The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Am I being clear?

Earlier this evening I was searching for something on my blog (I’ve been doing that lately. I do research from my own writings if you will) and came across a post I wrote back in February concerning the lack of middle ground when it comes to purchasing woodworking tools.
That post covered nothing new and has been debated for as long as I’ve been working and probably much further back than that. But what I did notice was that some of the commenters seemed to feel that I was bashing Lie Nielsen tool works for charging too much for their tools. The comments were very civil, so there wasn’t an issue there. But I think there was a misunderstanding involved, because I wasn’t writing that post as a “consumer” but as a “woodworker”.

In that post, I speculated that if woodworking tools made by companies like LN, Veritas, Clifton, et al, were more readily available (as in a network of retail outlets) it may make them more affordable. Now I am only speculating, I don’t know if that is true or not. My guess stems from my dealings with electrical hand tool manufacturers for the past ten years. It could be that they run their businesses entirely different than the companies that make woodworking hand tools. As a woodworker, not a consumer, I wish those tools were more readily available “closer to home” and not solely through the internet. And it was/is my opinion that if the tools were more readily available they would sell more, and with greater sales they may become more affordable.

When it comes to woodworking tools, the cost vs. worth debate always seems to enter the equation at some point. I think the ‘cost vs. worth’ argument is really the straw-man thrown into the mix when we speak of the affordability of woodworking tools. When I wrote that post, I wasn’t questioning whether or not Lie Nielsen’s tools were worth what they are being sold for, I was questioning whether or not they are affordable, and at that not just LN but any mid to high level maker.

We can debate all day whether or not a tool is worth what it costs, but that means little in the market place. A Rolls Royce Phantom may be worth every penny of its $380,000 price tag, but that doesn’t make it affordable. You can make that same statement about most quality woodworking tools. Of course you can make this argument for any quality item from clothing to furniture. The difference being that clothing and furniture are necessities of varying degrees. Woodworking tools are a hobby purchase for most of us. Speaking for myself only, affordability is at the least as important to me as worth when it comes to discretionary spending on a hobby.

I know that this topic/post/argument is old hat. I get that. But I found it interesting personally not because of the topic, but because of the misconceptions that arose from it. If some commenters felt I was off base because of flawed logic, I can live with that. As I said, I was only speculating. But if commenters felt I was off base because my writing was not clear or concise enough, well, that is something I will need to work on.

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