Thoughts from the Saw Shop: new tools are junk.

Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

Ok, maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy. Maybe it’s the avalanche of new and nearly new tools that have been dropped on me recently to work on. The quality level of tools (especially anything made in China) has been lousy for a long time, now it’s getting ridiculous.

Today, I had a customer stop by the mobile sharpening rig and drop off a Rogers “Superior” axe (the only good tool of the bunch), an unmarked modern hatchet, a modern Collins hatchet, a modern Collins hand splitting maul, and a generic “Made in China” hatchet head.

The Collins 3lb hand splitting maul was brand new and looked pretty good, until you notice that the bit wasn’t forged straight to the rest of the head (definite lean to one side). I can’t blame the Chinese for this one, this beast was made in Mexico.

The complaint was that he couldn’t split anything with it, the maul simply bounced off the wood. The bit was ground at such a ridiculously wide angle that I don’t think Arnold Schwarzenegger could have made it bite. How in the heck does any company send crap like this out the door? I’m going to have to do a full regrind and reprofile on this brand new splitting maul to make it usable at all.

The unmarked hatchet had a loose handle. Silly me, I figure I’ll just pull the old wedge and rewedge it tight. I’ve done this successfully on more axes than I can count. Only I can’t get the old wedge out and I end up chewing up the handle to get it out of the head. Turns out the original handle wedge was GLUED into the handle. Good quality steel head with a great ring (surprising in an unmarked hatchet), totally boneheaded handle job.

The Collins hatchet doesn’t look too bad and the handle’s tight, but it’s wedged with both a wooden wedge an a circular metal “ring wedge”. 90% chance that handle will be loose and require replacement inside of a year.

What can I say about the “Made in China” hatchet head. Blocky, poorly finished, and another unusable edge grind. When I get it reground and rehandled, it will probably be ok if nobody expects too much of it.

Nothing wrong with the Rogers “Superior” axe except too many years of people trying to tighten a loose handle by driving nails in it. Handle replacement required but I have to call this one user abuse.

Now, not that I mind the work and all, and I don’t get offended because someone would rather have bright and shiny rather than one of my restored great quality vintage tools, but it’s foolish that people have to bring me brand new tools to work into shape to be at least minimally useful. I get the feeling the manufacturers aren’t even trying anymore.

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Tractor Supply, Skowhegan, ME (Tuesday)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!


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