Sorry, I Won’t Make Cheap Crap

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Some readers have gritched about our upcoming chore coat. I had to delete a couple of the profane comments (we don’t do profanity here), but the gist of the comments was that the coat is a fancy thing, and it will be expensive.

Here’s my reply: The coat will be exactly the same quality as the books we make and the furniture we build. It will be made in the United States from quality materials. It is designed to last – and is worth repairing if need be. And it is made for work.

Today I received a prototype of the jacket to evaluate the fabric, stitching and the fit. It still needs some tweaks here and there, but we are ready to place the order for the fabric.

We’re shooting for a retail price of $185, and after handling the article I think you’ll find that price a bargain – if you are a rational human being. By that I mean it’s difficult for me to understand people who build quality furniture, use good tools but are perfectly happy wearing things that were made in a sweatshop and won’t last a year. And when these clothes do wear out, they cannot be repaired.

(Conversely, I also cannot understand people who spend huge sums on clothes they wear a few times and then donate to a sketchy charity.)

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I own one pair of boots, from Trask. They cost me $225 and were made in the USA but can easily be resoled for $50 – I just picked them up from the cobbler today and they are sporting new Vibram soles. Because the leather uppers are already broken in, these boots are now better than any new pair out there.

I own one rain jacket, a Barbour. I’ve had it since 1997 and have repaired it twice for wear and rips. During the repairs, the factory extended the arms a bit so that my sexy wrists are now obscured from view. Again, any new jacket would be a downgrade.

If you don’t like our chore coat, don’t buy it. We’re fortunate that we have choices in our market economy. But don’t call it expensive or fancy because that’s just ignorant and thoughtless.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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83 Responses to Sorry, I Won’t Make Cheap Crap

  1. Bill Edwards says:

    Kudos to you.

  2. Tal Deus says:

    You sell high quality items…you get what you pay for. I much rather pay for quality.

  3. charleseflynn says:

    I have noticed a high correlation between profane forum postings and ignorance of the basics of economics.

    A broken-in leather upper and a new Vibram sole are a great way to begin the new year.

    It sounds as if you agree with Vitsoe’s approach to making things:

    “After more than half a century our resolve is stronger than ever: more of us must learn the art of living better with less that lasts longer.”

  4. zeelandmatt says:

    I appreciate your business model at LAP and I have supported it by purchasing several LAP books. I know I don’t need to tell you to keep doing what you’re doing, but I will anyway. Merry Christmas.

  5. djmueller says:

    Enlighten us with a swatch of the fabric.

  6. Britt Pinson says:

    In my neck of the woods, those don’t quite qualify as a boot.:-)
    However, they are very well made and will likely last a lifetime if properly cared for. The ability to be resoled is a mark of quality lost on most of today’s retail shopper…

    Britt

  7. David Ryle says:

    Take it easy Chris, you’re letting them get to you.

  8. Todd Reid says:

    I own a pair of Wolverine 1000 miler boots of comparable cost. So, I agree with your assessment of value of purchasing quality over quantity and will be purchasing one of these beautiful work jackets to wear in the winter over top of a Woolrich vest. Thank you for looking out for us as you grow unlike some companies who trade success for profit at our expense by purchasing the materials, labor or both from Asian sweat shops. Cheers.

  9. Len Kuffert says:

    No need for the S-word in your headline. Coat looks stout and handsome.

  10. Joseph Kulak says:

    I appreciate your quality standards and can’t wait for the jacket. I’ve always held the opinion “buy the best you can afford” it will pay back in the time it lasts. Thanks for being a standards setter.

  11. Aaron says:

    You shouldn’t even have to explain this to people.

  12. I’m really looking forward to this coat. Mostly because my dad has been wearing a “monkey jacket” during my 44 years of helping him around the house. My only complaint is that I couldn’t buy it in 1993 at the local farmers co-op when I bought my redwings for $65. The boots are still going strong.

