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Origin of species (part 2)

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Last time I spoke about woodworking tools and materials, and how we had to research them more carefully than ever. This time, here’s what the manufacturers have to do.

The first thing should be obvious: Make better stuff. Sure the unwashed masses (and those of us who know better, but are in a hurry) will continue to buy crummy Big Box plywood, and weekend warriors who don’t know there are better tools will continue to buy not-so-good ones. But, surely, that’s not where the manufacturers’ money is. My guess is that their big money comes from the bigger tools from serious woodworkers like us.

Some overseas manufacturers get it right – have you ever heard anyone complain about the quality of a Fein vacuum or a Festool router? It’s the familiar American tool names (some of which are foreign in origin) now farming their stuff overseas who don’t seem to get that you need to have the same quality control over someone else making your stuff that you used to have when you made your own stuff.

But even when they get the quality of the foreign-made tools right, sometimes they continue to hit us over the head with their foreign-ness anyway. Take, for example, the deplorable broken English in tool manuals. Just how little cost and effort would it take to have an English-speaking proofreader (or, maybe, a high school student looking to supplement his allowance) take a look at these things before printing them by the thousands? Or, how about this safety warning I found permanently affixed to the front of a tool I’m considering buying, which I reproduce here exactly as written; bad grammar, weird capitalization and all:

“In the case of left bevel cutting, remove the sub fence. Supposing it is not able to remove it, it Will contact the blade or some part of the tool, causing in serious injury to operator.”

This isn’t the typical bad English you find in the manuals (which you quickly forget if you even bother to read), but a big, permanent sign that screams, “????!” I’d have to think that the typical woodworker with a buy-American sentiment – the very people the manufacturer’s need to win over – will be so offended by this reminder of foreign origin that they’d quickly reconsider the tool’s purchase.

OK, manufacturers, I’ll grant you that switching to a global economy and global subcontracting is as difficult for you as it is for us. There are bugs to be worked out and when they are, your tools and materials will improve. But in the meantime, please spend the extra 25 cents or whatever it would take to at least give the appearance that your biggest market share is the American woodworker.

Till next time,


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