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National Inventor's Month: Who was Norval Morey?

National Inventor's Month: Who was Norval Morey?

It’s National Inventor’s Month, and in honor of the men and women who work to build their dreams into working machines, new technology, and inventive ways of doing things, we wanted to honor the ingenuity behind Morbark’s 60+ years of innovation, design, and manufacturing.

Morbark, LLC was founded by Norval Morey, or “Nub,” as he was affectionately known to those close to him. But his story starts long before the company began in 1958. Growing up during the Great Depression, young Nub learned that the only way through problems was by inventing new solutions. As a child, he earned his first money providing services for neighboring farms such as picking berries, selling chicks he ordered through a catalog, trapping rats, and hunting crows.

Later, the traditional school classroom proved to be too stifling for Nub’s make-it-happen attitude. He left school after completing the 6th grade, instead helping his dad cut and sell firewood to keep the family farm afloat as the Depression dragged on.

As he grew to adulthood, Nub was drawn to jobs that kept him in the great outdoors, trimming trees for power lines and working as a lumberjack in Idaho and northern California. After returning from service in World War 2, he and his brother began working for a Michigan company, cutting poles and posts from area cedar trees. But, as fate would have it, the job led them down a different path: after becoming frustrated with the low wages, they pooled their money and bought an ax, a saw, and 40 acres of a cedar swamp in order to go into business for themselves. Nub never looked back.

The Morey Brothers Sawmill grew into a success, but the pursuit of ingenuity didn’t stop there. In the 1950s, a friend introduced Nub to Bob Baker, a local machinist with an idea for a machine that automatically peeled the bark from logs, rather than workers laboring over the task by hand. Baker demonstrated a small working model of his tree debarker invention, and Nub was impressed. The men agreed to work together to perfect the design and patent the new technology.

National Inventor's Month: Who was Norval Morey?

Throughout a long, cold winter, Nub, Baker, and several others worked on prototypes of the machine in a little blacksmith shop near his hometown. They would build a working device, try it out, and then bring it back to the shop to tear it apart in an effort to fix what wasn’t working. Four prototypes later, the men came close to completely giving up. Nub’s daily planner reveals what happened next.

October 31: Tried out machine…Did not work at all.
November 1: Changed machine #3. The wheels on top to steel wheels. They didn’t work too good.
November 27: Took machine up to Leo in fornoon, try on green wood, took it to Clare in afternoon. Worked out good.

The men sold the first machine for just under $4,000 in the spring of 1958. Soon after, just as cash was running low, a company in Muskegon ordered five more machines, and sales increased to 43 orders by the end of the year. The Morbark Debarker Company was born.

Over the years, Nub continued to put profits back into the company for research and development, helping it grow and flourish. Today, Morbark, LLC is a multi-million-dollar company, employing hundreds of men and women in manufacturing plants and dealerships around the world.

Even though Nub is gone, his legacy lives on every day here at the Morbark headquarters in Winn, Michigan. Patents for new tree care, biomass, recycling, and manufacturing industry products are always in the works as the demand for new technology increases and as customers’ needs change and evolve.

Even as we look to the future of our industry, we are still inspired by the ingenuity of those who have come before us. As we commemorate National Inventor’s Month, tell us who inspires you on our social media sites.