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          Debra Williams is one of the most loyal members of The Foundery, joining on the 6th day it was open! She uses it for two purposes: to remodel furniture for her home, and more importantly, to work on her new business, Campus Canopies. Her favorite part of The Foundery are the tools that she uses to develop her products and the knowledgeable experts who are on hand to answer all of her questions.


Debra outside of the Foundery with some chairs she remodeled


          When Debra first walked in the doors of the Foundery, she took a tour and was thrilled by the space. She became a member immediately and soon became a regular. She took classes like metal-working, wood-working, sewing, and powder coating to familiarize herself with the tools and equipment at the Foundery, and she uses two Foundery computers in her work space to do market research for her company.

          “Working at the Foundery gives me separation between my home and my work,” Debra says. “After thirty years of being a stay-at-home mom, I love having a place to go to work that is so inspiring.”

          Debra’s new company, Campus Canopies, began when she took her oldest child to boarding school. While doing back-to-school shopping, she saw a window display that was being taken down. The display included a set of long bamboo poles. “I have an idea,” Debra told her daughter. She purchased the poles. When they arrived at the school, she turned them into a canopy for her daughter’s dorm room bed, attaching chic curtains on the sides for privacy. Her daughter and daughter’s friends all loved it.

          Last Fall, when her youngest child matriculated at the University of Maryland, College Park, Debra built her second canopy, this time using poles from Home Depot and fabric from J.C. Penny (see photo below). The canopy attracted a lot of attention. Her daughter loved it, and her daughter’s roommates said, “I want one, too.” At that point, Debra realized she was onto a new idea, and a business was born. “There is an unmet need for privacy in student dorm rooms,” Debra says. “Campus Canopies is a game changer for students. Our mission is to inspire campus interiors and give students privacy.”

One of the original campus canopies at the University of Maryland

One of the original campus canopies at the University of Maryland


          A key resource at the Foundery is the friendly and dedicated staff. Debra says they can answer, or find the answer, to almost any of the questions she has. “The Foundery’s motto is ‘Learn, Build, Teach,’” Debra says. “The Foundery has served me in all three areas.”

          Debra knows that she’s not the typical person to walk into the doors of the Foundery, but she’s always welcome. She plans to launch Campus Canopies officially in the next 6 months, just in time for back-to-school shopping. Check out Campus Canopies on Instagram here!



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               Foundery member Jamie Hodges has been working on a new design for a dock leveler hold down mechanism for the past four years. In January his patent application was approved! He completed the design in The Foundery and now he’s beginning to manufacture it here as well. He says, “I’ve accomplished more in The Foundery in the last two months than I did without it in the two years prior.”


Dock-Levelers and Hold Downs:

               Commercial and industrial buildings that ship and receive product at a loading dock often require a dock leveler to facilitate the movement of materials. Trucks come in at varying heights off the driveway and buildings have varying dock heights. When a truck backs into the loading dock, the bumpers on the loading dock  come into contact with the trailer, leaving a gap between the trailer and building. A dock leveler bridges this gap while also accommodating the dock height and trailer bed height differential. The dock leveler hold down keeps the dock leveler in place so that a forklift or pallet jack is then able to traverse the gap to load and unload the truck. 

               Though the invention sounds specific, there are millions of dock levelers and hold downs in the United States and virtually every item we own has been transported using them multiple times from the manufacturing process to final distribution at retail outlets.


A Family tradition:

               Jamie and his family run an 82-year-old family business, Charles H. Hodges and Son, Inc., specializing in selling, installing, and servicing loading dock equipment, overhead doors, high-speed doors, freight elevators, conveyor systems, mezzanines, and pallet rack products bundled under the name material handling equipment.

              Jamie has fond memories of his father, Charles Hodges III, inventing his own version of the dock leveler, an airbag/fan powered unit, in 1993. His father woke him up in the middle of the night to show him a rudimentary  prototype involving a shop vac, a trash bag, and a marble slab, demonstrating the idea. Within two years it became the number one selling push-button operated dock leveler in the United States.


