Purchasing Woodworking Tools Online vs In-Store

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Forum topic by BroncoBrian posted 04-17-2015 04:46 PM 2859 views 0 times favorited 58 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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896 posts in 3016 days

04-17-2015 04:46 PM

Serious Discussion for everyone so please keep it positive. No star rating needed, thanks.

I want to get feedback about buying in-store vs online. There are obvious pros/cons to each so I will narrow it down to a couple talking points that we should think about:

1. Fixed pricing tools (example- Festool)

We want to put our hands on these things and can only do this in a local stores. But when a tool is not in stock, should we be obligated to order in-store?

I bought a Domino joiner online from Bob M. Great service, great advice, same 10% package with the vac for the same price. He shipped it free and I saved $116 on sales tax. That is a discount, it came quicker, and to my door. The problem is that is WE ALL always do this, the stores would stop carrying the tools and we would only be able to read about them.

2. Large tools, Jointers, Band Saws, Planers…

Similar as above, not only could I not see a 8” jointer in a local store or even an hour away, they would have order it to the store for free. Then I would have driven an hour to pick it up in a rented truck. More costs and time. I was able to order a jointer online with free shipping and got part of the discount of a recent sale (b/c they don’t have to have a showroom, lower overhead). Again, saved about $200 plus more time, and another $150 off the price still getting free shipping.

Obviously this model works for Grizzly and no shops carry it in retail. But how much responsibility do we have to support local stores that will not provide equivalent service.

I do buy tools at Rockler/Woodcraft when they have it. Even when Amazon sells it for 10-$20% less and it ships Prime. I feel the advice it worthy and I look for something to buy every time I go there, even when I don’t need it. But it stinks to look up a Starrett tool and find it $20 less and Prime.

I love buying better stuff and will trade up to get something great, but wasting money b/c I feel I need to buy local is tough.


Why would Festool/Jet/PM/Laguna/Others not offer stocking dealers a better price, or fix pricing to give the retailers a fair chance? Or maybe in-store only sales from time to time. If an online seller, like Bob M, is in your comfort zone (is for me), then I would still purchase from the site. But if it is an impulse purchase and a store has it in stock, I’d rather help them out.

Finished. Be nice.

-- A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.

58 replies so far

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Mainiac Matt

9864 posts in 3386 days

#1 posted 04-17-2015 05:12 PM

Great questions… here are some disjointed thoughts.

Brick and motor retail stores have such high overhead associated with their facilities, that they would have to have a huge discount to catch up to Amazon.

Most name brand tool manufacturers (not the premium lines like Festool) have very low margins to start with. They are all buying from the same factories in Taiwan and China and the difference in price is more to do with the amount of set up and inspection that they do stateside (i.e. Powermatic… quite a bit, Grizzly… none at all). So they don’t have much wiggle room to offer discounts.

Amazon got into the tool game in a big way when they purchased what was (imo) the best catalog tool company out there, The Toolcrib of the North. Now Amazon has huge clout with the tool manufacturers and is more than willing to beat them up and dictate the terms and prices. There is no way Amazon is going to let the manufacturers get away with offering the retail competition lower prices.

You actually do see some pretty good sales (up to 20% off) at Woodcraft, but the same discounts are offered to Amazon and so buying online is still a better price.

People have discovered that the “guarantee” of getting good warrantee service from retailer is a total illusion. They are going to send you back to the manufacturer just like Amazon is. I think Amazon actually offers superior service, in that they will often eat the shipping and take defective product back with no questions, as long as it is within a very short period of time from the delivery date.

The only real advantages retail stores have is that (1) there are still a lot of people out there that don’t know where the power button on a computer is, and (2) you can touch and feel and inspect the product b4 buying. So their reward is that people will fondle the goods at their store, price check Amazon on their smart phone and then order on line while standing there. Which is really a crappy thing to do.

It’s a dog eat dog world out there and making money selling tools is not an easy venture to get into.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View dschlic1's profile


507 posts in 3027 days

#2 posted 04-17-2015 05:46 PM

One advantage local store have is immediate delivery. If you need a set of chisels NOW, make a run to HD or Woodcraft.

