Chattanooga, Tenn., Local 175 wireman and inventor Steven Hood, center, with Business Manager Gary Watkins, left, and President Danny Painter.

Steven Hood has worked for nearly a quarter of a century as an industrial electrician, so he’s seen his share of co-workers on jobs getting frustrated when friction would cause their drill bits and saw blades to stop cutting, seize up or snap.

Chattanooga, Tenn., Local 175’s Steven Hood demonstrates how to use his invention on a drill bit.

“People were using all kinds of crazy stuff to keep them from burning up — even mustard,” the member of Chattanooga, Tenn., Local 175 said with a laugh. “I had never invented anything in my life, but I thought there just had to be a better way.”

In his spare time, Hood brainstormed ideas for effective lubricants with a chemical engineer friend of his. “I just kept messing with stuff over the years,” he said, coming up with and tweaking more than a dozen different formulas. “We’ve cut about 400,000 holes through just about every metal possible.”

Eventually, the electrician landed on an oil-free and environmentally safe lubricant he dubbed “Triple-S.” While that stands for “stainless saw saver,” Hood said that his invention works on every make of steel saw blade and drill bit.

A person simply sprays on Triple-S, he said, to create a heat-dispersing film that reduces the potential for shearing. “It can help our folks make clean, even cuts so they can get the job done right the first time,” Hood said. “Regular application can help an electrician save $40-$45 on the cost of replacing a burnt-up drill or saw.”

Triple-S also has the advantage of not being as smelly or messy as the more traditional cutting fluids that contain pungent chlorine or phosphorus, he said. “Most of those are oil-based,” Hood said. “Nobody in the world makes something like this.”

Once he was satisfied with his formula, Hood made small batches of Triple-S out of his home and then simply gave away bottles of it to co-workers and others who asked for it. Inventing the lubricant wasn’t about making money, he said.

“I already have a comfortable and secure union job,” said Hood, who works for Chattanooga-based Adman Electric, a member of the East Tennessee chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association. “They’re great people and I enjoy working for them,” he said.

Over time, Hood estimates that several hundred people have used Triple-S, and a lot of those satisfied customers would ask him why he wasn’t charging them for it. In June, he finally decided to give selling it a go, moving his manufacturing effort to a three-bay garage in suburban Chattanooga — “a nice, wide-open set-up” — and he applied for a business license and a patent.

Since then, and with help from his family, Hood has been spending evenings and weekends ramping up Triple-S production, filling thousands of 8-ounce plastic squirt bottles. His goal has been to package about 20,000 cases each month — 12 bottles per case, packaged with a product datasheet and able to be ordered in large quantities for industrial companies.

Of course, Hood would prefer to be demonstrating Triple-S at industry conventions and trade shows, but like a lot of people in the era of COVID-19, he’s had to trade face-to-face meetings for online demos via video conferencing. He’s also been getting the word out via phone calls, a new website, and old-fashioned word-of-mouth. His efforts seem to be paying off: Hood said he has been in talks with national distributors, retail outlets and suppliers.

Hood said Local 175 Business Manager Gary Watkins and Adman CEO Joe Gibson and President Caleb Wynn have been “very supportive” of his Triple-S venture.

“He is a great example of how hard work pays off,” Watkins said. “We are very proud of him and for him.”

And although Hood has settled on a winning formula for his invention, he hasn’t stopped tinkering with it, he said.

“Each new project is an opportunity for me to learn something different and to expand the offerings,” he said. “We’ve recently been working on a foam, like shaving cream, for vertical cuts, where it will not run off the cutting surface.”

Ultimately, Hood dreams of setting up an automated bottling and distribution system for Triple-S in a larger warehouse space in Chattanooga. And if this side hustle of his ends up taking off in a big way, Hood said he would like to stay on at Adman while hiring people to help him out with Triple-S. Of course, his facility would become an IBEW shop, he said.

“I love the electrical trade, and the IBEW has been good to me,” said the third-generation member. “My career is what’s given me the freedom to tinker like this, and I’ve always imagined I would retire from it one day.”

Learn more about Triple-S.