Tuesday, January 22, 2019

About Our Pricing in 2019, and our Vise Knobs

Pricing for 2019

If you've followed our work for any amount of time you've known that we don't like to sit still. Although there's something to be said for keeping things static, the "traditional workholding" philosophy, we are also of the mindset that improvements should always be sought after, unless they veer too far from the path of tradition.

Or, and let's be honest here, get too expensive.

From the very outset we designed our vises not to a price point, but to a standard of design and function first, then we looked hard at how to make these things relatively affordable. There was a whiff of this in the air when we debuted our M series handwheels, and when we went to double lead screws and added two knobs to the Glide Leg Vise. We kept things under control by offering our C series vises, with simpler materials and finish, but equal function. Due to a number of circumstances beyond our control, we've come to another crossroads and decisions must be made.

Metal prices have gone up. Labor prices have gone up. And being Iowa boys, down to earth midwest types, we've held off on raising our prices for (yes, we had to look it up) 7 years. Every few months our costs go up. The price of materials changes. Labor prices increase. What do we do? We eat it, and have been for 7 years. We try to make small, innocent changes that don't affect our product in order to keep from jacking the price up.

In hindsight, what was done with a pure intent turns out to be a pretty bad way of doing business. Hopefully we can learn our lesson and gradually increase prices, when necessary, instead of making big increases less frequently. Over the course of 2019, you will see some of our prices go up. Some might not. We don't sit at desks like bean counters and carry our costs to the third decimal point. Believe it or not, we start with "what's a fair price" before we even look at our costs. It's how we'd treat a family friend, and it's how we view every customer.

Vise Knobs

Somewhat related to the topic of pricing is the material we make our vise knobs from. That's about to change. In fact, if you've placed an order recently, you will likely be getting vises with our new knobs. Because we can't just make changes without a rational explanation (more "Iowa boys" coming through) here goes.

In the beginning we turned our own knobs in house (the person writing this is the "we") from cocobolo. I could only keep up for so long, and the cocobolo started irritating my body. We hired a professional turner to take over the work. Then cocobolo got really expensive and the government started controlling it, which made it even more expensive. So we moved to Dymondwood. Good stuff, looks like rosewood. Then the Dymondwood factory burned to the ground and they never rebuilt. We've been using NOS Dymondwood ever since. We've now run out, and for a brief period we used some knock-off Dymondwood from China. It was decent, but we had no idea what it was made from, and what kind of dust we were breathing when making them. Then we added infused beech. Also, good stuff, but sourcing wood, drying it, milling it, infusing it, then turning it ended up being another inventory headache. Then some uncontrollable parameters changed and the price of the knobs doubled. We had absorbed the increases for years, but this was one we couldn't. The cost on a Glide, with three knobs, would have increased more than anyone, especially us, would stomach.

So here's where we're going. From here on out all our Glide M and Glide C knobs will be made from aluminum. Yeah, sounds pretty awful right? We thought so too. Until we started really thinking about it. Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the world. We have no problem sourcing it. It's ready to use. Those are all compelling manufacturing reasons. But how will it feel in the hand? That's what really matters, right? Anodizing? Makes for pretty colors, and is durable, but its fairly cold and harsh. Powdercoat? Perhaps too plastic-y to the touch. On the only contact point between the vise and the human body, we wanted better.

Then it hit us as we were handling our cameras. Satin black wrinkle coating. Bingo. For decades this finish has been used on everything from the cameras that went to the moon, classic sports car interiors, tool handles, stereos and electronics. It has a tactile feel, its warm, and it looks great with our handwheels. Plus, its an economical choice that will allow us to keep our prices from getting out of hand. If you're into classic industrial design as we are, we think you'll love our new knobs. Are they a departure from the classic wood we've always used? Obviously, but we don't think they are any less, just different. And lets' face it, there's a lot of opportunity for exhibiting some exotic wood on a bench build. This way our vises will match any choice of wood you like for the rest of your bench.

Watch for our new knobs in the next few weeks.