Here’s hoping the boat’s not a slow one

In a turnabout I find welcoming, U.S. manufacturer Lie-Nielsen Toolworks is sending tools to China instead of the other way around.

It’s been typical over the past couple decades to find tool after tool arriving in our shops with labels from China, Taiwan and elsewhere. I’ve maintained that country of origin doesn’t necessarily mean lack of quality. Oh, sure, there are tons of tools from the Far East that are pure garbage, but I’ve steadfastly opined that the country of origin isn’t at fault, but rather the lack of quality control on the part of the U.S. companies farming out their work. The iMac I’m typing this on right now is a perfect example – it’s made in China, and it’s the finest computer I’ve ever used. But that’s because Apple has uncompromising quality control. I likewise have Chinese tools in my shop with well-known American branding that are excellent. Not all tool companies share this trait for their foreign-made wares, or even for what’s left of any goods still made here.

But some American companies, like Lie-Nielsen, have not only continued to make their products in the U.S., but have built their entire existence on rigid quality control. I don’t play favorites here often, but I doubt I’ll get much argument when I note that Lie-Nielsen’s wares are among the best you can buy. They’re expensive, and worth it. Can’t find quality, made-in-American tools anymore? Sure you can.

All of this makes me even happier to hear that Lie-Nielsen has entered the Chinese market. According to the Bangor [Maine] Daily News, the company sent their first shipment to China over the winter and expects to make more. I wish the company the best of luck in this venture.

This is an excellent sign for the economy in general, and the woodworking industry in particular. The fact that China – possibly the largest single nation of emerging consumers on this or any nearby planet – is not only importing America tools, but some of the finest examples of American tools, indicates that the global marketplace for quality goods is expanding.

That can only mean good things for the U.S. economy.



  • T. A. Ehman says:

    Do you think Chinese companies are buying these besutiful planes so they can reverse engineer them and put them into production like they have on so many other occasions?

  • Scott Enloe says:

    Great point on the US farming out the work with less than acceptable parameters. I have heard this before but no one appears to care. Lie-Nielsen is a rare quality product in an age of so so tools!
    Scott Enloe

  • Chuck R says:

    I go with the first reply – the Chicoms will buy American product and make cheap knockoffs. The reason they actually had to buy the Lie-Nielsen product is that those folks are one of the few that are not already having their products made over there. I only own one Lie Nielsen plane it is a beauty – think I will buy another today – great company. Great product.

  • A.J. Hamler says:

    T.A. —

    Chinese companies have already been doing that for years. They don’t need a company to send them a huge shipment of them … they can just order a few from Amazon or wherever. For that matter, U.S. companies lacking in moral standards can (and have) also copy them, and then have Chinese factories make crummy versions under their own name.

  • Gene Kelly says:

    I agree that they make a very good plane (Iown several of them) but, Lie-Nielson has been overpriced for a very long time, so a couple of companies, Stanley being one of them, decided that they could improve their own quality and compete with Lie-Nielson head to head. Stanley is manufacturing a very nice plane and pricing it in the affordable range. Many retailers have taken note in the US and all but stopped carrying Lie-Nielson. It seems that in order to survive they needed to find a way to sell their wares, therefore, the China connection.

  • Brian B says:

    American made goods are status symbols, and status symbols are very important to their culture. As their middle class rises, they need more and greater variety of status symbols. Most of these tools will never be used but will be part of a display in someones house.

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