MsDebbieP's Company Tours #4: Steel City Tool Works, Part I

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Blog entry by MsDebbieP posted 08-09-2007 07:45 PM 6325 reads 1 time favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Lee Valley, Part II Part 4 of MsDebbieP's Company Tours series Part 5: OMS Tool Company »

Steel City Tool Works may be the new kid on the block but don’t let that fool you – there is a lot of experience behind the name.

The History
It was only last year that Steel City Tool Works made their grand entrance at the woodworking show in Atlanta (the equivalent of the Vegas show held last month) and it did not take them long to be accepted as one of the big names in woodworking.

Steel City Tools

Jim McEntee, Vice-President/General Manager of Steel City Tool Works, Canada, credits the fast success to the fact that the founding partners have been in the field for many years. Together, they create a team with more experience behind them than most any other company.

The partners had originally held management positions with Delta for many years and when that company was combined with Black & Decker, a shift in management took place, as often happens, and their career paths took a detour towards a new beginning.

Company Goals
The opportunity that presented itself was to form their own company, bringing with them their vast amount of knowledge and expertise, and create a line of tools that would offer woodworkers some unique features.

This goal may seem like a hefty task since they would be making the same woodworking tools that are already available, but their experience at supporting customers over the past 20+ years provided them with a vast range of ideas, needs, and challenges. They now had the ability to change and add features that would help woodworkers use their tools more efficiently.

Another of Steel City ’s goals is to maintain a high level of satisfaction with their customers, valuing their feedback. Mr. McEntee noted that today’s technology helps with this as blogs and forums such as creates a venue to identify strengths and needs of products, which in turn helps them improve the woodworking tools that they offer.

The Granite Innovation
Although Mr. McEntee states that using granite for work surfaces isn’t anything new, he does acknowledge that this innovation is catching a lot of attention. He says that many high quality measuring surfaces have used granite for years because it does not warp or rust and can be machined to high tolerances. (Typically an accepted tolerance level is around ten thousandths of an inch but with the granite they can take that down to a 1 thousandths level). Also, cast iron is actually more susceptible to breakage and, with the granite tops being thicker and heavier, the granite provides greater stability as well as helps to dampen vibration.

Why did they think of granite? Well, besides the benefits mentioned above, as the team was discussing what unique features they could bring to their line of tools, their representative in their Asian company (all other six members are in North America) suggested granite because they are located next to the largest source of granite in the world. And so the use of granite took its next step into the world of woodworking machines.

First responses to the idea typically include a questionable look as visions of kitchen counter tops comes to mind. But with a little education the benefits mentioned above start to override the perception and people become more receptive to the idea. Also, the 10-year warrantee that will come with the granite top will help reduce the users’ concerns!

The first models to be introduced will be available in October of this year. We will be seeing:
- a jointer with a granite fence (it will also be available with the standard cast iron)
- a 14” bandsaw with a granite table, again with the option of the standard cast iron.

Then, in late January of 2008, there will be a new table saw introduced. Currently their table saw option is a contractor saw. Other companies have introduced what is referred to as a hybrid saw – a contractor saw with the motor housed inside the cabinet, providing protection for the motor, added safety features, and more efficient dust collection. These are wonderful features for a saw to have.

The drawback to the hybrid is that it is presumed to be a true cabinet saw which is designed for finer precision than the contractor’s saw which is meant for rough cuts. Steel City Tools ’ answer to the hybrid is to make it a true cabinet saw, which means greater precision.

Their “Steel City Cabinet Saw” will be available with a 1 ½ HP motor as well as 3 HP and will have the granite table.

Cabinet Saw

The Future
The goal of the company right now is to further develop their distribution base. Their plan is to work with woodworking dealers rather than the big box stores and so their focus is on filling the gaps, geographically. For example, in Canada, they are seeking dealers in northern and central Ontario and in the prairies. They want to have their machines available wherever there is a big population, everywhere in North America.

