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View Full Version : Re screws, tools, etc - caution - "Communist Engineering"



ACB
07-16-2001, 08:05 AM
The thread on bronze screws, and the discussion of Chinese screws, caused me to post this note of caution.

Materials, espescially metals, in China are usually rubbish. This is not the fault of the Chinese; it is the fault of the Soviet Union as it was, and the same problem recurs in Eastern Europe. Because the planned economy was chronically short of inputs and had no quality discrimination at the point of sale, "communist engineering" operated on the following principles:-

#1. The materials will be rubbish, but this does not matter because

#2. Labor will always be free, and

#3. Spares will always be available.

This is getting sorted out, but beware of anything that is silly cheap, and comes from a more "old fashioned" type of supplier, eg something from "Yinyang no 13 Machine Tool Works" is probably doubtful, whereas the same thing from "Sincerely Excellent Enterprises", a Taiwanese invested new factory, will be fine.

NormMessinger
07-16-2001, 12:14 PM
Very interesting. Now to figure out which of the two companies Harbor Freight buys from. The former, no doubt.

I had the opinion that the quality was not determined by "Made in China" but by who wrote the specifications and ran quality control. Hamilton Marine, I think it was, recently said they were out of a certain size screw. The had sent the whole lot back to China because they did not meet specs. Would Harbor Freight have done that?

--Norm

ACB
07-16-2001, 12:33 PM
Norm, you're right, of course. My reference to the Taiwanese really just means that they seem to be better than most at getting the message that "quality is necessary" across in China.

The old style factory manager has huge trouble grasping the idea that his production really does have to meet spec., and if he cuts a private deal with a supplier along the lines of "Never mind the quality, feel the width, and how about half of what we save for you and half for me?" he might get caught.

Younger people, who have grown up in the market economy, don't seem to have this trouble.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
12-16-2011, 10:02 PM
About time I gave this thread a bump. Ten years old and its still right.

Peter Malcolm Jardine
12-16-2011, 10:05 PM
Is this still the case? Asians learn fast, and a lot of these plants are really up to date... Are bronze and stainless screws from china still lousy?

chuckt
12-16-2011, 10:15 PM
I'd like to hear as well. I'm leery of any metal from China. Seems like i heard they saves a ton of money on the San Francisco new bay bridge buying the metal there though.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
12-17-2011, 05:01 AM
The Chinese steel industry has been completely rebuilt and now runs big modern plants - the old Soviet-era steel mills with all their bad practices are all gone, so Chinese steels are pretty good now certainly in the regular grades and most special steels are also ok.

This definitely includes stainless steel and almost all Chinese 18/8 will be stamped to that effect, using the US "18/8" designation not "316"unless it is aimed at the European market (never any harm keeping a magnet in your pocket though...18/8 is non-magnetic...)

The situation with nonferrous metals is not quite so rosy. There has been less investment in these plants and some managers are still "unreconstructed"...

Peerie Maa
12-17-2011, 05:48 AM
I have seen a case of appallingly bad mooring chain, with dubious looking approval stamps, so the problem does exist.

Don Z.
12-17-2011, 09:18 AM
I just liked seeing one of Norm's posts, no matter the topic.

Cogeniac
12-17-2011, 11:25 AM
I have not seen that this is changing very fast. This post originated in 2001. SInce about 2001, I have periodically bought tools made in China. In general the quality sucks. In 2007 I bought some reproduction door handles for a For Bronco I was restoring. I opted for the cheaper ones at $29.95, vs the "OEM" ones at $49.95. They looked perfect. Nicely plated, etc. Made in China. When I went to install them, I found that the handle didn't quite fit the complicated hole in the door. I did a little filing on the door and it went in OK. A few days later I had hooked up all the linkages and was dismayed to find that the handle required enormous pressure on the push button to unlatch the door. I took it back out and lubricated everything, and made sure it was all installed properly. It was a bit better, but still very difficult. We went with it, and after about a week you needed two thumbs to open the door. I caved and bought the OEM handles. THey too were very nicely made (in the USA). WHen I went to remove the Chinese ones, The problem was immediately obvious. Apparently the engineer making the tooling just made it look the same as the original one. He had no idea how it was supposed to work. The internal parts were all bent, and twisted because the basic geometry of the mechanism was wrong, and obviously the materials were thin and flabby. I have many other similar stories. The metal shear I bought at Harbor Freight that had a pin in the cutting jaw shear off the very first time I used it. The set of mini vice grips in which the jaws dented and the teeth sheared off as soon as I clamped it onto a work piece... I try to buy nothing from China unless it is unavoidable, then then only with great trepidation...

