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Not Made in China

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Blog entry by Manitario posted 01-02-2014 08:40 PM 1565 reads 1 time favorited 39 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So, I started my New Year’s resolution a few months early. For awhile I’ve had a growing concern/discontentment with the fact that the vast majority of products are manufactured in China. Manufacturing quality concerns aside, I simply don’t want the majority of the financial and manufacturing power to go to a country that is not a democracy, has a dismal human rights record, poor to non-existent environmental accountability and an increasingly hostile military presence. The economic reasons for the mass production of products in China have been exhaustingly discussed on LJ’s in the past. Bottom line seems to be that a)manufacturing is cheaper in China, b)cheaper manufacturing means greater profits and ability to offer cheaper goods to consumers which has in many instances boosted sales.

Rather than just complain, or be quietly discontent and not do anything, I decided a few months ago that I would, to the best of my ability stop buying products made in China or Taiwan (which many debate is part of China; Taiwan certainly shares much of the economy/political structure of China). This has made shopping difficult and inconvenient, but not impossible. I’ve found that the vast majority of products are made in China, and not buying “made in China” is often not as simple as buying the product next to it on the store shelf. For example, my wife and I decided it was time for a new slow cooker. All of the seven different brands at our local big box store were made in China. Internet research failed to reveal any slow cookers, either high end or low end that were not made in China. Eventually we got one second hand that is in perfect condition, works well, and was made in the USA.


As this is lumberjocks.com, not slowcookers.com, I’ll talk about woodworking tools. Not surprisingly, most tools are made in China. However, there also are a lot of N. American or European made alternatives that I’ve found with a little bit of internet searching. There are many sites which are devoted to listing products still made in N. America. One of the difficulties has been finding woodworking machinery not made in China or Taiwan. I’m wanting to upgrade my 6” jointer to an 8” or larger and other than some very expensive industrial equipment manufacturers (eg. Felder) there appears to be nothing that is not made in China or Taiwan. This means that I’ll end up buying used, which is ok and probably means I’ll get a better jointer for equal $, but it is not as convenient as eg. placing an order on Grizzly.com and having a new jointer delivered to my door.

This process has highlighted in me my own consumerism: I want what I want and I want it now. Not “made in China” means that for many tools I can’t just run down to the local big box store and buy whatever is on sale. Usually this means a frustrating look at tools at the store, then a bunch of web research, then an online order and a wait for delivery in order to get something not made in China.

Will my actions have any impact on a local, national or global scale? Lol, absolutely not!! However, as nice as that 12” Grizzly jointer looks I can still do what I feel is right and remove myself from being part of the problem.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil



39 comments so far

View BigYin's profile

BigYin

231 posts in 1074 days


#1 posted 01-02-2014 08:50 PM

Scheppach is made in Germany, i have a planer/thicknesser and a saw
in future its all I buy as long as its still made in germany

http://www.scheppach.com/no_cache/en/products/products-overview/categories/werkstatt.html

-- ... Never Apologise For Being Right ...

View Manitario's profile

Manitario

2347 posts in 1541 days


#2 posted 01-02-2014 08:52 PM

cool, thanks! I’ll take a look at Scheppach.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Jake's profile

Jake

302 posts in 289 days


#3 posted 01-02-2014 09:27 PM

How is Scheppach quality compared to Makita and Metabo? I ntoiced the brand while I was windowshopping for my tools, and thye are quite expensive and I did not know how they compare.

For example, I had my eye on this planer: http://www.scheppach.com/en/products/single-view/categories/hobelmaschinen-2/products/solo-hobelmaschine-hms-2600-ci/backPID/produktuebersicht.html?cHash=befe32c4bc
But it would cost me 2500 USD (2000 EUR) There’s also a tabletop version which would cost considerably less, at 350 EUR, roughly 440 USD. But I am not sure if they are worth their price?

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5385 posts in 1890 days


#4 posted 01-02-2014 09:45 PM

Just as a historical point of interest. It was the Unions manufacturing capacity during the U.S. civil war that was the major deciding factor, and again in World War 1 and World War 2… What would be the outcome if there were a major conflict between China and the U.S.?

