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At the cutting edge

70-year-old Cline Tool a manufacturer for others

Oct. 4, 2018


Cline Tool has a lot to be proud of.

Apart from its 70-year history as a Newton-born custom tool manufacturer and distributor, the company takes pride in maintaining a cognizant approach to a constantly evolving industry, finding solutions to customer problems and having established itself as one of the largest custom tool manufacturers in the United States.


Chief Financial Officer Jason Benson said what distinguishes Cline Tool apart from similar companies is its dual identity as a custom tool manufacturer and full-line industrial distributor. That mix, he said, does not ordinarily exist in the marketplace, which is what makes Cline Tool so special.

“They’re two very different businesses in reality,” Benson said. “They go together, but they’re very different.”


line Tool’s Newton headquarters, sequestered in the north side of town just a few blocks away from Berg Middle School, reflects that business model. Salespersons and management representatives share a roof with machinists and engineers but are separated into two sectors: an office-style workspace and a vast factory equipped with intricate and lively machinery.


President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Long, who began his tenure at Cline Tool in 1987, said the distribution division represents about 700 different companies and sell their products into the market. Simply put, Cline Tool provides and sells everything a factory setting needs to operate — from safety supplies to cutting tools and maintenance items.


“The other side of our business is custom tool manufacturing — we design and build tools for use in CNC (computer numerical control) machines,” Long said. “There are some things where there isn’t standard tooling available to utilize, so we would make a custom tool to help (other companies) manufacture that component.”


Cline Tool is a manufacturer that helps other manufacturers. For instance, if John Deere wants to make a transmission for one of its tractors, the corporation would most likely contact a manufacturer like Cline Tool to design and create a tool to machine the transmission in order to actually produce it. Benson said it’s not a concept most consumers think about when they see a tractor on a lot of a dealership.



“If you see a tractor, you don’t think about how every piece of that tractor has been a machine out of a piece of steel,” Benson said. “You don’t think about the toolmaker that had to make the hole in an engine for the cylinder.”


The people who do think about that kind of stuff, he added, are the kind of people Cline Tool wants on its workforce.

“That’s who we like to employ here,” Benson said. “People who like mechanical stuff. People who are working on cars and things. People who have a mechanical nature. People who are curious and want to know how things work and how to fix things and make things.”



Designing and manufacturing custom cutting tools is how the company got its start in Newton in 1948, a reputation Cline Tool has retained for seven decades. As the manufacturing industry grows and advances, Cline Tool adapts and stays ahead of the curve, evolving its methods and technology to better meet customer needs.



“There are so many product lines out there and so many unique products that fill needs that it’s overwhelming,” Benson said. “On the custom tool side, we’ve had to become very diverse in our product offerings. We don’t specialize in any one thing. We do certain things really, really well. A customer is going to come to us with a problem — a part they need made in a certain amount of time — and we help them design tools to do that.”



Since its inception, Cline Tool has extended its reach across and opened three more facilities in Houston, Texas; Rockford, Ill.; and Asheville, N.C.



Long and his group purchased Cline Tool in 2010. During that time, the company was operating under 28 employees. Today, that number has increased to just under 100 workers across all four locations; about 65 of which remain in the Newton headquarters.



What has been the key to Cline Tool’s longevity? Benson cites its workforce. Everyone, from the management to the employees, he said, truly believe in providing the ultimate customer experience and finding solutions for businesses it works with, including local names like Thombert, TPI Composites and Gates Corporation.



In doing so, Cline Tool has expanded its custom tool manufacturing and distribution duties to include complete project management, tool reconditioning, integrated supply programs and comprehensives engineering services. Quality requirements are tight these days, Long said, as is staying ahead of the technology and providing diversified services to other businesses.


“It’s an ever-changing world and it takes continuous reinvestment in the business, especially when you start looking at 3D printing and the five-axis machining,” Long said.


Despite the shifting landscape, Cline Tool has had to adapt to over the years, the one thing that has not changed is its stay in Newton. And it’s not going anywhere any time soon.


“We loving being in Newton. We’ve had people that started here young and retired here many years layer. We’re a good place to work and we care for our employees a lot. We care for our community a lot, too,” Benson said. “It’s important for us to be here.”


Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or