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Blog entry by hunter71 posted 01-04-2010 01:55 PM 1597 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have had some conversation lately with some LJ’s and others about the “Made in China” label that seems to be on everything we touch. Now don’t get me wrong they make some great products, just they make too many of them. This year for Christmas I made quite a few hand-built Trucks, Tractors and Choo Choo’s. I might have sold 1/2 of them. Whinning? no, just realize that Wal-Mart has me beat. The one thing they can’t match me on is my hand-built scaled models. These are not kits, just my measurements and hands. What’s your thoughts?

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

15 comments so far

View David Murray's profile

David Murray

187 posts in 3142 days

#1 posted 01-04-2010 02:20 PM

I hear what your saying, quality seems to take a back seat to price. This has become a throw away society we live in. Heck I got a Porter-Cable drill/saw kit for Christmas and that was made in China, used to be made in Jackson, TN. Hopefully they haven’t sacrificed there quality standards.

-- Dave from "The Sawdust Shed"

View WoodSparky's profile


200 posts in 3129 days

#2 posted 01-04-2010 02:25 PM

The lack of quality of the junk brought in from overseas is what spured me into woodworking.
Cheap is cheap. Some people have figured this out, and this the market I would target.

-- So Many tools, So little time

View PineInTheAsh's profile


404 posts in 3295 days

#3 posted 01-04-2010 02:37 PM

“Wal-Mart has me beat…”

No one has ever got me beat…ever!

Good god man, is that all you can think of is PRICE?


View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4033 days

#4 posted 01-04-2010 02:42 PM

And make no mistake, its getting worse. All this “Going Green” BS is assuring your potential clientele sends more of their hard earned money to giant energy companies who will pay enormous taxes to the govt, and you’ll sell even less toy tractors.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View Rasta's profile


120 posts in 3470 days

#5 posted 01-04-2010 03:50 PM

I buy American whenever possible, that possible is getting harder and harder to come by though as we are sold out by gizmos made in countries with no minimum wage, no osha, and no EPA who are out doing us because of their workers and bussines practices. You read about these people working for 50 cents a day, and we think, how horrible, I wouldn’t do that job for that. It wasn’t that long ago, one or two generations ago that any job that put food on the table was worth getting up and going to, because it took care of our families, not becuase we could buy the most aestheticaly pleasing home or vehicle. It isn’t about what we have it’s the quality of our lives that is important, maybe we should be satisfied with less and concentrate on morals and ethics a bit more. Maybe there will be some good come out of this economic depression, maybe we will be hungry enough to shut up and just get back to work.

-- Roscoe in Iowa

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 3832 days

#6 posted 01-04-2010 04:23 PM

You will never beat Walmart in pricing! You will always beat them in quality of goods and personal service. People who want to pay the lowest price will always go that route and when they come to me and expect me to turn out something for nothing I refuse to lower my standards. There is a small groundswell of people who are starting to realize that items made by crafts people will endure the test of time. I have a small work turning business and it has taken me years to develop a clientele of buyers that have helped to spread the word. The craft community will only survive by staying true to their convictions and by teaching the next generation their skills. There are very few shop classes left in high schools anymore because folks were afraid of the liability. Art classes are one of the first cuts in high school curriculum when money is tight. We are not aggressively giving young people an outlet to artistically express themselves.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View mranum's profile


131 posts in 3444 days

#7 posted 01-04-2010 04:36 PM

Hunter the one thing they can’t touch is a niche. Do they sell cheap toys? Yup, but they can’t sell what you make, the trick is finding the customers for your niche.

I don’t like the “Made in China” anymore than anyone else but I don’t see that changing any time soon especially when they hold the vast majority of our debt. I do try and by USA products as much as possible though, and try and purchase locally as much as possible too. Even in my shop, given the choice of rebuilding/restoring an old USA made tool vs buying a new cheap import, 90% of the time I will choose the old iron to overhaul and put back into service when I can’t justify the cost of a new USA product.

What really makes me nervous though is it seems that the public in general can’t do anything without a gov’t check to go along with it anymore. Such for clunkers, cash for caulk, cash for old appliances, cash for….you name it. Tax rebates I didn’t have a problem with, basically everyone got some of THEIR money back but thats different than whats going on now. That money belongs to you and me…not the gov’t.

Thats my little rant. I’ll crawl back in my hole now.

-- Just remember,it was a lone amatuer that built the ark, and a team of experts built the Titanic.

View FloridaArt's profile


852 posts in 3325 days

#8 posted 01-04-2010 05:17 PM

The difference is mostly labor, and also materials. A factory in China can staff it with labor that approaches our minimum wage in the U.S. And that factory can buy wood in bulk prices that we lone wood workers cannot match. The China factory model works when the design of the item, such as a toy train, is popular with the public. Then the factory can set up jigs and work stations assembly-line style and crank out thousands of them with consistent quality and very inexpensively. A lone wood worker just cannot compete with them.

But with mass production also comes an inattention to the details that distinguish a craftsperson’s talent from a factory produced product. For example, how much time is spent at that China factory inspecting the grain of the wood? Or considering how the glue-ups will disappear in the grain? Or other details that take time?

A wood working “hacker” cannot compete with China. But a master craftsman (or craftswoman) can produce wooden objects that can command a premium price—because they just cannot be replicated in a low cost mass production operation. I can testify that it is not easy to make the leap from hacker to master craftsman. I am not sure if I will ever complete the transition, but I keep trying! Never give up!

