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Lack of Woodworking Tools in Canada?

10155 Views 22 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  Magnum
This is something which has been on my mind for quite a long time and I haven't found any other blogs or similar discussion forums about this so I figured I would start it myself.

As a new woodworker, one of the things I have been working hard at for the past year or so is properly setting up my shop with decent tools and machines. I am definitely not one of those "I always need to have the most expensive item" kind of guys, but at the same time I am not one who likes to skimp on tools - particularly power tools.

In any case, I'm just wondering if anyone else has found that Canada, specifically Western Canada, is extremely lacking in Woodworking focused businesses. It could be that I am not looking in the right places, but in my admitedly short time, here are the only shops I have found that deal with Woodworking:

KMS Tools (formerly house of tools I think)
Windsor Plywood
Dick's Lumber/Curtis Lumber
Busy Bee/Craftex
Home Depot
Canadian Tire

Ok I am being very general in including all the big box shops, like CT, Sears, etc, but honestly, I haven't found any other shops that carry Woodworking stuff. The most annoying part is of the above shops, only two in my opinion are actually focused on wood, which are Lee-Valley and Windsor Plywood. The others are a mish-mash of automotive/metal working/construction, etc. And Lee-Valley doesn't sell any power tools!

As well, with the exception of KMS, the above shops don't habitually stock what are often referred to as "quality" machines. Mastercraft, Craftex, Ridgid, etc, are not usually in the discussion of high quality power tools (with respect to those brands…I realize that they are good for their purposes…IE not for professionals.)

So…my question for you fellow Canucks out there (particularly those in BC) where the heck do you shop for tools?
I find myself shopping at the Rockler, Woodcraft and Grizzly shops nearby in Bellingham and Seatle more than at my local shops simply because the quality and diversity of products is just so limited up here. This severe limitation / cornering of the market has made it so that distributors can basically charge whatever they want for power tools. $900 for a 14" bandsaw
You can get one at Lowes or Grizzly in the US for like, $500. Even with duty and exchange you can save $200 to $300 just by driving down south and importing the machines yourself. With the exception of Lee-Valley, I can't find any shops that sell wood finishes (lacquer, shellac, etc) since most of the big boxes only carry floor polishes/finishes or outdoor finishes and stains.

I dunno, like I said I am not an expert and it's possible that I am not looking at the right spots. But seriously, if someone could point me in the right direction I would much appreciate it! Let me know how you set up your dream shop!
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Lucas, I am not very farmiliar with your area but I would like to think that with construction of homes and such around your area. There may be some sort of cabinet or furniture shops around that could give you some help with distributors. I really didnt know how fortunate I was in regards to tools and lumber until I heard stories like this. I live in Berea, Ky the crafts capital of the world "they say" and I feel confident I could pick up just about any type of lumber I would want. Now the rare stuff comes with a hefty price however it is here. As for tools check your local cabinet and furniture shops for those as well. Some shops graduate up to the more expensive tools as they grow and may have something setting back in the corner. You never know until your try.

My 2c for what its worth

Good luck - Hobie

I have not used any of these, but here are a few sites I found. I wish we had a Rockler or Woodcraft, or other WW tool stores north of the boarder too. In London, Ontario there is Federated Tool, but I don't know if they are a chain.
I live in rural northern ontario, and we have access to many tools by mail order such as those you listed , canadian tire in my books not a great place to go. have you looked at King tools (industrial line), I own some and got mine threw my local parts supplier, then in western canada I used to order from house of tools.Also look at buying used you can get some amazing stuff at estate sales and the like that you would not usually purchase new because it would be cost prohibitive.
you have more options than i do and im live in windsor ontario…..i dont know how you guys can be shy of woodworking tools…i envy your province…when i was out there 2 years ago (invermere bc) I saw nothing but the most beautiful timberframing and log homes….and theres none of that around me
Try living in Newfoundland! I hear your pain.
No disrespect mean to the Canadians here, but… Considering that Canada has a little over 1/10 the population of the United States (Canada's 33 mil to U.S.'s 309 mil), this really shouldn't be that much of a surprise to anyone…

Now Consider the Houston Metropolitan area.The counties that make up the Houston Metro area, Harris, Galveston, Brazoria, Fort Bend, Liberty, Chambers, and Montgomery have a total population of 4,850,093. And we have Rockler, and Woodcraft as fully dedicated woodworking stores. We have Home Depot, Lowes, Northern Tool, and Harbor Freight tools as tool vendors, Home Depot and Lowes as construction grade lumber suppliers, and Houston Hardwoods, and maybe 1 or 2 other lesser known hardwood dealers.

