Hand Tools Archive

Re: American thievery
Response To:
American thievery ()

Wiley Horne
Hi all,

I’m putting this here cause it has to be somewhere. Not arguing with Warren, who I have the highest respect for, but I have a different take on the small-production makers, sometimes disparagingly called boutique makers. As though they don’t get their hands dirty. They make planes, chisels, not many plate saws, marking gear, bench vises and accessories, fret saws....

I have a lot of respect for these folks, who are hardy enough to forego safe salaried work for the pure risk of owning their own time and betting they can compete in the market. Arithmetic itself requires high prices. And I doubt any of them are making much money, whatever they charge, because (1) they can’t produce enough to get any scale economy, and (2) they’re selling into a very small market, even if they could produce more.

To take this away from the US for a moment, a very famous Japanese maker of traditional saws died several years ago. He was third generation in a family of sawmakers. Untold hours and skill were required per saw. He could sell as many of them as he could produce for $1,500 each, less expenses and the agent’s cut. He died broke and without hot water in the house. He couldn’t beat the math because there weren’t enough hours in the day.

Perhaps the forces of family and tradition are not strong enough here in the US for the same thing to happen. But the business proposition is daunting and requires a strong constitution to face every day.

These folks are selling to amateurs. In Japan or America. We have all seen professionals at work, whether furnituremakers or plumbers or you name it—professionals do not generally use expensive tools. They use standard tools and have consummate skill in their use, if they’ve survived the market for long.

But having friends among the ‘small’ makers, and knowing something of their lives, I believe they should be respected for the risk they take, for the standards they impose on themselves, and for the hard work they do.


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