-- Art | Bradenton, Florida

View bent's profile


311 posts in 3696 days

#9 posted 01-04-2010 05:31 PM

this topic has come up several times on this site. i don’t remember which forum it was in but someone’s quote really stuck with me. it was in reference to cheap imported goods and went along the lines of, “i can’t compete with them, they can’t compete with me”. i think that really puts the craftsman/import retail competition into perspective. don’t try to compete with walmart, offer something much better and market it as such.

View HenryH's profile


139 posts in 3432 days

#10 posted 01-04-2010 05:58 PM


I agree with most of above. A one person or small wood working shop can not compete with large scale manufacturing whether it is made in China or the USA. It is simple economy of scale.
It sounds like you have a niche for handmade wood toys. Compete against other makers of your product not aginst Walmart.

-- HenryH - PA

View hunter71's profile


3186 posts in 3214 days

#11 posted 01-04-2010 07:34 PM

Trust me, I am not complaining, just commenting on something I think we all are troubled with. I am a woodworker by choice. I do not attempt to make a living from it, and never will. As my signature says ” a child’s smile is payment enough”

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View GaryBuck's profile


268 posts in 3254 days

#12 posted 01-04-2010 08:50 PM

Well I can’t really add anything here that hasn’t already been said. Every one put it well and hit the nail on the head so to speak. I do think the problem has to do with greed and wastefulness, and balance, back when I was a kid if someone was a Millionaire it was WOW. Now there are so many Millionaires and Billionaires It borders on insanity. We have gotten so use to keeping up with the Jones’s it is more economical for people to run to Wal-Mart and get it, forget about quality, look what I got today. The entertainment industry is the worst on balance,, wether it be sports, music, or acting they all make redicuously amounts of money while the mass majority of the people work at what the Government calls poverty level. That covers the greed and balance, now wastefulness it is now no big thing if a T.V. or appliance you bought only last a few to three years. it is the norm because company’s like Wal-Mart and such thrive on your need to come back and buy it again, over and over again. Look on Craigs list perfect example, T,V’s, appliances, stereo’s, all just bought about 2 years ago and needs repair. My thoughts we all need to stop the insanity but i don’t have the answer. Just keep doing what you love and seek out the one’s making and throwing away the big bucks and sell to them I guess. All the rest of us will have to keep feeding the controlers of the world cause that’s all we can afford.

View dbhost's profile


5726 posts in 3259 days

#13 posted 01-04-2010 10:11 PM

The little guy will never compete in the low price, bargain space. You have to have them beat in quality, and have clients willing to pay for quality…

Much of my shop is asian import products, and to be brutally honest, the stuff works fine. HOWEVER, If I had the finances to do it, I would MUCH rather have high end domestic stuff. I know the American made stuff is something I can hand down to kids or grand kids. Most of this asian stuff, not so much…

Actually one of the reasons for me starting into woodworking in the first place beyond the need to create, is the deep in my soul knowing that with some learning and effort, I can make this, that, or the other FAR better than anything I can afford to buy from the store…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4152 days

#14 posted 01-04-2010 11:24 PM

I don’t know what the economics of the way the world is turning are going to be, but I have two trends in my life that may speak to “competing with China” (and I should say that much of my life is working on designs for stuff that’ll get manufactured over there):

First, I’ve started working towards making more of my diet from locally produced food. If you haven’t already done so, I strongly recommend reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, but you also have to look no further than current headlines to realize that treating food as something wrapped in plastic that we buy from the grocery store, without understanding what it takes to bring that food to us, is probably a bad thing.

This isn’t always easy. Some of these things are pretty much commodities, and it’s really hard for me to say “yeah, I should pay three times as much for grain because of non-tangibles”, but I think it goes deeper, to the notion that we need to move beyond money as a means of exchange. It feeds my soul to make human connections with my neighbors, and, yeah, maybe it’s protectionist or provincial or whatever, but spending a little bit of extra money knowing that those dollars are going to people who are drinking out of the same streams I am, to whom I wave when I’m cycling down the road out of town, building those human connections seems like it might pay me back in ways that transcend dollars.

Second, I just spend a few hours in the shop building a better solution for hanging brooms because I’d already probably spent $50 in various generations of hooks and clips and such from the hardware store which didn’t work. Yeah, I could have spent another $20 (or more, the process was escalating…) to pick up a couple of hooks made in China that’d kinda work, but instead I just put the issue to bed, forever, by cutting some maple.

I think the charge for lower and lower prices has reduced prices and functionality to the point where those of us who can build our own solutions find it worthwhile to do so, and sooner or later our neighbors will start asking why our houses work better than theirs…

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View antmjr's profile


262 posts in 3211 days

#15 posted 01-05-2010 12:58 AM

Frankly what bothers me at most, is the fact a Chinese may build and sell an object for, say, 100 euro; then an Italian country fellow comes and buys it, sticks his label on, sometimes with the writing made in Italy kept well in view, and tries to resell the same object to me for, say, 200 euro. Have I to pay 100 euro for a piece of tin with the writing made in Italy on?

I have no problem with Chinese products. I have many problems with my country fellows instead. And maybe with the European fellows too…no, maybe with all the Western fellows.

The Western products of the old days, bought with eBay, are another story…but I admit that it is sad that I – aging 48 – am already looking back nostalgically on the sixties, when I was a kid, or even before.

-- Antonio

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