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.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"