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My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer #547: How Can I Recommend Something That I Don't Believe In?

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 859 days ago 1608 reads 1 time favorited 38 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 546: I Do Believe That Enjoying Life is the Secret to Keeping Creative Part 547 of My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer series Part 548: Thanks for the Great Responses Yesterday! »

I like to try to participate in several different forums as time permits. Since I work here at home and live in a rather remote area, much of my socialization and networking depends on computers and forums such as these, as well as customer feedback.

Lately, with the holidays approaching, I have been asked several times which scroll saw I would recommend. Although it may seem like it would be an easy questions, it isn’t as easy as one would think.

Most of you who know me and read on a regular basis know that I have recently moved up to an Excalibur scroll saw. Before upgrading this past March, I had a DeWalt saw which I used and recommended for almost fifteen years. When it started to show signs of wear, I knew it was time for me to start looking into my options.

I had always thought that when the time came, I would just purchase another DeWalt saw. After all, the one I had served me well and even though I don’t do production type work on it, it was relatively problem free for all of those years. However through reading on the forums, friends and customers, I was hearing a lot about the decline of both the quality and customer service that was offered on these saws. In the few months before I was to make my purchase, I had heard of several instances of faulty saws and little response from the customer service department. For the first time I really felt bad because I had recommended that saw to those who asked.

As time passed, the stories multiplied. Some who got the saw had problems right from the beginning. In doing some research, I found that the newer “Type 2” DeWalt saws were over ten pounds lighter than the older “Type 1” models. It was just one indicator of many of the short cuts being made in manufacturing these saws. I decided to look to something else.

As you know, I went with the Excalibur saw. I had heard from many customers as well as woodworking friends and designers not only how much they liked the saw, but how good the customer service was if they were to have a problem. The cost was a bit higher than the DeWalt, but with the scroll saw being the heart of my business, after much thought I decided to give it a try.

I am happy to say that I have been very satisfied with my choice. Both my partner Keith and I feel that we have never cut better and are very pleased that we chose to go with the more expensive saw.

Now comes the dilemma:

Of the requests that I receive for a recommendation, many customers want me to recommend a saw in a given price range. Most of them only wish to spend $200 to $300 for a scroll saw and don’t want to spend more than that. The problem that I am having is that most of the lower end saws have many problems with them. They either vibrate or the blade changes are difficult or they are overall poor quality. For any of you who scroll saw, you realize that these things are very important and can affect the overall outcome of your projects. Not to mention the frustration of dealing with the aforementioned problems.

Since I ‘grew up’ with my DeWalt saw, I haven’t had much experience with these lower end machines. Many of them are manufactured in the same plant, even though they have different labels on them. From what I hear from others, one is not really much better than the other in overall performance and they all have issues.

How then could I in good conscience recommend someone to spend their money on something like this?

When trying to explain this to customers and people, I feel like I am sometimes construed as being a snob and not understanding that people have limited means. Nothing could be further from the truth. I, myself grew up with very limited means and I learned to take care of my things and fix things before throwing them out and purchasing new ones. I am still not in a position financially where I don’t carefully consider prices of what I have to buy to make my business function. I am just like everyone else.

What I can’t see though is guiding someone toward an inferior product, no matter how cheap it is. I feel like I am introducing them to nothing but aggravation and trouble if I were to recommend something that I feel is so inferior. It is as if someone were to ask for a recommendation for a new car under $5000. Yes, the car may get you from point A to point B for a while, but inevitably there would be issues and problems and in the long run in all likelihood you would be paying more for it in both money and aggravation.

I am not trying to be a snob about things, but I do feel that having the proper tools is essential to your success in any venture. The argument has been made that it is the person, not the tools that make the projects fail or succeed, and I am sure that many of us have been successful using inferior tools. But don’t you think that getting the best tool you can afford would be the best way to go? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

I realize that scroll sawing is only a hobby for many people, and spending several hundreds of dollars on a saw is a large chunk of change, but as far as woodworking goes, I think it is one of the cheapest aspects of woodworking you can do. After all – I just witnessed the cost for my partner to be involved in lathe work. Besides the cost of the lathe itself, there are the accompanying tools, chucks and other equipment needed to make even the simplest project. It is many times over the cost of my saw, as any lathe worker can tell you. At least with scroll sawing, you only need a saw and drill press and maybe something to sand things with to make complete projects. Blades are cheap and you can purchase them by the gross for very reasonable prices.

I realize that i am viewed as the ‘professional’ here and some people seem to think that if I weren’t doing this as a living, I would recommend something of lesser quality. But I don’t see that to be true, as even if I only scroll sawed for pleasure, I would want the best equipment I could afford. When I used to sew, I started with an ‘entry level’ sewing machine that was about $150. It was nothing but trouble and frustration, as it worked poorly and I spent more time untangling the mass of thread then actually sewing. I finally spent about $800 and got a decent mid-range machine (that was about 20 years ago) and truly enjoyed what I was doing. It was a hardship for me and I had to save up for months to get it, but in the end it helped me enjoy my hobby to the fullest. I think scroll sawing is the same.

