BillinTR

Cost of Glitz vs Function

Recommended Posts

I have been trying to do some research for upcoming tool purchases. In particular I am looking at stamps and swivel knives. The problem I am having is understanding why it seems that an awful lot of high priced versions of things seem  to be more about the glitz than the function. I see swivel knives costing well over $100 where it seems that a lot of the cost is because of some really wild looking glitzy handles. The same thing with some awls and other hand tools with wild looking handles made of exotic hardwoods. Why do people care about how their tools look vs how they work? If I can afford to put money into a high end tool I want it to be to make it do its job better not make it look better in the tool rack.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its life; a lot of people like and want the looks. Some people will pay that extra to have a fancier looking whatever, just to be different, to have different. Take two of the same item; sell one with no packaging, sell the other in fancy packaging at 10 times the price; there are people who believe the higher priced item will be better.  Thus there are people who tap into this vanity and mis-belief and sell at the highest price they can get

Last year when I bought my new car the dealer tried to sell me an add on of fancy alloy wheels at £1000 more. I didn't buy. A month later I met a chap who had bought his car the same day, he bought the fancy wheels

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, BillinTR said:

If I can afford to put money into a high end tool I want it to be to make it do its job better not make it look better in the tool rack.

Im right there with ya.  I don't mind paying premium as long as I'm getting premium.  Note that "premium" does not mean "okay-ish and comes with a pretty story".   You may/may not have seen my "tag line".. 'Custom leather without the hype.  Really.'   I'm for thinking that if a guy has to spend time to tell you that it's "great", it likely ISN"T "great".   I can tell you my oak burnishers do as well as my cocobolo burnishers, which I bought to see if there was a difference (there wasn't).

I used to have an UGLY old truck with a snow blade on it.  EVERYBODY talked about that truck, and the wife complained for quite a while for me to get rid of it. But that was perhaps the strongest pushing truck I've ever owned - just no power windows ;)  Since I pretty much never plowed snow with the windows open, I was okay with that. So when a smart-mouth kid with a shiny truck went on about it (I let him live, I actually like his dad).. I told him go look at that parking lot, snow all cleared, and tell me which truck plowed that one tonight.  Which of course he couldn't do.  And there's the test.... IS IT REALLY better because it's more expensive?@!

 

54 minutes ago, fredk said:

there are people who believe the higher priced item will be better.  Thus there are people who tap into this vanity and mis-belief

Same here in the states, of course, which is exactly what he's referring to.  I always say you can buy a Porsche to go to the grocery store. It WILL WORK, but you're spending a lot of money for "vanity".  I have had people brag that they paid more than I did for the same item :rofl:  But I don't have a very high opinion of those who "tap into"... people who don't know better.  

Edited by JLSleather

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the most amazing leather artists out there was Al Stohlman. I've heard from people who've been to the Stohlman museum that the tools he used to produce gorgeous leather artwork like what you see in his books were very basic, and some of them were home made. 

Give me the most expensive tools in the world and I am STILL not going to produce work like his!

20100625SAWG_fg14a.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a set of $10 stitching irons that stitch just fine.  I have a $10 swivel knife that won't swivel or cut no matter how much I sharpen it or oil it.  I have a set of expensive stitching irons that stitch great also, and I enjoy using them because the look nice, and they have a lot more heft, and thus feel nice in the hand.  If I am using a round knife every day, I might enjoy having it in a nice tooled leather case.  No case or a plastic one would do the job.

I also sell comparatively expensive hand made leather goods, that can be substituted by a very cheap item purchased off of Amazon or Walmart.  I am grateful there are those who appreciate the skill and time and quality of materials that go into my products and purchase them from me instead.  Now, a Veblen Good it is not, but definitely more bling and cost than the plastic versions out there.  Same can be said of some of those who make nicer leather working tools.  Leather Wranglers comes to mind, as does Terry Knipschield.  They put some bling on their work, but according to all the testimony from users, a lot of quality in the craftsmanship and materials in construction.

No you probably don't need it to make great art.  But it can make your work more enjoyable.

