April 4, 2011

Made in China...does it mean anything to you?

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Over the past few months, we've been getting more and more emails and seeing more and more comments on the site from readers who have had it with the "Made in China" label. One commenter told us that with every review we should mention the country of origin of the tool. We don't do this for the simple reason that, well, we pretty much assume that everything is made in China. For the companies that make their tools in the USA, we tend to mention that fact in the review, and it's usually to let you know why the price is so high. Companies with German manufacturing like Festool and Fein are also known for their steep prices (and extraordinary quality). But Milwaukee, Bosch, DeWalt, and Makita and the other big guns all present us with high-priced tools made in China, and honestly we've found a lot of these to be of good quality and some of them have been with us for almost a decade with no problems.

But we've also seen the dark side...our steadfast brand loyalty to the Chippewa boot was crushed when they moved their manufacturing to China and we bought two pairs of $120 boots that were toasted in a matter of months.

So we're curious what you all have to say about this. How much of a role does country of origin play in your tool purchasing decisions? Do you feel like US tools are too expensive? Do you go US for the big purchases and China for the smaller hand tools? Do you even care at all? Let us know, we're really curious.

In a week or so we'll pick out a comment at random and send out some nice tool (possibly even one made in the USA)...

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at April 4, 2011 6:03 AM

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Recent Comments

As a DIY'er and shade-tree mechanic I buy the best that I can afford regardless of COO. Before my ex-wife dumped my tools in the ocean, it was all about Craftsman tools. Within the past year I've replaced what was sunk with a variety of tools.

I've seen excellent quality from the USA, Asia,and Europe. But I've also seen some total crap from both sides of the pond. It all depends on quality control.

My favorite pair of linesman pliers, from Wiha, a German company, where stamped Made in SROV. Where the hell is SROV? Little did I know that SROV meant Socialist Republic of Vietman. I almost sent those pliers back. But Wiha's quality control is spot-on.


Posted by: JeffD at April 14, 2011 4:50 PM

Country of origin is not important to me, quality is. That being said, I like to support the U.S. when possible/$$$-justifiable by buying U.S. made products (for that warm and fuzzy feeling). I will always buy the safer more trustworthy tool regardless or origin when tool failure means likely injury.


Posted by: TL3 at April 12, 2011 1:53 PM

@Putnameco

We all need to make choices for in both our business decisions and for our personal shops. Some time ago we thought to buy a new Felder 12 inch sliding table saw - likely to have been a good choice - but we looked at a slightly use 14 inch Asian-made Shop Fox - at a much lower price and flipped the coin in favor of cost-effectiveness


Posted by: fred at April 12, 2011 7:42 AM

I am one of the readers who commented on the fact that country of origin should be included in all reviews. I ma sick of buying small hand tools at my local Lowes, Home Depot, Service Star,etc that literally fall apart in my hands or break with the first use. I spent three weeks looking for jack stands that were made in the States as there is no way that I was putting my hands/legs under my truck and having to depend on some poorly made, low quality piece of Chinese junk.
I will pay extra for quality tools. Depresses me that so much is made over seas.
I feel that its your responsibility as a reviewer to let the readers know everything about a product.
Our litigious society is partly to blame. This will come back to haunt the lawyers, try suing a Chinese company and see how far you get.
You have to remember, the Chinese don't care about their own people, let alone an American. Lets take a look at recent events - arsenic in toothpaste to Mexico, melamine in baby formula, etc.
They have no quality control program, maybe if we insisted that the distributors have to ship all defective units back to China they would see the error of their ways. That extra cost would kill any profits made, why fill up our landfills?
Sorry to rant, but had to be said


Posted by: Chuck at April 10, 2011 6:18 PM

Re:
Protool and I'd add Mafell - don't get enough play in the US - maybe they're hung up or don't wish to deal with US licensing and potential for litigation
------
I'm betting on it being a marketing call, Tooltechnic Systems
already gets enough grief over their Festool pricing without bringing in their higher quality/price tools. From what I'm guessing, their PDC 18-4 TEC LI (18volt hammerdrill) would go for about eight hundred dollars here in the U.S.A.
I would also point out some of our domestic companies like Northfield, Gilliom,JDS, and Original Saw hardly ever get any press. I'm guessing again at them being two to three time the price of the imports and being marketed more toward the industrial side of woodworking.


