Lee inventor's magnetic hammers are a hit with roofers

Juan Carlos Fraga was working as a roofer when inspiration struck — there had to be a better way to pound tacks into a roof.

As it turned out, he hit the nail on the head with his line of magnetic hammers designed to improve a roofer's speed as well as minimize the banged-up knuckles that plague the trade.

The tack sticks on the tool's head so the roofer can hammer one-handed, using the other hand to keep up a steady supply of tacks.

Now Fraga — who came to this country from Cuba 20 years ago and has been in Lee County for 15 — has 20 patents and a thriving manufacturing business based in North Fort Myers.

He designed his first all-steel, ergonomically designed hammer for his own use but co-workers soon noticed the difference and asked to buy one from him. "They were tired of beating up their fingers and busting up their knuckles."

Fraga didn't have a ready supply to sell, so he founded JC Hammer Inc. 12 years ago and started making them himself.

Now he has a warehouse in Miami and does most of his manufacturing in China, although he still makes small orders at his shop in North Fort Myers. Besides hammers, he sells a variety of other roofing tools.

Scott Ortegon, manager of tool distributor Sunniland Corp. in Naples, said the hammers are an easy sell to roofing contractors even in a competitive market.

"The guys like them," he said. "The roofers who come in say 'This one lasts the longest.' "

For a roofer who's been using the hammers a long time, Ortegon said, "It's almost as fast as a nail gun."

Dave Pahl, founder of The Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska, said the first magnetic hammer was invented in 1886 by tool manufacturer A.R. Robertson, who intended it as a way to let someone tack up a poster at a high level.

The hammer-nail connection has always been problematic, he said, and inventors such as Fraga have come up with a lot of ways to make it easier.

"There have been over 120 patents for nail-and-hammer features," Pahl said. "It's amazing how many different little gadgets have been designed and invented."

Via News Press