Cuda Tools Inc.
Cuda Tools Inc. (Cuda) has been supporting mining and manufacturing by building Cuda Tough since 1996. While Cuda has been doing business for more than 17 years, the company’s roots date back to 1969 deep in the coal mines of west Kentucky.
These mines provide optimal conditions for the manufacturing of tungsten carbide (TC), a fine gray powder that when compressed is two times stronger than steel, denser than titanium and has exceptional hardness and durability. TC is polished and finished for use in industrial machinery, cutting tools, abrasives and even jewelry.
Cuda was born out of the local mining industry and the availability of TC. “My father was a coal miner for many years and he began to step up into mining equipment sales,” recalls Steve Nance, now president of Cuda. “I wanted to make some college money, so I started helping him recover old drill bits and parts.”
Over the following decades, the father-son operation began to evolve under the Tungco Inc. name. “We retipped drill bits, reclaiming the used steel body and also making new ones,” notes Nance. “By 1986 we were making roof bits for coal mines and various drilling accessories. Now my son is in the business.”
A Small Niche with a Big Impact
It wasn’t until 1996 that Cuda officially incorporated under Nance’s leadership. Since incorporating, Cuda has maintained its mining support division, manufacturing roof-control products for the underground coal industry, as well as top-quality TC for hard facing applications and machinery.
“We now have two unique sides of the business, but everything is on one 11-acre, 60,000-square-foot site in Madisonville, Ky.,” reveals Nance. “On the drill bit side, we serve a tri-state area from Kentucky to Illinois and Indiana, but we’re also one of the country’s – maybe even the world’s – largest recycler of TC. It’s kind of a small niche and we only have about 35 employees, but we serve a wide range of big industrial applications.”
Cuda reclaims scrap TC and grinds the compound into grit. “We take the old carbide, which is much coarser than sand, and turn it into grit that we sell all over the world,” adds Nance.
The result is a long-lasting, wear-and-tear-protected product. “TC grit is used to protect costly parts on bulldozer blades, dozer bucket teeth, grinding hammers, trencher teeth and a variety of other consumable components,” reveals Nance. “It significantly increased the longevity of these costly parts and also decreases downtime and cuts costs associated with unprotected parts.”
Cuda means it when the company says all of its products are Cuda Tough; the crushed TC product is built for hard facing in the eight- through 325-mesh range. “We customize particle size to meet customer specification,” adds Nance. “Our products are very consistent in terms of cleanliness, chemical composition and particle size. We also provide strict quality assurance, as our entire inventory is hand-sorted to remove foreign material prior to crushing.”
Because Cuda manufactures all of its TC in-house, the company offers very competitively priced products, including powders such as cast carbide, macro grain tungsten carbide and composite rods for aggressive cutting and high-wear applications. Cuda’s composite rods are utilized in a variety of products from fishing tools to auger bits and flights to wear pads, earth moving and drilling equipment, trenching and agricultural and farrier work.
However, Cuda’s roots remain in the mining industry, which the company has been serving for more than 20 years. “We offer a wide variety of sizes that range from 1-inch to 1 5/8-inch. Our manufacturing process uses forged bodies for maximum strength and customized carbide tip chemistry for the utmost drilling efficiency. Cuda also has established a remanufactured bit program that creates substantial cost savings for our customers.” –Cuda.
Even after 20 years in a specific niche, Nance says he’s always gaining knowledge. “I learn something new every day,” he assures. “One thing that will always be important is relationships. We’re in a small industry with a small number of others, so long-term relationships are critical.”
Cuda has relied on these relationships, especially through the recession. “We’re in a commodity-based market,” notes Nance. “One of the biggest influences has been the development of natural gas through Pennsylvania and into North Dakota. Some of the nation’s power plants are turning off coal and turning on natural gas and it’s affected this area and mining.”
According to Nance, the market is off between five and 10 percent. “Normally, the U.S. produces 1 billion tons of coal-per-year, and this year they’re projecting 950 million,” he continues. “It hasn’t affected us yet and I still see continued steady growth in our industry.”
After all, Cuda has grown into something much larger than Nance ever imagined. “We started from scratch and this has grown into something bigger than I ever thought possible,” he says. “I don’t work for the money, but it’s nice to be able to support my family and my employees’ families.”
From the coal mines to the assembly line, Cuda Tools Inc. continues to build dependable, durable tungsten carbide products and mining equipment that stands as some of the best in the industry.