Varflex: 100 Years in Electrical Insulating Sleeving

Like any great company, it started with not much more than a dream and a lot of hard work and ambition. In 1924 radios were starting to be produced in the US, so two brothers Charles A. & R. Harry Jenny and their brother-in-law James E. Griffin from Rome, New York saw a need for the United States to begin manufacturing what use to be known as “spaghetti tubing,” only being produced in Germany at the time. On May 24, 1924, Varflex Corporation was born: the “var” standing for varnished and the “flex” standing for flexible.

The original Varflex operation was set up in a small room, adjoining an auto repair garage owned by Charle A. Jenny and James E. Griffin. For about fifteen years, the partners worked part time between Varflex and auto repair, they grew slowly but large enough to push auto repair onto the streets. Fiberglass was slowly becoming available in yarn form, not yet being produced to any great extent. At this time, cotton was still the main source of protecting wires until the 1960s.

In 1939, Varflex was the pioneering company to produce fiberglass sleeving and displayed at the New York World’s Fair next to a model wearing a dress made of fiberglass cloth produced by Owens- Corning. In 1940, Charles A. Jenny and James E. Griffin assumed full ownership of the company and from there it was a story of steady and healthy expansion. Tragedy struck in January 1942, just two days after completing an office expansion, when a devastating fire broke out and destroyed the entire plant. The fire was believed to have started due to spontaneous combustion in a heap of freshly saturated cotton sleeving.

Fortunately, several months earlier, Varflex acquired a textile plant that was used to store braiding machines. Varflex currently has four of their oldest New England Butt braiders still in operation today dating back to 1931. The legacy of the company continued with the next generation of Griffins, Dorothy and Bill Griffin. Dorothy left teaching in 1941 and worked her remaining life at Varflex until the age of 100, passing in 2015. After attaining rank of Aviation Ordnance Man Second Class, Bill was honorably discharged from the US Navy and returned home where he worked for the family-owned company, later becoming Vice President until his passing in 2019. Dorothy and Bill were pillars of the Rome community. Their legacy lives on through Varflex and The Griffin Charitable Foundation.

 Electrical insulating sleeving is vital in numerous industries to protect wires and cables from fluctuating temperatures, dielectric protection, abrasion resistances, and caustic environments.  Varflex provides a variety of products, not limited to electrical insulating sleeving. They offer products such as twisting and plying high-performance fibers, braider packages, and custom overbraiding for wires and cables. Varflex offers insulating sleeving options in different sizes, colors, coils, cut lengths, or on spools. The company excels in providing various coatings for electrical insulating sleeving, including options like Viton 231®, Silicone Rubbers, Resin 500, Acrylics, and more. This dedication to innovation and customization allows Varflex to cater to a diverse clientele with unique requirements, ensuring that they remain a trusted partner in the industry. Some of the company’s greatest recognitions for sleeving innovation came because of its efforts on the proximity fuse during World War II. During this time, Varflex developed sleeving for vital roles in multiple aircrafts and electrical equipment for the United States Armed Forces, as well as electrical insulating sleeving for radios, radar equipment, dynamotors, aircraft generators and electrical apparatus used by the United States Navy.

Varflex serves a wide array of industries, including wire harnesses, motors and generator manufactures, aerospace, automobile manufacturing, transformers, heating and cooling products, electronics, and lighting equipment just to name a few. Engaging in marketing initiatives such as tradeshows and online exposure, Varflex attracts and develops new business opportunities, but the most significant sales come from long-term customer relationships. Varflex’s commitment to fostering strong customer relationships has proven to be the cornerstone of their success in the competitive market landscape. By prioritizing personalized interactions and tailored solutions for their valued clients, the company has not only retained their existing customer base but also managed to attract new business opportunities through word-of-mouth recommendations and participation in tradeshows. The recent technological advancements and strategic marketing efforts, including a revamped website and online presence, have further solidified Varflex’s position as an industry leader. The company’s proactive approach to addressing challenges, such as equipment upgrades and personnel management, demonstrates their dedication to continuous improvement and product innovation. With a strong focus on customer satisfaction and adaptability to changing market dynamics, Varflex takes pride in under a 2% scrap rate produced and 97.9% on time deliveries.

Approximately a decade ago, Varflex acquired a second facility spanning over 60,000 square feet to enhance twisting and plying operations. Varflex excels in high-performance fibers such as Fiberglass, Nylon, Nomex®, Kevlar®, Basalt, Spectra, Sewing Thread and more. Their twisting and plying facility manufactures these fibers for a wide range of products, from fishing line and micro rope to medical devices, shoelaces and more. Customers have the option to purchase fibers and Varflex will customize a twisting and plying package to meet their specific needs.

The growth and success of the company are a testament to the dedication and hard work of everyone involved. What began as a small family-owned operation has now become a thriving business that continues to evolve and adapts to meet the needs of its customers. With a team of 150 employees and facilities spanning over 200,000 square feet, the company is well positioned for continued success in the future. The commitment to quality, innovation, and customer satisfaction has been the driving force behind this remarkable journey of Varflex’s growth and expansion. Varflex celebrates a century of manufacturing electrical insulating sleeving this May.

For questions or quotes please contact our sales team at [email protected] or by calling 315.336.4400.