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Manufacturing Custom Precision in American Edged Industry

Mention on the Rochester Abrasives Co. website that says the company is creating “cutting-edge products” could be taken as a pun.

The Gates firm is involved with cutting products of all sorts, at least a step in the process. Rochester Abrasives manufactures grinding wheels and other equipment that turns steel into sharp tools.

“We do custom-engineered abrasive production,” said company president Bob Van Sice. “It could be a grinding wheel, a polishing wheel or a stone that you mount to a machine … We manufacture the abrasives and serve the American edged industry, like cutlery, razor blades, garden tools or an anvil blade used in a print shop. Knife products are our specialty.”

A grinding wheel in action at Rochester Abrasives in Gates. A grinding wheel in action at Rochester Abrasives in Gates. (Photo: Provided by Rochester Abrasives Industries)

Think of the work like this: A knife starts as a piece of steel in the shape of a knife, but it first has to be beveled on both sides. “You’ve got to grind all the (excess) steel off,” Van Sice said. “We’re grinding the blade to shape, prior to edging. We distribute the machinery.”

Van Sice’s father-in-law, Gunther Borrosch, started the business in 1987. A German immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1950 and to Rochester in the ‘70s, Borrosch at one time was vice president of Alliance Tool Group before he ventured out on his own.

Borrosch first started a company called American Siepmann, which distributes German-made equipment. Rochester Abrasives, which came four years later, is designed to speed things up for anxious customers.

Shelves of grinding wheels at Rochester Abrasives Industries, 65 Pixley Industrial Parkway, Gates. Shelves of grinding wheels at Rochester Abrasives Industries, 65 Pixley Industrial Parkway, Gates. (Photo: Provided by Rochester Abrasives)

“We have the knowledge to custom-formulate technologies to make products within a week or so,” Van Sice said. Typical turn-around time can be up to 10 times as long, he added. “We’re nimble and responsive. We have a great staff and we know the business.”

Grinding wheels made by Rochester Abrasives have diameters that range from six to 24 inches. The firm started with technology from Germany and has since developed its own formulations to meet the needs of customers that number in the hundreds throughout North America.

End-user companies that use Rochester Abrasives’ products include Georgia-Pacific, a huge pulp-and-paper company, and South Carolina-based International Knife & Saw, which makes industrial machine knives and accessories. Van Sice also mentioned razor-blade companies like Schick and Gillette.

Borrosch, who is now retired, started Rochester Abrasives in his home. The company eventually moved to Henrietta and then to its current 15,000-square-foot facility in Gates in 1992. That same year, Rochester Abrasives bought out a California-based competitor in 1992 and another in Ohio a decade later.

Van Sice joined the company in 1988 and became owner a year ago. Rochester Abrasives has been investing in technology to improve productivity and maintain efficiency, he said.

“Custom-formulated is a critical component of the business,” he said. “We make two or three or 10 pieces at most. There’s a level of skill developed over time.”

So, maybe that “cutting-edge” reference isn’t such a pun after all.

Alan Morrell is a Rochester-based freelance writer.

Rochester Abrasives

Founded: 1987.

Location: 65 Pixley Industrial Parkway, Gates.

Executives: Bob Van Sice (CQ), president and CEO.

Employees: 15.

Website: www.rochesterabrasives.com.

Source: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/money/business/2018/03/24/small-business-spotlight-rochester-abrasives-industries-manufacturing-grinding-wheels/446896002/

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