YinTx

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perceived value v fit for purpose

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, YinTx said:

definitely more bling and cost than the plastic versions out there.  Same can be said of some of those who make nicer leather working tools.

That covers my "thing" right there.  I don't use a round knife. But if I did, I would want one with quality steel - with some chrome in it for hardness and corrosion resistance - that keeps an edge well.  Then I'm okay with the plastic handle.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, YinTx said:

I also sell comparatively expensive hand made leather goods, that can be substituted by a very cheap item purchased off of Amazon or Walmart.

Yes but there you are talking about the end product where the objective is quality of appearance as well as function. I am talking about tools. Yes I can understand the cost of quality steel in blades and quality construction relating to the function of the tool. Being just a hobbyist with a limited budget I just can't afford to spend well over $100 on a swivel knife. But even if I could I wouldn't spend the money for pretty handles. It is a tool.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, BillinTR said:

But even if I could I wouldn't spend the money for pretty handles. It is a tool

:cheers:

Don't remember ever dusting the saw blade before cutting the board ;)  It's the board that matters.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Whats with all these customers spendin on our tooled leather?  and nice dye jobs?  and pretty stitchin?  And fancy designs?  and pretty leather? Isn't this all just bling?  When all they really need is the pocket to hold the card, holder to strap in the gun, and a belt to hold up the pants? A rubber band will hold their credit cards and ID and cash, it is just going to be in the pocket anyhow, its a _card holder_, no need for our hand tooled hand stitched custom dyed Hermann Oak leather wallets/belts/holsters/checkbook covers, rifle straps, guitar straps, etc.  We don't give folks a hard time for liking and wanting these things.  Why should we give a tool maker a hard time for wanting to put some art in his craft also?  Someone will like it well enough to buy it.  Great for the tool maker.  Hopefully the buyer is happy also.

Yes, lot of people want utility only.  I fit that mold on a lot of things I use/buy.  It's available.  If you want high quality on the blade, buy a Leather Wrangler's blade only and attach it to a stick.  For sure, it'll work fantastic.  Sometimes I also want more than white on my walls, because it can make life a bit drab.  Thats available too.  If ya like that spinnie thingy on the top to play with as you think, get the ball bearing swivel with smooth saddle yoke for the stick.  (which I want, but I don't have, cuz I also can't justify the $ yet).  As they say, variety is the spice of life.

YinTx

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An age old discussion!  I am an admitted tool whore in recovery.  I have spent a lot of money on a lot of tools that are beautiful and work well.  I have some cheap tools that suck ass.  I have a lot of tools in the middle that are functional and average looking.  I got caught up in the hype of collecting and had some extra cash at the time.  Until you try some tools, learn a few things, you won't know what's worth while and what's not.

I'll use bevelers as an example.  Its the most important tool in a carver's arsenal, and I have close to 50 different ones.  They each have their use.  However, I could narrow down 90% of my carving to seven or ten tools.  That's it.  They are all Robert Beard bevelers, and they are worth every penny.  I'd sell all my guns (Except one) before I sold those 10 tools.  Nobody else on the market can touch them for quality and ease of use, and they make my life easier.  Sure, you can scrape along with Tandy tools and do an adequate (Sometimes exceptional) job with them, but the Beard tools made me a better leather worker.  They taught me things I couldn't have learned with any other tool.  


Same thing goes for a swivel knife.  Now that I've tried dozens of them, I have settled onto one that I could use the rest of my life.  In fact, I could probably get along just fine without a swivel knife.  I sharpened up a screw driver and it can carve leather just fine.  You get a lot more hand fatigue, but it can be done.  

Now, WHY do tools have exotic hard wood handles?  Or stag handles?   Why do SK have fancy barrels?  Because a lot of makers are artists just like us.  They take pride in what they do and add a little art to the tool.  If you don't appreciate that, don't buy it.    If it makes you happy, go for it.  There are a lot of manufacturers right now making good quality, affordable tools.  Take a look at Rickert Werkzeuge as they have a new line of Japanese tools that are true performers without the cost.  No, I don't get anything from them and I don't work there.  
 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One other thing.  When it comes to stamps, i.e. basket weave or geometric, you get what you pay for.  Crispness, depth, burnish and symmetry all come at a price, and that price starts around $30 bucks per tool.  Wayne Jueschke makes some of the finest geometric stamps in the business.  They are amazingly crisp and the have perfect alignment.  They are 100 a piece.  Barry King makes amazing geometric stamps as well.  

