We have started a challenge in our household to purchase as many things as we can that are made in the USA.
This is not a political statement or a effort to create jobs, but rather a realization that when we buy a
quality product it lasts longer. This started for me with tools. Once I was using tools on a daily basis
to make a living, I quickly found out that Chinese stuff seems to break at the least opportune time.
Sometimes it just looses effectiveness gradually and the quality of my work suffers as a result. So, to
give my customers the highest quality work, I had to buy the highest quality tools. I started with Wiss
metal shears, and Milwaukee power tools (even though most of them are made overseas now). Then I replaced
my imported $150 MIG welder with a $1000 Miller-matic. It is a night and day difference. My welds are cleaner
stronger, and require less rework. The set-up time is significantly reduced because of a well engineered
tool. Even if we can't buy American, we try to buy quality. This is the "buy once, cry once" philosophy.
German chimney brushes, Duluth work clothes, Canadian wood stoves and chimney, and even a French goggle
and snorkel set. What we have concluded is that manufacturing is not the issue because even the Chinese
getting pretty good at it-see your iPad or iPhone as evidence. It is the design (including material selection)
that makes or breaks a products quality. Good design is hard and requires talented and creative people to
do it. Good design is also 99% invisible (which is a great podcast BTW) meaning that you never notice the
good designs because they just work like they are intended. Think electrical power distribution, UPS & FEDEX,
and your iPad. My seven year old daughter can run most functions on an iPad because the design is so
instinctive that it does not require much thought. To her, the design is invisible, the device just does
she wants it to do.
Not all things "Made in the USA" are of better quaity either. Even on our shores, a bad design will make a
bad product. Even a good design with a bad execution in manufacuring will make a bad product. It seems to
come down to this: if all activities done with excellence and pride of workmanship, quality results. The
motivation has to be more than making a dollar to achieve excellence. There has to be a bigger purpose.
These are the things I try to consider as I venture into some minor fabrication/manufacturing with
Black Duck Chimney. Lately, I have been making a lot of custom fireplace doors. I have been trying to use
the principles of good design, good materials, and consistent execution of the process. The result is a
product that fits into the intended environment, works as it should, and lasts a long time. I also hope that
people can see, through my workmanship, that I serve a bigger purpose. I want to build a strong business, not
just make a quick buck. I want to model strong work ethic for my children. I want to leave a legacy in my
community. I want to honor my God with the work of my hands. These bigger purposes are what make a better
product, and I think we lose much of that when we only shop based on price.
Matt Waite - Chimney Guy Owner Black Duck Chimney MI Mechanical Contractor - Specialty Wood & Gas