Posted by: PutnamEco at April 10, 2011 1:26 AM

@PutnamEco

I'm old enough to have s supersawcat with electronic brake. What I've observed over the nearly 50 years that I've been buying tools for personal and professional use is that tool prices have come down in real terms (adjusted for inflation). A supersawcat probably cost more in terms of your weekly wage than it does now - even at $400 used.Tool availability has also improved. 50 years ago the only place to buy and see any sort of selection was via industrial suppliers. Sure you could order from a catalog at your local contractor supply or hardware store - but you were guaranteed to pay list price. The big box stores and the Internet have changed that - but as you note they may also have gotten were once professionals-only manufactures (and maybe their financiers) hooked on selling to the mass market - with its presumed empahsis on low price. Time marches on - but that doesn't mean that I still don't use older hand an stationary tools that are the equal if not better thany anything available new today. Our Oster pipe threaders, Oliver Rip Saw, Porter-Cable sanders - fit in well along side the super sawcat. It seems that hand tools may be easier to bring to market in the small quantities that appeal to those who appreciate quality. Lie-Nielsen and Veritas (and evn smaller rivals) seem to be doing OK with making and selling high quality planes. Wenzloff and others are also attempting to bring back quality western style saws. Blue Spruce and Lie-Nielsen are making some fine chisels. As you note - Protool and I'd add Mafell - don't get enough play in the US - maybe they're hung up or don't wish to deal with US licensing and potential for litigation


Posted by: fred at April 9, 2011 11:46 AM

Re: Nick said, it is no longer made by the company whose name is on the label.
------
That is one of my major gripes, that the tools are no longer made to the same quality that a brand has established. I wish these Chinese companies would develop their own brands. Look how well Japan did it. Back in the day, Japanese brands/products where the cheap junk nobody wanted, now a lot of people seek Japanese products out for their quality. Just look at companies like Honda and Makita.

I feel it is our own fault though, we seem as a culture always seem to be seeking the lowest prices, not the highest quality, and they are just meeting that demand. If all these inferior tools stopped selling, I believe we would see a marked improvement in the quality of what was offered, the technology IS out there.
So, I really can't feel that bad about some companies selling out. If my business model was failing and some one offered to buy me out....

Would you have bought that two hundred dollar top of the line American made Sawzall or circular saw or would you have bought a good enough Asian version for a hundred dollars ?

If you really care about it, Vote for quality with your dollars, quality power tools can still be found, mainly in European companies, these days, although some of these companies have jumped on the Asian boat as well.


Posted by: PutnamEco at April 7, 2011 10:26 AM

Thanks Toolsnob. It was my comment. I am very happy that you guys took my concern seriously.

I always buy the well known good brands, ie, Milwaukee, Porter Cable, Bosch, Makita, Hitatchi, etc. Then I started to notice that my new Milwaukee tools would die out on just a few small jobs. The old Milwaukee tools on the same job were still working. A guy on another crew told me to look at the tag- Made in China. Then I was told that when a product is made in China, it is no longer made by the company whose name is on the label. This is actually true because I learned about this in my last business class for college. So all of these expensive new tools that I buy are not high quality tools. They cannot be high quality. A tool company does not ship manufacturing over to China because China is world renowned for having higher quality standards than else where. So the only reason why manufacturing is moving over the China is because these once great tool companies sold out to some corp company that just wants to make more money in the short run. So all of the big dollars spent are for rich people to be richer. These higher prices are not to ensure us that we are getting great tools. Manufacturing is done in China to rip us off. We are getting less quality and we all know it, but with still the premium price. I am not being anyone's fool anymore!


Posted by: Nick at April 6, 2011 8:48 PM

I always try to buy the best tools (I need all the help I can get) and I’m really disappointed that lately most are not made in the U.S.A. If I have a choice between comparable tools I’ll go for American made every time. I don’t mind paying for quality, so I don’t believe high quality American tools are overpriced.
I find it easier to purchase small American made tools than the larger stationary tools. I can find Klein, Channellock, Armstrong, Snap-on tools and other hand tools easily, while Northfield , Original Saw Co. and the like are not commonly found.
I often buy used tools of American manufacture, because there are some tools that just don’t have the quality they once did. I’ll point to the original Black & Decker Sawcat. as an example. A 20+ year old saw, that a clean example of will go for over $400 on auction websites. I see that and wonder why no one builds an American made clone, as there IS a market for a high end quality circular saws, Look at how many people flock to Festool (who I wish would import their Protool line). Now imagine a Sawcat clone made of titanium and carbon fiber. I would pay big bucks for what would be a lifetime saw for most people, and would last more than a couple of years or two heavy daily use, that was easily repairable as well.
I feel we may be in a race to the bottom, by not demanding quality American made tools, we loose our quality American jobs, and secure our continued decline in the quality of life in America.