View jmartel's profile


9170 posts in 3208 days

#3 posted 04-17-2015 06:05 PM

I tend to buy supplies from Rockler in person more often than anything else. Tools I tend to buy elsewhere. Mostly because I prefer Lee Valley’s products, but power tools have been from Amazon, Home Depot, etc. depending on price, availability, and anything else.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View ClammyBallz's profile


449 posts in 2194 days

#4 posted 04-17-2015 06:15 PM

To me, it comes down to $$$ saved on tax vs freight, how fast I want it, who has it and how much aggravation it will take for me to get it delivered vs pick it up.

I purchased my Laguna band saw from the local woodcraft store. I could have bought it online and saved the sales tax, but freight would have been $50, so it was a wash. It was nice to pick it up at the store at my convenience and not have to wait all day for the truck to show up.

I ordered a drill press & sander online, had to pick them up at the hub because either Jet or the vendor didn’t put a lift gate on the BOL. The trucking company wanted to charge me $110 for a lift gate, so I had to drive 40 minutes out of the way and wait another 40 minutes for them to load the skids on my trailer. But I saved $100 in sales tax and got free shipping.

I just picked up a Jet spindle sander on sale from woodcraft, at $100 off, no one online would touch that price. Plus I heard they don’t ship well, I got one that was in great shape and not banged up.

View daddywoofdawg's profile


1029 posts in 2633 days

#5 posted 04-17-2015 06:30 PM

The stores around me 25-miles away (no HD,lowes,menard’s) just carry junk brands vermont american,taiwan,etc.and the selection is poor,so unless I HAVE to have it now I buy online where I can find what I need or think I need.
There was a time that manufactures want to sell the tool to the end user,and would use their dealers to do that,then wallstreet said hey why not just sell it to the dealer and call the sale final,we Do care what happens to the product after it’s sold to the dealer,and we know the end user won’t return it to us.

View Dutchy's profile (online now)


4072 posts in 3226 days

#6 posted 04-17-2015 06:36 PM

Most name brand tool manufacturers (not the premium lines like Festool) have very low margins to start with.

- Mainiac Matt

How do you know?


View hotbyte's profile (online now)


1054 posts in 4033 days

#7 posted 04-17-2015 06:55 PM

Closest real woodworking store for me is one the other side of Atlanta. That isn’t a trip I make on a whim…except, now my daughter lives up there so I have more incentive. She is less than 3 miles from Rockler :) :) :)

So, unless it is something I can (and am willing) to wait until the next trip into the big city I will order online.

View Ghidrah's profile


667 posts in 2280 days

#8 posted 04-17-2015 07:00 PM

From the mid 70s to 2007 within 20 miles from me, we had Woodworker Warehouse and when they left Western Tool Supply immediately moved into the building. I bought all my shop tools from both Co, in 09 I bought my BS from the net because there was no one within 70 miles.

My reason for buying local was the rapport with the sales staff that actually used the tools they sold, unlike an HD or Lowes associate. Back then WWW had a large enough store to have crated examples on site ready to go not a lot but I bought and got my jointer and TS on the same day I made the purchases. At WTS, I waited 3 or 4 days for the call then picked up my molder/planer. In 07 the DS was on site for pick up. When there was an issue with a tool, (1 time) they took it back, corrected it and I took it home the next day.

I haven’t been able to find any of the above in any on line retail business, I’m willing to pay the extra to get that service.

-- I meant to do that!

View BroncoBrian's profile


896 posts in 3016 days

#9 posted 04-17-2015 07:06 PM

Matt – great response. Not sure about the cheaper brands and their margins though. In the A/V business, the cheaper brands have much better margins b/c the stuff is cheap. You are right on about the warranty. You have to call the manufacturer anyway. I am not suggesting better prices, just a break so they can at least match the online pricing.

I think the manufacturers need the retailers.

Dschlic1 – sort of agree. I wanted some countersink bits. Went to HD, but they only had one option and I thought they might be too big for good woodworking. Went to Amazon, spent more for a bigger Fuller set and have a much better set. Had to wait twi days.

ClammyB – I am finding a lot of free freight online. Even my 8” Jointer was free shipping with Lift gate. Jet/PM include lift gate service on all of there deliveries now. So don’t be taken by the 3-party freight company.

-- A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.

View MrRon's profile


6006 posts in 4301 days

#10 posted 04-17-2015 07:13 PM

One thing I can’t tolerate is buying fasteners at local stores. I bought some carriage bolts the other day at my local hardware store and paid 22¢ a piece. If I buy them in bulk online, I pay 8¢ a piece in quantities of 100, plus no sales tax. Since I go through a lot of fasteners, I buy the most common ones at one time, like washers, nuts, screws, etc.

