Tools made overseas

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Forum topic by MrRon posted 09-06-2011 09:16 PM 2382 views 0 times favorited 38 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4793 posts in 3268 days

09-06-2011 09:16 PM

I have read thousands of posts here and in other forums complaining about not being able to buy American made tools, both power and hand. The simple answer is: American made tools are available everywhere. To find them, all you have to do is look for used tools built at least 20 years ago. This requires a lot of searching, but if you must have an American made tool, then that’s the way to go. Searching garage sales and rummage shops will turn up older tools that are not as fancy as the new ones, but never-the-less still servicable. Some think it’s a hassle to have to clean, sharpen or even rebuild a power tool, but it can be done and the very fact that tool has survived 30,40,50+ years stands as a tribute to it’s quality. Today’s tools can be called “throw-aways” in keeping with the present marketing strategy. Bells and whistles may be important to some, but the really serious wood or metalworker who knows tools will look for tools made in America. There are also some fine tools made overseas and there’s nothing wrong with buying them, but I’m not addressing them here. The discussion is American vs non-American. This discussion can also apply to household goods, like kitchen appliances to electronics and cars. Buying used won’t create any new jobs, but neither will buying foreign. Maybe a new industry will spring up, taking used items and refurbishing them for resale. Automobile restoration is one that has been around many years now. Maybe there is a market for oyher items as well.

38 replies so far

View jusfine's profile


2422 posts in 2950 days

#1 posted 09-06-2011 09:31 PM

Then buy Canadian, Barry…or maybe Canadian first… :)

Sorry, misread your post, my mistake.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View MrRon's profile


4793 posts in 3268 days

#2 posted 09-06-2011 10:06 PM

“What if American-made means overseas? There are lots of LJ’s not in the US…” I didn’t mean to exclude non-Americans. If you are from another country, you probably have your own choice in tools.

View rusty2010's profile


150 posts in 2582 days

#3 posted 09-06-2011 11:43 PM

I kind of agree with you Mr. Ron. I bought several used American made high end tools that are irreplaceable to me.
I believe you can get some deals on portable tools of good quality, but that is a tough request. Generally the tools I see at yard and garage sales where junk when they where new or worn out. For years we (fellow contractors and sub-contractors) all looked at the labels for American made tools and it is getting harder to find them. I’m refering to drills, saws and small portable electric tools. If you ever start a buisiness refurbishing old American tools, let us know, you have my support

-- check, recheck then check again

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3093 days

#4 posted 09-07-2011 12:32 AM

”...the really serious wood or metalworker who knows tools will look for tools made in America.”

Utter nonsense and rather insulting as well. I consider myself to be a serious woodworker and my tool purchases are based on the value they will bring to my business. IOW, my purchases must be amortized over an expected lifetime and the amortization comes out of my gross income (i.e. customers). If I can’t find a way to get the cost into my pricing, I’ll be sitting around with a shop full of expensive tools sitting idle. Personally, I pay little attention to where a tool is manufactured but will “Buy American” when it makes sense to do so. Even tools “Made in America” are often actually assembled with some parts imported from overseas.

Automobile restoration is one that has been around many years now.

Other than a few specialty businesses restoring old cars for enthusiasts, how many businesses are out there making a success of restoring cars for the masses?

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

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David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3022 days

#5 posted 09-07-2011 01:46 AM

I am not against buying US made tools. Unfortunately, few are made here. If you want to make a statement or help promote US toolmakers, that is great and a worthy goal.

Buying old US made tools is a good way to get quality tools but does nothing to help US toolmakers. If you want to encourage US toolmakers, let them see a profit in making quality tools by buying quality tools regardless of where they are made. That’s why Stanley is making an effort to remake their line of high end Sweetheart tools (Although I honestly don’t know where they are made.)

The other problem is that of the few US tool making companies that do exist, very few make tools that are of the quality that makes people pay the premium price. Festool for example, doesn’t seem to have that much problem getting the premium price. They make a premium tool. What remaining US companies compare with that?

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View MrRon's profile


4793 posts in 3268 days

#6 posted 09-07-2011 05:37 PM

I wasn’t of the impression that I was reaching professionals, contractors and toolmakers with this post. I understand your position of tool cost vs making a living. I thought this was a forum of home woodworkres and DIYer’s. I guess I’m fortunate to have bought all my tools many years ago when American made tools were the world’s standard.

View 747DRVR's profile


199 posts in 3381 days

#7 posted 09-07-2011 06:04 PM

I think most Americans want to buy US made because they dont want to see the jobs shipped overseas.As you said, buying used does not help the US economy at all.If you find a used item that you want you should buy it but buying American used tools does not make you “patriotic”.

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199 posts in 3381 days

#8 posted 09-07-2011 06:05 PM

Just reread my post and I wanted to elaborate on my “patriotic” comment before everyone jumps on me.I did not want to insinuate that buying US makes you patriotic.I was just commenting that some would think they are helping the US and thus being patriotic by buying US made older equipment and in my opinion it is the same as buying foreign made.

View MrRon's profile


4793 posts in 3268 days

#9 posted 09-07-2011 06:14 PM

“buying used does not help the US economy at all”. Buying overseas doesn’t help the economy either.

