CJ Jones has been a self-described “motor head” his whole life.
“I’ve built cars, raced cars, torn them apart and put them back together again,” he says. “And now I collect them.”
It was his love of the automotive industry that led to the opening of his metal works business in North Topeka, Kansas in the early 1980s. It was at times fulfilling and fun, but it was also very hard with ups and downs, and the Jones family endured tough times,
In the late 90’s when CJ’s son, John Jones, was attending college, he had every intention of becoming a stock broker. As a finance major, he had his career mapped out, but after one day on the job, he realized it wasn’t for him.
“There was a lot of cold calling and selling involved.”
He called his dad and said “This isn’t for me” and CJ asked him to join him at Metal Works. And that was a turning point for the business. It was also at that time they were asked to repair a dredge.
dredge /drej/ noun: an apparatus for bringing up objects or mud from a river or seabed by scooping or dragging
They did such a good job on the project, the customer asked if they could build a dredge from scratch. They did. And Custom Dredge Works (CDW) was born. Since that time, CDW has grown into one of the country’s leading manufacturers of state-of-the-art dredges.
“We needed a niche. And dredges became our niche,” says John.
CDW has been a faithful Cat® customer for decades, but they got their start using a dredge equipped with a competitor’s engine. “We had to jump through a lot of hoops with them.”
So they contacted their local Cat dealer, Foley Cat, who – together with Caterpillar – have been providing industrial engines to CDW since dredge #2 was manufactured in the early 2000s.
“They work with us to provide the engine we need for the specific dredge,” says John. “Our dredges are located around the world, so we rely on the Cat dealer network for service and parts.”
CDW began building about two dredges a year, and now they’re up to eight. The goal is 12 a year, and that’s within the foreseeable future.
“People ask why and how are we building dredges in Kansas? My response is simple, it’s home.”
Watch and learn more about the history of Custom Dredge Works, and its impact on the dredging industry and Topeka area.