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View Manitario's profile

Manitario

2347 posts in 1541 days


#5 posted 01-02-2014 09:51 PM

dbhost: exactly.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View cancharanay's profile

cancharanay

57 posts in 393 days


#6 posted 01-02-2014 10:14 PM

I hope you do not take this wrong, but I find it amazing how the view absolutament depends on where your feet stand.

best regards and happy new year!

-- Cancharanay, Exaltación de la Cruz, Argentina

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile

kaerlighedsbamsen

508 posts in 371 days


#7 posted 01-02-2014 10:30 PM

Interesting project that i really appreciate!

Just a note:
Im not so sure about Sheppach bing entirely german made. Have for instance seen this saw with a lot of names on it: http://www.scheppach.com/de/produkte/einzelansicht/products/tauchsaege-cs-55-inkl-zubehoer/backPID/maschine-des-monats.html?cHash=bedeaf3ef7
Here for instance: http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/videos/grizzly-track-saw-review/
Now i a not saying it is poor quality. A lot of companies let others do the production while doing the quality control them selves and then put a sticker on. Nothing wrong with that.
Festool, Scheer, Mafell IS on the other han german made. I have no knowledge about the larger machines.

Let us posted on your progess on non-china-made gear!

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View KS_Sparky's profile

KS_Sparky

26 posts in 281 days


#8 posted 01-02-2014 10:31 PM

Thanks for the post and for your economic considerations. I have been on a similar journey. My eyes were opened when I started my apprenticeship. Many union workers tend to try to buy American made and some will chastise other brothers who do not. While I do not agree with the holier than thou attitude, I am grateful that it forced me to pay attention to my purchase habits. Now I try to buy locally from small retailers (not always possible) and I try to buy American made (usually possible, but as you pointed out you often have to get creative). I also try to buy union made goods, but that is extremely difficult and generally not successful..

I think it is great that you are following your conscience, even when no immediate alternatives are available. I think our nation’s economy would be a lot better if everyone even just paid attention to the products they buy. But it is hard. In the meantime, you do your part and I’ll keep doing mine.

-- apprentice Electrician, IBEW L.U. 226

View johnhutchinson's profile

johnhutchinson

628 posts in 287 days


#9 posted 01-02-2014 11:17 PM

EXTREMELY well-written piece, Manitario!
About a month ago, I saw a PBS documentary titled Christmas Without China. In it, a family agreed to remove everything from their house that had been made in China, and purchase no ornaments or toys for their children with an Asian label. It was sobering to see how dependent we’ve become. All of the Christmas displays that we take are families to see are actually a celebration of Chinese labor.
What I’m finding ironic about woodworkers looking for more and more American-made tools is their need for more and more tools. Maybe Norm’s to blame because he told us that we ALL need his shop. My “perfect world” is one where we have more communal shops. I’ve found that I can use no more than two of my twenty power tools at a time.

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View poopiekat's profile

poopiekat

3634 posts in 2392 days


#10 posted 01-03-2014 12:18 AM

Here’s an editorial piece looking at the same issue from a different angle:

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41349653/ns/business-us_business/t/despite-chinas-might-us-factories-maintain-edge/#.UsYBm2uA1dg

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View Dark_Lightning's profile

Dark_Lightning

1723 posts in 1767 days


#11 posted 01-03-2014 01:07 AM

Dark factories (automation) have taken more jobs from the US than China. And some companies are “re-shoring” after discovering that the lower priced labor isn’t all that much lower (as happened with Japan many decades ago) and rising, poor quality, long turn-around time, and the real kicker, poisons in the products (sulfur in drywall, melamine in candy, ethylene glycol as a sweetener instead of glycerin). Guess I’d better build a stockpile of wooden toys for my prospective grandchildren so they can’t eat cadmium or lead off them.

I managed to buy an old table saw from Loren. Cast iron and dead flat on top, looks to be 50+ years old.

I’ll try to look harder for home made products, as well.

Also, we slow cook dinner in a skillet at low heat, it doesn’t only require an electric cooker. Not a criticism, just another take on it.

