MARCH 2012

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Copper Wire Stripper
Carlo Dilegge • 888-419-3555

Carlo Dilegge and Americo Gizzi receive an award from Andrea Klee.

Carlo Dilegge and his business partner, Americo Gizzi, were working as plumbers while buying and selling scrap as a sideline when they came across a deal to buy the assets from an electrical company – most of it was copper wire.

When the wire arrived in Canada, where Dilegge had his business, he realized that while that wire was UL approved for use in the U.S., most of it wasn’t approved for use in Canada.

Dilegge knew that the wire was worth considerably more as scrap if it was stripped, so he started processing the wire with a machine he had purchased. Before he could finish the work, the machine broke. He starting thinking about finding a better way – a better machine – for stripping copper wire. Rather than buying a different machine, he had a prototype built.

He had no plans for making any more stripping machines. Dilegge just wanted to make the work easier for himself. But whenever he was selling clean wire at local scrap yards, he’d find himself talking to electricians who were looking for ways to efficiently strip their own copper wire. It wasn’t long before Dilegge and his partner were mass-producing wire strippers and selling them to local electricians and others who needed to cleanly strip copper wire.

Dilegge called his business “a fluke” since it wasn’t something he had planned on. If he hadn’t bought such a large quantity of wire, or if it could have been used in Canada, or if his purchased wire stripping machine had worked well, he wouldn’t have designed and built that first prototype. But once he realized there was a market for a small wire stripper, he seized the opportunity and started making and marketing those wire strippers. The first prototype cost him $5,000 to make, and it took a year to perfect the machine before he was ready to market it. Now, the company sells 60-80 machines per month, all assembled by Dilegge and his partner.

While he and his partner do the final assembly, the components are made by a local machine shop, and then sent out to be anodized before assembly. Although the two are staying busy with their manufacturing, they aren’t completely out of the wire stripping business. They still buy wire and strip it – using their own machines – when there’s downtime in the shop. And of course they strip some wire on the machines to test them before they go out to customers.

Dilegge said that 80-90 percent of the machines are sold to electricians, worldwide. “We’ve probably sold 1,000 machines,” he said, “and never had one come back.” The machine is simple to operate and strips wire much faster and easier than stripping by hand. The rest of the machines are sold to small recyclers for use on jobsites, and to hobbyists. “Everyone who sees the machine is amazed by it,” he said.

While the first few machines – just a few each month – were sold locally, Dilegge now goes to 3-4 trade shows each year, where he demonstrates the machines to prospective buyers. “There are over 100,000 electrical contractors in the US alone,” he said. And there are millions of employees of those contractors who might have wire to strip. Each one of those is a prospective customer.

“Copper is like gold,” he said. “It’s one of the hottest commodities.” And while copper wire is expensive, Dilegge explained that electricians never re-use electrical wire, so there’s plenty of wire being scrapped from job sites. Since Dilegge’s machine cleans wire about 90 percent faster than stripping wire with a knife, “most people say they don’t know how they did without it.”

In a way, his business is smaller now than when he and Gizzi had their plumbing business. Back then, they had 30 employees, but now it’s just the two of them building and selling the stripping machines. While the business is a little simpler without employees, now he’s got the challenge of keeping up with production. “They don’t even get warm in the shop,” he said. “They’re out the door the next day.”

Meanwhile, they’re working on developing a machine for stripping smaller wire, and they sell a granulator that grinds copper wire and strips off the coating at the same time. That machine is meant for high-volume operations, since it processes up to 400 lbs. of material per hour. “You need a lot of volume to do that,” Dilegge said.

Dilegge said that he likes the ability to “do his own thing” and he also likes the idea that his business is “green” since it makes it easier to recycle copper. “Every time the copper comes out of the ground, there’s less of it.”

He’s also very happy that he was able to build a machine – and a business – from the ground, up. He said, “If someone puts their mind to something, they can do it.”