Panbo

Edson Marine: old school, new school

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jul 31, 2014

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I visited Edson Marine headquarters while Gizmo was in New Bedford, Massachusetts, during my cruise home in May 2013, and one vivid memory is this old catalog that co-owner Will Keene showed me. My old sloop Alice had one of those Mahogany Steering Wheels, and while I'm sure it cost more in 1946, it's amazing to realize that you could once buy one for $15, Ebonized Rim included. I also enjoyed seeing how well Edson has kept on keeping on since Jacob Edson invented and started manufacturing the first diaphragm pump in 1859...

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Edson still makes traditional wooden wheels but also super lightweight carbon ones, too -- see their wheels site here -- as well as all sorts of other hardware. They also apply their 155 years of experience to repairs and custom solutions. When I noted how much cable room is in the helm pedestals being assembled above, Will Keene sighed knowingly. He wishes electronics manufacturers would make narrower cable connectors and would also like to see more right angle adapters for easier fits into display housings. I know that a lot of boaters, especially sailors with skinny pedestals, agree.

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Now that is a drill press! And notice the heavy duty (rudder?) shaft arms in the background. Some of the machinery at Edson is vintage, but certainly not all...

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You can see that this Matsuura CNC machine was turning out pretty complex aluminum parts while I was visiting, and next to it was a neat stone tumbler finishing them. By the way, I was reminded of my Edson visit because I'm working with some beautifully machined Vision Series electronics mount components that I will detail soon.

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Jacob Edson would probably be proud that his company is still making pumps. In fact, Edson has diversified into industrial pumps and when you get your boat pumped out, it's quite possibly one of theirs is doing the job. But this was the work of the Keene family, mainly Will and his brother Hank, who grew up in the business (and in boats) and purchased it from their dad in 1989. The prices aren't what they used to be -- and if Edson does discount, it's probably to their many boatbuilder clients -- but the company has a tremendous reputation for quality and customer support. The Keenes have also actively supported the marine industry and related organizations like the first class New Bedford Whaling Museum. (And you can enjoy some Off Center Harbor videos thanks to Edson support.)

Also classy, I thought, is how Hank (left below) attributed his recent retirement to his advancing Parkinson's disease. Such honesty may encourage others to deal with their symptoms sooner and hopefully, some clever genetics engineers will find a fix.

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Comments

I had a pleasant experience with Edson in 1982. My 1976 Fuji 32 came with a worm-screw steerer that I thought was an Edson. It needed repair due to worn bushings on the worm screw. I boxed it up and sent it to Edson. Received a fax (no email then) that said to the effect .. 'Sorry but we didn't make this one. It's about a 75% sized knock off of one we shipped to Fuji Yachts back in the early 70's'. They took pity on me and sold me their smallest one at cost. It has been bullet-proof to this day! Thank you EDSON!!

Posted by: Terry Sargent at August 1, 2014 5:53 AM | Reply

I've had more positive experiences than I can count with Edson. They are extremely helpful and knowledgeable and their gear is top-notch. The company is a real pleasure to deal with.

Posted by: Max Parker at August 1, 2014 11:09 AM | Reply

Drill press? Looks more like a milling machine to me..:-)
Edson has always been a class act in my experience - they've chosen their position and won't cut corners. They even took time to help me resolve issues with my (non-Edson) steering system last year - I ended up buying Edson components to fix my T48, but they didn't insist on it.

Posted by: Hartley at August 1, 2014 11:56 AM | Reply

Yep, that's a big, old radial arm drill press.

Posted by: Mark in reply to Hartley at August 2, 2014 5:36 AM | Reply

I've put Edson gear into several boats we built and never had any problems. There are other manufacturers I would not say that about.

On the other point, I have several old marine catalogues from when I started out that would make you cry to read them -- the disappearance of interesting parts and whole lines is that sad.

Posted by: Michael at August 3, 2014 2:09 PM | Reply

What a great picture of Hank and Will. As I look back, I am proud to say I was once part of this great organization.

Posted by: Tom Wynne at August 5, 2014 9:54 PM | Reply

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