Money for nothing!

And the chips won’t come free either! Did you buy a shiiiny thingamabob with a good brand on it, only to find bob’s twin in another color for less money? Gotta move those colors…….

I think the difference between a professional and an amateur woodworker should not be measured by the tools we use. I know for a fact that Richard Maguire, the English woodworker (highly recommended by the way), have some chisels with plastic handles on them. PLASTIC! They were CHEAP too! At least they would be today, compared to what else is out there. How dare he make beautiful furniture with those things? I should rightfully sight down my snout* at such malpractice! Surely cheap tools makes cheap products?
He even have the audacity to use a throw-away hand saw!!

* the human nose especially when large or grotesque
Merriam-webster.com

A quick rummage through Richard’s website soon put the notion that you need expensive tools to produce nice things, to shame. And if you think about it – people have created the most exquisite pieces with rather simple tools for thousands of years. Some pieces has even survived since illuminati built the first landing pads for their triangular shaped moonbuggys. Ya know, those pyramids. It is said that if you put your Bailey-pattern hand plane underneath the great pyramid of Giza, it’ll self-sharpen during the night.

I’ll stick to my diamond plates, though.

How many pocket holes is in this thing from the Versailles palace?
Image source: Wikimedia

Looking back, it seems that every man had at least a set of chisels, a hand saw and a hand plane in his arsenal. I know my dad has all of those tools, and I am sure they wasn’t cheap when he got them. Tools has gotten cheaper and cheaper over the years, and today I can get a Stanley hand plane for NOK 350, about $40 (not a good model, but it’ll work if you fettle it – still a sad substitute for a vintage one, or a new from one of the premium manufacturers). That’s about 1-1.5 hours work for the average person here in Norway. Paul Sellers has repeatedly told that he spent an entire week’s salary buying a hand plane. On average, a week’s salary today is about 8500,- or close to $1000 (before taxes). I could get at least two Lie-Nielsen planes for that amount of money.

Even though Joe Average of today might be able to spend a decent chunk of money on tools, it is easy to waste money. Take the aforementioned Stanley hand plane at NOK 350,-. For the cost of about two dinners for my family of four, I get a hand plane from a known manufacturer. However, it is a lump of metal and plastic in the form of a hand plane. It still needs a lot of fettling. Sharpening the iron and setting up the bevels, adjusting the frog, grind the chip breaker so that its edge will sit flush to the iron and do a bit of flattening of the sole. THEN it becomes a usable tool, but it still is sub-par. Compared to a vintage Stanley Bailey from around 1940-1950, it falls through on every aspect except how it looks. From a great distance.

Stanley makes another smoother that retails around NOK 1300,-. Almost four times as much, and it still is a bad product compared to the vintage one. Which can be found for under half the price. I paid NOK 500,- for my Record 4 and about NOK 600,- for my Stanley 04. Both just shy of being old enough to be used on H. Göring’s gallows (if he had been provided with some cojones to face his sentence, the coward of a dog). They only needed a quick sharpening and produces shavings whisper thin if I want to.

Soft pine after a quick and dirty sharpening. I can make even finer shavings if need be.

If we venture into the machine world of woodworking, or as I look at it: the machine world of working with wood (the machine is working the wood, you just hang on for dear life), things gets interesting in a hurry. I wrote an article about dust collection, and I noticed very similar dust collectors being offered at vastly different prices – as much as 175% between the cheapest and the most expensive. I dove further into the topic and found that all the specifications seemed to be identical. The only difference was the color and brand. Just take a good look (drag the slider from side to side to compare):

CoCraft HD550 vs Scheppach HD12

From my chair, the only difference apart from the colors are some profiles in the frame on the Scheppach. That’s it?

OB (Own Brand) or store brand: a reseller company usually does not manufacture anything. In stead, a company can create a brand and slap the brand logo on any OEM product they want. The company decide on which model they want, which features they might add and which accessories that should be included. The cheapest version usually means different color(s) and different print on the cardboard box. Perhaps a different user manual WITH the OB logo on the front page. In other cases, the reseller might actually demand changes to be made, added quality control and - for example - swapping out the universal motor with a brushless one.

Let us compare the specification on three dust collectors. The two above and one from Einhell:

CoCraft HD550

  • Airflow: 760 m3 per hour
  • 550 watt motor
  • 24 kg
  • 2.5m 100mm hose
  • price: NOK 1999,-
    (discontinued)

Einhell TE-VE 550 A

  • Airflow: 1150 m3 per hour
  • 550 watt motor
  • 24.5 kg
  • 2.5m 100mm hose
  • Price: NOK 2333,-

Scheppach HD12

  • Airflow: 1150 m3 per hour
  • 550 watt motor
  • 25 kg
  • 2m 100mm hose
  • Price: NOK 3498,-

Ah! Now we’re talking differences. The CoCraft moves 400 000 liters of air less per hour, apparently. A-par-ent-ly! What else is there to study? The motors draws the same amount of power, the weights are similar (+/- 500 gram, or 2%, is within acceptable margins of error here). I looked up spare parts for the HD550 and the HD12. The fan on both models are similar and made of plastic. I might of course be wrong, but I suspect that the airflow on the HD550 is more realistic than the other two. Remove the hose and the bags, and you get vastly more air through the system.

I own the HD550. If any of the manufacturers wants to dispute my findings, you can send me your product (for free) for a comparison. It will either be returned (you pay the freight costs) or I'll give it away to someone as a gift. I do not need more dust collectors, but I'm happy to do a review. On my terms: full disclosure towards my readers.

