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Do you think quality is making a bit of a comeback?

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Forum topic by David Craig posted 1703 days ago 1275 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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David Craig

2130 posts in 1708 days


1703 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: quality hand tools power tools ridgid ryobi stanley

Good morning all, just a question I thought I would throw out there, especially to the “old-timers” who have seen the shifts in quality in hand and power tools over the years…

I noticed that Stanley tools are starting to re-release their old “Sweetheart” line (I won’t go into that whole purchase of Black and Decker ordeal) and it seems to be that Ryobi tools have really stepped up in quality within the last decade. The Ridgid line has some very solid offerings, and the newer brands/companies seem to be really concentrating on longevity of the tool and better ergonomic designs.

Do you think quality is making a comeback? That maybe the cheap tools held interest for awhile but that those that have invested in them have become disillusioned and unsatisfied with them for the long term that tool users are starting to go back to the better quality tool which may be driving companies to work a little harder? I know I have my share of Harbor Freight specials, and they were good for the short haul, but I have been finding myself holding out more and more for the better quality tool. The cheap ones made me more aware of the buying decisions I wanted to make, so they were useful in their own way. I just am curious about others might have noticed over a longer timespan.

Happy Holidays,

David

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.


28 replies so far

View Ger21's profile

Ger21

615 posts in 1730 days


#1 posted 1703 days ago

I think there’s a different market for cheap tools vs good tools. I don’t buy cheap or low quality tools. The people that do don’t usually buy the tools that I’d buy.

-- Gerry, http://home.comcast.net/~cncwoodworker/CNC_Woodworker.html

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David Craig

2130 posts in 1708 days


#2 posted 1703 days ago

I agree Gerry. I was just curious if anyone is seeing a trend where maybe the cheap market is starting to shrink and the good tool market increase. Consumer choices help alter manufacturing processes. Eventually, if the cheap market sees a dramatic decrease, then the pressure is put on to make quality and emphasis, especially if price no longer seems to be the driving factor. I used to get an occasional HF email with a 20% off coupon. Now I seem to get one every week. This makes me feel that the low cost companies are feeling some heat and some losses in profit. Combined with my observations of newer tools in the big stores, makes me cautiously optimistic that manufacturing might be on the upscale swing.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

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CharlieM1958

15663 posts in 2817 days


#3 posted 1703 days ago

I think there always was and always will be a market for quality tools.

If you think about it, the influx of cheap, poorly-made Chinese products happened pretty rapidly. The low price was enough to attract many buyers, but the poor quality was not going to attract many repeat customers.

Companies who import products from overseas started to realize that they’d better up the standards if they wanted to maintain a market share long-term. Today, as much as I hate to see American manufacturers lose out on business, we are seeing some pretty decent products coming from some of the foreign factories.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

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David Craig

2130 posts in 1708 days


#4 posted 1703 days ago

Good points Charlie. And with the higher price tag that overseas tools are going to have, the price gap between American and foreign made tools should decrease a little (2nd generation Chinese are getting a taste of capitalism and they are not as content with working for nothing). I, myself, hope this encourages more American manufacturing and that maybe we can get out of the rut of just being a consumer nation. Now I am moving to an insanely optimistic viewpoint :) As far as the products from foreign factories go, I have been really getting into the Ridgid line and I can’t get over how solid some of their tools feel in my hand.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

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CharlieM1958

15663 posts in 2817 days


#5 posted 1703 days ago

Among my Ridgid tools are a table saw, miter saw, planer, and oscillating sander. They were well priced in comparison to other brands, and I’ve had no complaints about any of them.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

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TheDane

3652 posts in 2262 days


#6 posted 1703 days ago

I was ecstatic when I heard Delta’s new Unisaw was being made in this country … not that I plan to run out an buy one right away, but rather because I saw it as a step toward rebuilding some of the manufacturing base we have lost. For example, at least two manufacturers here where I live in Wisconsin are supplying major components for the Unisaw. That translates to jobs for skilled workers.

I think some of the tool manufacturers are putting more emphasis on building quality tools. The new Stanley Sweetheart planes are just one good example. I think a lot of this can be traced back to guys like Russell Morash, Bob Vila, and Norm Abram. They popularized DIY home improvements and few have done more for woodworking as a hobby than Norm. Look at the growth of woodworking shows on TV, and the number of Internet podcasts, videos, etc. As more people have begun to develop woodworking skills, the demand for better quality tools has become a natural.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

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David Craig

2130 posts in 1708 days


#7 posted 1703 days ago

Good point TheDane. The increase in DIY caused a dramatic need for tools. The Asian manufacturers flooded the market with inexpensive tools to tempt the DIYer, who in turn grew dissatisfied with the initial poor quality. This would translate to a number of manufacturers racing to entice that market share to their higher quality products.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View ondablade's profile

ondablade

105 posts in 1797 days


#8 posted 1703 days ago

I’m all for lower cost professional tools, but what’s the point in buying junk tools? You have to go for a standard, and then it’s down to what you can afford.

