Friday, November 11, 2011

Rotating Outrage

Turns out that Stew-Mac has a Dremel router attachment.

Why is this significant? Because Dremel makes a plunge router attachment, a drill press attachment, a router table attachment......and all of them are absolute shit.

Apparently Dremel -- the most popular rotary tool out there, so much it is almost the "Xerox" (aka generic noun) for low-end rotary tools -- has decided that where their customer base is, is people who want to spend as little as possible for the illusion of having an all-purpose hand tool. This is a particularly strange attitude, particularly in that Dremel is the MacIntosh of low-end rotary tools; there are tons of cheaper ones available.

So, actually, what you are purchasing is the brand name. The sizzle, not the steak. The Dremels are cute, and you can find bits for them everywhere. They are also underpowered and overpriced. And they resemble not in the slightest a professional-grade tool with electronic speed control, or even a proper treadle.

Now, the tool itself, although overpriced, is functional. Within the design range; lots of people pick up one and expect to be able to cut lumber or do auto repairs or whatever. Forget it. Buy a full-sized, dedicated tool with a 1 3/4 horsepower motor if you are trying to hog through 1" hardwood or quarter-inch steel, or drive drywall screws all day, or otherwise intend some kind of actual construction task. Buy the Dremel for small projects and repairs and for models, guitar-making, and other crafts tasks that call for a smaller, more controllable tool than a thirty-five pound Porta-Cable.

But, still, why the shit accessories? The accessories are totally made of inappropriate cost-cutting. Spend ten bucks more on manufacture, and you could have metal instead of plastic, actual screws instead of friction stops, actual bearings instead of bearing surfaces.

What you get is the thing that makes me angry and sad every time I am in a modern hardware store. And that is; tools that offer the budget craftsman performance and return only wrecked work-pieces, more money to replace damaged tools and bits that wear out far too soon, and, oh yes, INJURIES.

Someone should walk up and slap the marketing asshole who so thinks so poorly of his customers he asks the design team only for bright and shiny, and who the hell cares about the poor person who ends up with the actual tool. And a second, harder slap for the engineer who permitted that design to pass, rather than resign and go to work for a company that didn't put the customer's sanity and fingers at risk.

What makes me saddest is to think of the people who are just starting out; young people, students, beginning DIY'er, retirees finally getting a chance to get into doing that inlay work they've always wanted time to learn. And not knowing that the fault isn't theirs. Not knowing that the reason their work sucks isn't because it is too hard to learn, or because they simply haven't the skill. But because they've been betrayed by the tool itself.

Sure, someone who has been around for a while can tell the tool is shit, and can compensate some. Right off the bat, one thing people do with these shit tools is throw away some of the plastic parts and build their own out of metal. It is also well worth, whenever you buy a cheap tool, to take it apart, file and emery-paper down the burrs the manufacturer never bothered to clean off, clean the paint overspill, properly lube it, and re-assemble to the proper torque.

And the ultimate case of this is people like Stewart-Mac. Who understand that the amateur or small luthier has a use for a Dremel-like tool -- that the 6" base Bosch is over-kill for slotting a bridge -- and have taken it upon themselves to build a router attachment the way that Dremel should have built it in the first place. Out of metal. With tolerances. With actual stop screws.

And they charge not all that much more than Dremel does for their sorry corporate-bottom-line driven insult-to-the-customer crap piece of plastic.

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