And what if you don’t happen to live in North America and you want to get your hands on a Steel City machine? Mr. McEntee chuckled at this and said, “We’d find a way.”

Tips for LumberJocks
When asked what words of wisdom he had to pass on to woodworkers, Mr. McEntee had two key tips: 1) safety, safety, safety, and 2) research!

In our world of marketing ploys it is easy to get caught up in the “I have to have it” mentality, whether it is because the tool supposedly has some amazing features or because you get a lot of free things with it when you make the purchase. But Mr. McEntee advises woodworkers to do their research before they purchase and buy the best they can afford based on their own personal needs and their wallet.

He says that woodworking shows are the biggest marketing ploy and often people will buy things that never get used. Before you buy, he suggests, select the product that best suits your needs and then go shopping. Then, if the freebies happen to be attached to the product you have selected, well, then, you are getting a good deal.

Mr. McEntee also praises the online forums for the help they give regarding research. But, he also warns, don’t write something off because a tool didn’t work for someone. Perhaps their woodworking needs are different or perhaps they got that one in a thousand that was faulty. Research – get more than one opinion; know your needs. Do all of the legwork before you buy so that you aren’t kicking yourself later.

That is good advice (not only regarding woodworking) and is a great way to wrap up an informative conversation!

Thank You
Thank you to Mr. McEntee, for taking the time to chat with me, and to Steel City Tool Works for their innovation and for their addition to the woodworking world.


P.S. Keep your eyes open for Part II of this interview. I will be meeting with Mr. McEntee in person at Steel City Tool Works, Canada, in the near future!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

13 comments so far

View PanamaJack's profile


4483 posts in 4585 days

#1 posted 08-09-2007 07:48 PM

Another great job Debbie! Thanks.

-- Carpe Lignum; Tornare Lignum (Seize the wood, to Turn the wood)

View Joel Tille's profile

Joel Tille

213 posts in 4752 days

#2 posted 08-09-2007 10:32 PM

Debbie – Woodworking and Journalism, you are amazing. great article, I had not heard of this company.

-- Joel Tille

View WayneC's profile


14358 posts in 4605 days

#3 posted 08-09-2007 10:50 PM

My friend, I’m very impressed with your writing skill. Great blog entry. Keep up the great work.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1809 posts in 4594 days

#4 posted 08-09-2007 11:33 PM

Excellent, excellent, excellent! Great reporting Deb. When I 1st heard of the granite tops I thought what a great idea. Sounds like we’ll be seeing some beautiful stuff coming from Steel City.

-- Bob

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4668 days

#5 posted 08-09-2007 11:47 PM

I’ll be meeting with them at an upcoming Wood Show. Hopefully I’ll be able to give you some more information then.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View WayneC's profile


14358 posts in 4605 days

#6 posted 08-10-2007 12:28 AM

Also, I’ll keep their 14” granite table bandsaw in mind. I will probably be in the market around the time they come out. So far I’m leaning towards the Rikon, but the coolness factor is attractive. It will be interesting to see how they are priced.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4487 days

#7 posted 08-10-2007 12:51 AM

Hi Ms. Debbie,

Great job! Great article!

As the inventor of the ezee-feed system, I am often consulted by individuals wanting to purchase a table saw, but overwhelmed by the many choices on the market. Typically, they are seeking my recommendation in what to buy, or what not to buy, and why.

I have become quite familiar with the many brands / models, as we are constantly researching them to design mounting systems, or verify our existing mounting systems works with particular saws.

In addition to seeing them “up close and personal” , I also have had many conversations with woodworking store owners, regarding product service, product quality, customer service etc…

These conversations usually include hands on, and side by side comparisions. Two saws consistantly rank highest overall in these previously mentioned catagories. Saw Stop, and Steel City Tool Works.

I must say the Saw Stop is ranked number one, due to the safety factor, which we are all familiar with by now. This company also enjoys a very high ranking among store owners for their customer service. The only negative comment that has ever been made has been the cost of the saw. We all know quality and innovation cost money.

