Bruce Handy and Doug Green were both employed by Mattison Machine Works at the time of the closure. Because of the quick ending of the company, non-compete agreements were not in place with any former employee. This advantage created an opportunity for both to be successful with starting profitable businesses from their employment with the company and working with the Magna-Lock USA workholding brand.

Bruce Handy opened Magna-Flux International to manufacture chuck controllers that are remarkably like Magna-Lock USA Flux-Master chuck controls. Many customers of the two brands comment on the similarities.


Doug Green opened Vac-U-Lok, a division of Workholding Technologies, Inc. having much success manufacturing vacuum workholding very similar to Magna-Lock USA workholding.


As for the Mattison grinders, they too became a brand. The current owner of the brand, Bourn & Koch, Inc., is in Rockford, Illinois. Manufacturing of new Mattison grinders ended when the doors closed in the late 1990s.


Mattison grinders and Magna-Lock chucks are a classic, simple example of how brand collaboration can strategically work to make both brands grow and prosper. Their collaboration began in the 1950s and continued until the late 1990s giving the manufacturing industry nearly 50 years of quality grinders and superior workholding. Due to their product’s life cycle longevity, Mattison grinders and Magna-Lock chucks can still be found together in the marketplace and on the shop floor.

The world of marketing has evolved greatly since the 1950s when these two companies were first working together. At the time, little did either of them know about brand collaboration, co-branding, or crossover marketing as we do today. They only knew that simply working together made sense because they could reap the benefits of each other’s top-notch products and, in turn, make their customers very happy.

46 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All