News Articles

Sharpening Its Focus

DMT goes after consumer market for its diamond-based machining tools
Bill Archambeault / Boston Business Journal 

MARLBOROUGH -- Diamond Machining Technology Inc. makes manual sharpening tools that are used by the U.S. Olympic speed skating and luge teams and endorsed by PBS' "American Woodshop" host Scott Phillips.

But even though the Marlborough company has been in business 27 years, has revenue between $5 million and $10 million and has established itself as a leader in its field, the tool-sharpening trade is anything but easy.

The company, which Elizabeth Powell and her husband, David, started in 1976, didn't take long to reach its first do-or-die decision. A couple of years after DMT launched a line of industrial sharpening products using diamonds, it faced significant competition from lower-priced sharpeners from Israel.

David Powell, an engineer by trade, responded by developing DMT's signature product, the Diamond Whetstone, a small, handheld sharpening tool.

"We had to come up with a different product that would keep us alive," Elizabeth Powell said.

DMT introduced the Diamond Whetstone at the Gourmet Product Show in San Francisco in 1979. That same year, the Diamond Whetstone was also featured in the Brookstone catalog.

"The fact that we were in Brookstone and at the product show gave us that ounce of credibility, and we got started that way," Powell said.

She and her husband started their business from scratch, relying on their own money and relatives. They were turned down by area banks and were rejected for a Small Business Administration loan because they had set aside a college nest egg for their three children.

Marketing directly to consumers paid off, however, and the company established a niche among hunters, cooks, athletes, gardeners and woodworkers, all of whom wanted the best sharpening products available, tools that wouldn't eat away the metal edges of their blades.

"DMT was looking for a new avenue to grow," said Christine Miller, president of the company. "Also, it was a time when tools were being made with harder metals, and there was a real push to improve strength. It was timely, I guess, to introduce diamond products to the consumer world."

The company is currently facing competition from diamond-based sharpeners from China, which can cost up to 20 percent less than DMT's products, so the Powells are emphasizing their brand's quality.

The company, which has 30 full-time and four part-time employees, expanded several years back, relying in part on the help of Lynn Tokarczyk, who was working at the time for the Massachusetts Office of Business Development.
Tokarczyk, who now runs her own company, Business Development Strategies Inc. in Medway, read a newspaper story around 1998 about DMT and made a cold call to let the company know what the government could do to help them grow. She introduced them to local and state officials and helped arrange a tax-incentive package that included low-interest bond financing.

"They were considering an on-site expansion and were located in an economic target area," Tokarczyk said. "But these were all mystery programs to the company. They really had no idea these programs were available, and that allowed them to pursue their future expansion."


DMT is trying to expand its market by tapping into the more casual consumer, people who may not demand the absolute best, but can be shown that the durability of DMT's products are a long-term value.

© 2004 BBJ