Bridge City Tool Works News – It’s Kind of a Big Deal…

Drivel Starved Nation-

I have much to share with this report, so drop whatever it is you are doing and feast on this delicious bowl of drivel!

I spent a good portion of October in China to address several important developments, not the least of which are the Asian factories that are copying Bridge City tools.

Currently in China, there are two factories producing our KM-1 Kerfmaker, the Chopstick Master is being knocked off, and we have video footage of a factory in Korea producing our DJ-1 Drilling Jig, Jointmaker Pro, Center Scribe and several other tools.

Flattery?

Only in the most twisted sense, because not only can we do little about it, the associated legal costs (where applicable) are something that I would rather spend here on R & D for new products.

As most of you are aware, for the past 34 years, all of our tools (Chopstick Master excluded) have been produced right here in the U.S.A. for what I assumed was a primarily American woodworking market. Although we have customers in about 35 countries, our tools are prohibitively expensive when exported, and our price structure does not lend itself to wholesale discounts. This, combined with my complete aversion to financial risk, means that we are content to stay true to our roots planted in 1983.

But this is going to change and I want you to be the first to understand what it is we are doing about it.

Pictured below is our JMPv2 Jointmaker Pro at a trade show in Guangzhou, China this past October…

china-jmp
What is unique is this saw was completely made in China, for the international market. You cannot tell it was produced in China with the exception of this marking;

china-jmp-mark

In agreeing to grant an exclusive manufacturing license to Harvey Industries for the JMPv2 Jointmaker Pro, the quality prompted me to extend the agreement to all of our tools for the international market only. This is a big deal for us, because this market has been consciously underserved. OK, ignored.

So, what does this mean?

It means we are going to continue serving the American market with American designed and made tools – so in a sense, nothing has changed.

For the international market, Bridge City tools, made to our same standards in China, will now be available for about half the retail price of their American cousins. I consider this a win/win arrangement with one exception;

Canada.

We have a boat load of Canadian customers, and if you are one, thanks for your continued patronage! Just be aware that sometime in 2017, our tools will be distributed by Harvey to a bunch of different Canadian outlets and as mentioned, the prices will be about 1/2 for the exact same quality you have come to expect from us. I can’t imagine this will be a negative for our hockey loving neighbors. Because of our proximity to each other, not many Americans consider Canada an international neighbor… so we expect some US flak that hopefully this post preempts.

So, why are we not selling the China versions in the USA? Because I don’t want to get involved with those who think we are exporting US jobs to China. By this time next year, 50-75 different Bridge City Tools will be available in over 50 countries. All will be clearly marked with country of origin. With this arrangement, we are doing nothing but improving the trade deficit. And that I believe, is a cool thing.

Lastly, part of the license arrangement is that if quality suffers, we will pull the plug on the deal, I will not have much patience for tarnish on our brand…this Totally Awesome and Worthless blog does enough damage by itself.

-John

33 comments on this post:

  1. I’m glad for you John. I own only one of your many tools, but appreciate how Bridge City has brought innovation to woodworking. I hope Harvey Industries will take the knock-off producers to court.

  2. John,

    Thanks for continuing to produce tools in the USA for those of us living here, it is a big deal too me. I recently put a bit of time into tracking down some US made New Balance shoes- paid more for them then if I went with a different brand, but feels good to support my fellow citizens.

    Best,
    Rutager

  3. Rutager-

    Never forget, I produce tools to please ME! The fact that you, and many others like what I like makes me a blessed man. I can’t possibly imagine trying to figure out what others want, so by pleasing myself, my life is so much more fun. Thanks to all, we are in our fourth decade of making things.

    -John

  4. John: While I respect this as a business decision, it does put a crimp into the substantial BCTW collector’s market. I’m happier with you undercutting your prices as opposed to letting someone else, but it will affect my buying decisions.

    Best, Dave

  5. Dave-

    I don’t claim to understand the collector’s market other than I know it exists. I don’t think it will change at all, we will still only make what makes economic sense. Small runs when our minimum run size can be met and sold without carrying inventory.

    Others want to chime in here? I am all ears (and at my age that comment is both figurative and literal).

    -John

  6. “Sam was an avid customer of Bridge City and during one trip I asked him where all the tools were that he had purchased. They’re right here behind the sofa, he said, and he pulled out a box and opened it. I said, ‘Why don’t you use them?’ ‘I do,’ he replied. ‘I tell everybody about these beautiful tools.”

  7. My thought is SEs, CTs, stainless, and old brass and wood are immune. Some of us buy, say, an aluminum HP-10 or a DJ-2 knowing we might not use it (although we ultimately may) because the form is beautiful, it might not be available again soon, and its more affordable than the stainless version or an exotic car.

