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MsDebbieP's Company Tours #16: General

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Blog entry by MsDebbieP posted 12-13-2007 06:26 PM 1780 reads 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 15: Sawstop Part 16 of MsDebbieP's Company Tours series Part 17: Barry Wixey Development »

Earlier this fall, I attended the Toronto Woodworking Machinery Expo (see blog) and one of the representatives that I had the pleasure of speaking with was Norman Framton, the Sales/Marketing rep from General.

This week, I connected with Norman by phone and we talked further about the company and product lines.

History
General Manufacturing is in its 61st year of business and is based in Drummondville, Quebec. With a foundry just down the road, they are able to produce their Canadian-made line of equipment locally. The target group for the “General” line of equipment are educational shops and industrial settings, built to take a lot of wear and tear and heavy use.

With a firm market in Canada, built up over their years in business, there has been a steady growth in the U.S. market in more recent years.

Then, in 1996, they opened a second line of equipment, aimed at small shops and hobbyists. This line, General International, is made overseas.

In 2005, General took over “Excalibur” and now incorporates the products in their General International line of equipment.

The Future
With an eye to the future, the company aims to continue to find new and innovative ways to do things as well as develop new concepts such as their hover pad and adapting their equipment for people in wheelchairs. They also will continue to remain true to their roots and provide good quality products.

At the wood show in Toronto, I was able to try out the hover pad and had some fun moving the big machine around with just a finger or two. Here, I try to move it without the aid of the hover pad.

The Access Line
The Access line (adapted to use seated or by those of us who are short in stature) includes a 15” drill press, an 8” jointer, a 15” bandsaw, a 10” tilting arbor saw, and a 16” wood lathe. These products are currently made in Quebec and the future holds more equipment in both their General line and General International.

When asked how this line came about, Norman said that they had been asked several times at wood shows why there wasn’t equipment made for people in wheelchairs and when the question was raised at a company meeting, the response was “why don’t we?”

Last spring they started the process and after the holidays they will be in full production.

Equipment adaption includes a basic lowering of the work area, to adapting the clearance level under the table surfaces and moving the location of on/off switches for convenience and safety issues. (See jointer below)

Favourite Equipment
As always, I am curious about what the “interviewee’s” favourite piece of equipment is. Norman’s is the 350 Cabinet Saw. This holds a special place in his heart because it was the first quality tool he worked on when he first took some woodworking courses. He was so impressed with the quality and precision and it started his journey towards his involvement with the General company.

What Makes the Company Unique
General is one of the few companies who manufacture their own products and are located in North America. This gives them good control over the product from design right through to using the equipment. With this process, they have “hands-on” testing from start to finish.

They are then able to transfer their knowledge developed through the many years of experience at General to their company overseas, General International.

Following a discussion about off-shore manufacturing, Norman stated that they are very proud of both their Canadian-made equipment and that of General International and the tools are clearly marked as to where they were made. (The Canadian made products have a red maple leaf or Canadian flag emblem attached to their logo).

Misconceptions
One thing that Norman finds interesting, with having the Canadian made and the overseas-made lines of tools, is how the two lines sometimes get compared.

The Canadian-made General Line is built to withstand rough and tough use. It is aimed at locations where it will be used by many different people throughout the day. This is their high-end line of tools. The General International line is made for shops where the equipment won’t be put to the same wear and tear.

Compare the two lines and the General International line is not “high end”, but when compared to other overseas products the quality takes a front seat.

Tips for LumberJocks
Whenever Norman gets asked for advice on purchasing tools, he always recommends the same thing: “buy the best that you can afford and buy slightly more than you think you will need. As your skills grow you will grow “into” the tool purchase rather than regretting your investment.”

Thank You
I’d like to thank Norman for taking the time to speak with me, both at the wood show and over the phone this week. I enjoy getting a behind-the-scenes look at the company and perhaps one day I’ll take a trip to Drummondville and see the plant first hand.

~MsDebbieP
December 13, 2007

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)



18 comments so far

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 2529 days


#1 posted 12-13-2007 06:47 PM

I had a General table saw and a General dual drum sander. Very good machinery, excellent support. I couldn’t afford to replace them, but I sure miss those machines.

