A dream is born:
What is now AS&T, Inc. took root in the founder, Jerome Jaeger, Jr., during the great depression. Jerome "Bud" Jaeger travelled the rural Wisconsin countryside with his grandfather, who would sharpen tools for local farmers. The sharpening was not done with high-tech equipment, but with a simple grinding wheel. From this time with his grandfather, Bud found his calling- to be a sharpener. Even though he was just a small boy, he loved it-- as he loved his grandfather.
Dream to reality:
Fast forward to 1975. Bud has been busy raising a (large) family with his wife, Jeanne, for the previous 21 years. During that time, Bud had several health problems, including a heart attack and kidney failure, resulting in a kidney transplant in 1968- the first year kidney transplants were successfully performed in the state of Wisconsin. With his poor health, Bud was not able to work full time.
Bud and Jeanne, 1954
Knowing his dream of having a sharpening business, Jeanne told Bud that it was time to follow his dream of starting the sharpening service. He did not even remember ever telling her about this, but she certainly remembered. Bud sought out other sharpeners for advice. Then, he purchased some equipment and took a training seminar to learn how to do it properly. Relying on his incredible mechanical acumen and his training, Bud set out to replicate his grandfather's business, as Jaeger Enterprises Sharpening Service.
A new kind of sharpening service:
The new business needed customers. Since Bud placed the equipment into a room with a concrete floor in his house in rural Wisconsin, walk-in traffic alone was not going to be enough, but he had a plan- his grandfather's plan. Unlike other sharpeners in the area, Bud went to his customers to pick up and deliver the tools he would sharpen.
It was a different time in 1976 than it is today. Bud would walk into a cabinet shop, tell them what he was doing, and almost always got their business. Why? Because it was more convenient for the customer- they did not need to figure out how and when to get their dull blades or router bits or whatever, to the sharpener. The sharpener came to them.
Bud was gaining a reputation for high quality, friendly service. He even cold called a cabinet shop, where he was met with, "we were waiting for you." Bud's friendliness and mechanical ability were both off the charts. The combination of these God-given gifts and his pick-up and delivery service, soon gave him enough business to support the family, even with his ongoing health problems.
Bud and Jeanne made a perfect pair to run a business. Jeanne was gifted with a good mind for what was called in their day, "book learnin'." Bud, on the other hand, was functionally illiterate. He could read letters and a few words, but could not read or write to a functional level. Bud depended upon his wife to take care of all paperwork, as she did in their private life.
Jeanne would later theorize that Bud probably had dyslexia, but that was not something diagnosed in the 1930's. He simply dropped out of school after 6 years of schooling, illiterate, label "dumb." Bud was, however, mechanically gifted. He could always fix or build anything- even things that people specially trained could often not do. This mechanical ability passed on to some of their children.
As Bud's health problems persisted, and eventually worsened into the 1980's, a change was inevitable. Bud's kidney from his transplant began to fail. He could not have another transplant. He needed regular dialysis. Their 5th son (that's right, 5th), Jay, purchased the business from Bud and Jeanne in 1984. Jay possessed Bud's mechanical acumen. Jay's youth and energy helped the business grow significantly in the 80's.
Salesmen were hired under Jay. The first employees outside the family were also hired. The business, while not large by any means, was on the it's way to being a real player in the Wisconsin sharpening service industry. Jay started focusing more on larger industries rather than small cabinet and woodworking shops.
Now called Jaeger Sharpening Service, Jay purchased the first fully automated carbide saw grinder for the business in 1985. Carbide blade sharpening had been the focus of the business since Bud started it in 1976, and it proved to be a successful mission. Carbide saws were ever more common, and good, precision sharpening of them was critical to industries. With the vastly greater precision of the automated grinders, Jaeger Sharpening was more competitive than ever.
Jay started to fulfill another call in his life- the call to be a minister in his church. As he began his schooling, his wife, Bonnie, took more responsibility in the business. She had always been at his side the entire time Jay owned the business. The time for Jay to become a minister was several years away, as the schooling takes quite a while. But change was, once again, inevitable for Jaeger Sharpening.
Bud passed away in 1988 from his health complications. Jeanne was only 53 at the time. As Jay transitioned out of the business, his youngest brother, Jody, was interested in taking over. It was 1992 and Jody was only 22 years old, so he asked Jeanne to be his partner, since she had a long credit history. Jody, like Jay, had Bud's mechanical ability. It was another case of complementarity with Jody and Jeanne running the business.
As you might expect, having your mother as your business partner is not always easy. Jody and Jeanne had conflicts, but the business kept growing. Jody focused on a more solid financial standing and increasing sharpening technology. Jody and Jeanne changed the name to Armstrong Saw & Tool as a sign of progress. Throughout the years, Jody introduced CNC grinding to the router bit side of the business with the production and sharpening of spiral and spiral compression router bits. These grinders also produce o-flute bits for the plastics industry and end mills for the metalworking industry.
Incorporating Armstrong Saw & Tool to AS&T, Inc., the dream of Bud Jaeger was ready to take off into the new millennium. Jody focused on increasing the automation of all aspects of the business, but especially the CNC router bit production. He purchased a few businesses along the way to expand the customer base, but kept his eye on the goal of a manufacturing-based business, with service as an integral complement to it.
After Jeanne retired, Jody's wife, Kathy, became the integral partner to grow the business. Today, AS&T, Inc., is a leader in the spiral bit manufacturing industry. Thanks to Jody's relentless effort to ever-increasing quality and precision, the manufacturing side of the business is becoming the heart of AS&T, Inc. And it will continue into the future as both his daughter and son are now working to carry on the tradition of AS&T, Inc., into the heart of this century.