Here’s hoping the boat’s not a slow one

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In a turnabout I find welcoming, U.S. manufacturer Lie-Nielsen Toolworks is sending tools to China instead of the other way around.

It’s been typical over the past couple decades to find tool after tool arriving in our shops with labels from China, Taiwan and elsewhere. I’ve maintained that country of origin doesn’t necessarily mean lack of quality. Oh, sure, there are tons of tools from the Far East that are pure garbage, but I’ve steadfastly opined that the country of origin isn’t at fault, but rather the lack of quality control on the part of the U.S. companies farming out their work. The iMac I’m typing this on right now is a perfect example – it’s made in China, and it’s the finest computer I’ve ever used. But that’s because Apple has uncompromising quality control. I likewise have Chinese tools in my shop with well-known American branding that are excellent. Not all tool companies share this trait for their foreign-made wares, or even for what’s left of any goods still made here.

But some American companies, like Lie-Nielsen, have not only continued to make their products in the U.S., but have built their entire existence on rigid quality control. I don’t play favorites here often, but I doubt I’ll get much argument when I note that Lie-Nielsen’s wares are among the best you can buy. They’re expensive, and worth it. Can’t find quality, made-in-American tools anymore? Sure you can.

All of this makes me even happier to hear that Lie-Nielsen has entered the Chinese market. According to the Bangor [Maine] Daily News, the company sent their first shipment to China over the winter and expects to make more. I wish the company the best of luck in this venture.

This is an excellent sign for the economy in general, and the woodworking industry in particular. The fact that China – possibly the largest single nation of emerging consumers on this or any nearby planet – is not only importing America tools, but some of the finest examples of American tools, indicates that the global marketplace for quality goods is expanding.

That can only mean good things for the U.S. economy.

A.J.

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