In addition to sharp, accurate stamping, what you're really paying for is tools that don't bend, rust or look like every other craft level maker on the market.  I can tell a tandy tooler a mile away in most cases.  The ability to create your own combinations of less common tools makes your work stand out from the crowd, and that what we all really want when it comes time for someone to hand over their hard earned cash to us as makers, right?  Just food for thought.

Here's a pic of something Tandy can't do.

 

20151106_103141.JPG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, YinTx said:

Yes, lot of people want utility only.

To me "tool" = "utility".

Apparently I ruffled at least one or two feathers here. It wasn't my intention but I can understand where some of you might be coming from. It just seems to me that there are some things you spend money on as much for appearance as for its intended use. Personally I wouldn't consider it for a tool. Apparently some people feel strongly about the glitz of their tools as well as the function.

51 minutes ago, immiketoo said:

you get what you pay for.

I fully agree with this. I can appreciate the difference that buying higher quality can make in your work. As a hobbyist on a limited budget I have take value into serious consideration so I have to look for how to acquire as much quality as I can without killing the budget. For that reason I have to focus on function more than glitz. In that regard I have been trying to locate tools somewhere on the scale between $10 and $100. But that doesn't seem easy to do. I guess I will always be one of those "tandy toolers" you can spot a mile away. But I am a beginner and I want to eventually do good work. I will eventually see if I succeeded.

Again I apologize if I offended. I have no intention of ever becoming the professional that some of you who were offended are.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, BillinTR said:

To me "tool" = "utility".

Apparently I ruffled at least one or two feathers here. It wasn't my intention but I can understand where some of you might be coming from. It just seems to me that there are some things you spend money on as much for appearance as for its intended use. Personally I wouldn't consider it for a tool. Apparently some people feel strongly about the glitz of their tools as well as the function.

I fully agree with this. I can appreciate the difference that buying higher quality can make in your work. As a hobbyist on a limited budget I have take value into serious consideration so I have to look for how to acquire as much quality as I can without killing the budget. For that reason I have to focus on function more than glitz. In that regard I have been trying to locate tools somewhere on the scale between $10 and $100. But that doesn't seem easy to do. I guess I will always be one of those "tandy toolers" you can spot a mile away. But I am a beginner and I want to eventually do good work. I will eventually see if I succeeded.

Again I apologize if I offended. I have no intention of ever becoming the professional that some of you who were offended are.

 

You didn't offend me in the slightest, and I can't see any reason that you think I would be.  And what I mean about tandy stamps is that they lack crispness compared to the other makers I mentioned.  You basically want to spend smart money so rather than spend it on 100+ of SK when 28 will give you an excellent knife, an you can spend the change on a good stamp.  I was in the exact same boat as you a while back, and after bending a few Tandy stamps, I bought a barry king.  The difference is clear.  Especially when it comes to good looking geometric stamps.  For general carving you should look at pre-letter craftool (Tandy) as they are quite good, just as crisp and modern tools and VERY affordable.  I still use several of them today on account of the quality they produce.

Frankly, I wish I had focused more on function than show when I started.  I have so many tools I don't ever use now its ridiculous, and I'm not even that big a collector.  I just like sparkly things.  My friend Serge gives me a cookie whenever I walk away from something sparkly.  It took seeing all kinds of tools to know the difference though, and since you have already identified the desire to have better stamps.  All of the money on a stamp goes into the design they stamp.  The rest of it could be a nail and the cost difference of the materials isn't enough to justify the price difference.  The business end is.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, YinTx said:

Whats with all these customers spendin on our tooled leather?  and nice dye jobs?  and pretty stitchin?  And fancy designs?  and pretty leather? Isn't this all just bling?  