View WhoMe's profile


1568 posts in 4301 days

#11 posted 04-17-2015 07:14 PM

Most name brand tool manufacturers (not the premium lines like Festool) have very low margins to start with.
Mainiac Matt
How do you know?
- Dutchy

Agree, Matt, more concrete details would help support your comment.

Knowing some in the retail tool business, employee discounts can be dismal to VERY good depending on the manufacturer. So the idea of margins being thin is not a hard and fast rule. Most of those discounts would not be there if there was no leeway on the tool margin.
In reality, there is one heck of a mark up on a very high percentage of tools. NO tool company is going to go broke because of thin margins. The only way they will go broke is if no one buys their tools.
Yes, brick and mortar stores have higher overhead than some place like amazon because of facilities, staffing and all the other parts that it takes to run a business.
BUT, having said that, SOME, not all, of the B+M stores have a valuable asset in their staff where many have used these tools and can give good advice if a buyer is on the fence on a tool. not to mention actually seeing and playing around the tool helps. Now, having said that, YES, I know there are a lot of retailers out there that push certain products over others but that is where you as a “supposed” educated buyer comes in. AND, the level of knowledge varies greatly too. I also believe that in some cases, the past several years have weeded out the poorer retailers and the better ones have survived due to knowledge and service. Do your research ahead of time.

I am not against buying online at all. For some tools, it is a no brainer like, say, chisels. Other tools it is not so cut and dry like a band saw. Unless you see it and look at the features, it is difficult to tell if it will fit your needs. That is where the b+m stores come in. Generally, you cannot talk to a person who has used that tool if ordering online. And you have to filter what you read in reviews too.

Besides, for those Amazon fans, do your research there too. A lot of tools are shipped from vendors and NOT Amazon. They are a distributor, period…..

Personally, if I can go to a store to see,feel,play with a tool i’m interested in, I do it. Also, when I find a knowledgeable sales person, I will return to the store because of the knowledge and customer service. That has a lot of value to it and an online discounted tool +shipping would have to be significantly cheaper for me to pull the trigger for an online purchase on a unknown tool.

-- I'm not clumsy.. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, the wall gets in the way AAANNNDDD table saws BITE my fingers!!!.. - Mike -

View bbasiaga's profile


1259 posts in 3053 days

#12 posted 04-17-2015 11:50 PM

Where I used to live, there was a great little independent wood working store. I bought a lot of stuff there for the same price or even higher than online, because when I went in to look at it the guy could explain to me the ins and outs of it, show me how to set it up, address some limitations and ways to get around them. The advice was worth 100x the difference in price. I really miss that shop.

That is where the local stores have the value. IF they have it. The problem is that a lot of them don’t. When you walk in there and they know less than you (and for me, i’m a beginner in a lot of ways), then you are just paying more for the same stuff. At that point, I feel no shame in buying online.

For need it now items, or small things, the online savings aren’t always big enough to be of major consequence, and the instant gratification is worth something too.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View MrUnix's profile


8518 posts in 3257 days

#13 posted 04-18-2015 12:14 AM

One thing I can t tolerate is buying fasteners at local stores. I bought some carriage bolts the other day at my local hardware store and paid 22¢ a piece. If I buy them in bulk online, I pay 8¢ a piece in quantities of 100, plus no sales tax. Since I go through a lot of fasteners, I buy the most common ones at one time, like washers, nuts, screws, etc.

- MrRon

Try Tractor Supply next time… sold by the pound and you can mix and match (nuts, bolts, washers, etc..) to your hearts content. $2.49 a pound IIRC.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View AandCstyle's profile


3296 posts in 3315 days

#14 posted 04-18-2015 12:47 AM

I would love to go to a store and handle many larger purchases, but there is only one store within an hour from me and they have a very limited selection of brands they stock. I have to trust online reviews and make purchase decisions accordingly. 90% of the time I have been 90% satisfied.

-- Art

View Mykos's profile


103 posts in 2852 days

#15 posted 04-18-2015 01:09 AM

I’m lucky enough to live near a Lee Valley. Well, not right near but close enough I can go in there when I’m in town. The nice part is that I can handle things in person when I want to, and I can order them from Lee Valley online if I don’t need to see them before purchasing (when they have free shipping of course).

The money all goes back to the same place, which keeps Veritas churning out tools that I love. So that’s pretty awesome.

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