Bigger baskets, more eggs

You’ll no doubt hear more about the details in the pages of Woodshop News, but the big news this week is that Stanley Works has acquired Black & Decker.

Once upon a time there was a company called Porter-Cable. Also a company called Delta. The two joined in a corporate way when another company, Pentair, acquired both. DeWalt, another name that goes back decades, became part of Black & Decker years ago. Stanley Works, the maker of hand tools that predate my grandfather, grew over the years and acquired or created other companies like Mac and Bostitch. A few years ago, Black & Decker acquired Porter-Cable and Delta, making B&D one of the single largest tool companies in the world, in the sense that their covered brands represent a huge percentage of the tools owned by woodworkers like you and me. My shop is filled with tools large and small with the brands from that one enormous company. Now, with an announcement made this week, Stanley has acquired that enormous company.

That’s almost mind-boggling when you come to think of it.

What will this all mean to you and me when we’re out making sawdust? It’s just too early to tell, and anybody who starts making guesses about what the future holds for all these brands is doing just that: guessing.

It’d be easy to take the negative route on this. Indeed, the chatter on the various woodworking Web sites is already dominated with “clever” but overwhelmingly negative quips from those eager to predict that all the brands will now go down the porcelain fixture. I haven’t seen it yet, but some Trekkie will certainly make comparisons to the all-consuming Borg who assimilates others into their own image. Not this Trekkie.

I guess years of being advised not to put all your eggs in one basket are hard to dismiss, but I prefer to wait and see. The economy is not good. This is not a news flash, nor did you need the media – or me – to tell you this. You’re feeling it everyday, and so are the tool manufacturers. While I have no idea of the driving forces behind this Stanley/B&D merger, if it means that brands like Porter-Cable, DeWalt and Delta are given a new lease on life, then I’m all for it. If the massive new tool conglomerate that is formed improves Stanley and its attendant brands, great. The power of a company this size is tremendous, and if used wisely we’ll all win.

But that is a lot of eggs. Hopefully, Stanley will take Mark Twain’s advice to heart.

Till next time,

A.J.

COMMENTS

  1. Jan Wesselius wrote:

    Black and Decker used to make good tools during the early 60s then they got cheap. Now they are what I consider throw away tools. Delta used to be good, then they started sponsoring that TV fellow on PBS. They went downhill in quality and now they just live on their old reputation. I would just like to see once a tool company that gets bought out that starts to produce better tools than what they used to make. So far it hasen’t happened. Why do tool companies always try for cheaper, never better tools.

  2. A.J. Hamler wrote:

    Jan…

    Sorry to disagree, but Black & Decker still makes good tools. I have a cordless recip saw of theirs I bought seven years ago, plus a leaf blower and string trimmer I got five years ago, and they are all going strong. I have B&D flashlight that came with something or other, and it’s a great flashlight. I picked up a cheap B&D driver two years ago that I use for simple around-the-house tool. It’s great.

    The key is what do you want to use them for? If I were a contractor, that B&D recip wouldn’t be my choice. If I was a professional landscaper, neither would that blower or trimmer. But for the way I use them, those tools are better than OK; they’re excellent. Just because a tool doesn’t work for you the way you want to work, doesn’t mean it’s a bad tool.

    I have a Delta 6″ jointer, 14″ band saw, 10″ drill press, and a combo disc/belt sander — all of which I got since they started sponsoring “that TV fellow,” and I use them numerous times; in the case of the band saw and sander, I use them daily. They’re all just fine. Would they be fine in a production shop? Maybe, maybe not. But for my use, and I use them a LOT, they are fine. For you and the way you work, perhaps not. But that doesn’t make them bad tools.

    A.J.

  3. Pete Kasper wrote:

    I used to think Delta machines were the greatest. I have a Unisaw, radial drill press, hollow chisel mortiser, and sharpening center, all of which are top notch machines. Last year I broke the mounting rod of the fence on my 5 year old Delta mortiser, was glad to learn that, although my model had been superceded by a later one, the newer, current model used the same exact fence with the same part #. But with the B&D takeover’s parts inventory reductions, Delta no longer carried, nor could even special order, that part, even though it’s a part of the motisers currently on sale at your local and national woodworking supply stores. If it breaks, the woodworker (or Delta if it’s still under warranty) has to replace the whole mortiser (about $270-$290) for the sake of a $35-$55 part. Fortunately for me, I found a machinist with the equipment and skill to re-mill and rebuild my fence for $75. Since then, I’m afraid to buy Delta or Porter Cable machines, despite the great design of the new Unisaw.

  4. A.J. Hamler wrote:

    Pete…

    I’ve heard wonderful things about the new Unisaw, although that strange drawer under the right extension seems more than a little odd. If I got one, the first thing I’d do is remove that drawer and put a router table in that extension instead.

    Don’t misconstrue what I said earlier to mean that I don’t think the overall quality of many woodworking products — from tools right on down to the wood itself — has decreased for a lot of manufacturers. “They just don’t make ‘em like they used to” is often truer than we like to think. But I’m not sure you can point to new ownership as automatically being the cause of it. Sometimes yeah, sometimes no, but it’s not a given by any means. In the case of your mortiser, it sounds like the quality of the tool is the same, it’s just that new ownership in this case eliminated keeping what turned out to be an essential part in stock. Alas, that’s often the real issue, as opposed to an overall reduction in quality.

    A.J.

  5. Ted Sager wrote:

    Last week, I went to the local big box lumber company (Lowes) and was talking to a sales person. We discussed a 3 or 4 part battery tool kit, and warranty. I asked about the replacement of a piece of the set, and how the box company would process it.

    Simple, you bring in the ENTIRE set, incoluding the instructions and kit it came in. They would then give you a complete NEW set, and send the rest, ALL THE ORIGINAL SET to their crusher / trash compactor.

    Somehow this does not make sense to me. I know parts and machines fail, at different rates and usage. To trash the entire set, or NOT SEND IT TO REFURBISH, to me seems like “stupidity gone to seed”.

    regards, Ted Sager

  6. Michael Neubauer wrote:

    All of these companies still make “good” tools if you define good as for the intended purchaser. I consider a tool good to great if a proffesional can walk up to it or pick it up and use it all day long day in and day out if need be. Few of the offerings I see regularly in stores or catalogs meet my definition of quality. The reality of profit-loss statements and ROI is such that bean counters everywhere who may never pick upo a tool make decisions and advise engineers to use less material and reduce part counts. It far more profitable to throw something away that is mass produced at minimum labor cost, than to repair it or even maintain a parts inventory system. Many of my stationary Delta tools still show there linage back to the Walker Turner Tool Company of the Turn of the last century and are not as smooth or durable. A new 14″ band saw vibrates and flexes where the old ones were balanced. When you buy a new bandsaw from almost anyone you often have to upgrade it with better guides, tires or even granite wheels to get it to be vibration free. So much for progress and quality

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