Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday Grump

Anyone who’s followed this blog for any length of time knows my propensity to growl, gripe, grump and grouse. That’s why I turned the verb “grouse” into a noun for the name of my blog. I believe in exhaustively complete labeling by all companies and truth in advertising for EVERYBODY. So, today, I’m once again going to give you what my blog name promises.

This afternoon, the missus wanted to go over on the wrong side of the river that flows through our town and visit their Chinamart. There’s a Lowe’s next door, so that was fine with me. I used to only go into Lowe’s when I had a project in mind and money in my pocket. However, since they now have handicapped carts, I sometimes just go in to scout for things I’ll need for future projects. Today, it was to find the cost of putting a post out along the road in front of our home with our house number on each side. Hopefully, that will keep UPS and FedEx from leaving me packages for the house across the road. I found the post, but not the numbers, and there wasn’t anyone to ask, SO, I went over to where a couple of my fellow bloggers told me the outdoor tools would be.

A little background here—I spent a large part of my life using tools like shovels, rakes, axes, sledge hammers, picks, mattocks, splitting mauls and so on. Then, I worked for O. Ames Company for nearly 12 years MAKING shovels and rakes. Believe me, I KNOW what a quality tool looks like. Eventually, Ames, who was making money hand over fist, bought out True-Temper, which was going down the tubes. Interestingly enough, the powers that WERE in the company let all the Ames management go and KEPT the losers from True-Temper. THEN, they brought in a CEO, named John Stoner, that had run every company that he’d ever headed into bankruptcy. Soon, all the most profitable items had been stolen from us and sent to the previously struggling True-Temper plants. Once he was able to make our plants look unprofitable, he closed our plants down, and sent to China any work that the old True-Temper plants couldn’t handle. This was done in part to spite our union, even though our cost per unit was well below what the non-union True-Temper plants produced. Needless to say, a certain very warm place will freeze over before I ever spend one red cent on a NEW Ames or True-Temper product.

Back to today—I’m actually in the market for a good hay fork (as opposed to a pitchfork for manure), a bucksaw and a grass hook (think sickle with a 3’ handle (but NOT a scythe)). I’ll probably have to either get a used hay fork up in Amish country, or make one from wood, like the old-timers did. I can order a grass hook from the Ace Hardware store in my area, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it would be made overseas. Once again, I might find a used one in Amish country or else make one from an old sickle in the basement (probably my best option). The bucksaw can only be had from two sources that I’ve found online, one being Lehman Hardware up in Amish country, OR I can buy one from an antique shop, OR make my own frame and buy only the blade. I prefer the latter two options. Bucksaws can be resharpened, unlike the blades that now come in bow saws.

Fiskars has the only bow saw I know that has a decent blade and Lowe’s sells them. They also claim to stock replacement blades for them. Alas, when I looked at the replacement blades, they were made in Thailand and were NOT Fiskars brand, plus the grinding on the teeth looked atrocious. I can order new blades direct from Fiskars, so I’ll do that when I can and have some extras. Even though they have “hardened” teeth, I suspect that they can be sharpened, though I may have to use diamond files. I have my doubts, though, whether they can be set.

While there, I looked at their shovels, axes, splitting mauls and so on. The shovels all had the name brand EMBOSSED INTO THE BLADE!” Only a moron would deliberately make it more difficult for the shovel to clean itself. You can be sure some idiot in marketing came up with the idea. Some of the shovels were made in Mexico, and showed it by their weird shape. Others were “assembled in America of foreign and domestic parts.” All were pieces of crap, despite their prices. The axes and striking tools were all at the $25-$30 level and had mostly fiber handles (eventually good for splinters even worse than wooden ones) and were either foreign made or were the bastardized hybrids that I already mentioned. I wasn’t impressed. There were a couple tools with wood handles, but they were obviously made from boards with no consideration as to grain.

