With so many well-established tool companies around, it's always interesting when a newcomer steps up to challenge the old guard.
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With so many well-established tool companies around, it's always interesting when a newcomer steps up to challenge the old guard. Does the upstart bring fresh new ideas to the world of woodworking machinery, or do they crank out more of the same, but with a new paint color? At this summer's International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta we'll witness the birth of new tool company, but the brains and brawn behind the brand—Steel City Tool Works—are hardly babes in the wood(s). In fact, five of SCTW's six owners each have more than 20 years experience in the woodworking machinery business at prominent manufacturers. That's why the company's slogan states: "BY TOOL GUYS. FOR TOOL GUYS."

Recently, I got a sneak peek at more than a dozen pre-production samples of SCTW tools, and the highlight was when Vice President and General Manager Scott Box unveiled a gold-topped tablesaw. However, the new color isn't just some marketing gimmick. This tablesaw top is cast-iron impregnated with titanium nitrite, and Box says it's rust- and corrosion-proof, and tougher than carbide. "You'll never have to put a rust-protectant on your tablesaw again," according to Box. If you want to be the first on your block with a titanium tabletop, it's about a $200 upgrade on SCTW's 3-hp deluxe cabinet saw. That saw and others in the line come with a Biesemeyer-style fence that glides like it's on wheels (but it's not) thanks to lightly textured rails.

Not all of the tools I saw showed that kind of innovation—many of them looked similar to other Asian-manufactured machines from better-known brand names. Steel City president Mark Strahler told me that's merely a function of a new brand launch. "We have lots of new ideas and improvements we want to introduce to the woodworking machinery market, but we couldn't do every machine all at once. This is just the initial rollout; we plan to introduce 6 or 7 new tools every year, and some of those will replace some of these," Strahler said as he swept his hand around the temporary showroom of jointers, bandsaws, stationary planers, and sanders.

Strahler went on to say that where they can't innovate, they'll offer more value for the price, including accessories (such as an extension table or dado throat plate) that would cost extra from "the other guys." Exact pricing hasn't been nailed down yet, but the ballpark numbers they gave me were competitive with Jet and Delta. One thing both Box and Strahler emphasized repeatedly during my visit: You won't find Steel City tools in the big-box stores or on amazon.com. They plan limited distribution through main-line tool stores, and will expect their dealers to hold the line on pricing. They are already working on filling the distribution pipeline, and expect that their dealers will have most tools in stock by mid-August, when the line launches at IWF.

Dave Campbell, Editorial Manager, Tools & Techniques

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