Saturday, January 22, 2011

Column #49 - My, how things do keep changing

Last week we discussed how to get a flat, unbowed piece of stock ready for “thicknessing” in our planer. That method needs to be used on any stock you send thru your planer. Sure, you can send a warped or bowed piece thru. I’ve seen it done hundreds of times, but 99.75 times out of 100, the piece will come out with the bow or twist intact. I cannot stress it more; planers are just designed to make an item the same thickness – not flat.

Now, how does this fit with my column header? Well, it doesn’t. But here’s what does. Just yesterday, Jan 7, I learned that my old company, Delta, has been agreed to be sold to a company in Anderson, SC. The Delta brand has been owned by Black & Decker since October of 2004. That purchase was one of the major factors in me leaving them with over 23 years of service. Early last year, Black & Decker was bought by Stanley. The new company name was Stanley Black & Decker/DeWalt/Delta/Porter-Cable, etc, etc. It was kind of sad looking.

The story of how Delta became such a liability is one of classic corporate mis-management. (It reminds me a lot of what Harley-Davidson went through) Delta has a long history since being founded in a garage in 1919. It went thru the war years and became THE leader in the woodworking machine industry through its involvement with governments and schools. I think more students, during the 1940-1990 years, were introduced to woodworking by virtue of their school having Delta machines, than any other brand.

At one point, Delta was bought by Rockwell and absorbed into their Power Tool Division, which contained another iconic tool brand, Porter-Cable. Porter-Cable was started in 1906 and was a portable electric tool company.
Rockwell controlled the purse strings and because of a lot of cost-cutting measures in the late 1970’s, the machines just weren’t quite as good as they had been.

Along about 1982, a company out of MN, Pentair, bought the portable tool part of Rockwell’s Power Tool Division, resurrected the old Porter-Cable name and headquartered it at their factory in Jackson, TN. (I had started work with Rockwell in mid-1981, and about 8 months later got to watch half of the Memphis warehouse get emptied) It was not a pretty time for those of us who were experts on the stationary machines. Well lo & behold, 2 years later, Pentair came back and bought the rest of Rockwell’s Power Tool Division. They resurrected the old Delta name…and we’ll tell you more next week.

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