Jamie’s Invention:

              Jamie himself began an attempt at designing his own version of the dock leveler four years ago. Through his experience with his family business, he knows that most mechanical pull chain operated dock-levelers last for only a few years before the ratchet bar hold down mechanism on the leveler begins to fail. The existing hold down mechanisms use pawls and a ratchet bar with teeth broached into it. Over time the teeth chip off or round over causing the dock leveler to jump up unexpectedly, creating a dangerous situation at the loading dock.

              Jamie borrowed a piece of technology from a young engineer and inventor named Andrew Kellem who invented and patented the Kellem Grip, a mechanism similar to the classic children’s toy the “Chinese finger trap.” This grip is often used for cable strain relief and gripping, and Kellem’s original designs were used to pull the suspension cables on the Golden Gate Bridge. The basic premise behind the Kellem Grip is that lateral tensile forces are directly converted into diametrically compressive forces. Or in other words, the more you pull the grip apart, the tighter it constricts on the object inside. When you laterally compress the grip, the opposite happens and the weave expands, releasing the object inside.

               Jamie was able to find a manufacturer of these grips who would custom build one suitable for his hold down requirements.

Custom built Kellem Grip (Chinese Finger Trap)

Custom built Kellem Grip (Chinese Finger Trap)


                 Jamie’s new hold down mechanism costs significantly less to manufacture, weighs 85% less than the old style, and lasts 5-10 times longer. The hold down has been designed as a universal aftermarket replacement part and will fit on virtually every mechanical dock leveler with little to no modification. Installation is as simple as inserting two pins with cotter pins and then hooking a chain link to the dock leveler pull chain.

Caption: Hodges Industrial Universal Hold Down Mechanism

Hodges Industrial Universal Hold Down Mechanism


               He has already sold his product to Under Armour and other local businesses and is excited to expand more soon by doing most of his manufacturing in The Foundery. Check out his website for more information:

Caption: Hodges Industrial Hold Down Installed Under Dock Leveler

Hodges Industrial Hold Down Installed Under Dock Leveler


Jamie Himself:

                Jamie is a mechanical engineer who graduated from the University of Virginia and locally from Gilman School and Calvert School. He lives with his wife, Lexie Love Hodges, who is an IT engineer at Agora Publishing. They recently had a baby girl,  McKenzie, who was born in May. In the Foundery, Jamie takes a break from working on the dock leveler to make a coffee table for his wife as an anniversary present.

The coffee table!


               Jamie and Lexie, along with other members of their family, worked together to start the One Love Foundation to combat relationship violence after it personally affected their family. You can help the cause by going to Come by the Foundery to meet Jamie and learn more about his growing business!

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           A power hammer is a tool that uses electricity and a revolving belt to apply intense, repeated force to shape pieces of hot metal. They’ve been used by blacksmiths, metalworkers, and manufacturers since the late 1880’s. Shortly after its opening, The Foundery purchased a power hammer to use for its classes and open hours. This power hammer has been on a full-circle journey from 1965 to present-day.

          The Foundery’s Power Hammer, the “100 Pound Little Giant,” was originally sold in 1965 to a Baltimore City-owned bus depot called Central Automotive Repair Shop (CARS). This former warehouse on 101 W. Dickman Street is now the current location of City Garage, the building that holds The Foundery.

          In 2008 CARS closed its doors and the city of Baltimore sold the power hammer in an auction to Jason Roberts of Jason Roberts Metalworks in Philadelphia. Mr. Roberts used it for seven years, after which he sold it to a hobbyist blacksmith in Clinton, New Jersey.

          Foundery instructor Sam Salvati heard about the traveling power hammer and tracked down it down. He bought it on behalf of The Foundery and completed a 21 hour rental-van adventure to New Jersey to retrieve it.

          Now it sits back in its original home in 101 W. Dickman Street in The Foundery. It still has its original “City of Baltimore” sticker, which is now preserved with a clear coat of spray paint. It runs just as well as it did in 1965, and you can come in to learn how to use it with one of our blacksmithing classes!

The Foundery Power Hammer

The Little Giant itself!


Foundery power hammer metalwork

Sam Salvati uses the power hammer to shape a hot railroad stake

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