I guess I am looking for some feedback from you here. I would really like to hear your take on these issues. The thought of myself setting someone up for failure by recommending inferior tools to fit a small budget is something that is just bothering me and I would like to know what you all think about it.

I thank you in advance for your opinions. I hope we have an interesting discussion.

I wish you all a good day.

-- Contributing Editor, Creative Woodworks and Crafts, Sheila Landry Designs http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com "Knowledge is Power"



38 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18613 posts in 2659 days


#1 posted 859 days ago

...so your recommendation is to wait until you can buy a good saw?
... or you recommend trying the different cheaper saws (that you have no experience with and thus cannot recommend from personal experience) .. and have them look for things like shakiness and other issues that you would look out for.
.. and perhaps you can recommend ways to compensate for the shortcomings. ??

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

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7180 posts in 1418 days


#2 posted 859 days ago

My own feelings Debbie would be to wait until you can get a better saw. I realize that not everyone can afford a saw that costs $800 new – and many don’t want to put that kind of money into something they are not sure that they will like. But I do feel that buying a sub-par saw is not only a waste of money, but it will also contribute to discouragement due to the frustration associated with using it.

For example, if a saw is vibrating, you aren’t concentrating on what you are cutting. If the blade change is difficult, you are going to (again) be frustrated and not enjoy what you are doing. You change blades hundreds of times within many projects and this can be a big factor. Soon you are going to just say “the heck with it” and give up. It is like setting yourself up for failure.

One alternative is to get a saw second hand. You just need to scout out the papers and places like Craig’s list. I have heard of many people who were successful in finding a saw this way.

As with any “hobby”, there is an initial investment you need to make. Even something like scrap booking costs money. The only thing is with scrolling you are paying the majority of it in one chunk instead of doling it out a little at a time. I just think it would be better to save for something a bit better than cheapen out on something inferior. For myself, if I am not sure of buying something, I usually have a better idea by the time I save the money for it. Was it really something I needed after all? Or was it just something I wanted for the moment? That philosophy has saved me a lot of money. :)

Sheila

-- Contributing Editor, Creative Woodworks and Crafts, Sheila Landry Designs http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com "Knowledge is Power"

View KnotCurser's profile

KnotCurser

1738 posts in 1567 days


#3 posted 859 days ago

Sheila,

This is a great topic for discussion! I spend over 10 hours per week on my scrollsaw and love every second of it. I consider it my “Zen Place”.

My first saw came as part of a larger purchase from an auction – I was really after the Grizzly table saw and planer – the other odds and ends were a bonus. This included the scroll saw, which I knew NOTHING about.

It was the Older 22” Model made by PS Wood and it worked just fine I suppose. You had to re-tension the blade with every change, but it was a great tool to learn the craft on as it forced you to go slowly and concentrate on your cutting. I purchased the quick-change blade tooling and it worked just fine for a while.

I now own the “Type A”, or older model DeWalt and I have nothing but the highest of praise for it! Knowing how a cheaper saw operates, the DeWalt runs like a top-of-the-line sports car compared the the PS Wood Model.

Anyway, back to the topic…..........

I wouldn’t recommend spending money on a cheap saw. It will disappoint you in so many ways!

If you want to “test drive” one, just to see if you would like to invest in the hobby, ask a friend to use theirs for an hour or so – just make sure it’s a decent saw or it will turn you off quickly!

If any LJ Member lives in the Baltimore/Washing DC Area and want to try out a DeWalt, LMK and you can drop by!

Or, join a local woodworker’s club and see if you can arrange some time on a saw a member owns – offer to sweep out their shop or something. :-)

If you DO get hooked and want a saw of your own, look on Craig’s list or in the want ads and be patient. I bought my DeWalt off of Craig’s list for only $125 – I had to travel two hours to pick it up, but it was worth it as I LOVE my saw!!!!

I would look for DeWalt, “newer” PS Wood Machines, the 20” Delta is nice if a little clunky and of course if you can find an Excalibur or Hegner for under 300 bucks BUY IT!

Stay away from any saw that retails for less than 200 dollars unless you just want to make a few cuts every month or so.

Oh yeah – make sure you have really good lighting and try out a foot switch! I know Sheila doesn’t dig the foot switches but I couldn’t cut without one – it a very personal thing. :-)

That was my 2 cents – hope it helps someone!

-bob

-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: rrww@rhoadesclan.com / www.rhoadesclan.com

View RussInMichigan's profile

RussInMichigan

399 posts in 1279 days


#4 posted 859 days ago

Sheila,

If you don’t feel comfortable giving questioners suggestions about budget-priced saws, consider directing them to experts who have done the analysis to make such suggestions.

