Step into Bostitch's nail research lab with Ed Sutt and Tom Stall and you'd think you were on the set of CSI. Immaculate countertops are loaded with high-tech testing equipment. Colored screens of micro-spectro-photo-whatchamacallits cast a glow on rows of beakers. But rather than solving make-believe crimes, these scientists are the real deal, finding solutions to building science problems.
They're a strange, yet perfect team: Sutt's unofficial title around the company is "Dr. Nail," fitting for the only man we know with a Ph.D. in–you guessed it–nails. Stall's own resume includes work as a metallurgist for firearm manufacturer Smith & Wesson.
Sutt and Stall stress-test fasteners in every way imaginable, spot-test production quality with microscopic accuracy, and lay the groundwork for new products that meet demands in the field.
Their most recent mission? Create a structural nail to withstand hurricane forces. "In hurricanes, roof sheathing tops the list of things that unzip, and we've learned that failure happens at the connections, especially the weakest ones," Sutt says, like where nails miss or shank off the side of the framing.
Working together, they developed large-scale testing using wind tunnels and vacuum chambers. "As we started to make more extreme fasteners and pushed the manufacturing process, I leaned on Tom to see what was happening inside the nail at the microscopic level," says Sutt. The result of the team's hard work is Sheather Plus, a collated framing nail designed to withstand the uplift and shear forces of hurricanes and earthquakes.
"Fasteners are the most important components holding a building together," says Sutt, "and they're installed by the lowest paid workers on the site. Making stronger fasteners perform better could reduce the importance workmanship plays in the equation."