The Company That’s Making Fitness Equipment Cool
Fitness gear hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years. The weights you find in gyms don’t differ too much from their original form. The downside, though, is that sometimes doing the same thing over and over again with the same tools gets pretty boring. Mark Ruddy understands that — after all, he’s the creator of Acme Sledgeworks, a mace and hammer metalworks company built for fitness. These aren’t your typical weights. Ruddy’s company picks up old rebar at construction sites and handcrafts it into maces, sledgehammers and dumbbells. The hefty metal pieces feature a distinct all-black look that is as equally suited to a solid workout as it is to being hung on a wall.
The development of the sledgehammer stemmed from Ruddy’s first venture, Vendetta Deluxe. In 2001, Ruddy combined his love of design and architecture to create the company. “I work with architects and designers doing furniture and architectural elements, [as well as] lighting,” Ruddy says. “It’s really a combination of working with other techs and design firms to focus on what clients need and how we can make it happen.” And it was Vendetta Deluxe that prompted him to start working out of a 2,000-square foot hangar on a private airport in Marin County, California. His job requires a lot of tools — forges, welders, hammers and grinders, to name a few — but the design of the sledgehammer was “really out of necessity and utilizing my craft to make the tools I was building with,” Ruddy explains. “I was making wrenches and varying sizes of hammers, and I had to recycle and reclaim the materials I was using on job sites.” What started as a pet project quickly turned into something larger.
Once people began seeing the unique sledgehammers, Ruddy was continually asked for them. “Then it kind of became a fitness craze with the sledges and maces, so I was approached to make some for that.” From Ruddy’s hangar, he could build them in his spare time — all by hand. But he quickly realized the tools could be so much more than that. “Two years ago, I decided to form a side company that would focus on custom handcrafted sledgehammers, maces and weights.” His very first product was the 20-pound sledge, no small weight to throw around.
Beyond having a product, Ruddy needed a logo and the name. A hand wrapped around a sledge with ACME across the hand’s knuckles, was “something that came together out of trial and error,” but the name was more steeped in history and recognition. Remember the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons that featured loads of mishaps with Acme Corporation goods? The fictional corporation is a “notable and recognizable name” in the industry, according to Ruddy. As for ‘sledgeworks’ — “that’s what we do,” he says. “The original product was a sledge.”
The fitness pieces are made from roughly 80 percent reclaimed rebar, picked up at scrap yards, metal recycling facilities and job sites. And if he’s looking for something to fulfill a vintage request from a client, he’ll hunt around for specific sledgehammer heads. The triads are cast out of iron. Each piece is handmade by Ruddy, so when you order, you’re getting something special.
While the majority of people ordering custom maces and sledges are putting it on the wall or mantle, there are many people that are hooking them onto the back of Peloton bikes or using them for rotational exercises. There’s no playbook with each piece of equipment, but Ruddy re-posts how other trainers and clients elect to use each piece. “It’s really just playing and experimenting,” Ruddy says. “I use kettlebells, so I’ve been utilizing a lot of the function of the kettlebell with the triads.” The larger and longer pieces, like the 50-inch mace is better suited for something like flow exercises.
So, what’s next? Ruddy’s personalized fitness gear already sells nationwide, and he’s beginning to work with more trainers and experts to share how to use the tools. In the meantime, he’s working on apparel, gym and trainer partnerships and a multitude of colors for the sledges, triads and maces. And by the new year, Ruddy hopes to start casting the maces out of iron as well. When a brand continues to sell out of products faster than they can make them, there’s only one way up.