Dr.Spoke
12-17-2011, 02:59 PM
I have to agree with the sentiment of the thread... And I will at all costs avoid chinese tools - at present they do not appear to present any realistic saving. A tool that may or may not survive the one immediate job on hand will be more expensive than the "real" tool once one calculates the journey to replace it.
But, as Andrew pointed out, they are getting better. i have the pleasure of working with some engineers and factories in China that are exceptional in their desire to supply to and beyond specification. But these are not always cheaper!
And, again as ACB pointed out, their skills, prices and quality in non-ferrous can be "suspect". I recently submitted for tender a part in 6061 - relatively easy machining and finishing with some simple assembly. It came back poorly assembled ( to the point of useless) and at a price that was not competitive with local production in Sweden! ( approx. 2000 units per year at about 20USD per unit) So we're back to local production... Feels real good!

Peter Malcolm Jardine
12-18-2011, 12:21 PM
Stationary tools from China have a broad range of quality. I have an eight inch jointer with a carbide spiral cutterhead, and it's quite good. The bed is accurately ground, and the finish is good. The hand tools can also vary in quality a great deal. Interesting to hear some of the background on the chinese steel and metal casting industry.

Bob Smalser
12-18-2011, 04:18 PM
Here's a recent 250-page book on gunsmithing a service rifle popular with American national-match competitors. As the rifle was last produced in 1964, and was the last to use predominately forged, milled-steel parts instead of cheaper stampings and castings, for the last dozen or so years parts have been commercially reproduced in mainland China for sale on the private market here.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41zFl5xK8rL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Around a hundred of the 250 pages are devoted to coping with brittle, fragile, ill-fitting and otherwise out-of-spec Chinese parts.

Paul Pless
12-18-2011, 04:45 PM
Here's a recent 250-page book on gunsmithing a service rifle popular with American national-match competitors. As the rifle was last produced in 1964, and was the last to use predominately forged, milled-steel parts instead of cheaper stampings and castings, for the last dozen or so years parts have been reproduced in mainland China for it.It seems quite wrong to use a gun manufactured in China in National Match competitions. . .

Bob Smalser
12-18-2011, 04:59 PM
It seems quite wrong to use a gun manufactured in China in National Match competitions. . .

I wouldn't lose sleep over it. That they still can't reliably execute 1935 technology to a 1957 standard says a lot.

Don Z.
12-18-2011, 09:01 PM
It seems quite wrong to use a gun manufactured in China in National Match competitions. . .

It seems quite wrong to use an M-14 in National Match competitions...

davebrown
12-21-2011, 10:31 PM
I just bought 100 no. 8 x 3/4 bronze wood screws. They were .29 each. Does that price bode ill?

ILikeRust
12-22-2011, 12:23 PM
I try to buy nothing from China unless it is unavoidable, then then only with great trepidation...

I try to follow the same practice. I much prefer older Made in USA quality tools - cast iron and steel.

Although I do have one or two more modern things that were made in China or Taiwan or wherever across the Pacific that actually are pretty good. One that comes to mind in particular is a painter's scaffold I bought at Lowe's a couple years ago. Made in China; cost just under $300, as I recall. Exactly like this one:

http://www.scaffoldingdepot.com/ISBJ.jpg

It is very solid and works very well. I have used it for many projects, with the platform all the way at the top - 6 feet off the ground. I'm 6'1", 210 lbs., and it doesn't flex or grown under my bulk. So they at least got this one right.

But power tools? I try not to get Chinese-made ones. Although a lot of "American" brands these days are actually manufactured overseas. What matters is the design and how closely the name brand manufacturer watches over and quality-checks the production process.

Fasteners - oh yeah. It's too easy these days to get really crappy, cheap screws with rough and misshapen threads, whose heads twist off as soon as you try to drive them. I think they're made from recycled coffee cans or something.

ILikeRust
12-22-2011, 12:24 PM
That they still can't reliably execute 1935 technology to a 1957 standard says a lot.

HA! That elicited a good chuckle from me.

Easy
12-23-2011, 10:06 AM
I am involved very heavily in Chinese manufacturing, and I travel there a lot.
China is capable of making 10-for-10 quality, if:
1. You provide enough "adult supervision", often involving you travelling there and teaching them how to do things...
2. You being unwillling to accept problems...in other words, not taking stuff that is MOSTLY right, but having the capital to wait for really perfect...
3. Being willing to PAY for the better quality. Every dime counts in China. Here, I spend five bucks on a cup of coffee. Five bucks is a pretty fair amount of money in China, you could buy dinner for four for that much. So when you ask for five dollars off the price, I guarantee it is no small thing to the Chinese, and the product WILL suffer five dollars worth of poorer materials or workmanship. That's a guarantee. On the other hand, if you are willing to pay five bucks MORE, you will often be very, very surprised at how good you can get. But better quality is not free.

All the tooling, CNC machines, computers, factories in China, almost everything is new. Often thirty years newer than an American or European factory. Think about that.