-- http://www.peteroxley.com -- http://north40studios.etsy.com --

View Zuki's profile

Zuki

1404 posts in 2731 days


#2 posted 12-14-2007 01:57 AM

I like the fact that they have a line made in NA. I was into a local supplier of General and noticed that their NA models are not priced “out of wack” . . . but they are a little more than the off shore stuff.

I believe that in the 2008 WWing tool review, or was it PW . . . they tested one of their Table Saws and it had a digital readout. Neat.

Im thinking the the access line will be a hit. I was watching a show some time ago about this guy in a wheelchair who had to make extensive modifications to his shop so that he could wood work.

I believe Mot has one of those Excalibur blade guards for his TS.

-- BLOG - http://www.colorfulcanary.com/search/label/Zuki

View Karson's profile (online now)

Karson

34876 posts in 3055 days


#3 posted 12-14-2007 06:21 AM

Great Job Debbie. Nice to know the history of General.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Blake's profile

Blake

3437 posts in 2529 days


#4 posted 12-14-2007 08:36 AM

I have often wondered about woodshop wheelchair access. It’s neat that someone is doing that. Thanks for the tour.

-- Happy woodworking! http://www.openarmsphotography.com

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2815 days


#5 posted 12-14-2007 11:48 AM

I think the Access line is brilliant. I listen to the stories from people who say they can’t stand in their shop for long periods – that it’s too hard on their legs/backs etc.. .and think that the option to sit should really relieve a lot of pressure on the body.

If I ever get serious about this woodworking stuff (and good at something lol) I might want to invest in certain pieces for my golden years.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View daltxguy's profile

daltxguy

1373 posts in 2568 days


#6 posted 08-20-2008 07:47 AM

Yeah! Drummondville and General. Drummondville is my hometown – that’s where I was born, way back when in the last century. Another fine woodworking industry is ( I assume it still is) also based there – Canadien hockey sticks. Maybe this is how I got the woodworking bug.

I’ve love to own some General equipment – but I wasn’t smart enough to buy it when I was still living in Canada – well, truth be told, I couldn’t afford it then. Now, it’s too friggin’ far to ship it to New Zealand…but I remember using these at Algonquin College in Ottawa and they were indeed industrially built and a beaut to work with. Drool.

Too bad about the international line – I think it just causes confusion and dilutes the image of the quality stuff that still bears the maple leaf. The access line sounds cool. Now, how about some tools that you can use lying down, so I can continue woodworking through the night?

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2815 days


#7 posted 08-20-2008 12:23 PM

that’s funny… lying down on the job :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Grumpy's profile

Grumpy

19455 posts in 2505 days


#8 posted 08-21-2008 12:33 AM

Well done MsDebbie & a good tip given on buying tools.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2815 days


#9 posted 08-21-2008 12:51 PM

yes, that is a good tip, isn’t it!! For anything actually—are skills will grow so buy for that level

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 2954 days


#10 posted 08-21-2008 03:06 PM

Another great tour Debbie!

This reminded me about a large General cabinet saw my son in Arkansas bought for ,$50.

He seems to always find deals like this. I call him ”Trader Horn.”

This was over twenty years ago.

He thought it was under powered, it would slow down while cutting just about anything.

When I was visiting him, I checked it out. I found it had dual belt pulleys,

& whoever had it before him, had replaced only one of the belts,

so I bought a set of matched belts, & it worked like a charm.

I sure wish I had a truck at the time, Darn! because I’d have hauled it back to MN.

He ended up selling it to a friend of his who had a cabinet shop.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2815 days


#11 posted 08-21-2008 04:53 PM

$50 .. that’s quite the deal

I wonder how many things go to the dump just because someone doesn’t know what the simple problem/solution is.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 2954 days


#12 posted 08-21-2008 05:15 PM

I got a brand new power mower a guy who threw it away, because he hit a stump, & thought it was totaled.

I brought it home, replaced a shear key on the flywheel. About a 25 cent repair job.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2815 days


#13 posted 08-21-2008 09:04 PM

oh how wonderful it must be to be so handy!!!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 2954 days


#14 posted 08-21-2008 11:26 PM

A lot of people have thrown away lawnmowers, without knowing about the shear key.

The timing goes all of whack, & it will never start. It’s a safety feature to prevent major damage.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2815 days


#15 posted 08-22-2008 12:02 AM

In my career, I fix “kids”.. it’s sad how many of those are tossed aside as well… when just a little tender loving care makes all the difference in the world :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

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