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.
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.
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)
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).
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.”
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.
December 13, 2007
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (http://www.execulink.com/~yohan)