The Colorado Fuel & Iron Company Wire Mill created dozens of wire products dating from the time the mill opened in 1903 until the turn of the 21st century. Shortly after opening, the nail department, a specialty sub division within the wire mill, was equipped with 280 nail making machines, which had the capacity to produce 7,000 tons of nails in just 24 hours. A half century later, the wire mill expanded and company publications boasted that its wire specialty products could supply 15 different industries. In addition to nails, staples, tacks and brads, the specialty wire products created in the mill included: flowerbed border, wire mesh for screen doors, wires for traffic light controls, clothesline, springs for mattresses, sofa cushions and car seats, television antennae guy wires, and stucco netting.
Throughout the company’s history, nails were available in a variety of sizes from the smallest 3 finish, 4 finish and smooth box nails to larger roofing nails. The first step in the nail making process was to straighten wire wound on a nearby coil by running it through a set of rollers. Next, the wire was fed into a heading device of the nail making machine, which tightly gripped the wire, striking the end with a hammer. The end result was a perpendicular, flattened head. The point of the nail was formed by passing it through a pair of pointing dies which snipped off the wire opposite the head to the appropriate length. Completed nails were then taken to the rumbler room where they were placed in octagon-shaped metal drums. Sawdust was dumped into the rumbler to absorb any oil from production and to polish the finished nail. After spinning and turning, the finished nails were packed into barrels (also known as kegs) or boxes to be shipped to customers. Powered by belts running off a central drive shaft and by the 1940s, powered by electric motors, the nail making machines were very rapid and precise in their movements, and could create between 150 to 600 nails per minute, according to the size of the wire.
One of the other high demand specialty products created in the Wire Mill was hexagon mesh poultry netting, commonly referred to as chicken wire or poultry netting. Spot welds were the most common form of adhering one strand to another with a large machine resembling a foot of a sewing machine. Extreme heat and pressure held one strand to another. Customer specifications demanded for 1 inch, 1 ½ inch and 2 inch meshes in various gauges of wire. Customers used the material for protecting flocks from rodents and small animals that prey on chickens and other fowl, and as the base of stucco and other construction projects.
The Wire Mill continued to service customers until 1997 when it was purchased by Davis Wire Company of Irvine, California. It remained in operation until 2013.