In Woodworkers Journal, October 2011, was an article titled “7 Budget-priced Scroll Saws”(page 54). They do a nice job of assessing the pros and cons of the saws they tested and they make their suggestion for the best saw in that “budget” price range. Their choice was a Porter Cable PCB370SS priced at $189.

Have a great day scrollgirl,

Russ

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7180 posts in 1418 days


#5 posted 859 days ago

Thank you both for your opinions! This was what I was looking for – a good discussion. I think this applies to all tools, not just the scroll saw and with all the woodworkers here, I am sure we will get lots of valuable opinions.

I appreciate everyone’s views on this so much. Bob had some great points. And Russ – thank you so much for the head’s up on the link. I am sure it will be helpful to many people. I am going to try to find it here in Canada or online.

Sheila

-- Contributing Editor, Creative Woodworks and Crafts, Sheila Landry Designs http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com "Knowledge is Power"

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1614 days


#6 posted 859 days ago

OOH girl what a rant you made today :-)
but I deffently understand you very well
try ask the same people what car they have to drive them back and forth to there work
and ask them what they wuold like to drive in a Skoda 105 or a mercedes 500S
yes you can´t compare those two at all beside both have fourwheel and will bring you from A to B
but I can since I drived 12 hours a day in the mercedes back then and I had the Skoda
for the few miles I had to drive privat in the weekends …. I hardly managed to drive 500 miles
in that in a year

but if I had a car as a hobby I wuold deffently go for the highest I cuold afford of those few
classics I wish had the time and money to buy
if you have a hobby (in this case scrollsawing) you go for the high end as soon as possiple
not the exstreeem high end were its only the eye that is pleased and the thing don´t add to
your skills /performence

I know if there has been a saw in the upper middle range that was realy good you wuold recomend it
or have had it your self if the Excalibur was priced way over only becourse of a good brandname

just continue to tell them go for the highest they can afford but if they want to have no troubles
save up the money and continue with the fretsaw a little longer or buy one they cant get it
cheaper than that :-) and they can still make great result doing it the galoot way … :-)

have a great day

Dennis

View ~Julie~'s profile

~Julie~

569 posts in 1533 days


#7 posted 859 days ago

I have a crappy scroll saw and for that reason never use it. It vibrates and breaks blades so easily, it makes me nervous. Because it is so hard to use, I gave up on projects using a scroll saw and try and use either my router or jigsaw for any curve type cutting. Of course that really limits me.
I do agree that it’s important to buy good quality, I had a very basic cheap table top type table saw in the past and when I got a new one the difference was like night and day. Your recommendations are right on, you are going about the question of what saw to buy the correct way.
Hopefully someday I can get a Excalibur and get to making some of your (Sheila’s) projects.

-- ~Julie~ followyourheartwoodworking.blogspot.ca

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7180 posts in 1418 days


#8 posted 859 days ago

That’s my biggest fear, Julie. When someone is new to something, they are naturally timid and apprehensive. Then add into it the things you mentioned and of course you want to RUN away! There is also a safety factor involved, too. When you are distracted by other things, (vibration, chattering of the wood, etc.) you are not paying attention as well as you should at your task at hand. I know it can ‘spook’ someone away from doing it altogether. I would rather tell people to wait then risk turning them off to the thought of scroll sawing for good.

Sheila

-- Contributing Editor, Creative Woodworks and Crafts, Sheila Landry Designs http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com "Knowledge is Power"

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6642 posts in 2478 days


#9 posted 859 days ago

Hi Sheila;

Boy, does this topic hit home. I am often asked to recommend a table saw, and face the same dilemma you describe. Often I am even given a choice of options to pick from for my recommendation. It just doesn’t work that way.

What complicates the issue is people who speak highly of tools they bought from a discount store. I don’t get it. How can someone believe that a tool that cost $20.00 could be comparable in quality to the name brand tool that cost $200.00? Hello, there is a reason the difference. (The professional model can be used more than once, before you have to replace it).

I think may people sabatoge their woodworking efforts by buying junk tools, just to see if they’re going to like it, with the idea of getting a better one if they do. Unfortunately, they end up blaming the poor results, or difficulties they faced on themselves, thinking they’re just not cut out to be a woodworker. This is especially true for scroll saws. The results just aren’t worth the effort.

It’s true, lower quality tools can get the job done. It’s just more difficult, less enjoyable, and more frustrating to get results that are close to what they would get with higher end tools.

Good quality tools are actually a joy to use.

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View MyChipCarving's profile

MyChipCarving

434 posts in 1623 days


#10 posted 859 days ago

If you are interested, I am selling a RBI Hawk Model 220, with stand for less than $300.
It cuts smooth and has very little vibration. This is a sweet saw.
Here’s the listing – http://mankato.craigslist.org/tls/2695082988.html

I’ll ship to your location.

