A plastering industry veteran, Long Island native Matthew Niedfeld has gone through a lot of spackle and putty knives in his 20 years as a contractor. After years of throwing away eight- and nine-dollar knives that had been cracked, bent and chipped on the job site, Niedfeld decided he'd had enough.
The root of the problem was simply that Niedfeld and his crew - not to mention the rest of the plastering community - had no convenient place to store their knives. Knives on the floor were inevitably lost in the tangle of other tools and equipment. In addition to either being wet or covered in spackle, knives hanging from pockets were often the cause of brutal wall gouges. To prevent all this, Niedfeld needed somewhere close at hand to store the knives. And what, for a plasterer, could be closer at hand than a hawk?
The Hawkmate, Niedfeld's solution to this universal plastering problem, mounts to the bottom of a hawk, providing convenient storage for half a dozen plasterers' knives. The design is simple - a durable aluminum attachment that can be mounted between the handle and base of any standard 12-inch or 13-inch hawk. Once affixed, the plasterer has only to slip the knives between hawk and 'mate, for convenient storage and blade protection.
Niedfeld's Hawkmate prototype was manufactured in his garage - just as every Hawkmate has been since. With the help of two of his crew, he can produce 1,000 tools in one arduous weekend. Then the durable aluminum attachments are ready to go.
Niedfeld's original notion may have been simple, but it had legs. After a year and a half, the idea had become a patent in Niedfeld's name. The attorney's fees, by the way, were money well spent, according to Niedfeld. With his lawyer's guidance, he was able to craft a patent agreement that prohibits anyone else from marketing any tool of any kind that attaches knives to hawks.
The patent was step one. Step two was getting the product into the hands of plasterers. Niedfeld's goal was to make enough off the Hawkmate to put his daughters through college, so although his friends and employees were his first customers, he needed a larger base to work from. And where better to look than the Internet?
Internet bazaar eBay was first. Niedfeld manufactured a batch of 1,000 to sell online. Next came plastering tool giants AllWall and Marshalltown. By offering AllWall 50 tools for free, he got his foot in the door, and now AllWall is the Hawkmate's biggest distributor. In the past few months, Niedfeld has been fielding substantial orders from Marshalltown, taken his first order from Australian supplier ProPlaster, and has begun to explore the possibility of developing a line of Hawkmate taping tools.
Niedfeld's ultimate goal is to license the Hawkmate, but in the meantime, he says he's ready to do whatever it takes to get it off the ground.