Considering population density, if you have all the options you list where you live, you are doing VERY well indeed… Be grateful.
I know what you mean. I live in Manitoba and my options are definitely limited. I've gotten lucky with used tools which I know are hard to come by. It is frustrating seeing the amount of great tools out there that we just don't have easy access to. It is worth checking out Kijiji or something like it. I spent almost two years looking for decent bandsaw when I finally stumbled upon an almost brand new 14" Delta. Good luck with your search!
Thanks for all the input eveyrone!

I guess I should clarify that as far as actual wood/lumber goes, living in BC I cannot complain. We have a ridiculous amount of softwoods out here…Fir, Spruce, Cedar, and Fir are plentiful. We have a good amount of hardwoods as well, mostly Big Leaf Maple and some Red Alder. So no, lumber is not the issue!

And I definitely hear what some of you are saying who are even less fortunate than me and don't live in a densely populated area…the BC Lower Mainland has close to 5 million people or more, so we have a good amount of business here.

I dont want to make it sound like I am slamming those businesses I named earlier, particularly Lee Valley which has high quality stuff (pricey though!) But you can get your Veritas goods from Lee Valley, so they carry any hand tools you can think of if you have the cash.

I guess for me the pinch point has always been power tools. The shops I mentioned above tend to only carry their own brands when it comes to WW machines (table saws, bandsaws, sanders, dust collectors, etc.) Unfortunately, all I ever read about Craftex, King Canada, Mastercraft, Craftsman, Ridgid, and Ryiobi is pretty negative, usually stating pretty major quality issues. That pretty much leaves General International (KMS Tools house line) and Delta which is available occasionally here and there at KMS or Busy Bee. Other than those two brands, the majority of the machines available in Canada are usually not high on the food chain.

Maybe I should alter the question a bit : have any of you had great success outfitting your shops with the readily available Canadian brands I mention above?

PS JimDaddyO thanks for the message I'll check out those websites!
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Note sure if you've checked out Summit Tools in Burnaby - I find they have a decent selection of professional-grade woodworking power tools. And Canadian Tire, due to their diminishing focus on quality, does not warrant a visit IMHO.

Go Luongo!
I second checking out Summit Tools. They have lots of Delta and Steel City tools setup inside their store. General International is not KMS's house line, I think it's actually Forester or Maxwood.

Between KMS/Summit/Busybee/Home Depot/Sears, you get General Canada, Vicmarc, Sawstop, Delta, General International, Steel City, Nova, Ridgid, King Industrial, Craftex, Craftsman, King Canada, and other import brands. Go to Akhurst if you want more industrial stuff. It's not as many as in the states, and a bit more expensive, but around Greater Vancouver it's not that bad. You can go to Bellingham for Grizzley, butsome craftex stuff is identical to them anyway. And who needs Powermatic when you got General?
I have a few Mastercrap tools and Crapsman
The General line of tools are Canadian made, and are every bit as good as Powermatic. I have heard from a lot of Wworkers in the USA wishing they were more readily available. Just make sure they are the Canadian made Generals, and not the foriegn made General International which are a step down. Heck, even the new Unisaw has a big logo on it saying there are foriegn parts in it.
on vancouver island, there is Felder machinery imports. they have high end stuff. also island woodcraft for turning stuff. probably worth the ferry ride.
I live in little old New Brunswick, I don't have any problem getting what I want. I buy on line if I can't find what I need at the local stores. That very seldom happens. You are just not aware of your surroundings. We have an exotic lumber store in Moncton and Halifax, that stocks wood that I have never heard of. Look around you'll find all you need and want. You have an added bonus to be able to go to Washington, and I don't believe the savings are as much as you claim. Hope you get stocked up and don't have to travel too far.
Busy Bee=Grizzly Tools

They are owned by two brothers, but I think Grizzly is run better.

I buy all my tools from Marson Equipment in Edmonton.

They are THE best tool supplier in Edmonton.
we have a Craftex Bandsaw. No complaints.
In My area, we have Princess Auto, Busy Bee, Home Hardware, Home Depot, Kent Building Supplies, Lee Valley, Rona, Castle, Canadian Tire, London Lumber, and a variety of dept. stores that have very good sale items if you watch the flyers. I just bought a new Vacuum from Canadian Tire at half price with 2 and a half inch hose, and saved $70.00 bucks.
@ redshirt - I work at KMS and you are correct; Forrester and Maxwood are house brands. And to be honest they're not my favourite. General is an awesome Canadian company that makes quality gear (both here and in Taiwan - General International) and is well worth the extra coin.

I buy a lot of stuff from Calgary Fasteners….They carry all the big names….good bunch of guys.
They also have a store in Surry (stores all over Canada) Same company, all owned by the "Fastener Group"
I have no clue what they stock in the Surry store, but they can get you whatever you want.

12824 Anvil Way (78 Ave)
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