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ARE TOOLS MADE OVERSEAS OF POOR QUALITY AND IF SO WHO'S TO BLAME

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Forum topic by a1Jim posted 07-09-2015 04:33 AM 1752 views 0 times favorited 48 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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a1Jim

115202 posts in 3039 days


07-09-2015 04:33 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Quite frequently when someone ask about what tool to buy online folks chime in with which tool to buy and then the conversation usually ends up with one or more persons saying this brand use to be great when it was made in the USA. Has anyone really had a direct comparison by having the product made in the states and the newer product made in China or somewhere else overseas side by side? I’m wondering is this claim true that non-American products ar inferior is really true or is it our “buy American” fervor kicking in ? If you feel they are inferior who’s fault is it? is it the manufacturer for not requiring high enough standards for the products they order from overseas? Is it our fault for wanting lower prices? Or is it just the fact there made by people getting very low wages?
What’s your take on the subject?

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture


48 replies so far

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dawsonbob

1912 posts in 1217 days


#1 posted 07-09-2015 04:47 AM

To me, it all boils down to how much the company with its name on the tool cares about quality. Where the product is actually made should be irrelevant. If a company like Bosch, for instance, wants to have something made overseas it’s up to them to make sure the product is up to their standards of quality.

There are a number of plants in China, for instance, that can make products to any quality level that you want to pay for.

-- Mistakes are what pave the road to perfection

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DocSavage45

7700 posts in 2304 days


#2 posted 07-09-2015 05:45 AM

Actually I did some research into this. The companies who work with developed official standards of quality get what they ask for. Yes it can be built cheaper in other countries, but whereever a tool is made it is important to see the companies trade mark. That being said some files from Harbor Frieght are better than Neilson who is living on old credits. But even when you are looking for Swiss manufacturing it may be from Portugal.

Companies that charge more usually give us a better quality tool.

We use to think “Made in Japan,” was inferior? LOL! Now who makes the best swords?

Oh yeah a recent survey showing cars “Made in America” found Toyota to have the most American Made parts.

It’s not your grandfather’s world anymore. LOL!

Jim thems my twenty cents worth.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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Jerry

1767 posts in 1110 days


#3 posted 07-09-2015 06:00 AM

Jim, I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn that a lot of so called American brands are really re-branded Chinese products. Not that that’s always bad, but it’s much more prevalent than most people realize. Almost everything that Grizzly sells. In point of fact, a simple Google search with the search phrase “What power tools are made in America” will yield only one result, and that would be “Jerry” :p

Seriously I don’t think there are any…

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be. http://geraldlhunsucker.com/

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AHuxley

493 posts in 2783 days


#4 posted 07-09-2015 06:29 AM

First, my relies will be limited to machines vs handheld tools since I think they illuminate the issue best.

In regards to “great” brands going downhill with regards to woodworking it was almost inevitable. First, you have the significant reduction in the woodworking industry in the US and add to that the industry that remains relies far less on the traditional machines we tend to use in our shops, wood is turned into final product in a much more automated way by machines that are larger than most hobby and studio furniture makers shops. Take a look at the floor at IWF and AWFS and the majority of what is being sold has to be disassembled to fit in a semi. So the demand for industrial and light industrial traditional woodworking machines has dropped off considerably. Add to this the vast majority of woodworkers can’t or won’t afford what would be the current cost of the machines if they were still produced. Powermatic is often one of the companies that people lament their plunge downward, but lets be serious the PM 141 14” cast iron bandsaw left the Powermatic lineup about 17 or so years ago and at the time it would cost you $2000 to put one in your shop, my conservative guess is it would be well over $3,000 now. Despite being the best cast 14” saw ever made (made the Delta 14” look like a toy) how many do you think PM could sell today at those prices. You can get a 24” Asian built saw or just about a Centauro Minimax 16” sawbuilt in Italy or a Austrian built 18” saw and 600 or more dollars in change. The machines are “great” anymore because the company survived and built machines for the marlet that existed. If someone wants American built machines just call up Northfield and make your order…but you might want to contact your banker first.

The best side by side opportunity that existed was when Delta built their 14” bandsaw here and in Asia and sold the Asian one for IIRC about $50 less, guess what the Asian saw outsold the US built saw, woodworkers are a, lets say, frugal lot, on whole. I remember looking at them side by side and honestly from the outside one would be hard pressed to pick a “quality leader”. That doesn’t mean the “innards” were even remotely similar. Over the years the Delta saw got lighter and signs of cost cutting became clear BUT those were Delta decisions not an engineer in Asia. They were changing to follow the market and while Delta seemed to stumble Powermatic and Grizzly as two examples seemed to find ways to exploit the market, each finding their own niche.

