Hand Tools Archive

The economics of chinese goods...a string trimmer+

david weaver
My spouse decided that after the power company cut an L in one of our trees that I should go out and round over the entire tree. The tree in question is a japanese flowering cherry - which is not supposed to grow to be very old due to disease, and mine shows stress from age. It has for 15 years now. I'd have to guess that it's 60+ years old vs. the supposed life span of 25-40. Fortunately, they grow wide and flat.

Anyway, that means I need a maximum reach of about 20 feet. There is only one sensible way for me to get that, which is a pole pruner. I already have one of the nice scissor types (a professional one) that I paid just under $200 for years ago. But the mrs. wants the tree cut back harder, which means taking branches off that won't fit in it.

In looking for pole pruners, I found a chinese combo tool that has a steel spline drive and (not a mistype) a 52 cc powerhead. That is monstrous for a pole pruner bar and chain. The princely sum for it delivered (after the seller paid shipping and ebay costs) is $160.

I have no clue how they can manage to sell them for that. The cost to get the tree pruned would be several times that, which is why I'm not hiring it done.

I expected a tool that might be single use. It came two weeks ago. The tool itself is:
* 52cc powerhead
* three splined sections of shaft with rollerblade bearings in them and the driveshaft is steel - I didn't check its hardness with a file, I don't really care
* a string trimmer head and guard (the gear box at the power head is marked "japan" - that's usually a trouble point on cheap trimmers - I guess the chinese deferred)
* a commercial style hedge trimmer (which I happen to also have use for)
* a 12 or 14 inch bar and chain, lubed and all (and the oiler even works on it)
* a brush cutter head and four steel brush cutting blades of various styles
* a harness
* safety glasses
* a set of ear muffs
* a set of gloves
* a mixing container so that if you're not familiar with mixing fuel, you can refer to the manual

To my extreme surprise, I mixed fuel using their container (the ratio is different than my other western made stuff), fixed an assembly issue the tool had, and put the string trimmer part on. It started right away, and it's actually set properly (the carb is - I'm sure it wasn't run before, but still not something I expected). It is insanely strong running. I trimmed the yard just to test it running, it's a heavy trimmer, but is the equivalent of running around killing ants with a sledge hammer.

I took the trimmer attachment off, added an extension and then the bar and chain section and cut a couple of branches off of my tree before getting called out. The bar and chain is a little cheesy and cheap, but not something I'll wear out.

I have been buying and selling guitars (my next fix, if I ever build something, I always go bonkers buying a million things to look at - but carefully so that the net cost of having a look is zero or close to it). Their ship weight is less than the weight of this tool, and through a commercial account, I can ship one across the country ground for about $50. Ebay and paypal fees would've taken about $20 from this seller. He must be making something (the name on the box was in chinese), but I can't imagine he nets more than $100 after fees and shipping. Maybe he got 500 of them for $50 each, who knows? even in china, i don't see how they can make the stuff for that.

Mine was also not assembled properly where the powerhead is attached to the shaft - the shaft didn't turn at all. I spent about half an hour taking it apart and putting it back together. Most other people would return it and the seller will eat that if they do.

I just don't really get it, but it must be worthwhile to someone.

Many of the small things that I've purchase (a $9 lithium powered screwdriver for guitar making - with 50 *hardened* bits) look like they're listed in the US, but it's apparent that they're coming from china once they get here.

When there are $4 sets offered on ebay or through a website, I'm guessing they're just drop shipped from china. You can't ship them in the united states for $4. It costs me that much to ship a straight razor across the country, and they weigh about 5 ounces total *with the box*.

The average wage in china in the last 12 years has gone from $2k to $7,500. I'm guessing that it's not so much the wage for the person putting chisels in boxes, but the fact that china is developing a more modern economy and the jobs added are higher skilled.

(the manual on my combination machine is actually good, written in english, with pictures and even has diagrams for proper cutting of branches on trees to keep them from barber chairing. It must be 50 pages long. I'm over the moon with the thing and am dumping an expensive japanese string trimmer on craigslist. My wife is less happy about it. She wants a husband who has no things, builds nothing, and buys goods, throws them out as soon as we don't need them in the next week, and hires everything else done)

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