The BIESEMEYER Story
For 35 years, Bill Biesemeyer worked in cabinet shops, and for those 35 years, he was frustrated with the inaccurate, time-consuming fences that came with saws as standard equipment. Bill finally found time to build a saw fence which eliminated some of the problems with a standard fence, but even this was not good enough to satisfy Bill’s exacting demands. A second version of his custom saw fence proved more effective and he used it in his shop for years.
The story may have ended there except that a back injury forced Bill to take a break from woodworking. During this time, Bill spent time perfecting his T-Square® saw system. Essentially, Mr. Biesemeyer took the simple ancient carpenter’s t-square and transformed it into a totally reliable guide for table saw users with only two moving parts. It consisted of a fence with a single locking point, guide rails, and guide tube with a pre-installed measuring tape.
Satisfied with its performance, Bill started selling the new fences in the Phoenix area. At first, he sold each fence personally - making the sale, installing the fence, and checking back later to handle any problems. A few woodshops recognized the value of the fence for improving accuracy and speed, but for the most part, woodworkers remained unconvinced of the need for a better saw fence. Woodworkers were so used to the old system of measuring, squaring up, measuring again and then cutting ( and measuring once more to check); they simply didn’t believe you could set the pointer at a dimension on the tape, lock the fence down with a single motion, and cut.
Because old habits died hard, Bill still found resistance to the idea of the T-Square® fence, even among woodworkers who had installed one. Although the T-Square® system was perfectly square, accurate to 1/64" , and cut sawing time as much as 80%, some woodworkers still would measure top and bottom after each cut. Bill, however, was so certain of the value of the T-Square® fence that he offered a unique marketing pledge. Customers could buy the fence, try it, and if not completely satisfied, return it within two weeks for a full refund. Bill’s confidence was well placed because customers recognized the superiority of his fence. Eventually, news of the improved accuracy and ease of operation of the T-Square® fence system filtered through the woodworking community.
In 1978, Bill and his wife rented 1,000 square feet of space in a machine shop in Mesa, Arizona, and opened business. Bill essentially sold his product door to door, oversaw the manufacturing, and his wife kept the books. After a time, it became apparent that they needed marketing help. In 1980, Bill met Roger Thompson, then a marketing executive with Fotomat Corporation. Roger agreed to join the small company. A corporation was formed and the company was moved to a 5,000-square-foot suite on South Alma School Road in Mesa.
Just a few weeks after this occurred, two of the industry’s major trade shows were scheduled just three weeks apart. The first was in Atlanta, the second in Louisville. Within that short span of time, two display suitcases were put together and played to a standing-room-only crowd from a 10-foot by 10-foot booth manned by Roger and his wife. Most people at either show had never seen the product. Both end users and dealers went "nuts" over the T-Square® system. Five hundred orders were taken at each show and an army of dealers were signed up to handle the product.
With this infusion of capital, the company continued to expand, adding dealers throughout the United States and advertising the T-Square® system in woodworking publications. The wider exposure of the T-Square® system grew the company’s sales 1,492 percent between 1979 and 1983 and the manufacturing area to a 40,000 square feet area.
In 1983, the international woodworking industry recognized the T-Square® system as the greatest contribution to woodworking for the period 1980-1982 by awarding Biesemeyer the coveted Challenger Award. There were over 300 entrants from around the world, including automated machines with lots of bells and whistles that cost thousands more. The judges selected the T-Square system because of its simplicity of design and because it provided so many benefits for the woodworker with such a small investment.
The formal recognition by the woodworking machinery industry of the value of a fast, accurate fence spurred a host of other manufacturers to put auxiliary fences on the market. This did not worry the Biesemeyer management. They were confident that the T-Square® fence could hold its own against any competition. It already had a track record of accuracy, quality, craftsmanship, durability, and reliability. It could be ordered to provide a multitude of right and left hand cutting capacities. Additionally, Biesemeyer had developed numerous patterns to make their T-Square® system fit all kinds of new and old table saws. If one of these would not work, a customer could send Biesemeyer his saw dimensions and a T-Square® system was engineered to fit.
As business grew, additional products were added to the Biesemeyer line. Side extension, back support, and sliding tables along with table legs were developed to complement the T-Square® system. Radial arm and miter saw systems were developed to provide woodworkers with additional right and left hand cutting capacity. To go along with these, stops of various designs were developed to be used with these systems. Products that enhanced safety were developed. These included overarm saw blade guards of various sizes and configurations, anti-kickback splitters to fit various saws, and guards for drill presses.
From the outset, all Biesemeyer products were essentially hand crafted. The factory did not invest in high tech machinery but relied on the skill of their employees using off the shelf tools to build in the quality and craftsmanship of these products. Almost every part was hand fabricated or bought off the shelf. Not until later, when sales grew, was the company able to invest in some tooling and machinery to improve processes. The quality and functionality of Biesemeyer products found a niche in the market place and the company grew to over $4 million in sales by 1995.
In October, 1995, Delta International Machinery Corporation acquired Biesemeyer Manufacturing in order to provide its customers a quality alternative fence system to complement their quality table saws. Delta fully recognized the reputation of the Biesemeyer product line in the market place and kept in tact Biesemeyer’s approach to quality and craftsmanship. Capital was invested in the facility to improve manufacturing efficiency, employee health and safety, and environmental issues.
Besides adding Biesemeyer products to the network of Delta dealers and salespersons, changes were made to stock the most popular Biesemeyer products at Delta’s distribution facility in Memphis, Tennessee, so that they could be ordered and shipped immediately from that location. All other Biesemeyer products would be on a make to order basis with the Mesa factory processing the order, manufacturing and shipping the product.
Along with the basic restructuring, product enhancements and improvements were made as well as the introduction of new products. The blade guards and anti-kickback spreaders were improved to provide for complete operator safety. Stops were enhanced with double pointers so that they could be used on the left or right of the miter or radial system whereas before they were manufactured for a specific side. A universal miter system was introduced to replace the old miter systems which were made for the specific saw they were to be used on. The new universal miter can be fitted to any miter saw and has various table sizes that can be used on either the right or left.
Bill Biesemeyer built his business on the reputation of quality, craftsmanship, and innovation. Delta Machinery is committed to continue that legacy, right down to the two week satisfaction guarantee. When you see the Biesemeyer name, you know you’re getting quality.