Initially when Jet started the whole Asian invasion they did not have the manufacturing capability to compete with the US built high end machines, particularly in cast iron but those days are past. Some of the Asian machines are very good, if I went to my shop tomorrow and saw my MM20 had been replaced with a PM 2013B I honestly would cry that much, if there was a 2013B in place of my Delta 28-350 20” saw I would get a big smile on my face, if they replaced my PM 141 with a PM1500 I would jump up and down with joy. The PM steel framed saws are REALLY REALLY good but IMO they did overshoot the price point, when you can buy a Minimax of the same size for less money it becomes a hard sell to an informed consumer even though the PMs are feature laden.

The entire issue boils down to money. If people are willing to pay for quality companies will build it. I can’t help but go back to a bandsaw analogy (they are very close to my heart), day after day and year after year I see people on forums looking for that first upgrade from a one of the ubiquitous 14” cast saws and the vast majority pick something like the Grizzly 513 family over the Minimax S400P (MM16) which is arguably the best wood bandsaw in the 400-440MM class, it isn’t because they think the 513 is a better saw it is because it is so much cheaper.

US built woodworking machines aren’t coming back anytime soon, just ain’t gonna happen. Hand power tools probably aren’t either, while a company like Festool has built a rabid following the majority of woodworkers in forums are quick to point out they think they are way overpriced, many I feel don’t want to discover how good because of the desire it might bring. Handtools are somewhat of a different story, the difference in price between a Lie-Nielsen and Woodriver plane isn’t that great (compared to tools with a cord) so these niche companies can survive because of their price points. Even at that Ron Cosman and Woodcraft still sell a LOT of Woodriver planes, because we as a country and specifically woodworkers are “frugal”.

While I don’t know if it would work from a business standpoint I would be happy to pay extra if importers would spend the time to go over the machines before they shipped them out, this is one reason Jesse at Eagle Tools was legendary among woodworkers because of the way he treated Agazzani bandsaws before he shipped them to customers. Along those lines I won’t buy a machine from a company that simply ships me parts when my machine break under warranty, I’ll pay more for a Powermatic for example when I know the service center will dispatch a tech to fix any issue I have, now this is dependent on where one lives and how good their service center is as well, but I am lucky. It isn’t that I can’t fix the machine its just if I wanted to fix a machine I would have paid less than half as much for a much better built used machine and been prepared to fix it if need be.

In the end I have no issue with Asian machines there are a lot that meet my requirements and a lot that don’t sometimes they are worth the price to me and sometimes I feel better served importing from across a different ocean. The only chance the US would have to reenter the market for machines would be to follow the auto industry and focus on building machines on the European model and wrapping them in the flag once they were finished.

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RobinDobbie

133 posts in 1197 days


#5 posted 07-09-2015 06:37 AM

“ARE TOOLS MADE OVERSEAS OF POOR QUALITY”

They can be.

“WHO’S TO BLAME”

The stores wanting lower prices, consumers accepting the lower quality and perpetuating the cycle.

In point of fact, a simple Google search with the search phrase “What power tools are made in America” will yield only one result, and that would be “Jerry” :p

Haha! Seriously though, I believe for a while now that Northfield has been the last manufacturer, here in the US. http://www.northfieldwoodworking.com/

Just saw a great video on them, and I must say it’s sad that they’re the last. Looks like a very low volume operation, but very high quality machines. Although one look at their price list and it’s no wonder they’re low volume. I believe $10,000 was the starting price for a 20” band saw! O_O


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AHuxley

493 posts in 2783 days


#6 posted 07-09-2015 06:38 AM



Jim, I think a lot of people would be surprised to learn that a lot of so called American brands are really re-branded Chinese products. Not that that s always bad, but it s much more prevalent than most people realize. Almost everything that Grizzly sells. In point of fact, a simple Google search with the search phrase “What power tools are made in America” will yield only one result, and that would be “Jerry” :p

Seriously I don t think there are any…

- Jerry

While I don’t know about woodworkers at large but I would be surprised if most forum users didn’t know 99% of woodworking machines come from Asia. Grizzly like Jet have been Asian importers from the origins of their companies.

There are still some US built woodworking machines, Northfield is the last “full line” manufacturer, Vega and Robust build lathes here, Central Machinery builds some of the older Wysong and Miles designs, Vega also builds a OES among a few others.

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AHuxley

493 posts in 2783 days


#7 posted 07-09-2015 06:51 AM


Haha! Seriously though, I believe for a while now that Northfield has been the last manufacturer, here in the US. http://www.northfieldwoodworking.com/

J
- RobinDobbie

The interesting thing is Northfield was far from the best of the US industrial woodworking manufacturers nor were they the cheapest (or most expensive). I have often wondered how Oliver and Yates died out and Northfield survived (Yates and Oliver live on sorta, Yates American as a manufacturer of high end mainly planers and surfacers for the lumber industry and Oliver as a Asian owned importer of some pretty high quality machines).

