POWELL BUTTE, Ore.—With studded tires being increasingly banned from the roads, inventor James Scheller has what he believes is the ideal alternative: Garnets.
A semi-precious silicate stone that comes in a range of colors, garnets are best known for use in costume jewelry, especially when the stones are red.
However, Scheller—owner of Garnetread, a business based in Powell Butte—has long championed industrial-grade garnets as a way to greatly improve tire traction and control when added to tread rubber, without the damage to road surfaces that studs can cause.
In April 1978, Scheller obtained a patent on the Garnetread technology, and applied in April 2019 for a second patent that includes a formula to improve the adhesion of garnets to tread rubber.
"The garnets become part of the tire itself," Scheller said. "Testing shows less wear on pavement and concrete and better traction and stopping distances than (with) regular rubber and studs."
According to Scheller, he got the idea for Garnetread after he graduated from Washington State University and was driving a truck for his family business.
At that time, he met John Cook, a professor emeritus and research engineer at WSU. Cook was working on a technology to add industrial-grade garnets to paving materials to resist damage from tire studs, and Scheller—who had extensive experience with driving a truck over icy and snow-covered roads—thought that adding garnets to tread rubber would create a tire with excellent traction that would not damage roads.
Tires made with Garnetread have been independently tested by WSU on dry, wet, snowy and icy pavements, according to the Garnetread website. They also have been tested by the U.S. Department of Transportation and by other independent testing groups in Washington and Oregon, it said.