Thursday, June 20, 2013

How does he really feel?

Paul Sellers on a modern Stanley plane sold in a big box store:
If it were stainless steel, perhaps it could have been sold as a cheese slicer. Stanley came out with this plane type under different names years ago. It’s the very worst plane in the world ...
Other than that, he likes it I guess.  This quote made me laugh a lot.  I haven't tried one of these planes, but I assume he's right and it makes me feel sorry for people who buy one, take it home and try to do something with it.  The majority of these planes probably get tried once and then put away forever.

I'm an economist and we are noted for our theories about the efficient operation of markets.  Hmmm.  It's impossible to be knowledgeable about every product you buy so in many cases you have to trust either the manufacturer or the retailer.  My motto is "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."  Once I buy an inferior product from a company, I don't buy from it again unless I have specific knowledge that the particular product is a good one.  Sadly, that is the case with many big box and chain hardware store products.  You just can't be confident that their products will suit the intended purpose.  I can think of many examples.  There is an awful lot of absolute junk in the market.  Markets need informed consumers capable of distinguishing good products from bad to perform well or they need trustworthy suppliers, preferably both.

These experiences make you really appreciate the exceptions.  If I don't know much about a particular woodworking product, for example, I buy it from Lee Valley or the like because I can have a reasonable expectation that it will be a good one.  Their reputation for marketing quality products and standing behind what they sell is a valuable corporate asset.  The Canadians are lucky to have Lee Valley retail stores and I wish we did here in the U.S.  The sad reality is that this approach probably wouldn't work in the big box market though.

I sometimes wonder how many people become interested in woodworking with hand tools, buy a few inferior tools, can't accomplish anything and quickly give up.  What a shame.  With the demise of shop class, videos and classes play an essential role.  Local woodworking guilds can provide an essential introduction in hand tool selection and use, although ours doesn't.  The rest of us can, if asked, help to guide newcomers to reputable suppliers or point them to good products.

In our area beginners have no place to go and I can remember how I struggled.  I have given some thought to opening my shop to people I know who have repeatedly expressed interest in hand tools so they can learn to maintain and use them.  Definitely not a money maker, but it would be satisfying I think.

1 comment:

  1. Paul Sellers doesn’t usually mince his words if he thinks a product is not up to snuff.

    Recently he’s pronounced on a brand of files, but I think that he’s right about this plane.

    It’s based on the Stanley No: 10 pattern rebate plane pattern, but is mostly a light-weight metal body, a plastic handle and a disposable blade (hence the ‘RB’, for razor blade, presumably). They crop up here in the UK on internet auctions from time to time.

    Like you, I’m baffled by enterprises that offer poor service as standard.

    It’s what I term “undertaker selling” - in that they don’t expect their customers to come back for more, which unless I’m mistaken, is the whole reason for being in business in the first place.

    All best from Wales where 'Under-takering' seems to be the norm in some building trades.