Monday, May 4, 2015

Building a Better Gate...

Building a Better Gate...

In order to make a gate that stands the tests of time and use, there are some basic principles that should be followed. Using leverage to make a gate more stable, rather than easily deformed is the key.

Everyone has seen the old fashioned wooden gate with a Z-brace, a diagonal intended to make the gate more rigid. Most fence guys will tell you that there are only two ways to put in a Z-brace. The right way, and the wrong way. Some say it should go from the top hinge to the lower outside corner of the gate to “hold it up”. Others say it should go from the lower hinge, up to the upper outside corner to “lift it up”
From years of experience, they will tell you that the way they do it is best. The problem is they are both right. Except when they are not. More important than which direction the brace runs is the angle it runs in. That angle will determine whether the brace supports and makes the gate more rigid, or whether it adds unnecessary and unsupported weight to the gate, making it weaker than it would be without the extra brace.

Next time you ride over a bridge, look at the supports. They are designed to form a “truss”, which is a stable form. Trusses are based on triangles, among the most stable of geometric constructs. (Think “pyramid”, very old, very stable.)
To make your gate as strong as possible, and prevent sagging, the key is keeping diagonal braces to 45 degrees or less. This allow the brace to apply a vertical force, supporting the weight of the gate against gravity, rather than a horizontal force, that results in sagging and twisting of the gate.  These principles apply no matter what material you build your gates with.  Proper bracing, at 45 degrees or less, is the key to success.

If you are running into problems with a gate design, or would like more detail about why the 45 degree rule is the most important factor in bracing a gate, call Modern Fence Technologies at 888 456-6786.  Or, if you are on the West coast, call our Carson City, Nevada branch at 888-613-8146.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Spring is Sprung?


Since we're talking about Spring....

  Why does Modern Fence Technologies use visible springs on self closing hinges?  There are a lot of reasons, but they all boil down to one – we want them to work.  When your customer asks you for a self closing gate, is it ever okay for the gate to not close under its own power?  What happens when the gate one day stops closing?

  When we looked into making a self closing hinge, we looked at spring materials and types and sizes and found that any stainless steel spring that was small enough to fit inside the sleeve of our T-Rod would break after a very low number of cycles.  Springs break.  They can only bend a certain number of cycles.  It doesn't matter if the number of cycles is 200 or 2000, a broken spring means that with an enclosed spring, you have to replace the whole hinge.  It also means the gate won't close itself, which leaves you unprotected.

  Springs break down over time because of “metal fatigue”, which happens when tiny cracks form in metals as they flex. As the number of flex cycles goes up, so does the number of these cracks, until they grow together to form big cracks, which cause the spring to fail. A bigger spring will allow many more cycles than a smaller one without failing.

  We could have made the whole hinge and spring bigger, to fit the size of spring that would last an acceptable number of cycles, but chose not to.  It would cost too much to use that much stainless steel in a hinge, and a bigger hinge would look odd. Another problem was, we were stumped trying to figure out what the “acceptable number of cycles” should be. It makes more sense to use a spring that fits outside the barrel of the T-Rod that can be changed if it breaks. 

  Visible springs allow us to have a larger spring, able to handle more flex cycles.  We have never had one break.  They also allow us to use bushings in the T-rod to reduce wear and prevent metal to metal contact.  Closing force adjustment is done without tools, by adding or removing springs, and if one ever does break, the user can see the problem and fix it, rather than trusting a hinge that looks okay, but won't close.

  Modern Fence Technologies self-closing hinges with springs work.  That's why we make them that way.  If you are looking for a self closing hinge with a more subtle appearance, check out our Gravity Hinge!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's Cold Outside, Grab a Blanket...

It's Cold Outside, Grab a Blanket...

For many in the fence business, life slows down a little in the winter. Cold weather, rain, ice, even holidays, can make the fence business a tough one in December and January. Whether you close down for the winter, or “plow” your way through, now is a great time to plan ahead and take advantage of significant savings throughout all of 2015.

