Video-Why Older Tradesmen Loved Porter-Cable

Gents, with all the new blog posts Stuart has posted about the new Craftsman lineup and how SBDC(I add the C because of its signifigance not because it is actually a part of the name) is working to reestablish the brand, I wanted to share this video.

As some of you may have seen, those of us a certain age(I am 55) or older held the old Porter-Cable company in high regard. Now mind, I am speaking to the tools. I cannot speak to how they ran things day to day. Anyroad, P-C power tools were held in high regard for build quality, durability, and just plain working when you needed them to. This video from 1991 demonstrates some of the ‘why’ we thought that way. A far cry from the…whatever it is SBD shoehorned them into.

In 2004, before they merged with (some would say were bought up) by Stanley - Black & Decker purchased Porter Cable and sister companies Delta and DeVilbiss from Pentair. Pentair had acquired Porter Cable and Delta from Rockwell International (the Aerospace giant conglomerate that was failing with the downturn in military and space program spending - nothing to do with the current Rockwell tool company) in 1960. Pentair actually restored the brand’s luster a bit - it having been replaced during the Rockwell years - with the Rockwell name. Lots of my old PC tools bear the Rockwell name - but that name was also affixed to a cheap line of tools produced to compete with cheap B&D tools being sold at home centers to the DIY crowd. B&D having mightily tarnished their brand name with these cheap orange plastic tools - might have been having an identity crisis - producing great tools like their Super Sawcat and lots of junk too. Having acquired Dewalt from AMF in 1960 B&D sold off the Dewalt radial arm saw business in 1989 - and set about to turn the Dewalt brand into their flagship for professional quality tools. That turned into a big success story - so much so that I think by the time B&D acquired Porter Cable - they did not want to mess things up - by allowing PC to compete with their Dewalt line. So PC got pushed down-market to sell at places like Lowes - perhaps to compete with TTI-produced tools marketed under the Ridgid brand-name at Home Depot. Just one more industry consolidation story - that has had a sad ending for those who appreciated well built and long lasting tools like routers, planers, sanders and portable band saws that once were Porter Cable’s forte.


Thanks for that video! It’s hard to imagine that level of care in manufacturing being done on tools being sold off the shelf. 20 minutes burn in for every tool leaving the factory! Maybe it exists with manufacturers like Hilti?

Fred and RKA, thank you for the responses. I posted it up because in the last few weeks we have seen a lot of updates on toolguyd blogmabout the Craftsman relaunch by SBD and how that may impact Porter-Cable. I personally think this is the practical end for Porter-Cable.

In a way, I would be happy to see the ‘upscale diy’ image disappear from any reference to P-C. It was a bad fit from day one when SBD bought them. They needed a mid level brand to compete against TTI’s Ridgid and this is how the stuff you see sold now got there. In defence of that decision, I think this would have happened with any company that purchased them. We were at a time when people thought that realistically, tradesmen would no longer pay for that level of quality. Well they were wrong. Homeowners maybe, but pros? Just look at what they pay for Festool and some of the newer cordles outfits you see out there.

Porter-Cable’s first, best destiny was top shelf corded professional woodworking tools. If the brand is to be saved from mothballs I think they need to transition their current tools to the Craftsman brand and relaunch Porter-Cable as top flight bench mount tools like bandsaws, drill presses, sanders, and maybe a track saw of top quality like a Festool or Makita or similar. Even at that, the name recognition is lost on a newer generation of workers who never knew what the brand really was. It would be a huge risk for SBD to do such as I have suggested and I believe there is less than a 5% chance of it ever happening.

It could be done. Look at Skil/Skilsaw. For years it made cheap crap tools for mass market at the same time it kept a truly commercial make of worm drive saws for the pro market. And even after its sale to Chervon they have kept them distinct. Essentially two brands. And they have even added to the better brands with the worm drive table saw and a very nice set of reciprocating saws. We will see but I am extremely doubtful.