    I assumed Harvey wouldn’t be held to the same run limits. I also anticipate a grey market. Those won’t kill the collectibility of the items involved (collectors pay for qualities users don’t), but I think it might hurt it.

  8. Good afternoon

    Will the mini multi plane HP-6FX and its matching profiles will be produced under this new scheme?
    What about the DJ-1 Drilling Jig?

    If so, is there a tentative date of release?

    Thanks

  9. The choices of which tools for the international market are not up to us, nor do we have any data or input as to production schedules or details. Harvey has an exclusive license to produce what they want and when. The only thing we control is quality, and it is a simple test; as good, or better than the samples we provide.

    Because the DJ-1 is being knocked off, I do believe it will be produced in China. Regarding the HP-6FX, I do not know. We are going to continue to build them as demand allows.

    John

  10. In addition to my previous answer proclaiming my ignorance on items and schedules, I will, as soon as possible, post a Harvey industries email contact for all international customer inquiries. They have a full-time staff dedicated to the Bridge City line, I just do not know the main contact as of this writing.

    -John

  11. Thank you John for your quick answer.
    I have a doubt, “Harvey has an exclusive license to produce what they want and when.”, does that include Conmemorative tools like the cool CT-16 Palm Brace?

    Tks

  12. It’s funny you mention the Palm Brace. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to shoot myself for making that tool a CT tool. People love that thing, me too.

    I am going to redesign that tool so the CT folks still own something really special, but I have a bunch of other stuff on my plate so no dates as of yet.

    Regarding all the CT and SE tools, NO, there will never be legal exact duplicates. Where an aluminum version might work, yes (like we have been doing).

    Great question, and thanks for asking it.

    -John

  13. John,
    I’m not one to bite the hand that feeds you, but since you asked- this sucks. I’ve always bought tools with the intention that they be used. And while I appreciate and will pay for quality tools, in my case, they are meant to be “consumed”. That said, these tools will outlast me and someone will eventually sell them- but now they’ll command appreciably less return due to the lack of scarcity.

    To be fair, perhaps faulty assumptions led to my belief that it was the supply side of your business model that created their value, but time will tell.

    Steve

  14. On the other hand, I look forward to adding profiles for both the HP-6 and HP-10 at half price. I make plenty of trips to Canada.

  15. Steve-

    Thanks for your comments – I look at this a bit differently.

    Using a music analogy, I see this as an opportunity to perform on a much bigger stage.

    I also think it is going to be really cool for others to experience the joy of using incredibly crafted and well designed tools in a market that we are currently not serving.

    Lastly, I honestly don’t think this will impact the American collector market at all, and it may make the American made versions more cherished. The truth is I don’t know. Like you, I would rather see these things being used to make really great stuff, than worry about the “market value” down the road.

  16. My completely uneducated opinion is that real collectors will search out the American made versions and pay more for them.
    I keep saying that I need to pare down my collection- does a guy really need 30 squares? But so far more tools have come in then have gone out.
    I do foresee a place like eBay being “flooded” with the cheaper versions on release possibly making for less sales on BCTWs end, especially if you haven’t produced the item in awhile or have it in stock. Shipping may be the unknown that keeps this from happening though.
    All said, buying an object purely as an investment is usually a bad idea. Buying something you enjoy and being able to sell it later at near or better than you paid for it is great, but hard to judge the collector market.

    Personally as long as I can get mine made in the USA, I’m still getting inline to purchase.

  17. Expecting profit collecting–net of transaction costs–is bad policy. However, there has been a reliable bid for BC tools. Re: “use” vs. collecting: collectors *are* using the tools–hence my reminder of the Maloof-via-John quote at comment #7.

  18. John,

    I had started writing a long comment but don’t have time to tie it all together, so I will say this for now.

    I am at the same time happy and excited to hear that your tools will be more affordable and easier to acquire for international customers, and saddened that you are moving some of the distribution to China. To me, whether I am buying garlic, clothes, or tools , country of origin is a consideration for me. “Made in China” is not always a deal breaker for me, but I prefer to support products made more in other countries when I can.

    I do believe that this is a smart business decision, based on all the reasons you outlined above. However, I will not be making a list of Chinese-made BCTW tools to buy… If I really need it I would have already bought it..

    Chris Wong
    BC, Canada.

  19. Your tools are unique and value is placed on that fact. I don’t know how you are going to keep the half price tools, of same quality, from coming into the US. Especially, since Harvey has the world minus 1. Often times in product development the new consumes the old. This may be the beginning of a transition. Having said that, you are a unique, good person. As long as you are behind the design and innovation I will still listen. -Todd

  20. John,

    You’re right, of course- on all accounts.

    My reaction to your news was not forward-looking/big picture commentary, but rather a myopic, rear-view mirror glance. Perhaps some residual post-election angst on my part. Sorry for that.