QED: the more expensive does not equal better product. Unless color is a factor. Which it’s not.

Let us do another one:

I own the ML392, an older model in green. It looks almost the same as the generic one above:

My ML 392, an older model in green.

In this case, the differences are subtle, and the spesifications differ only slightly – 19cm vs 18.5 in thicknessing. The price tag is different though – NOK 11000,- (ML 392) vs 16000,- (Holzmann), although the latter is the indicative price. I bet I could get it for about the same as the other one if I contacted the reseller. This is a great example on an OEM product in the higher pricerange. Slap a different color, alter some minor (and most often insigificant) details and put a nice markup – and you can sing all the way to the bank. Good for you.

value-added reseller (VAR) is a company that adds features or services to an existing product, then resells it (usually to end-users) as an integrated product or complete “turn-key” solution.

Wikipedia

And there you have it. Sell some OEM’s to a VAR with a good OB, let the PR people do their magic then wait for the money to appear. This is completely OK to do, but for the most part a VAR is a VARTANRV. Value Added Reseller That Add No Real Value. Different color. Another profile on a panel. Color user manual vs. black-and-white. You see this all the time.

The problem I have with this is the fact that people are being bamboozled – the notion that paying more money gives you a better product when in fact you pay for nothing.
Money for nothing.
The chips aren’t for free either. Wood and electricity do cost money…

Let us do yet another one:

Bernardo PT 200Cocraft HPT 8Güde GADH 200Zipper
Jointer table
size
740mmx205mm737x210mm737x210mm920x254mm
Thicknesser
table size
255×200254x215mm255x204mm380×254
Max width205mm204mm204mm254
Capacity
jointing
0-2mm0-2mm0-2mm0-2mm
Capacity
thicknessing
(max per pass)
8-120mm
(2mm)
120mm
(2mm)
6-120mm
(3mm)
6-120mm
(2mm)
Thicknessing
speed
7m/minN/AN/A6m/min
Knives2222
RPM8500800080008500
Motor power1250W1250W1250W1500W
Dust port60mm64mm63mm76mm
Weight27 kg2626.8 kg27

The Zipper is a bigger model. I included it for comparison; you will find similar machines in other colors. The only real difference is the width and planer table length; those 50mm extra width comes at a premium – almost twice as expensive. The price tags hovers around NOK 3000,- for the three small models, and the bigger Zipper is priced about NOK 5700,-. In blue and with a Scheppach sticker, I’ve seen prices around NOK 6000,-. ‘Nuff said.

So what should we take from all this? What should we buy?
Since the machines looks exactly alike – in all aspects I could consider without having all the products before me to disassemble them into atoms – I dare to draw some conclusions. Let me be perfectly clear:

(Disclaimer:) There MIGHT and COULD be details that varies from brand to brand even though the machines look exactly alike. Some vital component might be different and set the models apart.

I doubt it, though…

(any manufacturer or reseller that want to dispute this may send me their product for free and to keep for a review. Only my own terms and conditions will apply, and I’ll be honest and fair.)

The machines I’ve shown you in this article are, as far as I can see, identical apart from minor cosmetic details. There might be some variations in the accessories included, but nothing that should be a deciding factor.

I owned the Cocraft HPT 8 for many years. Once, a needle bearing broke and I had to repair it. The reseller did not have any technical documents (Cocraft is the OB of Clas Ohlson), but I looked at the exploded view of a similar looking Scheppach model.
They. Were. Identical.
Down to the smallest screw.
Did not manage to successfully change the bearing and sold the thing to someone that probably managed to do a better job than I did.

It was Cheap, it was Compact – but it Chewed wood like a Champ! Now I have a bigger one. Bigger is better. Usually.

In the end, the only important factors should be:

  1. Do you really need it?
  2. Really?
  3. Could you do the tasks with the tools you have or in another way?
  4. Will it suit your needs?
  5. Does it fit your budget?
  6. Does it fit through the door?
  7. Is it shiny?
  8. Will it make other woodies envious? (should’ve been numero uno…)
  9. Are you SURE you need it?
  10. Do you think you can get hold of spare parts down the line?

On a serious note: Number 1, 3, 4, 5 and 10 are the important factors. Number 6, but as a woodworker you really should be able to fix a situation where the door is too small. You’ve got a saw lurking about, don’t ya?

As for number 10: spare parts. Some of us are lucky enough that an exploded diagram of a contraption does not make us wet our pantsies. In that case, spare parts could be sourced from a number of places. Remember: there are machinist groups on facebook, and those people do magic with metal. I’m just putting that one out there.
The brand does not really matter if the tool mainly is a basic OEM model. The slot mortiser accessory for a stock ML 392 combo machine will probably fit right onto a yellow polka dot colored version. Ball bearings are ball bearings as long as they meet the specs of the one in your machine. I’ve purchased a few tools from big resellers, and spare parts has usually not been a problem even years after the model was discontinued.

My advice: check what you are about to put in the basket at 22:37 on Saturday night. You might find the exact same thingamabob cheaper elsewhere. Do your research, but remember that no brands is better just because they are The Brand.

It could very easily just be a fancy sticker… Shiiinyyy sticker…

Oh yeah, the CONCLUSION! Almost forgot: if it squeals like bacon, looks like bacon, smells like bacon and tastes like bacon, it’s bacon. Get the cheapest pig!

We gotta install tablesaw securities
Custom workbench accessories
We gotta move these epoxy edges
We gotta move these colourful jiiiiii-iiiigs!

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