The knockoffs can be alluring. They can look virtually the same, especially in a catalog or on a web site. A customer of mine called awhile back and said “I have two of your hammers, and they are both broken.” I immediately said that he should send them to me so that I could repair them and do a quality-control analysis. When I got them I was relieved to see that they were not made by me. It turns out that he had purchased Chinese-made versions of my tools from a store that was part of a national chain (you know the one), and, according to my customer, he was told that they were made by Glen-Drake even though my name was not on them. The similarities were convincing. The Chinese versions even had the numbers I assigned engraved on the heads. Maybe the imitators think that those numbers are some kind of a standard for hammers. Or could it be that they think the numbers might help convince people that the hammers are in fact made by Glen-Drake?
An imitator of one of my tools even used my tool for the front photo on their packaging. Now that’s just rude. But here’s the real problem. Imitators don’t need to be creative. They don’t need to identify a problem. They don’t need to design a solution to a problem. They don’t need to build and test prototypes. They don’t need to determine and assemble the best materials to deliver a product that will stand the test of time. All they need to do is send something overseas to be copied, and that’s a callous and insidious form of theft.
If someone walks into my office and steals my wallet, the police will be all over them. But if they make cheap knockoffs of the tools I make, then I have to hire a lawyer to make them stop, which is about all I can expect. Then someone else will do it, and I have to go through the whole process again. Cottage toolmakers can’t afford to pursue the knockoff makers, even if that’s the way we want to spend our lives, and it’s not. Do the thieves know this? You bet they do. Criminal audacity is astounding.
[Some people consider me a “jack of all trades” (as a pejorative) others consider me a “polymath” (might be kindly over reaching). But either way, I am or have been involved in lots of different crafts and fields. And in each one it occurs to me I hear the cry of “cost”. Small stores hear it. Individual makers hear it. I am drawn to beautiful tools that function well and are a delight to behold and so I hear this all the time. No doubt, the cost of fine tools, especially locally made non-production stuff limits the sheer number of tools I can own (field doesn’t matter… guitars, amps, woodworking tools, electronics, bicycles, camping, hiking, photography, and the list goes on and on). But I accept that in that the tools I do own are joyfully made, used, and earn their right to the resources I devote to them.
If we care about the things we do, how we do them, and where they are done… who grows our food, butchers our meat, designs and builds our furniture, cars, houses, tools, etc. than in order to get everything lined up the way we wish, we’re going to most likely have to pay more. I’ve struggled with that choice in the past, but never complained about it. (You’re x is too expensive. Sell it to me for less…) But I don’t struggle with it anymore. I accept that I will have fewer things, but they will be joy inducing or I will not partake. And those things will, by the nature of my choosing, require less care, less fussiness, and be superlative in every way.
Knockoffs are unacceptable. I’ve seen the effect on businesses in which I’ve worked… where the knocking off product is so easy that it is not even railed against by the industry… it’s expected and accepted, if hated. To which I say save up… by the original. Work around it for a while. It’ll only improve your skills. Support the ideas and the folks that originate them. Buy things that are made close to where you live, even as you enjoy the benefits of being a part of a global community. Buy only things that bring you great joy when you see them, use them, and care for them.]