Falberg carving his niche in the power tool market: patent pending
Bill Falberg is a pretty sharp guy.
A couple of years ago, The Aspen Institute, a forum for the world’s leaders and thinkers, entrusted Falberg with the daunting task of recreating an architectural piece by designer Herbert Bayer. The wooden sculpture, a tall and intricate totem, was built in 1952 and stood outside on Bayer’s Aspen property ever since.
“It looked pretty bad,” said Falberg, who lives in Carbondale. He figured that the job would require a huge amount of carving, or some serious thinking. The angled and curved cuts, the depth and precision needed to recreate the piece, would require a very special saw.
“There was no saw in the world that would do that,” said Falberg. So he invented one.
“I ended up taking two months to build the saw and then four hours cutting the sculpture,” he said.
The saw, it turns out, was more important than the sculpture.
What Falberg designed was an architectural scrollsaw. “It’s the only architectural scrollsaw,” he said. “It’s a new word. I had to make it up.”
The saw is a simple but sophisticated, highly maneuverable, precision-cutting power tool that saves time and effort and does the job right the first time, he says.
Falberg calls it “a lean, mean cutting machine.” It makes short work of arches, architectural details and trusses.
It does complex work, but it’s a simple design. An electric motor runs the saw blade over a belt drive system. The weight of the elbow-jointed system is counterbalanced by the motor. Basically it’s a portable bandsaw, but with a lot more throat area.
The saw’s essence is in its balance, said Falberg. The motor counterbalances the frame at the center of the platen, the flat metal plate on which the saw rests, which makes for ease in maneuverability. The platen also has a formica laminate, which eliminates drag on the wood.
Its frame is made of high-strength aluminum alloy. The design, just by chance, resulted in a frame that sustains blade tension during normal use, but releases the drive wheel if binding occurs, thus eliminating broken blades.
If the blade does somehow break, it costs about $15 to replace, Falberg said.
His architectural scrollsaws come in three sizes and are capable of making cuts from 12.5 inches to 16 inches deep. Saws are currently priced at $3,400, $4,200 and $4,600.
Falberg fully backs his product with a customer service guarantee. The saw saves time and does the job right the first time, Falberg boasted. “If you’ve got something big to cut, you could spend all day. You could saw it and sand it and grind it, or you can cut it right.”
He sold only one of the big saws so far, to a log home manufacturer in Libby, Mont., a logging town known for its big timber.
Falberg hasn’t received a complaint yet and takes that as a sign that the saw is doing its job.
He’s already built and sold 25 saws, but the saw he makes today is a bit of an improvement over the saw that started it all.
That prototype, which now hangs in the rafters of his garage along with prototype No. 2, was made of cast iron and weighed 120 pounds, he said. “But it worked. As ugly as it was, it worked.”
Falberg went to a much lighter material, aluminum, and made some adjustments for No. 2. His current design, the one he’s marketing, weighs 50 pounds and is a big improvement over the first saws. It’s good, he said, but he’s got ideas for improving it, for making it lighter, more portable and more efficient.
The next-generation saw will probably fold up like origami.
“Next year, I’ll probably call this a prototype,” he said, pointing to his latest model. “I’ll be the rest of my life improving this thing.”
As soon as he realized what he’d made, Falberg created the Falberg Saw Co. Architectural Scrollsaws and immediately applied for a patent. A design patent is pending with the U.S. Patent Office.
It’s not the first patent Falberg has applied for, so he knows his way around the thorny patent application process.
“I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone,” said Falberg. It’s costly, time-consuming, and a gamble, and hardly ever results in a profit for the inventor. He estimates that an invention has about a 1-in-1,000 chance of receiving a patent. The Falberg Saw patent has been through the gamut and now has about a 1-in-2 chance, he said. “It’s just a matter of time,” he said.
He’s willing to wait.
Falberg moved to the area in the mid-1980s. Until he invented his saw, he worked as a construction contractor and dabbled at the industrial end of the business, working for Link-Belt Equipment and Motorola.
He’s taken a leave from the construction business and is confidently banking on the marketability of his saw to put his two sons through college, at the very least. The venture has put him into debt, for now, he said. But sales are picking up and he’s quickly paying his loans down.
Now, the challenge is in the marketing.
The trick to successful sales, he said, is in getting people to try the saw.
Once woodworkers get their hands on a Falberg Saw and see what it can do, they want it. The biggest reward, he said, is when people ask skeptically if it can do the job it promises. Once they start working it over the wood and see how easy it handles, how quietly it runs, how much time and energy it saves, they start smiling, he said.
Falberg isn’t limiting his market to the Roaring Fork Valley, or even to Colorado, and already has distributors wanting to represent various parts of the world in the global market.
“It’s going to be huge,” he said, beaming with pride. “It’s going to be huge.”
Falberg can be reached at 963-7365.
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