View Hartmann's profile


39 posts in 2913 days

#10 posted 09-07-2011 06:25 PM

BTW, this is not an American site and like CessnaPilotBarry said before “There are lots of LJ’s not in the US…”, Lumberjocks is an international woodworking site, no matter which part of the world you are.
You can find many excellent tools around the world, Excellent USA tools and some pieces of crap, remember…., Ford, GM, etc, 15 years ago there were a pieces of crap cars….(Made in USA – because America is a continent not a country…) Thanks….
And you can buy Chrysler, made in USA, owner by Fiat a well know European brand…., somebody have to pay for all the fancy Italian shoes or not????

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3133 days

#11 posted 09-07-2011 06:36 PM

I read these debates regarding American vs Overseas tools quite often. It becomes much more complicated than this breakdown. For example, regarding the quote – “Buying overseas doesn’t help the economy either”, one is making the assumption that the only American labor affected involves factory work, but this would discount those involved in warehousing, transportation, stocking, sales, service, etc. There are overseas countries that utilize American labor but invest in their own local economy, American companies that utilize overseas labor but ultimately invest in the states, American assembled but with foreign parts, Foreign assembled but out of American parts, etc. etc. etc.

In regards to the quality of the tools purchased, that boils down to consumer decisions and what the standard of quality means to them. In any market, foreign or domestic to the United States, if people invest in poor quality, the manuacturing of poor quality items will increase. When manufacturers are held to their warranties and items of poor quality are passed over for higher quality goods, then the market will improve in that respect.


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

View dbray45's profile


3320 posts in 2801 days

#12 posted 09-07-2011 06:52 PM

Barr chisels are made in the U.S. and are of very high quality – and – you will pay for them. If I could afford them, I would buy them. So, I buy the tools that I need and fix them to do what I need them to do. Sometimes I buy an inexpensive tool and use it for a model to make my own. Sometimes I buy an old tool and clean it up – or several old tools and make one good one – its all good.

In this day and age, nothing is perfect and you make do. If it turns out that I needed a specific tool to make something for a customer or project, the customer’s price would reflect that special component of the project.

-- David in Damascus, MD

View mikema's profile


180 posts in 2610 days

#13 posted 09-07-2011 07:14 PM

““buying used does not help the US economy at all”. Buying overseas doesn’t help the economy either.”

Not completely true either, as it does help the economy. While it is sad that manufacturing jobs have been lost overseas, the truth is the cost of manufacturing the machine is only a small part of what you pay when you buy a machine. When you buy an American BRAND, you are still helping the economy. Do not forget that there is still a large U.S. workforce supporting these companies that benefit from your machine purchase, that do include skilled labor, manufacturers, professionals, management, stock room workers, delivery truck driver, support, and just about any other job classification you can think of.

American investors of these companies benefit (which if you have a retirement plan such as a 401k, IRA, etc, you are included in this as well) when they make a profit (which lately seems to be an evil word) off of these machines. This too helps the economy.

If you do not like a business practice of a specific company let them know with your wallet, simply do not buy from them, and buy from one of their competitors. Then tell anyone who will listen why you made that purchase.

-- Mike ---- Visit my woodworking blog:

View jerkylips's profile


416 posts in 2594 days

#14 posted 09-07-2011 08:31 PM

I wasn’t going to reply to this because it’s such a touchy subject – sometimes keeping your mouth shut is the smart move. That said, I’ve never been accused of being smart… ;)

It seems to me that there are a couple issues here that are completely separate, but they always seem to get lumped together. Buying American can help the economy, support our workers, companies, etc., & is a great thing – if that’s what you want to do. So if you want to “wrap a flag” around your purchase & feel good about buying something because it’s made here, more power to you – I have no issues with that. BUT…..the idea that if something is made in the USA, it’s better quality…is complete horse cr@p… There is plenty of cheap garbage made here, just like there is overseas.

Can you go to a garage sale & find an older American-made tool that’s higher quality than what you can buy today? Of course.. but I think it has less to do with WHERE it was made than WHEN it was made. The concept of “throw away tools” is not specific to stuff made in China, but I think it is specific to stuff made TODAY.

View MrRon's profile


4793 posts in 3268 days

#15 posted 09-07-2011 09:05 PM

I pine for the days long gone when I could go down to my local hardware (not to be confused with hardware store) and choose among a myrid of tools made in America. Almost every tool had a name on it,. like Millers Fall, Krauter, Valchek, Utica, Armstrong, Stanley, Disston, Atkins, Proto, Williams and on and on. No-name tools were usually of lesser quality and sold at lower prices. You were always assured the tool was the best; there was no need for a 100% lifetime warranty. I’m talking the period between the 1930’s to around the 1970’s when the influx of cheap tools from overseas began. There was a hardware in New York City where I grew up called Patterson Brothers. I would spend all day Saturday browsing through aisle after aisle, shelf after shelf, display after display of every tool made and sold to the public before choosing the one tool I had the money for. Can you imagine displays of every Starrett tool, every Brown and Sharpe and every Lufkin tool made and displayed all in one place. It was a tool junkies paradise and one, the vision still haunts me to this day almost 65 years later. It’s because of this vision that my obsession with American made tools is so strong. I collected most of the tools I now own during that period in time. The thought of ever selling them is unspeakable. When I go, there will not be a gigantic garage sale disposing of those tools; they will pass down to my son who is somewhat of a tool junkie.

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