  13. RustedTinMan says:

    1st,… YOU DON’T, make cheap stuff!
    2nd,.. No one is forcing any of us to purchase, we do so because we recognize we pay for the quality in the goods , books, and services we get.
    3rd,.. If you don’t agree see 1 & 2

  14. ikustwood says:

    Once again …
    I agree . I own many Utilitykilts. They cost a « fortune » . But I can repair them for ever. Never had a better « tool » for working. It’s a choice of life. I save money for it. It’s made in USA. If something is made in Quebec (need to find what though… not just assembled!) I buy it. Like you say Chris: we have a choice . We are lucky. My next thing that I will make is a tough leather apron.

    Cheers to all at LAP.

  15. tofflerfan says:

    Oh man, that looks really nice. Yup, I want one of those. Having purchased pretty much every book you’ve written (and am very satisfied with the quality) I think the cost is fair.

  16. Brett Luker says:

    Ever since I read in “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” that “if you buy cheap you buy twice” I have tried to live up to that standard with everything I purchase. I can’t always afford the nicer things in life but that has taught me to be content with what I do have. I wouldn’t be sorry for the price on the jacket either. I am sure it will outlive many of us woodworkers.

  17. Clifford Logan says:

    I have a question about the coat. Will I be able to buy one 3XL and tall man?
    Don’t let the parsimonious people affect you. You guys are great! There needs to be more business that have the same ideology as you guys. We, all of us need to be aware where we spend our money.

  18. Quercus Robur says:

    Whenever I try to justify a price of some goods with a lifetime span of more than the “current fashion season”, I fail. Many folks just cannot do the math or grasp the reasoning behind it. Let’s take for example my 19th century no.71 (MK I), which works perfectly (unlike some old wooden planes, I must admit) – how do you price it? How can you measure its future value?

  19. Tim says:

    Would love to see it modelled on a person when the time comes. Want the see the fit and shape. Cheers

  20. Phil Schempf says:

    So will these jackets have a decent sleeve leghth? You and I are of similar height and I don’t want to worry about being mobbed in the shop by throngs of wrist fetishists. On the other hand, short sleeves may be a safety feature and fetishists are a bit sparse on the ground, at least in my shop.

  21. Chris Ayers says:

    Are these same wood workers aware that cheaper wood can be purchased? It’s full of knots, blemishes and defects, but we’re only building furniture not cutting firewood.

  22. Jonathan Schneider says:

    Dead straight agree!

  23. LOL, DANG! somebody musta hit a nerve over there!
    Yes, quality work clothes just like tools are not cheap, never have been really, at least in the past 35 years that i have been buying them. I’d say $185 target is reasonable, right in line with Carhartt work stuff which is now mostly made in China & Bangladesh.

  24. Profanity about price is a strong sign of a Harbour Freight mentality. “Buy cheap and throw out when broke then go buy another.” They just can’t see why in the end they are paying a higher price.

  25. rdwilkins says:

    Just more proof that our society is completely out of touch because of a reliance on cheap made goods created by people working for subsistence wages half a world away. It’s time to get back to the reality of what a fair price is. Example: in 1845 the Greenfield Tool Company catalogue lists planes at between $1.25 and $6.00. Average joiners pay at that time was $1.50 a day. Oh, and a typical coat during the period was from $2.00 to $13.00. At $185 you’re $50 to $100 less than a comparable well-made German work jacket. I want one!

  26. Dave Bosshard says:

    I agree whole-heartedly with most of the folks commenting before…I have a long list of items purchased from LAP with no complaints nor regrets. I am getting a bit weary of the regular scoldings ALL of us get because of the acts of a few. We BUY your items and support you however we can. Can’t you just discard the comments that irritate you and give us a loving smile?

  27. Neville Imray says:

    The quality will be remembered long after the price is forgotten.

  28. Goerge says:

    Can’t wait to place my order. Looks kick ass!

  29. ctdahle says:

    I paid quite a lot more for the lawyer clothes I used to wear. I shared all but the good tweed jackets with the dump and my school’s theater department long ago.