Forgive my bluntness here… but I don’t see the need to JUSTIFY Porter Cable, or give reasons why they are trusted. I’m a DeWALT guy, and I trust Porter Cable Air Powered products more than I trust the same products in DeWALT branding. The 20 Volt Max/XR DeWALT tools that are nailers and staplers, sure, I’d go DeWALT. But, if I’m going with an Air Nailer or Stapler, I’d rather establish a Porter Cable environment to run them. I’d rather run Porter Cable Air Tools than their equivalent DeWALT tools. Sure, I might run the FlexVOLT family Air Compressors as they roll out, but if I’m going to have Air Tools, and not just a compressed air feed and tire inflator, I’m going Porter Cable.

And y’know what? I’m not an old timer. I’m 36. I may have started using tools at age 9, but I don’t qualify in the club you guys do when it comes to experience. I don’t think the “Younger Folks” around here are as down on Porter Cable as you might fear. If SBD decides to kill off Porter Cable, I’d stand on the protest lines that form with you guys. I don’t want Craftsman to “Replace” any of the SBD brands. I am genuinely hoping that Craftsman will be a venture that gets invested in as a means to bring North American manufacturing back. It may take a few years to accomplish, but I would be genuinely angry if SBD killed off Porter Cable or Bostitch in favour of a cheap-and-easy Craftsman.

If it’s an Electric power tool, I admit I am far more invested in DeWALT. But, should some magic happen, giving me near-infinite funds, I guarantee you my Air Tools of choice would be Porter Cable. There is absolutely no sense in getting rid of this awesome company. You “Old Timers” aren’t alone in your love of them. Hell, I’ve never owned, or used, any of the Porter Cable tools, Pre OR Post SBD purchase, but I trust them for certain. I am right there with you, and I don’t believe you should have to justify your trust in them.

Dorian, I am not sure I have any idea what you are saying. No one said the younger crowd was down on Porter-Cable. What I said was that younger people have no idea who Porter-Cable was and more’s the pity for that.

You essentially make my point. I quote you; “Hell, I’ve never owned, or used, any of the Porter Cable tools, Pre OR Post SBD purchase, but I trust them for certain.” How do you arrive at this trust? Porter-Cable doesn’t make any tools anymore that I am aware of. They are all supplied by SBD companies in Mexico and China. Including Bostich for the pneumatic tools as far as I know but could be wrong about that. That you like them is fine with me. In fact, I am quite happy to see someone under 50 take up for the old marquee. But they are not Porter-Cable in the sense I was referencing in my original post.

I never said anyone has to justify their use of the brand. Only that i think it is the practical end of the line for it. When SBD bought it, myself and others worried, and rightly so it turned out, they would bollocks the old brand and they did. They wanted an intermediate line of tools between their pro focused DeWalt line and their mass retail brand Black & Decker. I think they even coined a term for this. Something like ‘upscale diy’ or somesuch nonsense.

This was never P-C’s domain. They made their bones with professional level corded power tools. I think if you look at some of the routers under the DeWalt line you will see P-C dna in them and that makes sense too. You said you are more invested in DeWalt for electrical power tools and that makes perfect sense. It is where SBDC(I add that C for Craftsman now because it will be a large part going forward) is focusing their pro level tool research. They are not going to have two competing mid-tier brands of power and outdoor tools and both get supported equally. And this is why I said it is likely the practical end of the line for the brand. Who knows? Maybe between pneumatics and venturing into top quality bench top stationary power tools they can keep the old brand from the shelf. I just don’t put much hope in that but I would love to see it. Honestly, we are not as far apart on this as it would have seemed.

Sorry Satch, I think this is a dialect of English issue. I didn’t say the young folks were literally against Porter Cable, I meant… I think both our dialects (Yours is UK, I’m Canadian) can understand the term “Not Ignorant Of Porter Cable” in this case?

