World’s oldest pin producer, Nashua’s W.H. Bagshaw Co. looks to find smaller building and moves ahead with aerospace, defense manufacturing

NASHUA – If people think a pin is just a pin, Aaron Bagshaw feels they’ve missed the point.

As the great-great-
grandson of an Englishman who moved to Lowell, Mass., to start what is the world’s oldest pin manufacturing company, Bagshaw said he wasn’t always sure he’d break into the family business. But today, he is W.H. Bagshaw Co.’s chief visionary officer, and his wife, Adria, is the chief validation officer.

“I’m a dreamer, and then, I check my dreams with my validation officer,” he explained.

The company was established in Massachusetts in 1870 and moved to Nashua in 1950. It manufactures tens of millions of pins every year – those used in phonographs, thumb tacks, and other day-to-day items, all the way up to grand machines used in the aerospace and defense industries.

The company utilizes age-old technology that dates back to Leonardo DaVinci’s methods, though the company is modernizing more.

Situated in an old mill building along Pine Street Extension, the Bagshaws said they have more space than is necessary and would like to find some place smaller, although they also are looking to hire two additional staff members. A parking lot on their property also was recently obtained through the “right of way” of the
ongoing Broad Street Parkway development, though they say that has little impact on their operations. Bagshaw estimates, since their inception 143 years ago, the company has made 42 million pounds worth of pins, with enough material that could rebuild New York’s Chrysler Building.

Eight years ago, the Bagshaw company expanded beyond the pins they’ve become known for, breaking into “automated manufacturing” with more up-to-date machinery. From there, the business grew into a site that could develop other pieces used by many industries, with a process for making precision turn parts.

“Eight years ago, all we could do was this,” Aaron Bagshaw said, pulling a pin off his desk. “I said, ‘We have too many opportunities coming across our desk on a regular basis. Why don’t we build a machine that can do this?’?”

The company has thousands of customers and 40 employees. While the Bagshaws didn’t disclose the name of their clients, they said they supply aerospace and defense industry companies as well as those in the high-tech and industrial sector. They also serve companies that have contracts with the U.S. government.

“If we don’t make our part correctly, then the rest of it doesn’t work,” Bagshaw said on why a pin, or small part can be so important. “If you’ve got a $10 million tank and this part doesn’t work, then the whole tank may not work.”

Walking through the old mill building, the Bagshaws pointed to several employees who, in some sections of the factory floor, still use 1950s machinery. That’s their “secret,” Bagshaw said.

All over the building are reminders of the Industrial Revolution days, where in the lower level, Baghsaw Co. still uses grinder machines that sharpen cable threads into pins against stone, just as DaVinci designed.

Yahaira Infante, of Nashua, works several machines by herself. As she greeted the Bagshaws, she wiped cutting oil, glistening like fresh honey, from her hands.

Bagshaw took her hands in his and joked, “She has the softest hands,” from the oil she has been around while working at the company for the last 15 years.

Infante listed off six other employees, proudly – all members of her family who work at the company, too.

Maria Fernandez, of Manchester, started recently, but she said she has been blown away by the company’s enthusiasm for their work.

“My (former) boss warned me, going into a manufacturing business, people didn’t take pride in their work,” Fernandez said. “I told her on Friday, ‘One week here and (these) guys have proven every word wrong.’?”

Bagshaw said he has also worked to bring more fun into the business environment, with “huddles” for staff to round up and talk about ideas. There are bongos in the front room that employees play every time a new customer is signed on.

Bagshaw lives in Amherst with his wife and said he used to come through the factory as a “young, little boy.” His contribution to the company’s legacy includes his modernization efforts for the facility, from management style to the factory operations. He said other manufacturing sites can feel “stodgy,” but not his.

“People leave here, like, ‘Wow. That’s a neat place.’ You came in and you saw the bongos,” he said. “There’s an energy here, and I think that’s the thing that I’m most proud about.”

Samantha Allen can be reached at 594-6426 or sallen@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Allen on Twitter (@Telegraph_SamA).