And of all those people buying the "flash", how many of them even asked what brand of tool you used to make it?  What percentage - do you think - would NOT have bought your leather if you used a birch or plastic handled tool instead of walnut or cocobolo?  Do we really think any of them looking at your work thought. 'man,  I bet there was a nice brass ferrule on the tool that did this. :rolleyes2:

I think Bill's point was .. if you can't tell the difference, then why pay the difference.  If it costs more, it SHOULD be better. But costing more does not MAKE it better.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/9/2018 at 5:33 PM, BillinTR said:

Again I apologize if I offended.

Meh, I'm not offended at all.  Like I said, I go utilitarian on a lot of things myself.  Also I appreciate nicely crafted things.  Always up for a decent conversation on topics like this.  Usually, they are better done with a cold one and not via keyboard to avoid misunderstandings, but I do what I can to understand and be understood.  Doesn't always work tho.

Cheers!

11 hours ago, JLSleather said:

What percentage - do you think - would NOT have bought your leather if you used a birch or plastic handled tool instead of walnut or cocobolo? 

My knives have a variety of woods, even a rough unfinished magnolia handle on a Japanese skiving knife (not a thing of beauty).  None of my clients care.  Nor was that the point of my paragraph.  Point is, I care what my handle is, and I hope my clients care what their leather is - not what my tools are.  Vast majority of shoppers in my city, state, country kinda don't care what the leather is, and they buy utilitarian and shop big box discount stores.  A tiny percent do, and they buy our nicely tooled/finished fancy leather goods.  Same as a small percent of tool shoppers buy nicely crafted tools.  I can tell the difference when I use my nice tools, and I hope our customers can tell the difference when they use our goods.  And that is why pay a difference.  Otherwise, if as a consumer you don't see/feel/smell/taste a difference, makes no point to pay.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

YinTx

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We and them are all makers and artists in our own way. Just as we put our marks on a piece of leather they put theirs on the tools they make. 

They add “bling” as you say to make their pieces stand out amongst the other tools out there. Exotic wood handles don’t really add that much to the cost of tool as the amount of wood being used isn’t of a large enough quantity to make a major increase in cost. The cost of this exotic wood adds probably less than $15 to the overall coots of the tool. So 5-10% of the overall cost of a knife. 

A $20 watch tells time well enough so why buy a $100 or $5000 one? Simply cause you can and you like it and the nicer watches keep time better. 

We all have to make a decision during our beginning and throughout our time in the craft on what tools will give us the quality of work we(clients) want. If you have the opportunity to buy the “blinged” out tool and you like then buy it. 

We all use our tools to do work and some of us like the tools we use to be unique or nice. Their is nothing wrong with this. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Fire88 said:

We and them are all makers and artists in our own way. Just as we put our marks on a piece of leather they put theirs on the tools they make. 

They add “bling” as you say to make their pieces stand out amongst the other tools out there. Exotic wood handles don’t really add that much to the cost of tool as the amount of wood being used isn’t of a large enough quantity to make a major increase in cost. The cost of this exotic wood adds probably less than $15 to the overall coots of the tool. So 5-10% of the overall cost of a knife. 

A $20 watch tells time well enough so why buy a $100 or $5000 one? Simply cause you can and you like it and the nicer watches keep time better. 

We all have to make a decision during our beginning and throughout our time in the craft on what tools will give us the quality of work we(clients) want. If you have the opportunity to buy the “blinged” out tool and you like then buy it. 

We all use our tools to do work and some of us like the tools we use to be unique or nice. Their is nothing wrong with this. 

Amen.  I  have never bought a tool thinking of what my customer would think of it.  I mean, who in their right mind would think that?  I buy them because I like them.  Period.  I had Terry make me a knife with a special handle because its an amazing tool.  I have respect for the maker and at the end of the day, the best tool on the market takes away any excuses I may have regarding skill.  You can't hide from your own inadequacies with the best tool looking gat you and saying, "Is that the best you've got?"

I learned this from guitars.  Its easy to blame a shitty guitar.  You simply CANT do some things with them.  On a top end axe, all your excuses are just whining because you didn't practice.  Same analogy applies to tools.  Now, can a gifted pro make that shitty tool perform better than you?  Of course they can.  They circle of life! can also make the top tier tool perform better than you.  That's part of the challenge.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now