Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vendor relationships..some insight into recent experiences

Another tool for the collection!
I have to say the thought for this post came from a post I recall reading on a forum regarding the quality of a tool purchased and my experiences coaching other carvers.  The post questioned the quality of the tool due to it's condition when it arrived and recently I have taken notice of some this as the vendor landscape has transformed over recent years with some folks retiring and selling their business to others.

In my experiences as a carver and a coach I know the importance of sharp and the impact it can have on a carver and the carving experience.  I was heavily influenced early on by my friend and first instructor Gary Falin.  He taught me sharp and gave me my first enjoyable carving experience with sharp tools.  Carving in Tom Wolfe's whittling competitions with the likes of Mark Akers, Mitch Cartledge, and Alan Goodman also reinforced the need to maintain my tools keeping them in optimal condition.  In coaching others this is where I see some of the greatest difficulties...teaching sharp and how to maintain sharp and I hope this message will be of benefit to others.

Like others my hobby budget is limited so I want to avoid the mistakes I made early in my carving experience by purchasing the correct tools needed for a particular purpose.  Now please understand that a pretty tool is like an expensive set of golf clubs,  having them doesn't mean you will qualify for the tour.  So I am focused on buying quality tools that fulfill specific needs.  Recently when carving  with Mitch I asked if he would be so kind as to demonstrate a particular setup and I appreciate the fact he was able to share that with me.  While he was demonstrating this for me he happened to pull out a couple of Henry Taylor palm gouges that I had not previously seen (one of which is shown above).  These gouges were 3/4" wide and were in a #7 and #9 sweeps...ideal for caricature carvers seeking to remove wood quickly.  After seeing these I knew I wanted to have them in my toolbox.  Not having purchased this makers tools before I did a quick online search and found one the foundational U.S. companies I had purchased from before in person and placed an online order.  Now placing online orders you would expect to get a confirmation of the order email stating the order was received, whether or not the product was in stock, and its expected ship date.  I GOT NOTHING!!!  OK, so I am a busy person and I did not have time to chase this vendor so after waiting over 3 weeks without hearing anything from them I decided to forget about the order, if it was filled it would go into my collection as a backup set.  I then did another online search and discovered that another acquaintance of mine also sold this brand.  I gave him a quick call, he stated that he had them in stock and asked if I would like them sharpened...I said no I have a Burke and need more experience with it.  THE TOOLS ARRIVED IN 3 DAYS !! (Thanks Bob Stadtlander).  Now knowing Bob and the discussion we had around the sharpening aspect my expectations were set.  The tools came with a wax coating over the cutting edge but were in no way near the point of usability, they were dull and just tearing at the wood.  The shafts of the tools had a fresh from the forge tool grind with sharp edges that would irritate the hand during prolonged use.  This to me is not the way the tools should arrive and it is my belief that this only serves to discourage new carvers.  I have to say that I am spoiled and that I had the fortunate experience of buying from Little Shavers where Rick does not let a tool ship until he ensures it is ready for use.  BTW, after a month and a half I got an e-mail from the first vendor saying my order had shipped.  The tools arrived in the same condition as the other set (note I was not offered a sharpening service).  As you would expect I will not be ordering anything further from this company and word of mouth will not positively affect their business.

For the inexperienced out there when ordering a tools ask if they sharpen the tool prior to shipping and for the businesses out there don't ship a dull tool.  In the long run our hobby and businesses will benefit from this practice. 

Either way the consumer should be prepared when the tools arrives to put the edge on the tools cutting edge, polish the channel (if you have the tools necessary), and lastly dress the shaft ensuring comfort when carving.  In the case of these aforementioned Henry Taylor tools I have a Burke sharpener and I was able to bring these up to spec, my carving experience with these tools since then has been favorable and I would continue to consider this brand with this understanding that they will require refinement once received.  As consumers we must understand that a good vendor wants our positive feedback in order to make a better product satisfying our needs and making the carving experience better for all.

It's a great day for others would say to become a good carver get into the practice of carving 30 minutes a day and success will follow.  Now get out there and carve something!!

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