    Three years ago I started my fourth career, and once again, the value of well made things was driven home. I took on the task of reopening a middle school wood-shop. It had been abandoned five years earlier. Many of the flashy “new” tools had been “borrowed” when the shop was closed, but I’m not that upset that the three wheel combination bandsaw/disc sanders on my inventory had grown legs and walked away.

    Fortunately someone in the late 50s and 60s had shopped wisely. Equally fortunate, someone in 2008 had the foresight to store or hide the old stuff under piles of junk. Good steel cleans up and takes a keen edge even if there are a few pits on the faces of the chisels. The old iron machines responded well to a bit of rewiring, tuning, and cleaning.

    The shop is far from a show-place, but a bit of regular care keeps a “bunch of old junk” humming (albeit, occasionally squealing) along, even as 100 11-14 year-olds stream through my doors daily.

    That is the way of well made things. Take care of them and they last. Even if they are neglected they are amenable to repair.

    The price of quality may sting a bit but lasting quality outlives the sting. I’ll probably buy this shop coat. I’ll wear it in the school shop daily. I will expect to still be wearing it upon my fourth retirement.

    That’s at least ten years out.

  30. dcarr10760 says:

    $185.00 Seems reasonable for a high quality, long lasting, American-made garment produced by a small enterprise in limited quantities.

    I’m planning on getting one!

  31. Ronald Pottol says:

    Well, here are two companies that make great fabric stuff here in the USA, the shirt is in the same ballpark as a Tom Bihn bag (and you might learn a few things about quality and obsession) https://www.tombihn.com/ Great stuff that does not wear out.

    Aerostich makes motorcycle riding suits that sell for about $1200, and are well worth it. They last, are very protective, and are the ultimate commuter suit. http://www.aerostich.com/

    Both made in the USA, not any cheaper than your shirt.

  32. neitsdelf says:

    Like you say, I like to have the choice. Sometimes it’s the Deluxe Roubo in the box. Sometimes it’s the paperback.

  33. texasbelliott says:

    The coat looks terrific. I need a new one and will wait until these are offered.

    Keep doing what you do, LAP. We love ya!

  34. Tommy Reese says:

    I believe the coat will be an instant classic and i look forward to purchasing one for myself. The only question I have is can it be monagramed on the left front side.

  35. jffsfinish says:

    The internet wasn’t a thing back when Tom LN started the plane business. I wonder if he got similar comments that his stuff cost too much back then, compared to flea market finds.

  36. admiralbumblebee says:

    I very much appreciate the content of the article, however I do think it’s a bit unfair to say that it’s not ‘expensive’. Depending on a person’s means, or the common market value of similar goods, it may very well be expensive.

    I think it’s more accurate to say that the item is not overpriced.

    I’m bringing this up because I frequently have this discussion with various people in my area of expertise. I find that explaining that “X isn’t too expensive because of the materials/work/value” is always a dead end. When you frame it as not being overpriced, it’s much easier to get the idea across to most folks it seems.

    Thank you for the article!

  37. @TheRainford says:

    I have some RedWing Heritage boots for the same reasons and love them. Made in the USA using the same old welts and ancient puritan sewing machines they’ve used for decades. They can be repaired, re-soled and keep on working. (and I’ve been happy with their repair process and free lifetime laces)
    I remember at NBSS (back in the old building) up in the rafters of the cabinet and furniture making department they hung up the chore coat of George Fullerton like a retired jersey. (He taught there from ~1947-1985) I remember looking at it a few times and thinking it would be great if someone would make those again. I look forward to seeing this jacket when it comes out.

  38. Jim O. says:

    Please just don’t let theses jealous, hateful people stop y’all from doing the work you do. Those of us who appreciate good quality are willing to spend the money. Sometimes I can’t justify it but I either save the money for what I want or buy one of the more economical options you offer. I would love to own the deluxe addition books you offer but it’s just not in the cards at the moment. But I can afford the standard editions.

  39. Richard Thomas says:

    For those of us who have gibbons in our family trees, I hope you are making a long sleeve option! This coat looks great.