View Manitario's profile

Manitario

2347 posts in 1541 days


#12 posted 01-03-2014 01:17 AM

interesting read poopiekat. I agree that N. America is still the leader in manufacturing and is absolutely the leader in skilled/technical manufacturing, thankfully. I don’t have a big problem with the non-skilled manufacturing jobs being exported out of N. America, especially if it encourages skilled production here. I do have a problem with the manufacturing being exported to a non-democratic country with limited human or environmental regard and a growing military power.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View oldnovice's profile

oldnovice

3769 posts in 2025 days


#13 posted 01-03-2014 02:16 AM

I read the article that poopiekat linked and I have never believed that we had lost our manufacturing position in the world but I never had the difinitive proof as this article points out.

When I was still working in high tech there were/are still some products that cannot be sent overseas, anywhere, for manufacturing purposes and, in some cases, even for application. These are the kind of products that have technology that is to be kept in the U.S. and require highly skilled workers as the article supports. It will take some time before high skilled jobs become the norm in China (as they have in Japan) and all that time the skill level will continue to increase!

Counterfeited products are my main concern! As that is a double whammy for any company!

Would I buy a brand name drill made in China, possibly … would I suggest a pacemaker or replacement joint for a friend/relative, definitely not! The same goes for food products, human and pet, after the melamine milk and near poisonous dog food incidents.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

3664 posts in 1822 days


#14 posted 01-03-2014 02:32 AM

I suspect China is more dependent on us, then we are on them. But anything more than that statement is above my economics educational level, and note the modifier “suspect”........(-:

There has definitely been a shift to coming back to the US and Canada (I am assuming about Canada) just as noted, for stability, predictability, and turn around time. This I glean from the business and tech news. The big deal is, right now, human labor in China is cheaper than using robots, with their highly skilled, and more educated controlling labor here in the USA. But I think that is changing.

One thing that definitely needs to happen, is for more young people to get associates degrees and invest time in learning the trades. Many people are happier there, and do better financially as well. There are examples in my extended family to prove the point, at least to me. You don’t need a college degree for many of the techie jobs in the factories, but you need discipline and skills. I find in my arena, medical, the military is one area for people to gain the discipline and skills to perform more demanding jobs. The associates degrees and the trades may do as well.

Refocusing young people, many of whom get a mediocre four year college degree and can’t find a job, will be a sea change. Our society has always emphasized the full college degree, but a change needs to happen.

In the meantime, since I am slowly entering that point in my career where I am winding down, belatedly, but watching money a little more closely, I will continue, for some of my purchases, to buy where the value is. I won’t try to make a point, like you, Mantario. I am starting to see retirement a possibility in the next 5 years…......it may be pertinent to note that I was born in 1941 and remember rationing in WWII.

But I respect your point, and my wife and I manage our purchases in many venues, consistent with the principals you have put forth.

The “Made in China” thing is going to be a moment in history where people in the first world countries could get tremendous value for their dollar, and for those of lesser means that is a critical part of their life. My parents lost everything in the depression and I grew up quite poor monetarily, but full of aspirations. I understand the needs of the average person. Of course, we are now seeing the displacement of the workforce from the “made elsewhere” phenomenon, and that underscores my previous comments.

I spent a couple of years in Taiwan in the late ‘60’s, in the military. They were extraordinarily industrious as a people….......I am not sure I would totally lump them with the mainland Chinese.

So, yup I agree with your endeavor, and Sherie and I try to do much of the same thing, just not in an exclusionary way….....

Have a good 2014….........my how the years do fly along…............

Jim

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View oldnovice's profile

oldnovice

3769 posts in 2025 days


#15 posted 01-03-2014 03:00 AM

Jim, you are correct about some coming back to the U.S. as Apple is doing because of the bad press they are getting about the work conditions of the workers in the China factory and the fact to increase production in China means adding more labor as opposed to the automated facility they are building in the U.S.! The automated facility will require a workers of a different set of high tech skills!

I also read about some furniture manufactures still having high volume piece parts still made in China but lower volume pieces are being moved back to the southern states because of quality issues, throwing away too many badly made parts. Assembly of furniture has also been moving back because of shipping cost for assembled pieces.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

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