    To borrow from your musical analogy- I’m happy for your opportunity, you deserve it. I love your “music” and am certain that others will appreciate it too. I hope you keep on performing for a very long time. As Todd said previously, “as long as you are behind the design and innovation, I will still listen”. But, please don’t be disappointed if I now seek out the lesser expensive “MP3 download” of your newest release, instead of buying the vinyl LP.

    Steve

  21. Hi,
    I live in France and have been buying your tools for many years and want to continue, I buy them to use and have no interest whatsoever in the resale value or collectors nonsense. if I want to continue buying my tools from you in the States can I?

  22. Congratulations, John.

    This is terrific news for you and many more get to experience the quality you deliver.

    I’m glad to see you have the courage to disrupt your own business!

    neil

  23. Hi John,

    You say “we not selling the China versions in the USA” and you give your reason. Will others be selling the made-in-China versions to customers in the USA?

    Thanks.

    Kirby.

  24. We are not selling the China versions in the States because it undermines the foundation of the company I built and I know my customers.

    We have, for the most part, completely ignored the international market and this rectifies that. Selling these into the States will cause big problems between BCTW and Harvey.

  25. Speaking of knock-offs,
    When you first introduced the KM-1 Kerfmaker a number of people posted photos of knock-offs they made without any original thought or design changes, just a blind copy. I bought a KM-1, I like it, but I made an little accessory for it to make the template for pattern bits, and then I needed a larger capacity kerfmaker so I simplified and copied it in a much larger size, very simple and easy to make. I think there are a number of interesting ideas and alternative designs that can be developed from your original design, but never talk about or post about it because I don’t want to feel like I’m some jerk stealing your ideas.

    I’m curious your opinion, at what point does a useful change or perceived improvement become a new idea and not a copy? How would you react to discussions of modifications, improvements, and home made prototypes in the BTC tool forums?

  26. Hi Brian,

    Great question, and thanks for asking!

    I am assuming you are referring to the KM-1 thread on the Lumberjocks site. There was one guy who was planning on making his version of the KM-1 for sale, and we were forced to get our lawyers involved. Not only were we losing out on the revenue, but we had to pay lawyers to keep our rights as the inventor of the KM-1. Sound fair to you?

    We actually offered to give the plans for the KM-1 to anybody who wanted to make their homemade version for a $10 donation (honor system) to the Roger Cliff Memorial Fund (a woodworking scholarship fund for the underprivileged). We sent out a bunch of plans, and as of this writing, years later, not one donation was made. What a sad commentary.

    The answer to your question is fairly simple, if you add functionality to the KM-1, it is still a KM-1 and if you commercialize the idea, you are infringing on the patent. Think about it a bit, without the KM-1, your new version would not exist.

    Generally speaking, we don’t get involved with meaningful or insight seeking comments on our forum (I can’t think of one instance), so you are welcome to discuss your ideas regarding our tools freely.

    All that said, we have corroborated once (over 20 years ago) with an idea suggested by a customer and we will never make that mistake again. It’s funny, every inventor thinks their idea is going to make millions. The reality is OVER 98% of all patents have failed to generate a single penny in revenue!

    -John

  27. John,
    Thanks for your thoughtful and interesting response. I’ll post any follow-on comments in the KM-1 section of the tool forum.
    I may have understood you to say that copies of the KM-1 made for personal use are OK with a donation, with that in mind I’ve donated $20 to the Roger Cliffe fund (JCCF) on behalf of BCT to cover the two modified versions I’ve made (I needed 4″ and then later 6″ capacity).

    Brian

  28. Hi John,
    I have looked online and thus far the only link to Harvey Industries in China suggests that they are only interested in sales to distributors. The website lists a price ($1540 US) that is in excess of the price just announced on the BCTW site ($1435 US) and requires a purchase of 15 pieces (units)?

    Have I missed something in looking online following this announcement? It’s seems contrary to your suggestion that this will make BCTW products realistic for international purchasers. Even after factoring in shipping costs to my location, the option of a product made under license does not seem that great to me.

    I have been interested in a JMP for some considerable time and with a very significant birthday coming up just before the close for the US pre-order, I am sorely tempted to justify the purchase for myself but don’t want to miss the boat if the option you suggest now exists for international (Australia) customers is not going to eventuate. Is Harvey Industries years off selling to the individual or have I completely misunderstood their role in manufacturing under license for BCTW.

  29. Ray,

    You are correct, Harvey sells BCTW tools through an international distributor network. They are ramping up production on dozens of items as I type and will begin shipping in March.

    We/I have nothing to do with the sales/support/customer service of these distributors, this is the purpose and the responsibility of the distributor. You want local support!

    Regarding pricing, if the local price of our products is approaching our US prices, then I am guessing the local distributor is making a very good profit.

    What we do have control over is the quality, and if it doesn’t meet our standards, the deal we have would be compromised.

    I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

    John

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