Almost tie, I would say, is Steel City Tool Works. The comments by retailers is also very high praise. They consider quality of the product, and as important to them, quality of service. If they receive poor service, imagine what us single purchase buyers will receive. This reflects badly on them if they are unable to resolve an issue with a piece of equipment they have recommended or sold. Stuff rolls downhill!

I have yet to hear a single negative comment, regarding any dealings with the company, or products they have introduced to the market, in their relatively short time on the market.

Having had the pleasure of hands on inspections of some of their tools, I’m most impressed. They are seeking to make a name for themselves as a high quaility, high service company. And so far, they’ve done just that!

Just when other companies are looking to cheapen the costs of their tools, and in turn their prices to remain competitive, along comes a “newcomer”, that refuses to join in the game.

I am aware of the backround of the principles of the company coming from Delta, and I am very pleased they have taken the high road when it comes to their product line.

Bottom line, for pro shops I recommend saw stop. (insurance issues), but for “joe homeowner”, who can’t justify the cost of that machine, it is hands down, Steel City!


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4593 days

#8 posted 08-10-2007 01:17 AM

Deb, you have done a great job with this series….I have to admit I am kind of jelous but I got over that pretty quickly. Great articles. Please keep it up.

Lee, thanks for the great response. It was very enlightening. It’s good to hear the opions of today’s tool designers who have first hand experience with what they are talking about. Too many times we get marketing info from the paper mags. not true revews of the products. On top of that, you also get personal preferences and bias in some of the reviews. I have seen articles by several so called “editors” making blanket statements about things such as “Don’t ever buy a swiss chisel, they aren’t worth the money.” I thought this was a very broad statement for someone to make in such a open forum.

Please continue to share your experiences with us. I for one value you advise. It helps me narrow my field when I start looking at large ticket items. Thanks again.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4668 days

#9 posted 08-10-2007 02:31 AM

Lee, great info from personal experience. Thank you for sharing that.

Greg, thanks for the feedback :) It’s pretty exciting and, being a Life Guide, it is really fun to see the “people” behind the products.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4050 posts in 4571 days

#10 posted 08-10-2007 04:05 AM

Great review Debbie. Can’t wait to do the thanks for interview certificate!
I think you need business cards…hmm who could design them? I’ll have to think about that. LOL

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View Karson's profile


35201 posts in 4908 days

#11 posted 08-10-2007 04:18 AM

Great Job Debbie. And thanks Lee from a personal point of view, of a user that is asked like a salesman what he would recommend.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View mot's profile


4926 posts in 4544 days

#12 posted 08-16-2007 11:32 PM

Great job, Debbie, and thanks Lee for that commentary. Very useful as I decide on the future of my tablesaw.


-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4668 days

#13 posted 08-20-2007 05:09 PM

A couple edits to the interview.

Thanks to Mr. McEntee for clarifying a couple of things that I had written in this interview:

Granite / Cast Iron breakage susceptibility: “There really is no “scientific proof” to this although your point about thickness strength & vibration dampening is correct.”

Availability: “We actually have had a cast iron version of the granite saw in our line up since our market intro. It is our “entry point” cabinet saw which is our answer to the competitive models known as hybrid contractor saws. Our saw is a cast iron table version in a 1.75 HP package, model 35670 as well as a 3 HP package, model 35675 ( only one in the industry for this category of saw). The advantage of our saw is that all of the trunnion & motor assembly is mounted on the cabinet vs bolted to the underside of the cast table. The advantage is that the cabinet mounting provides for the precision alignment adjustments that cabinet makers demand of a saw. The hybrid contractor saws do not allow for this. In January of 2008 our granite top version of this saw will be made available & it will also sport a “riving knife” feature for added functionality & safety.

Thank you, again, Mr. McEntee for clarifying this and for the additional information on the saw!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

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