Posted by: PutnamEco at April 6, 2011 9:48 AM

Country of Origin is ALWAYS a consideration for me. At the bottom of the list are Chinese (not Taiwanese) made tools being flogged by unknowns. I'll buy this stuff when I'm looking for disposable stuff and I don't expect it to compromise my results. Unfortunately a lot of manufacturers no longer give us much choice, having, for a lot of different reasons, moved their production offshore.

I will buy an American made tool first, then Canadian, then Japanese and European. I am willing to pay more for those tools.


Posted by: Bikerdad at April 6, 2011 2:14 AM

"Made in USA" is not a guarantee of quality - you need merely look at most 70'-80's cars from the big 3.

"Made in China" is also not a guarantee of low quality. There are many tools that are of very high quality that come from there.

What it all boils down to is the selling company - if they are determined to make a product as cheap as possible, and pay only lip service to quality control, it will be of dubious quality - whether it is made in the USA, China, or somewhere else.


Posted by: Kris at April 5, 2011 3:58 PM

As a DIYer i try to find the best deal for my money, but usually the lifetime warranty that some tool companies offer is to good to pass up. Granted they are mostly made in China you get more peace of mind when you have that lifetime warranty in your back pocket.

But if can get something similar i will definitely go with the MADE IN USA brand. Always.

Juan


Posted by: Juan at April 5, 2011 2:23 PM

I always try to buy the best tool for the job(I need all the help I can get) and would prefer to buy American when available. I often buy used when the price is prohibitive or the quality of what is available is not worthy, Quality tools are meant to last and are easily repairable. I don't mind paying for quality so, no, I do not feel American made tools in general are overpriced, Granted there are a few exceptions...
I find it easier to find quality American made hand tools than power tools, Snap-on, Channellock and Klien are all readily available, while the likes of Northfield and Original Saw company are much harder to come by, I usually have to go out of my way to find them.
I like great tools and go out of my way to try and find them. I am very disappointed that we have very few domestic companies willing to produce exceptional tools and that there are fewer people that are willing to go out of their way to purchase them.
It seems to me that we are in a race to the bottom. There are so few really high quality goods offered to the general public, or offered at any price, that I have to wonder if this will be our undoing.
No quality products being asked for equals no quality products being manufactured equals no quality jobs for us.
One of my biggest concerns is that I can not even buy a new American made circular saw any more. I constantly search for my favorite and what I consider to be one of the best saws ever produced. the original Black & Decker Sawcat. I am not the least bit surprised when good examples of this saw sell in excess of $400. My wish is that some manufacturer would step up and clone this saw in carbon fiber and titanium, and produce it domestically. That , and Protool would be imported int the U.S.A.


Posted by: PutnamEco at April 5, 2011 11:36 AM

I work at a distributor of tools in my country (Argentina), and distribute domestic and imported tools.
Before we imported tools from USA, but then went on to make these tools in other countries like China or Brazil, and stopped buying. Also we would buy in other countries.
Now we buy in China, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, India and Colombia.
The big companies have globalized their production, and it is difficult to know whether a tool is 100% of the country indicates.
It is difficult to compete with the prices of China and India, and even have all the qualities of tools.
However, consumer perception is that the tools Made in USA, or EU have a higher degree of quality, but not always so.
Today all countries incentives the "buy national" and are adding different types of protection to their industries. While China is gradually more expensive, lack of manpower, and the need to purchase raw materials in other countries.
Paradoxically in the early twentieth century USA and EU markets filled thereof, now the third world countries are filled with articles to USA and Europe.
But the consumer always has the power to choose, does not think the pocket.


Posted by: Juan at April 5, 2011 9:15 AM

My KerryAll Pouches are made in Canada. Let's buy North American !!


Posted by: Lloyd Kerry at April 4, 2011 8:30 PM

i try to avoid "made in china" as much as possible. but its impossible to do. the reason is that the loss of jobs in the u.s. is directly connected to the problems here today. i look at all my old tools and other items and i'm amazed but yet not amazed at the quality of the made in u.s items. i'm american, not chinese. period.


