“I have been inventing things my whole life,” said life-long New Mexico resident and inventor Phil Archuletta. He recently acquired his sixth patent after developing a new sign for the state transportation department.
Archuletta said he was approached by the state Department of Transportation, about a “national problem” that all hinged road “flip” signs have been having across the country.
Archuletta said flip signs, like weigh station signs along interstates, all have hinged panels that display whether or not the station is open. He said because these signs have mechanisms with ropes and winches, over time the wind moves them and the hinges break.
“The DOT know I have a lot of inventions and patents,” he said, adding that he got to work on the problem right after he was contacted, and developed a message sign that can flip the message with magnets.
There are hinges on each side and with the help of magnets they don’t get moved by the wind. He said he made a prototype and the DOT bought three of them to try right away in Costilla and Vaughn. Soon afterwards he went to work on getting a patent for the invention. Three weeks ago he acquired the new patent.
“I’m looking forward to seeing if they will use them all over New Mexico and I am hoping other states will want the magnetized flip signs,” said Archuletta.
Archuletta is also a local business owner. He owns P&M Signs in Mountainair. He is also an author and historian—and in addition, he makes the Historical Markers signs found all over the state.
“My first patent was called a Tuffnut,” he said, explaining, “It was invented for the U.S. Forest Service for bolting signs.” He said the only hardware that was available at the time were either regular nuts and bolts, or nuts that required a specialty tool.
He said the Forest Service wanted something that didn’t need a special tool that was also designed to deter stealing. He said after he developed the Tuffnut, which was a hit and is now manufactured and distributed all over the country.
In the 80s, Archuletta developed his second patent, which is called a still foundation cattle guard. He said at that time the only cattle guards in the country were concrete cattle guards.
The Forest Service asked him to redesign the cattle guard and he got to work. He developed a steel foundation that required no hardware and relies on gravity to stay together. After he completed his project and got the patent and it became the state standard for cattle guards. “If you have ever seen the all yellow cattle guards around New Mexico, that’s my patent.” He said they are manufactured in Corona and Belen and sent around the country.
Archuletta also has three patents on plastic-wood composite. He said he was working in a federal laboratory in Wisconsin, developing plastic lumber for making decks. He said because of the type of laboratory he was working in he wasn’t able to hold onto his work.
Archuletta is originally from El Rito, one of the oldest Spanish settlements of Northern New Mexico, in Rio Arriba County, where he lived there until the 90s.
“I made a mistake in 1990,” he said, explaining how he ran against Bill Richardson for a seat in Congress, representing District 3. He had 34% of the votes, losing the election.
In the end, Archuletta said he lost a lot more than an election. He said the decision to run put him at odds with his family and business partners. He also ended up divorced. He arrived in Mountainair with $300 in his pocket and plans to start over.
He started a business called P&M Signs with a lot of experience. “I have been manufacturing signs for the U.S. Forest Service since the 1970s,” he said.
In addition to making all the Forest Service signs in the state, his company also makes “about 70% of the signs for the DOT” and other agencies in the country, including Game and Fish, Homeland Security and the United States Military.
Archuletta said that he has been very involved in the areas politics as part of the Torrance County Republican party and in various ways including participation in the Rotary Club, and being in the town council. He said in addition to his business, which includes a crew of nine people, he also owns “about a third of the town.”
“I’ve come a long way and I am sometimes astonished by the road I have traveled,” he said.