Recently we had a fantastic opportunity to participate in one of Lie-Nielsen’s great Open House events. We are very fortunate in that Lie-Nielsen, the world’s leading maker of quality hand tools, is based just down the road in Warren, Maine.
Tom Lie-Nielsen is probably same age as me, and is still incredibly focused and driven. His brisk pace around the room was one I’m afraid to say I haven’t managed in 20 years or so. As with many great industry leaders he started with nothing but an idea, but built his business with a total focus on building superb products and marketing them in a way that generates trust and intimacy with his customers. On top of that, against the odds, he has managed to build that business while keeping all of the manufacturing in the USA.
Lie-Nielsen is probably 90% responsible for the renaissance in quality hand tools for all sectors of the woodwork industry. He has competition from a number of other high-end manufacturers (for example, Veritas, Wentzloff, Blue Spruce – see www.leevalley.com), and some reasonable Chinese imitations that crop up at a fraction of the price (for example, Woodriver, Anant – see www.woodcraft.com). By keeping tight control over retail pricing, and reliably delivering against their bold product promises, Lie-Nielsen creates “heirloom quality” tools that hold their value, are seen as investments, and are cherished by those lucky enough to own them. One just has to enter ‘Lie-Nielsen’ into Ebay to see the incredible prices they achieve second-hand.
As Henry Ford said: “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do!”
They were also one of the first hand tools company to make great use of Youtube – go to the site and search for ‘Lie-Nielsen’ to see for yourself. In fact they have posted a great little video of the Open House, which you can see below. Look out for me, looking engrossed, at the 40 second mark…
Youtube video removed
The event itself was a great opportunity to meet some really interesting people. Amongst those I chatted to were…
- Christian Becksvoort (see www.chbecksvoort.com) – many of you will have read his articles in Fine Woodworking
- Al Breed (see www.allanbreed.com), who made a beautiful mahogany armoire which was recently written up in Fine Woodworking
- A number of the guys from The Center for Furniture Craftmanship – arguably the finest wood school in the world. The school is also based nearby in Rockport, Maine and many of the students buy from us. In a subsequent post I intend to show off some of the superb work they have done with our lumber
- Glen Drake (see www.glen-drake.com) another maker of quality tools and ex Krenov student
The Open House also drew a great international contingent…
- From Germany I met Daniel Pschentiza of Dick (www.dick.biz). An interesting business with an amazing range of high end products (and an unusual name)
- From France I met Michel Auriou. He sells hand-made rasps at about $100 a pop – see www.forge-de-saint-juery.com – and can be seen working on one in the video
- From the UK, I met Mike Hancock and a number of his staff from Classic Handtools (see www.classichandtools.com)
- Also from UK, I met some of the guys from Axminster Power Tools (www.axminster.co.uk), who by the looks of things carry an amazing range of stuff
On top of this there was Yoav from Harvard University’s Department of Fine Arts, the Apprenticeship Boatschool, the chairman of the New Hampshire Guild of Furniture Craftsmen, the Damiriscotta-based Woodturning School, a philosophy professor who is also a wood sculptress… and lots of enthusiastic members of the public.
All in all it was a wonderful opportunity to mingle with like-minded people. Perhaps I’ll see you at the next one…