Posted by: george at April 4, 2011 4:52 PM

I always check for the USA label, and it's a major factor when I go to purchase something, even something as simple as a Nail set, I go with a U.S. made DASCO over a chicom Stanley.

U.S. companies who think they can cut U.S. jobs, move to a COMMUNIST country to pay slave wages ,keep the cost savings and pass the profits to CEOS and Stock owners wont get my business. Former decent companies like Peterson/IRWIN,Rubbermaid who are owned by Newell are on my ban list. I would rather give my business to HF for a knockoff than them.
I'm also getting beyond tired of seeing American tool Icons like Vise Grips, the HD77 Skilsaw, Milwaukee sawzalls/mag drills etc being made in China, seems like nothing is sacred.


Posted by: Kevin at April 4, 2011 4:02 PM

I have a lot of reasons for trying to by tools that are made in the US. Everything from the higher quality generally found in USA made tools, to supporting domestic manufacturing and workers, supporting businesses and countries that are under solid worker safety laws, to helping the environment by not supporting the unsustainable practice of shipping goods halfway around the world. In short, beyond the basic money factor it's better to buy USA or at least USA and EU. Unless your tools are prone to getting absolutely destroyed or lost I find it's false economy to buy cheap tools as you'll buy a few to match the longevity of a well made tool.

USA made has been playing an even bigger role in my purchase decisions lately, since a few imported hand tools just haven't held up (these were last minute purchases and my options were limited).

In short. It's important. And I wish that there were still some USA made power tools around. But there aren't any that I know of.


Posted by: Ethan at April 4, 2011 2:48 PM

Question: "How much of a role does country of origin play in your tool purchasing decisions?"

Answer: I'd say that I always do my homeworks first, and buy the best tool available on the market at that moment. If it happens to be made in the US, great, but if it's made in China, I'll take it anyway. Unfortunately, because a lot of customers are shopping on price alone, regardless of the quality, it's the driving force behind the move of manufacturers from the US or EU to China.


Question: "Do you feel like US tools are too expensive?".

Answer: It really depends on the type of tools. For small handtools like pliers and screwdrivers, the difference is probably not important. Your pliers will cost you 30$ or 40$ instead of 15$. Nothing to worry about. On the portable and stationnary tool side it gets ugly pretty fast though.


Question: "Do you go US for the big purchases and China for the smaller hand tools? Do you even care at all?"

Answer: We would need to have a choice in the first place... Also, it's more likely the opposite. Few can afford big purchase items made in the US so this is why most of the stationnary tools are made overseas. As far as the small stuff, as mentioned earlier, it's a lot easier because because anyone can afford a 40$ hand tool even if it would cost 15$ if it was made in China.

As a last note, I would recommend buying the book "Cheap" from Ellen Shell (http://www.amazon.ca/Cheap-Ellen-Shell/dp/0143117637/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1301941691&sr=8-1). If you read this book, you'll think twice before buying something made in China...


Posted by: Benoit at April 4, 2011 2:33 PM

Geez the world is complicated. We spend billions of dollars a year on military defense against China, yet also buy tons of products from them. Are they our enemy? Our friend? If you buy their products, you are indirectly raising their standard of living, which eventually will make the labor cost advantage go away. Yet you are also reinforcing companies decisions to make their products in China. Do I look at the label? Yes, yes I do. And I get very excited if a tool or other product I'm interested in buying is made in USA, Japan, EU. But since most stuff is now made in China, sometimes there is no option. China is not MY enemy (very nice people) so no worries if I buy a product from them. But it is not fair, either to them or to the US worker who no longer has a job. If we all turned inward and banned China products, would that be a good thing? Again, very complicated.


Posted by: Tim at April 4, 2011 1:54 PM

Marcos is right: we vote with our dollars, every day. If what you want is bang-for-the-buck disposable products, China is king. I you want "built to last", you will usually be better served with EU or US made. From a designer/manufacturer's point of view, America has better quality materials, and better manufacturing capabilities. We also have MUCH higher labor expenses than China. It's usually impossible for an American manufacturer to compete for price with China. But high quality and innovation: THAT we can do.



Posted by: Tim Litvin at April 4, 2011 1:41 PM

I have tried my best to buy American whenever I can, but it is getting harder and harder.
The gap between price is much larger then the gap between quality these days.
As America loses it's manufacturing jobs because of company's trying to make more money, we are losing manufacturing talent as well.
If two items of equal quality are the same price and one is made in America, I'll definitely go with the good old USA.
But unfortunately, it is next to impossible to have a American only shop these days.
Thanks.


