Recent news at the craft’s virtual water cooler revolves around True Temper’s decision to leave our circle and no longer supply steel tubing. I can’t remember reading so much lamenting, second guessing, and if-onlys since – well, I’ve never experienced it in my time at the bench.
The industry didn’t say boo when Ekla, Bocama, Prugnat, Hague, Roto, Gargatte, Davis Components, Haden, Nervex, Vagner, Gipiemme, and others closed. There was no outrage when George Fisher, Microfusione Italia, Hitchener, and Hitachi left to move into more lucrative areas for their investment casting capabilities. There were no tears shed when many of the tap, cutter, and fixture suppliers we once depended on ceased to offer tools for the trade. Water seeks its own level. Frame building, presently at least, is more a sideline or part-time endeavor than a bona fide profession. It all would have devolved a decade or more ago were it not for some of the more stubborn among us who continued to share information, mentor new people, and add materials to the menu. We put it all out there. Now look at us.
According to my opinion, we need to move forward to make things right and profitable. On the supply side, our three to four primary distributors freely sell to anyone and everyone, and many of the end users, hobbyists and tinkerers among them, unwittingly undercut the commercial frame builder. The latter deserve a dedicated channel for goods and services, while the former should have a more realistic list (read: higher prices) until they’re committed to making this a full time, for-pay endeavor. There should be basic requirements such as proof of liability insurance, an EIN, and state resale certificates from all who place orders. That’s how the rest of the industry is organized and those who occupy our little street corner should mirror this.
Frame building needs a more stringent set of standards if it’s to endure. Those on the inside have to give back in spades and find creative ways to lead enthusiastic newer folks. If we pay attention, keep quality high, and train those who follow in our footsteps, the companies that supply us will stay in business longer, the trade will prosper, and we’d all grow at a more reasonable pace. Things may never be perfect, but they can be better.