American Manufacturing and the Slate Industry

Our Heavy Duty Slate Ripper was processed through our shop for the final time. This is multi-faceted as 1) Stortz Tools will be relocating shortly and 2) The factors to produce an American-made heavy duty slate ripper are becoming too challenging. This post will provide perspective on USA manufacturing and the current state of the slate industry.

Slate Rippers Being Painted


America was built on a high standard of building traditions that sadly are becoming used less often. As my 50-year-tenured, Stortz Tools representative, uncle tells me, “they don’t build like they used to”. Time consuming trades like natural slate roofing are less fashionable today to a younger generation than a century ago. This leads to fewer installers, less repairs, more tear offs, and a trade that diminishes with each passing year. Associations like the Slate Roofing Contractors Association are providing training to prepare more slate roofing contractors for quality installs and repairs and to keep the trade progressing. 

Slate Valley

Let’s switch gears for a minute and look at manufacturing in the USA. The forging cost of the ripper has nearly doubled in 10 years. Heat treating has tripled. Lead times for material can get upwards of 52 weeks as there are labor shortages because forging a ripper isn’t as comfy as an Amazon warehouse. This is legitimate hard work. So the costs balloon and price out an extremely high quality product that only serves a purpose for the select few in the industry. 

As the current President of the National Slate Association, I’m tasked with trying to grow an industry that has issues with supply, training, an aging generation of tradesmen, and a material where the competitors are literally calling their product the same name when it’s clearly not. This is a whole other topic that’s been written about before. Click here. 

Fake Slate

Are we satisfied with letting these traditional building methods of our country fade off into the sunset? Where high quality slate installs are done by a select few for historical purposes. This matter is larger than a heavy duty slate ripper being produced for the last time, it’s an indication of the direction our country is heading with regards to the building trade. Time tested building materials to produce projects that are able to last generations are becoming a part of our past, and that is a weakness of our society.

I’m hopeful this post can fuel some fire inside the craftsman out there to speak out on this subject matter. What are you seeing out there and where are the pain points? Is the wisdom being passed down dwindling? Are these fights worth fighting? Feel free to comment on this post about our country’s future with regard to the time tested building trades.