Posted by: Eric R at April 4, 2011 12:44 PM

With any tool I buy, quality is king, regardless of where it's made.


Posted by: ian at April 4, 2011 10:50 AM

Oh, another thing I forgot to mention is that made in America could still be designed in India, and supported by call centers there.

It is similar to cars. Is a Ford Fusion made in Mexico more "American" than a Mazda6 made in Michigan? Or what about a Dodge made during the Daimler-Chrysler years? Are they a German or American Company?

I like to look at the company as a whole and how they operate more than a simple sticker on a product.


Posted by: Tom at April 4, 2011 8:49 AM

If I'm buying a tool to last I'll look for a made in USA, Germany, Sweden, or Japan tag. The higher price is worth it, imho, and washes out since you won't need to replace or repair it as quickly as the cheaper made in china versions. For disposables I really only look at the price tag - chip brushes, some fasteners, sand paper, etc.. as long as they're not dipped in lead, the made in china tag is fine with me.


Posted by: paul at April 4, 2011 8:48 AM

Unfortunately, I haven't paid much notice to where a tool is built. Over the last few months my wife and I have been building up our little cache of power tools and we're just trying to stick with middle of the road prices so we're building Milwaukee, DeWalt, Bosch, etc. I've been staying away from Harbor Freight cheepos with 90 day warranties and the


Posted by: Dave at April 4, 2011 8:47 AM

I see two reasons to "buy American":
1) Support domestic labor and manufacturing
2) Support companies that pay living wages.

As some of the other commentators has pointed out: being made in places like Europe or Japan is almost as good as USA.

One thing that some people might not know is that Made in America could still mean that the parts are made in China and it is just assembled in America.

If I am on the fence between two tools I will sometimes use it as a deciding factor, especially if the "Made in America" one is a little more.


Posted by: Tom at April 4, 2011 8:45 AM

Honestly I don't check where my tools are made. Like you guys I assume it's made in China unless there's a bright flashing sign saying, "Made in USA."


Posted by: RyanB at April 4, 2011 8:34 AM

I am not american and therefore don't have any special preference for tools made in the USA. That said, I do associate Made In USA and Made In EU as being of inherently higher quality than items made elsewhere, but when it comes down to handing over the cash I must say that if reviews testify to good quality in a specific tool I have no qualms in buying Made In China.


Posted by: Gaspar at April 4, 2011 7:49 AM

I don't pay much attention to country of origin. I'm more interested in the quality of the tool. I read reviews and pick the one that has the best balance of price and quality.


Posted by: Wesley at April 4, 2011 7:46 AM

When looking for tools I always look at the Country of Origin label, and whenever possible try to purchase products with the, "Made in USA" label. In cases where this is not possible, I try to purchase products from a country that pays its workers decent wages and cares about worker safety, Germany, Japan, etc. Note, products with the Made in USA label can still be made by exploited workers in places like Guam, US Virgin Islands, etc.


Posted by: mrgunn2001 at April 4, 2011 7:43 AM

I think that buying something is like voting. You do your small part to change the country and the world. By buying stuff made in China you help companies make a larger profit by the exploitation of the poor Chinese workers. I am not saying you shouldn't buy Chinese products. I am saying people should be given all the information so they are aware of the impact their decisions have.


Posted by: markos at April 4, 2011 7:35 AM

I for one want to know where my tools come from.If a tool is made in the U.S.I'll save up for it to buy it.However a lot are not.its a shame I still use tools from my Grandfathers tool box they were made in the u.s over 60 years ago.Built to last is the phrase best used for American Made.Its a shame the big companies forgot about it.So i have to pick Big price items are us.Small price china


Posted by: John at April 4, 2011 7:32 AM

I always look for items NOT made in China when buying anything that requires precision or tensile strength. Tools like saw blades and screwdrivers come to mind immediately. For some reason, Chinese manufacturing just can't get those elements of production right, and because that keeps at least SOME manufacturing in the States I am grateful for that.

I have been pleasantly surprised with some Chinese goods - one that comes to mind was an anodized aluminum outdoor furniture set. The Harbor Freight tool cabinets are also unusually top notch.

There are things that I WISH had American made options. Box fans immediately come to mind. The cheap Chinese fans are absolutely HORRIBLE and I'd easily pay 3x the price for a solid steel frame, blade, and decently wound motor.


Posted by: Steven B at April 4, 2011 7:29 AM
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