-- Marty, https://www.MyChipCarving.com, 866-444-6996

View Keith Fenton's profile

Keith Fenton

307 posts in 1418 days


#11 posted 859 days ago

The Porter Cable saw is enticing because it has all the convenient features of the better saws in all the right places and it’s “priced right” or so it seems. Before you go out and buy one thinking this is the best of both worlds please read a few of these threads.
http://www.scrollsawer.com/forum/general-scroll-saw/34778.htm
http://www.scrollsawer.com/forum/tools-and-blades/36459.htm
http://www.scrollsawer.com/forum/general-scroll-saw/36373.htm
http://www.scrollsawer.com/forum/beginners-scroll-saw/39841.htm

In the first post on this page Hotshot lists all the clones of this saw and gives a little feedback.
http://www.scrollsawer.com/forum/beginners-scroll-saw/38197-2.htm

And here is the ultimate Dewalt post.(Don’t forget these guys handle the Black and Decker / Porter Cable / Delta”service” too… )
http://www.scrollsawer.com/forum/tools-and-blades/40750.htm

I know you can dig up negative reviews on anything if you look for it and in all fairness not Everybody’s Porter Cable breaks in a month. :)

As for the Dewalt DW-788, there are some people that are happy with even the type 2’s and haven’t really had any issues with them which is great. The only thing I would add is that even if you end up with a good one, it’s still a very aggressive saw with a fair amount of front-to-back motion. If you can do with a smaller 16” , the EX-16 is not much more expensive and your cutting ability will go up a level. Once you tune the front-to-back motion of the blade, it’s so much easier to do tight fretwork and to use with spirals than the Dewalt. I personally would have gotten the 16” if Sheila didn’t want to get the 21” as I see little need for the extra depth.

-- Scroll saw patterns @ http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com

View jerrells's profile

jerrells

832 posts in 1383 days


#12 posted 859 days ago

Sheila and all;

First of all great discussion and topic.

I have one of the lesser priced saws. The PC by name. YES in a heart beat I would love the DeWalt (old style) or better one but PRICE! Now with any saw you have got to learn it and find out how it works best. I find that I need to square the blade on my PC often and YES it breaks some. Virbration is there but when aligned it is not that noticeable.

CUSTOMER SERVICE (my personal rant of all times) is a must. With the PC it only took one call to figure that they could care less. They do not make the machine and just slap their name on it.

I feel that without the lower end units many of us would never get to enjoy the art and experience of scrollsawing. I am hooked. It just like with most any power tool there are different priced units and different quality.

Before purchasing, I think it would be nice to try different units. I know the local scroll saw club (DFW Scrollers) has had demo days at the local Rockler store. That would be a nice way to try out some units. YES shop Craigs list (or others) but you must know what you are looking at and what to look for before heading this direction.

Lastly, Thanks for all the great help from Sheila, Steve Good and many others for videos, articles, patterns and other helps. Without that scrolling would be almost impossable.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View Beaujangles's profile

Beaujangles

5 posts in 1298 days


#13 posted 859 days ago

It seems to me that you just gave a whole hearted recommendation to find a type 1 Dewalt on craigslist or what have you in your local area. If someone asks you what you would recommend, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with recommending what you have had good experience with, even if they need to look a little bit harder for one. Just my .02.
Best Regards,
Beau

-- "If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself." -- Albert Einstein

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7180 posts in 1418 days


#14 posted 859 days ago

Thanks, Jarrell: People say I “favor” Ray at Seyco who sells the Excalibur saws. All I have to say about that is “GUILTY!” What’s not to favor?? Every story I heard from others ( BEFORE I got my saw!) were positive stories about how he goes above and beyond the call to service his customers.

What’s not to like? Do I favor him? You bet! I got my saw from him even though I live in Canada and he has helped me on more than one occasion. Customer service means a lot. It is as they say “priceless.” When spending this kind of money, I want to be sure that if something goes wrong, the company will stand behind it. Both Seyco and General International are OK in my book.

Sheila

-- Contributing Editor, Creative Woodworks and Crafts, Sheila Landry Designs http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com "Knowledge is Power"

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7180 posts in 1418 days


#15 posted 859 days ago

Also Beau:
If you can find a good type one, and don’t mind a little ‘aggressive cutting’ – go for it! I loved my DW for almost 15 years. It was a good and decent saw. I just worry about the ones that are on the market now. I would definitely take an older DW over the type 2. And as Keith said, the EX16 is just a bit more if you don’t want to take a risk. :)

Sheila

-- Contributing Editor, Creative Woodworks and Crafts, Sheila Landry Designs http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com "Knowledge is Power"

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