  40. Richard Mahler says:

    You may have taken my comment much the wrong way, in no way regarding the cost or the workmanship or the quality. It is just not in me to take a fine object and do work in it that will harm it or cause wear so that it becomes less than what it was. I have clothes that I no longer wear except for work. When they are beyond use they become rags. I don’t care what happens to them or how long they last because they were not made to last – nor do I care how I look when I work. What I do care about is the quality of the objects I create – I spare nothing for that result. I will spend a considerable amount for fine things including some clothing, but not for work clothes. I do not expect everyone to think like me – and make no judgements. I appreciate not being judged for my own values and preferences. No one who knows me can call me cheap with any validity because that is in its own way profane.

  41. Michael Lyn Baker says:

    This looks wonderful. I do a lot of woodturning and therefore, most always wear a smock to protect my street clothes underneath. Just a thought: have you considered a lighter color? Dark colors tend to show dust, more so than lighter colors. I know, I know this is a work shop shirt, but I still like to try to halfway look clean. And, maybe it’s just a mind thing, but darker colors seem to be hotter. Again, just a though.

  42. “I think you’ll find that price a bargain – if you are a rational human being…”

    Reminds me of the time I tried to win an argument with my wife by saying “Now, try to be rational about this…” That’s how I got my glass eye.

  43. kendewitt608 says:

    Stick to your guns.
    Cheap is cheap in more ways than one.

  44. Tom Keady says:

    I wanted to buy one of these chore coats several years ago and couldn’t pull the trigger. I will now, looking forward to the final model and sizing.

  45. Peter says:

    I think your upcoming chore coat is fantastic. I just asked for and got a smock coat for Christmas. I used to wear one in a machine shop and I like to the longer coverage to almost the knee. Four ample pockets and great comfortable coverage. Please consider adding this style to your lineup.

  46. Thomas Hagerty says:

    Sing it

  47. Barry Lynch says:

    Let’s see, I’ve owned two Barbour coats for 20 years, but quality American made shoes which are now 20yrs old as well and still ticking along. Same with my luggage, cars and just about everything else I buy.

    “Grandpa said we could only afford to buy the best, because only the rich can afford to buy cheap.”
    I’ll be ordering one of your coats, Happy holidays to you and your family Chris.

  48. DLawson says:

    Some of my socks are getting worn. I had to do some image searching to figure out who made them. That’s because the youngest are about 16 years-old (insert perv joke). I found them (Thorlo), and don’t yet know whether them-now matched them-then. The site price is about $20 per pair. That has me wanting to check the street price, but on the other hand, the ones that are falling apart are 20 years-old.

  49. eaia says:

    Looks great, but my denim chore coat purchased at Sears in 1975 is still going strong. Has patches, is faded and sags a bit, but like your boots it is comfortably broken in. Your new coat looks like it will last. Price sounds fair after all I paid $35 for my coat in 1975 dollars which is probably comparable to the pricing you are proposing. Looking forward to seeing the final product. You get what you pay for.

  50. Erik Hinkston says:

    Just today I listened to a podcast “How I built this” featuring the Story of Yvon Chouinard and his company Patagonia. He has the same philosophy about building the best and make it last and repairable. Seems like it worked out okay for him, net worth one billion.

  51. charleseflynn says:

    eaia,

    You are impressively close in your estimate.

    According to the inflation calculator at http://www.usinflationcalculator.com, an item purchased in 1975 for $35 would cost $160.47 today.

  52. Eric R says:

    I wear ridicously expensive gym shoes in the shop.
    You know why? Because they are by far the most comfortable gym shoes I’ve ever worn.
    And, I am blessed with the resources to buy them.
    I will probably buy one of these coats.
    That price isn’t enough to make you rich or me poor.
    My dad used to say, “Son, never worry about buying the best you can get. It will always be the right choice”.
    Thank you Chris.

  53. the9kellys says:

    The only problem with “expensive” but high quality coats is that when someone in my family needs a coat, $185 is a lot of immediate money. It does not matter that it will last a lifetime if you cannot afford it now. I will have to buy that cheap, made-out-of-the-country coat for now…

  54. Make it happen, I’m definitely in!

  55. Mike says:

    Sweet! Please make a 3XLT size!!

