Amish Precision Machining

By Lloyd Graff

The variety of small business permutations in America always surprises me.

In the rolling prairie of Northwest Indiana-Amish Country—Eli L. runs 3 1-1/4″ RA6 National Acme screw machines without conventional horsepower electric motors—the normal power supply. He has been making fittings on these workhorses for 25 years using a jerry rigged diesel generator connected to a line shaft to power his machine tools.

The Amish are adamantly opposed to being hooked up to the power grid but are not Luddites. For instance Eli, who runs his shop with his children and grandchildren, has upgraded his screw machines with Logan air clutches to squeeze out more production.

Eli used to make a line of machined salt and pepper shakers, but that business has faltered. He is quite busy, however, on contract fittings manufacturing.

It used to be very difficult to reach Eli, but his business is now connected to the outside world by cell phones. You cannot easily find his shop on a map, but a GPS will guide you. But one thing you will not see in his office is a computer connected to the Web.

Question: Would you do business with a company that was off the power grid?

Person in photo is not refered to this article

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11 thoughts on “Amish Precision Machining

  1. Randy Eenigenburg

    Have done business in the past and would in the future in a heartbeat – finest people I have ever worked with, honesty and integrity are uppermost in their beliefs and actions.

  2. Allen Robinson

    I’m a moldmaker of 25+ years and have also done business in the past with the Amish and Mennonite would in the future. Hardest working people I have ever worked with, honesty and integrity are how they live and do business. I think if we
    can get more Amish in to this trade we will give china a run for their money. I wish them all the best and would help any of them that wanted to venture into machining.

  3. Bob Yeoman

    Lloyd –

    Being in the heart of Amish Country here in Northern Indiana – we are
    seeing a move into the 20th Century –

    Diesel Tractor Motors powering line shafts that are connected to
    Hydraulic Power Units ( to power hydraulic motors on machienry),
    generators ( to power welding machine), Air Compressors, Frequency
    Converters (to power CNC machinery), and the like.

    We are additionaly seeing Electrical Co-Ops – where a group is
    building their own Electric generation plant for use by several

    The Amish are the ” next manufacturing giants” of Industry in the U.S.

    There are supplanting the traditional manufacturing base here to become
    major competitors to the existing fabrication shops supplying the R/V
    industry here in Elkhart Country.

    They think out side of the box – and in many instances – create a new box.

    Just an FYI

    Be Well this Season !
    Bob Yeoman

  4. Alan

    But I have a long history over 25 years of dealing machinery to the Amish.

    They are definitely good customers and hard working. I could tell stories for days about them. But one only has to take a quick look at them from a rational perspective with a business mind. They are a bunch of die hard dedicated religious fanatics period. It’s one thing to choose how you want to live but for the most part they are handicapping their children in a highly competitive world with their archaic rituals and beliefs.


  5. Dave Inners

    I’m own a machining, welding, and fabrication job shop in south
    central Pennsylvania. The Amish of Lancaster County are my competitors.

    They operate their welding, fabrication and machine shops on their farms
    taxed as agricultural, not manufacturing. Using their children and grandchildren
    as machinists. Do they obey the OSHA and safety laws? Do they pay un-employment
    compensation? Do they pay for health insurance? Are the employees of age to operate
    machinery? Do they pay their fair share of taxes? Do they adhere to state laws regarding
    hours of work and overtime pay?

    Dave Inners
    DRI Machine Shop Inc.

  6. Ron Spokovich

    I am familiar with the Amish. Although I don’t presently do business with them, I would not hesitate to do so, provided the prices, quality, timeline, and locale are in place. I won’t be throwing stones at a glass house. Their work environment is what works for them, and the particulars of a product is what’d work for me.

  7. Jim Jordan

    Lloyd – If this is the same Eli he is in Northeast Indiana and I appraised his shop for him over 20 years ago. He wanted the appraisal so he could set up his estate for his kids. It was something to see. The Acme ASMs were fantastic but he even had lathes and drill presses set up the same way.

    Jim Jordan, Jordan Machinery Co., Greenwood, IN

  8. Jim Flaherty

    A big earth moving OEM we used to sell to got so nickle and dime they ending buying parts from the local Hutterite communities found in the Dakotas. Our steel salesman found our new competition had children running ’80’s vintage CNCs on the dirt floors of wooden barns. Of course paying no taxes, health insurance or other benefits. You don’t have to go to China to find China.

  9. James

    As Americans they found a way that works for them. If Indians got into manufacturing on their reservations instead of building casinos to earn a living we would complain about them too? Just because our Government has a choke hold on most of us, don’t knock how others choose to live and run their businesses.
    In life there are many ways to do things, the Amish have chosen not to change their ways and they are still around. I’d rather have my kids working for the family business @ age 10 or 12.
    I consider that 1000 times better than kids today texting and twittering, bullying classmates, and playing X-box until they develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Then when they finally have to get a job they expect to start out at the top. Working on farms is something this country should get back into. Take care of our own and support ourselves!


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