It’s good to see the likes of the Stanley move, but i guess how the situation develops will depend on how they do commercially.

What’s a little frustrating and not too helpful in this regard is the tendency the mags have (probably for fear of upsetting advertisers) not to clearly place tools and machines in their place on the price/performance/function continuum.

There’s so much stuff that’s almost unusable being bought for DIY use by people that don’t know the difference out of the big home stores. That’s hardly going to stop anytime soon, and in the meantime the more education that’s around on quality the better it seems to me…

-- Late awakener....

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David Craig

2130 posts in 1708 days


#9 posted 1703 days ago

ondablade, you might want to give Wood Magazine a look over. They do a pretty decent job of comparing tool performance using budget and higher end tools at the same time. They usually have a pic for Top Tool and Best Value. They give a pretty nice breakdown of the expectations one has from the budget tools as well as the overview for the more expensive models.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View RedShirt013's profile

RedShirt013

219 posts in 2261 days


#10 posted 1703 days ago

I don’t think it’s consumers suddenly craving quality above all else, but that manufacturing technology in countries that export tools have gotton much better. And it’s not tool users driving the manufacturers to get better. There must be some serious competitions overseas, and I doubt manufacturers just get fat contracts handed out to them by American companies. The competition and the resulting improvement is inevitable.

And companies will still sell junk tools, all they have to do is use another brand name. People don’t hate Milwaukee & RIdgid because Ryobi is no good.

But cheap tools won’t go out of fashion. That’s all my father buys, and he’s fine with most of them. I buy some cheap tools too, sometimes you just don’t need that much accuracy.

-- Ed

View Beginningwoodworker's profile

Beginningwoodworker

13337 posts in 2272 days


#11 posted 1703 days ago

Good point TheDane, sometimes cheap tools are, but I try to buy the best I can afford.

-- CJIII Future cabinetmaker

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

12252 posts in 2696 days


#12 posted 1703 days ago

For tools you will use over and over, quality is a key factor. Lie-Nielson is a good example and probably a driver for Stanley getting back into the market. Good evidence is eBay. Used LN planes sell for almost full retail.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2697 posts in 1885 days


#13 posted 1703 days ago

People have always wanted quality tools. Are they willing to pay for them? Yes and no. There will always be cheap people that complain that Harbor Freight tools are too expensive. Then there are those that complain that Festool is junk. Then there are the rest of us—somewhere in between. Of course we all want the best deal we can get, but some will sacrifice quality to get it . Others understand you get what you pay for, and will sacrifice quanity to get it. Few people can afford top quality all the time, although most expect it. Tool companies are simply producing where the demand is.

In answer to your question—-I am an old-timer. I started with junk because that what my dad bought . It was actually me that convinced him that Powermatic was better than Craftsman. Really—I’m not kidding. That said, once we bought the firsrt Powermatic shaper, it wasn’t hard to get approval to get more. But I’m coming at this from a production standpoint. Quality is critical for a manufacturing company. In fact cheap tools would cost much more in the long run. A home workshop is another matter. You have to get the best you can in your circumstances.

I am glad to see companies like Stanley doing what they are doing. I hope it catches on. (See first paragraph)
There will always be people with money that can and will buy the best—-while there are people with money that will only buy cheap. Then there are those on a tight budget that still buy the best. We all have our own priorities.

Sorry for the rant—-I sell tools and deal with this daily. Over and over people come in wanting good stuff, then get a price and leave to go buy something inferior somewhere else. When we opened, our intention was to provide only quality tools. In order to survive, we are now rethinking that concept. That might work elsewhere, but it’s not working here.

-- She thought I hung the moon--now she just thinks I did it wrong

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15663 posts in 2817 days


#14 posted 1703 days ago

Kent, I understand your predicament.

I think quality always pays for itself in a production or high-use environment. On the other hand, for weekend warriors on a limited budget, I think one can make a fair argument that lesser-quality tools (not junk) can sometimes provide more bang for the buck. A professional cabinet maker probably runs his table saw more in one week than mine will run in a couple of years. It stands to reason that our needs are different.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View TheDane's profile

TheDane

3652 posts in 2262 days


#15 posted 1703 days ago

My first serious home improvement project (bathroom remodel) was a little more than 30 years ago. I bought some cheap tools because they were all I could afford, and besides, I didn’t plan to use them that much. I was more focused on other things like keeping the kids fed and the mortgage paid. Over the years, I did an occasional project or two, and when the junk tools failed, I went out and bought more.

Now that the kids and mortgage are gone, and I have some time to devote to woodworking as a true hobby, the junk tools I have been dragging around all of these years just won’t do. So gradually, I have been jettisoning them and focusing on better quality tools. I can’t always afford the top of the line, but I come close. And as I get to know the new, higher quality tools better, the quality of the work I do with them improves. You can probably ‘get by’ with a $9 set of chisels from the big box … but the minute you pick up a set of Lie-Nielsen or Two Cherries chisels you’ll wonder why you ever messed around with the cheapos.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

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