  56. Thank you lostartpress
    Fantastic blog
    happy New Year

  57. jeremy hanson says:

    Dude I was thinking they would be at least 250. 185 is a great deal. I own a few filson coats that are bulletproof. The price of them was shocking but I have no doubt they will be given to my son when I’m gone. So stoked you guys make quality stuff and actually have some integrity about how you go about the business.

    • Joshua P. Brown says:

      I was just thinking that this was similar to the Filson jacket that I’ve been wearing in my shop lately.
      I bought mine used over a decade ago and it is holding up great.
      High-quality clothing is worth spending some money on.

  58. After expending my energy on a rant about unkind comments on one of my blogs, a dear friend put it this way: “Autumn, there are many for whom enlightenment is not an option.” It was such erudite reasoning that I was stunned by its simplicity.

    Sign me up for one of the wonderful chore coats; aprons just don’t cut it.

  59. Christopher hill says:

    Well said sir, I am looking forward to owning a jacket that will last a life time. Thanks for the updates on the process. Can’t wait to buy mine. Is t possible to pay and reserve or do I have to wait patiently.

  60. Quiinc says:

    I’ve been coming to this blog for years but am slowly reaching the conclusion that I should stop. It once was a place a good fellowship, fascinating information and unique woodworking advice. Lately, though, it’s become mean. You have contempt for a not insignificant portion of your readership and cannot conceal it. The low point was your classification of workbench builders into six categories that you then rejoiced in ridiculing. You make products. A lot of people, myself included, love them. Some don’t. Why can’t you celebrate those who find joy in your work and ignore those who do not? We are all faced with the ugly side of humanity in too many places these days. I don’t need it in my recreational reading. I’ll miss your research and your love of woodworking terribly, but I have grown weary of the meanness that is laced throughout your posts. I hope you someday can find anew the stuff that once gave you the unbridled joy that came through in your earlier writing.

    • Lex says:

      This may be a fair assessment. Once upon a time, i wrote pretty regularly for two mid-sized political blogs. The internet is a wonderful thing; it can open new vistas on information quickly and easily. It’s also a wretched hive of scum and villainy. The internet makes people angry. And it is much easier to say “don’t read the comments” than it is to not read the comments. If you don’t, you may miss some enlightening conversation that makes you rethink an issue. There’s something to be said about disabling comments. Maybe we don’t need every thought to be a participatory action.

      As for ridicule, i haven’t been reading Chris for a very long time, but as far as i can tell, that biting humor has long been a hallmark of his style. It isn’t easy to laugh at ourselves, but it’s the most rewarding laughter.

    • SMJacks05 says:

      Transformation complete. The anarchist has become the elitist…

    • Quercus Robur says:

      I actually enjoyed the workbench builders simply because I could find myself in (almost) each of the categories. Satire is a description of our human condition, both the good and grotesque parts.

  61. simon says:

    I have purchased a couple of books, digital admittedly because I live in the UK but I have found them well worth what I paid and will undoubtedly buy more. Sometimes I see something such as the Crucible dividers and think that’s expensive but it’ a quesion of utility and value is a personal thing. They are beautiful but as a hobby woodworker I couldn’t justify spending that, to put it in context, for £180 I purchased second hand, 2 Disston Panel saws, a Disston tenon saw, a Stanley router plane with 3 blades, a plough plane with 20 different sized blades, a wooden tongue plane and a rabbet plane and a pair of dividers, all fully functional and used regularly. I put down a Parquet floor just before Christmas and I used all but 2 from that list and no power tools at all other than the sanders. The thing is most of these tools are older than I am but like the Crucible tool dividers they were top quality tools when new and were priced so a craftsman would be paying a sizeable portion of his wage to buy them. The fact that they are still being used after 50, 60 or even 100 years means that far from being expensive, they were astoundingly good value.