I will say Northfield is a class operation, I have had several discussion with the owner regarding my machines and potential used machine purchases (not from them but they do sell used and rebuilt machines), he was always generous with his time and has an amazingly intimate knowledge of his machines down to the tiniest indiosyncrasy from year to year in machines 50 years old.

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RobinDobbie

133 posts in 1197 days


#8 posted 07-09-2015 07:18 AM

The interesting thing is Northfield was far from the best

So just more reinforcement that what I have in my shop isn’t even mediocre, considering Northfield wasn’t even the best!

But seriously though, if their jointer beds have a tolerance of .003” over 8’ on a bad day, how much better does it get?!

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knotscott

7210 posts in 2837 days


#9 posted 07-09-2015 09:44 AM

One thing’s for sure….they don’t generally send manufacturing to China to improve quality….the objective is almost always to cut costs. The end results depends alot on the tool and how it was specified to be made.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View dhazelton's profile

dhazelton

2324 posts in 1758 days


#10 posted 07-09-2015 10:38 AM

I think China can build tools that are total crap, good enough, and very very good. Just pick your price point.

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emart

422 posts in 2089 days


#11 posted 07-09-2015 11:01 AM



Actually I did some research into this. The companies who work with developed official standards of quality get what they ask for. Yes it can be built cheaper in other countries, but whereever a tool is made it is important to see the companies trade mark. That being said some files from Harbor Frieght are better than Neilson who is living on old credits. But even when you are looking for Swiss manufacturing it may be from Portugal.

Companies that charge more usually give us a better quality tool.

We use to think “Made in Japan,” was inferior? LOL! Now who makes the best swords?

Oh yeah a recent survey showing cars “Made in America” found Toyota to have the most American Made parts.

It s not your grandfather s world anymore. LOL!

Jim thems my twenty cents worth.

- DocSavage45

It definitely comes down to what standards are being set by the company and whether or not they actually are innovating as time goes by. I have seen some very good clamps and hammers from harbor freight that rival high end brand names. I have also seen companies incredibly poor quality items when they used to make some of the best machinery around. I have craftsman tools in my shop from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and now. They go from having american made bearings which were still functional despite being abused for 60 years to japanese made bearings with little to no difference in quality. Then the machines from the 70s and 80s have cheap chinese bearings that have very poor tolerances. The quality of the machining also follows this progression of cheapness.

I think a lot of the problems stem from manufacturers moving towards making items as throwaways. I remember in one of my classes in college we looked at how companies figured out an equation for the bare minimum an item should last so the customer will keep buying it. Make the item too flimsy and nobody buys it. make it too reliable and they cant sell it to you twice.

Funny thing is some of the best katanas in the world come from Canada. They have the same sharpness without being as brittle.

-- tools are only as good as the hands that hold them https://www.custommade.com/by/emeraldcrafts/

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SirIrb

1239 posts in 692 days


#12 posted 07-09-2015 11:03 AM

Basic econ.

Does everyone drive a Caddy? No. Why? Because they cant afford it. There is then a nitch in the market for someone to make a car that will get you from point A to point B without leather. [Music] Enter the Yugo.

The people to blame are the ones who create a market condition where superrior quality is not desired because the superrior price tag is not wanted/ can not be paid.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

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Jim Jakosh

17143 posts in 2567 days


#13 posted 07-09-2015 11:09 AM

Dhazelton said it all!!I love Grizzly tools and they are at the price and quality level that I can afford. I don’t think many of us would have such a well equipped shop if the power tools were at the escalating prices they were at before China started making them. I don’t like that they are not American made, but I am one of those “frugal” woodworkers and you only go around once so get what you need when you can!.

Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

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emart

422 posts in 2089 days


#14 posted 07-09-2015 11:09 AM



Basic econ.

Does everyone drive a Caddy? No. Why? Because they cant afford it. There is then a nitch in the market for someone to make a car that will get you from point A to point B without leather. [Music] Enter the Yugo.

The people to blame are the ones who create a market condition where superrior quality is not desired because the superrior price tag is not wanted/ can not be paid.

- SirIrb

to be fair Cadillac is also pretty poor quality compared to cars from japan and europe nowadays. The mechanical parts are good but the trim and other fiddly bits fall apart pretty quickly.

-- tools are only as good as the hands that hold them https://www.custommade.com/by/emeraldcrafts/

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glass

25 posts in 1536 days


#15 posted 07-09-2015 12:09 PM

It is the manufacturers who have found a way to keep tool prices flat or lower than in the 1990’s. How is it that the makita ls1212 was $650 new back in its day and the current model ls1216l is only $600 and it has greater capacity and more features like a laser. They have lowered the quality of the parts. I have noticed that the current makita miter saws have less power.

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