Modern Fence Technologies doesn't offer sales gimmicks, or “preferred customer discounts”, or any of the games other companies play. The price we quote is the price of the product. The way to get a lower price is to buy in volume. But what if you know you don't need a pallet of hardware on January 10th?

We're glad you asked. Our blanket ordering system allows you to estimate what you would use in a typical year, add it up into one order, receive the discount level based on the volume of that order, and then opt to receive partial shipments of that order throughout the year, paying for each shipment as it is received, rather than paying for a container load or pallet of parts that may not be used for three or four months.

Did we mention that you can mix and match products to get to those discount levels? That's right. If the Online Store says you need to buy 25 cases to get the best price, you don't have to buy 25 cases of the same item. You can buy ten cases of hinges, ten cases of latches, and five cases of drop rods to get the “magic number”. You can do even better if you mix vinyl caps and accessories with hardware. You could save 5, 10, or even 15% or more over what you currently spend.

We can offer these savings because there is a value to your larger order. We can also plan production around anticipated demand much more accurately when we know we have orders for certain items coming due. Call your Modern Fence Technologies sales representative and ask about “blanket orders” and see how much you can save, while growing your business using American made fence products from Modern Fence Technologies.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Hidden Cost of Low Prices

  So you finally decided to pull the trigger on your new fence. You did the research and found the best fence product for your application and price range. Because you want this fence to reflect the level of investment you have in your home, you bought a top quality, American made fence. But what's holding it together?

  Whether you chose ornamental aluminum, or steel, or even chain link, wood or vinyl, all those components have to be held together with something. All of the fasteners, brackets, post caps and gate hardware added together represent just 10% or less of the value of all the materials used in the fence. Did you know that these components are also the ones most likely to be imported in bulk from overseas?

  Why does that matter? Common opinion holds that American products cost more than imports because of labor costs. The fact is that American labor is more expensive per hour than labor obtained overseas. Another fact is that the American labor used in manufacturing these items is much more efficient and has a much lower rate of substandard parts than those from overseas.  In the U.S., the cost of labor per unit is actually lower on many items.

  So why are imports so much less expensive to buy? That's a great question. Especially when you factor in the cost of shipping all that distance. There are several factors that factor into the price difference.

  First, the imported parts are made to lower quality standards than most American made parts, resulting in more rejected parts, (which the contractor had to pay for, and you can be certain that price is passed along to you), and shorter usable life spans for those components due to incomplete parts and poor fit and finish.

 Second, the imports are made of inferior materials. In some cases the total amount of material that goes into an imported part may be as much as 30-35% less than an American made part.

  Third, and possibly most importantly, quality American made parts often carry Manufacturers Liability Insurance. Most importers in the states don't carry this insurance, and neither do their suppliers. Most people think that the insurance is to protect the manufacturers, but actually, it protects everyone in the chain, from the factory, to the installer and end user from damages resulting from product failure. Imports typically don't offer that level of service and protection. They instead count on you not knowing that.

  Keep in mind also that American manufacturers are involved members of communities. They contribute far more than just a good post cap or fence bracket. They participate in local service projects, the jobs they provide support families, and they are tax paying members of the country you call home. So while the price might initially look higher, consider the cost of not using American made accessories to assemble your fence, and demand the best. In most cases, the cost of owning a fence that is 100% American made will be far lower than that of one using imported components.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sell American!

  I've written a lot on this blog about why you should buy American made, but what if you are in the position to sell American made products? Is it worth the trouble to source American made products? Aren't they more expensive and therefore harder to sell?
Apparently not, according to this article in Consumer Reports. It seems that American retailers are slowly coming to the realization that their customers are most concerned about price when they believe they are buying inferior quality. When offered an American alternative, an overwhelming majority of customers are ready to shell out significantly more money. And that's not just in America! Even among Chinese consumers, over 60% would rather buy American goods.

So what is stopping you from taking advantage of the increased market share you can win by offering American made products? Think about it. Even if you pay slightly more for an American alternative to supply your customers' needs, your margin is computed from that higher base, so you are earning more real cash per transaction, and your customer is looking for you, because you care enough to offer what your competitor won't...quality!