    The work coat looks great and the proof will be in the wearing, like a good pair of shoes, my Churches, shoes seemingly cost a fortune when i bought them more than 10 years ago but even with resoling a few times they work out at about $50 a year and most $50 shoes don’t last a year.

    So Chris carry on sticking to your guns, everyone has a choice and we can make up our own minds, whether a product represents value to us. I for one wish there were more businesses like yours here in the UK but I think the sort of spirit you show was driven out long ago here, the British would rather go to Ikea and Primark and buy tools that dont really work from B&Q (Home Depot).

  62. Kansas John says:

    When I first ran across Lost Art Press I was really happy to see that someone had taken up the challenge to reprint a number of very valuable books to be distributed amongst a relatively small cadre of people. It showed dedication and passion. What is special about that endeavor, is that few if any people were/are doing it. That gives it value.

    In regards to other endeavors like took making and the new French Work Coat I don’t see that the same value, necessarily applies. Many people make tools and many people make very good tools. Many manufacturers make ‘bleu de travail’, yes even in black.
    https://www.lyst.co.uk/clothing/le-laboureur-moleskin-work-jacket/
    And the quality is quite high.

    If you are producing something rare then a high price can be understood by most. But if you are competing with other tool makers and other garment manufacturers then price has to be considered since there are many other options. It isn’t enough to say it is “high quality” when your competitors are also producing high quality products.

  63. Just a quick request for actual measurements when the time comes for ordering! Things like pit-to-pit whne laying flat will be a huge help for sizing!

  64. Alex A. says:

    Kudos. Quality gear is the way to go. A one time expense is better than cheap junk you replace every year.

  65. Devon says:

    You are probably not going to change anyone’s mind on “the quality costs less” argument and that is a shame. Americans are locked into what seems like a race to the bottom on goods (and services too) and I think we are going to “win”. (grouchy old man rant truncated)

    One more vote for tall sizes and exact yoke, chest, sleeve, body length, etc. measurements. My body is not a normal shape (reflecting my mind, I suspect). I did this on my own last year (never imagined LAP would do it for me) by working with a MTM tailor and an exact spec of what I wanted. I went with a heavy indigo denim and it has broken in to be soft as a kitten. Mine is a shirt in form and a jacket in use.

    Best of luck in the new arena!

  66. orpre says:

    Please don’t forget us short fat guys when it comes to arm length and the ability to move your arms. Don’t stop producing the best.

    Tom Kunze

    ________________________________

  67. Sidney Reilley says:

    Some people are so short sighted. Don’t they know that the more you pay, the more it’s worth? This should go well with the $8 hammer you’re offering for $80. Oh yes, I’ll need the bespoke tailoring too.
    Cheers

  68. soswood says:

    Hi Chris, Will this shirt be available in “Tall” sizes? I need an XL Tall.

  69. bluefairywren says:

    Buy Less. Buy Well. And you will live happily ever after

  70. Scott Taylor says:

    Looking forward to it! It should go well with my Redwing boots and Barbour jacket. Dad said “buy the best only cry once”..

  71. Shirt’s not cheap, but neither are womens’ shoes.

  72. Village Woodwright says:

    As another mentioned, I wear Utilikilts: made in Seattle, quality, expensive. Though worn daily I haven’t worn one out in ten years. I paid $225 for my boots made in Maine a decade ago. Worn daily and going strong.
    I cringe every time a potential client “can’t afford” for me to build a piece of furniture for even $1,500 that will last 4 generations, yet they just spent $3,000 on new iPhones for the family that will last 2 years. Economic logic has been “checked at the door.”
    Keep building quality, local products for people who appreciate them… for as long as there’s an audience.

  73. Murray Heidt says:

    It still kind of stings when you get contact cement on your $135 labourers jacket, when your building a 4’x6′ plastic laminate back panel though.

  74. Dustin Derksen says:

    my lost art press hoodie is literally falling apart at the seams and the zipper gave out long ago

    • Hey Dustin. The American Apparel quality took a nosedive at one point (hence why we don’t carry the sweatshirt). Please feel free to return it for a full refund. Apologies.

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