The Golden Bear Tool Experiment

In the professional tool sale business we see a lot of unique application for tools—and the more obscure the more we get excited—but it’s a very rare day when we are actually involved in the tool development process. Lots of us have had ideas for different tools in our heads. Some may have even sketched one on a napkin. Very few ever actually see their ideas come to life. After 12 years in development from conception to production, the Golden Bear Tool Company has developed their first proprietary tool.

And we got to be a part of it firsthand.

Coming from the world of transportation supplies, Golden Bear Tool founder Josh Sikora has been helping some of the country’s largest steel & railroad companies solve problems for most of his career. Historically, extremely large, dense items like rolls of steel were attached to rail cars using steel banding. This banding, while strong, has very little flex. It’s also expensive, heavy, and can leave dangerously sharp loose ends. The newer technology for shipping these type of extremely heavy loads is extruded poly which solves many of the problems of the original steel banding, and it can be used with the same manual, pneumatic, and cordless strapping tools that exist for metal banding.

Where Josh found frustration (and later, opportunity) was with a similar woven poly strapping (almost like your car seat belts) that had an even better profile of strength, flex, weight and cost. The trouble was, no cordless tools were available to handle the really heavy applications. By his own admission, the market for the type of tool specific to this high load application is pretty small (in the hundreds). But for those users, a manual ratchet tool simply is not going to cut it. By fabricating a tool that can create 2700 lbs of tension, it really allows for this lashing and webbing product to be used more frequently and provides advantages for large shippers.

We were lucky enough to get involved in the process some time ago. It’s not that we know anything about railroad shipping, but we were able to help spec as many of the off-the-shelf parts that could be used in production. This, of course, dramatically cut the cost of the final product. It also had the added benefit of making repairs much more economical should the need arise. Their “must-have” list for a power supply and motor was the same as anyone would want: lots of power, dependability, light weight, long runtime, and (of course) incredible value. Having crunched the numbers and tested most of the professional drill/drivers on the market, the debate was finally put to bed when the first Milwaukee M18 Fuel drill hit the market. It wasn’t long before Golden Bear Tool selected Milwaukee’s latest brushless tool as their power train from which to build the production version of the C11 tool.

The costs associated with multiple runs of prototyping a tool of this nature are exorbitant. Even when done on a budget, each run would cost tens of thousands of dollars in new material and fabrication costs. All of the design work was done in-house, so each prototype brought new ideas, improvements and refinements. Finally, Golden Bear Tool can realize the fruits of their years of labor with a finished product they are now bringing to market. Of course now begins the true test of whether this 12 year old bet will pay off: Can they actually sell them?

At a final production price of $4,950, this tool is without question intended for a very select audience who need very high tension for heavy weight applications. Talks are already underway for a smaller, lower tension unit based of the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Drill. That would be intended for a much broader range of uses and would cost about half the C11 model. And, at that price point, it would directly compete with other cordless tools used for steel and extruded poly banding, but also take advantage of all the added benefits of the web technology. We wish our friends at Golden Bear Tool all the best in the future. We’re just happy they let us be a part of the process.

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