GREETINGS. I am the owner and tool designer for MalvenWorks. Before my retirement from higher education in 2018, I had worked as a design educator, at the University of Missouri, Western Kentucky University, The University of Connecticut, and, most recently in the College of Design at Iowa State University (ISU), where I currently hold the rank of Associate Professor Emeritus. At ISU, my coursework and research have focused primarily on human factors, design methods, and design safety– especially the effects of building configuration and contents on fire severity and life safety.
FIRE SERVICE BACKGROUND. Since 1976, I’ve also been a volunteer EMT and firefighter/fire officer, in Connecticut, Maryland, and Iowa. I’m currently Assistant Chief in charge of training for the Nevada (IA) Community Fire Department. And, over the years, I have been an adjunct instructor/course developer for several state fire training programs, including the Connecticut State Fire School, University of Missouri Fire & Rescue Training Institute, Iowa Fire Service Training Bureau, and Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute.
From 1981 to 2000, I was a course developer and field instructor for the National Fire Academy (NFA), Emmitsburg, MD. In that capacity, I was the lead developer and instructor for a course entitled “Fire-Safe Building Design,” intended for architects and designers and served on the development and instructional teams for NFA’s “Building Construction for Fire Suppression Forces” and several of its firefighter safety courses.
My “hobby”– the volunteer fire service– has been a tremendous source of insight and inspiration for my academic interest. And, conversely, my experiences in design and design education have provided me with a unique perspective on the responsibilities and operations of the fire service.
INVOLVEMENT WITH FIRE TOOLS. As a firefighter, I’ve always been most interested in special operations– rescue and truck company (i.e., “hook & ladder”) work, and especially the variety of tools and equipment that surrounds them. Along with several other Iowa firefighters, I helped develop a nationally delivered course, “Fireground Support Operations,” emphasizing hook and ladder company operations for departments of all sizes (whether they have a ladder truck or not). It included a good deal of emphasis on fire service tools, tool culture, and tool applications. This and other courses served as a gateway for consulting work with some key players in the fire equipment industry, notably, Cutter’s Edge (ventilation saws), Lion Apparel (Janesville personal protective gear), and Tempest Technologies (positive pressure blowers).
THE GENEALOGY OF MALVEN FIRE TOOL WORKS (MALVENWORKS). But, by far my most transformative experience was service as a consultant for MalvenWorks predecessor, Iowa-American Firefighting Equipment of Osceola, Iowa. For well over a decade, I designed and facilitated the manufacture of a number of fire service hand tools for them. Among them were tools marketed as the “Truckie Tool,” “Stinger,” “Hawk,” “Rescue Hawk,” “Super Hawk,” and “Spike.” I also worked on the refinement of Iowa-American’s Halligan bar, especially the redesign of its forks and the tool’s transition from silicone casting to investment casting manufacture. In addition to the above, several Hawk Tool prototypes (steps in the development process that were not intended as completed works) also gained independent recognition and were [“accidentally”] included in Iowa-American’s substantial mail order catalog.
When Iowa-American went out of business in 2008, the Hawk tool suddenly went out of production. I spent a good deal of time attempting to find somebody new to manufacture it. During this lull in its production, the design and manufacture of the entire Hawk system underwent significant refinement, including its own transition to production using investment casting. After a few years– and due in no small measure to the efforts of Tim Nemmers, now a Fire Captain with the Des Moines (IA) Fire Department– the Hawk Tool was back in production– this time as part of Dale Gilbert’s Aazel Fire Tools, of Longmont, CO.
Finally, in 2015, I bought back my designs from Aazel Fire Tools to form MalvenWorks. MalvenWorks is now the sole producer of the “Malven Hawk Tool” (including a new “Hallux” pry component) and the “Monster,” “Classic” and “Hayward Claw” entry bars.