Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Where are those woodturning tools REALLY made?

This might be just hearsay, but it gave me a pause:
I heard a rumor today that, in order to mark turning tools “made in Sheffield”, the tool maker merely has to “add significant value to the materials”.

This means that “M2 HSS” that is imported, for example, from China could be machined, sharpened, and put into a handle (that perhaps was also imported), and then marketed under an English company’s name as being “made in Sheffield”! This is shocking! And discouraging, too. The same situation also probably exists with all kinds of goods, manufactured in many other countries, like the US.

In the case of turning tools, it is the quality of the steel itself, and its proper heat treating, that brings value to the tool being made in Sheffield. Using imported steel and “adding value” to it in Sheffield is not giving us what we think we are getting.

What this means to me is this: it is no longer enough simply to buy a “name brand” (of turning tools or anything else for that matter). Or to look at where something says it is made and believe it. We need to know the people that we buy things from well enough to trust their morals and marketing statements. We need to ask before we buy, especially if a suspiciously low price makes us wonder about the quality of something.

Now, more than ever, personal relationships and personalized service are the most valuable “product” that a company has to offer its customers.

I plan to ask the important questions before I vote with my cash by buying, well, anything, not just turning tools! If the sales person can’t answer my question about a tool and how it was made, I will look for a supplier who can and will.

And in case anyone’s wondering, my Signature Tools are made in Sheffield, from steel that is made and properly heat treated in Sheffield. They are made by a company, Henry Taylor Tools, with a long standing worldwide reputation for quality. There is an actual person attached, Barry Surplice, who I can talk to and expect to receive honest answers to all of my questions.

My tools are supplied in the US by a company, Packard Woodworks, that also has a reputation for quality and excellent service. The owner, Brad Packard, is a real person who will give me honest answers.

This is important to me. It's the PEOPLE who make life, and woodturning, meaningful!