February 7, 2012 Comments Off on Buy Local
When it comes to tools, woodworkers today are fortunate to have so many choices. Each year new tool makers are jumping into the ring. While the power tool aisle at the big box stores seems to grow and grow, even the number of hand tool choices we have today is quite amazing. But it can be a little daunting for someone looking to start woodworking as a hobby. And as a result we have endless threads on web forums comparing one tool manufacturer to another – Lie Nielsen vs. Lee Valley, Blue Spruce vs Czech Edge, Bad Axe vs Gramercy, etc. It’s actually not too surprising to see these threads. Americans love competition, we love to keep score, and we always want the best deal. We’re always trying to maximize that elusive trait called “value”. Still, for some it becomes paralysis by analysis. I was as guilty as anyone of this. In some ways, I still am. But I’ve tried to simplify many of my purchases by following a few guidelines. Buy quality, and when possible, buy local. And then use the tools and don’t look back.
Buying local can apply to some of your tools just as easily as it does your food. I’m lucky. In the Portland, OR vicinity where I live we have Wenzloff & Sons, Blue Spruce Toolworks, and Bridge City Tool Works (as well as an abundance of local food). Look around where you live – you may have more tool makers in your area, or at least your home state, than you think. If you join a local woodworking club you might unexpectedly find a local member who likes to build tools.
Take hand saws as an example. The map below shows the locations of boutique saw makers, as well as Daryl Weir, who restores vintage saws (my apologies if I’m missing a few). If you live near one of these tool makers and are looking for a quality saw, than your decision may be easier than you thought. If you live very close to them, chances are you can arrange to meet them and look at the saws in person. All make quality tools, so why not support a local business? Sadly, the same can’t be said for power tools. Most power tools are now made overseas, and many are low in quality and high in frustration. But you have some choices here, as well, and that will be the subject of my next post.
There are some hand saws that are still mass produced in this country. Great Neck in New York comes to mind, and there might be more.