Virtually ALL of the tools you can buy here in the USA are made in China. Whatever their branding, I'd say 95% are Chinese. Maybe a very few from Europe or the USA, but I think if you look closely, you will find on most of them they are actually made in China, just branded in the USA or Europe.
But there is a huge difference between what Porter Cable might have made in China, and what Harbor Freight might make in China. That difference is reflected in the price they pay there, and the price they sell it for.
Harbor Freight sells stuff by a ton of different manufacturers, you might find something decent there once in a while, maybe something that was overproduction for some other vendor, being sold with no label now by Harbor, but for the most part, you are going to get mediocre or just plain old bad tools from Harbor Freight. As is reflected by the price you pay there. You need to be realistic. Harbor Freight tools are not junky because they are Chinese, they are junky because they are so CHEAP.
You pays your money and takes your chances, as the great sailor Popeye said. If you can afford to buy good tools, you will never regret it, I use a level that is over 100 years old, still works fine. I use tools from the Forties and Thirties all the time. But they were GOOD tools to begin with. They made cheapass Harbor Freight type tools back in the day, too, right here in the USA. If you don't have the scratch to pay for the good tools, you get what you can, and do what you can. I'm not a snob who is going to tell you you MUST always buy Swiss made everything.
The other day, I bought a Black and Decker "Dragster" 3x21 belt sander for $59 at Lowes. I knew I was buying a cheapo tool(made in China for sure), but the Porter Cable one was $180, and THAT did not look that good either, and it's not a tool I use often. I doubt I will need it again. So I went for the cheapo one. It lasted two days, then the switch burned out. They did replace it with no questions asked, but it confirmed my suspicions of being a cheap tool. I knew it when I bought it, oh well. For $59, it has definitely earned it's keep so far. If it was a tool I used to make my living, or expected to use a lot, I would have definitely plunked down more and bought a better one.
Anyway...don't blame the Chinese so much. Unless you are buying directly from China, and very few actually do that, if you have a problem with something, blame the Americans who sold it to you. Remember, also, that the Americans are making half the profit on the item, usually, too. Make them earn it.

Gerarddm
12-23-2011, 11:14 AM
Perhaps Chinese manufacturers will eventually learn what the Japanese ones did, although there is no Deming to show them the way.

Easy
12-23-2011, 11:38 AM
The vast majority of Japanese branded stuff is made in China also. My Nikon is a high end one, made in Thailand. I know who Deming was, and I know from experience the Chinese can make quality, but quality cost more. Unlikely you will find that at Harbor Freight for $9.95.

Ron Williamson
12-23-2011, 01:33 PM
The screws that
http://www.swh.ca/
have made for them in China are the best.
They bought the license from Robertson to make Genuine Robertson screws.
I doubt that they make bronze,but if there was demand,they'd probably supply them.
R

Bob Smalser
02-16-2012, 12:35 PM
More Chinese engineering.

http://pic20.picturetrail.com/VOL12/1104763/2594265/401067188.jpg

I was asked to make a couple of portable bell stands to render honors at firemen's funerals. The China-made bells are lovely, but nobody in the design or manufacturing process challenged the specification of holding up a 12 lb bronze bell at the end of a 6"-long lever arm using three #6 X 3/4 screws made of soft brass.

They'd have lasted all of 20 minutes, so I redrilled the countersinks and substituted #8 SS screws on the bottom of the mounting flange and a throughbolt (a 10-32 machine screw) with countersunk washer and nut on top.

ILikeRust
02-16-2012, 12:40 PM
More Chinese engineering.

http://pic20.picturetrail.com/VOL12/1104763/2594265/401067188.jpg

I was asked to make a couple of portable bell stands to render honors at firemen's funerals. The China-made bells are lovely, but nobody in the design or manufacturing process challenged the specification of holding up a 12 lb bronze bell at the end of a 6"-long lever arm using three #6 X 3/4 screws made of soft brass.

They'd have lasted all of 20 minutes, so I substituted SS screws on the bottom of the mounting flange and a throughbolt (a 10-32 machine screw) with countersunk washer and nut on top.

That flange seems upside-down to me. Seems to me you'd want two screws at the top, rather than one at the top and two at the bottom.

And what I mean is that it seems the manufacturer of the flange wasn't thinking ahead.

Bob Smalser
02-16-2012, 12:54 PM
And what I mean is that it seems the manufacturer of the flange wasn't thinking ahead.

The back of the flanges weren't flat, either. The brazed area had a 16th-inch hump, making it unmountable on a flat surface. That was relatively short work for somebody like me with large mill files in the shop, but the average guy would be half a day flattening the backs using the typical, 8" homeowner's file.

David G
02-16-2012, 01:05 PM
What Easy said.

In the woodworking tool industry, Chinese made tools span the gamut from great to garbage. The importers that invest time in training and maintain a rigorous, usually on-site, Quality Control operation, have to charge a little more, but bring in top-notch stuff. Those that don't, get the leavings. So those operations with a reputation for quality to maintain are usually safe to buy from (Delta, Powermatic, General, Jet, etc.). Grizzly has gotten substantially better over the years.