Before leaving, I checked out some 6’ stakes literally made from wood so ROTTEN that I could actually see the rot from 20’ away (of course I have the trained eye of a 30-year sawmill man). The one that I picked up broke with only about five pounds of pressure. They were asking $3 each for them.

I finally made it over to Chinamart to hook up with the missus and checked out THEIR tools. There were very few, but they actually had a better shovel than Lowe’s, and for only $6, if you don’t mind a pine handle with the grain turned any old way.

Incidentally, if anyone cares, it appears that “Ames” now sells tools under their own name, True-Temper, Truper and Kobalt. They also make most of the shovels for places that sell them under their own store brand. It’s kind of depressing if you appreciate good tools. © 2016


buddeshepherd said...

We have been sold down the river. So to speak...

Gorges Smythe said...

Yes we have, Budd. The only way that I have of protesting the matter is to buy used, rather than new, or do without. BTW, I can buy grass hooks online several places, but they're all made by either Ames or True-Temper (at the same plant, no doubt). - lol

Gail said...

Maybe, just maybe, we will have American made Hickory and Oak handles again soon.

The prices scare me! That is why we try to just keep replacing our handles. Now and then we find some good ones and try to stock up. I have painted all the handles for this year. Sometimes we are lazy and leave our hoes and such leaned where we are working. The paint helps a little.

An old hatchet just rehandled and sharpened was used to cut up a deer today along with limb loppers and four different knives but there's meat in the sink soaking. We are blessed.

Gorges Smythe said...

I always thought paint made blisters more likely, Gail, but if it works for you, then maybe not.

Fredd said...

Everything boils down to the bottom line, Gorges. Everything. Back in the day, quality automobiles had lots of brass on them: radiator shells, headlamps, carbide tanks, trim, lots and lots of brass everywhere.

Brass was expensive, and so were cars in the brass-era. Only well-to-do folk, you know, bankers, lawyers, politicians and the like had cars. Everybody else either saddled up their horse, or more likely, walked.

Cost was never really an issue with the brass cars, since their customers really did not care what these cars costed (in economics, these customers would be buying items that were price inelastic). They would sell their cars no matter what the costs. The bankers, lawyers and politicians would buy them regardless.

Then came the competition: Hank Ford, primarily. He wanted to make cars affordable, so that not just the bankers and lawyers were riding around town all high-falootin' and everything, no siree Bob. He started getting rid of expensive stuff on cars, and the first thing that went was brass, costs came down and regular folks were able to buy cars, not just the rich folk.

And his cars (Model T's) started selling like hot cakes (pancakes or flapjacks, depending on where you are). To compete, other car makers had to go along with the cheapening of their cars. Some did not, and catered to the rich folk, and their market share suffered accordingly. Sooner rather than later, most of the hoity-toity brass car manufacturers bit the dust, but not Hank. His cars ruled. His cheap, unadorned tin lizzies.

It always boils down to the bottom line, Gorges. And it always has.

Sixbears said...

I've a small collection of tools in need of new handles. Their poor quality and high prices have keep me from replacing them. Right now I think I'll have to sort through the piles and get the best I can. Not ready to make them from scratch yet. Only so many hours in the day.

I'm down to my last backup tools so I'd better figure out something soon.

Also in the market for a good snow shovel. One would think that they would have figured out how to design a simple shovel by now? The stuff I've seen has been too wide and shallow with short handles. They look like they've been designed by someone who might have heard of shovels but never had to use one.

Oh well, the search goes on.

Gorges Smythe said...

The bad part, Fredd, is that quality has sunk so low on SOME items as to nearly make them unusable, or at least not practical.

I've only made a couple handles in my life, Sixbears, I'm too impatient. Boughten handles for me, thank you. The only problem is that you really do have to watch the quality. Sometimes, if I see a good handle, I'll pick it up, knowing that I'll eventually need it. I've got a sledge that needs a new one and found two handles stashed away in the basement, so I can do the job when I chose, rather than when I can find a good enough handle.