I’ve seen Porter Cable tools before, the old ones, (Since I’m not THAT Young) and during my more ignorant time as a tool user always snubbed my nose at them. I was a DeWALT guy! What did I need THOSE for? And then DeWALT started getting into the stuff that Porter Cable did… and I saw near copies of the Porter Cable tools I snubbed before. As I’ve tempered my opinion, I really do see Porter Cable as an integral part of the ecosystem. They may not be made the way they were anymore, but I would LIKE to see them exalted above DIYer status. I would LIKE to see them right along side DeWALT, taking up the Pneumatic niche from DeWALT, and getting serious demand. I know that isn’t what you were referring to originally, but I have to be the uh… “Young Bloke?”… That looks ahead at what is possible, instead of looking backward. I want Porter Cable to live on, and I want all the different brands under SBD to have their devoted NICHE of the market, not a complete overlap of all the same tools.

I can see where Porter Cable can slide up beside DeWALT in the grand scheme of things. And I can see where Craftsman can be entirely separated from them both, and yet still a very high level tool brand. I just don’t want to see any of these brands die. SBD categorized them wrong, when they shifted everything around. I’d like to see brands keep to their corner of the market, and work BESIDE eachother, not overwhelm eachother.

And, yes. I would be quite angry if SBD (Because Craftsman isn’t that big YET.) killed off Porter Cable. Hell, today we got the story that MALCO just opened up a USA manufacturing plant for Vice Grips. There’s some hope that SOMEONE is getting the picture here! There’s potential for SBD, out of competitive desire to look good, does what MALCO did, and opens actual manufacturing plants here in North America!

So, I might not have USED Porter Cable, but I KNOW Porter Cable. And I see it useful in the future!

BTW - even some of the older PC tools (like their Lock Mortising machine) that seem to still be in production - are now made in Mexico or elsewhere. I may be wrong, but there also doesn’t seem to be much innovation coming from Porter Cable - once a very innovative company focused on woodworking trades. As Satch says - new routers (once P-C’s domain) will likely come via Dewalt - based on what they learned from Elu and Porter Cable. Simarly - updates on random orbit sanders - invented by Porter Cable - will likely also come from Dewalt – and so on.

Dorian, it is all good. And btw, I am as American as they come. I am just a Luddite when it comes to proper English spellings and phrases. I am just old enough to remember when my grade 4 teachers taught us that color and colour were both acceptable as was metre and meter. So most of that is just me and my ocd. And I am happy as can be that there are tradesmen out there who know what P-C was, is, and hopefully can be again.

Indeed, I saw the blog post about Malco. It did me good to see the news. When Vise-Grip production moved out I am pretty sure it nearly devestated that little Nebraska town. They are about 125 miles from me, north of Kansas City. I hope it goes well for Malco. I intend to buy the first pair of Eagle Grip pliers I find made in that plant. Andif SBD turns P-C around, it will be in the tool locker too!

Fred, righto. This is my fear about the bean counters fiddling around with portfolios and brand leveraging. With the full on retro vibe for most things in America these days, I really do wish SBD would look a little to the history of the line. Maybe use them as a platform for specialty power tools and certain one-offs they do not offer on a regular basis. Maybe even certain items linked exclusively to DeWalt’s battery ecosystem. Anything that keeps the brand alive and as Dorian said, elevated from current status.

And thanks for your historical knowledge on these tools. I had forgotten about Elu. Another fine old name you don’t see much news about anymore.

I really do wish SBD respected the Niche abilities that come with owning multiple companies. Honestly? I have a rather limited imagination. I think the long-term life of Porter Cable is in the Pneumatic tools that DeWALT has been making in the past little while. But, if Porter Cable once had a patent on something great, I would love to see it released under the Porter Cable name again. And, yeah, if we can hybrid some of the larger old tools they made with the FlexVOLT system, all the better! But, that said… not everyone will buy those tools, so to keep the brand afloat, I think they need a bread-and-butter zone that they do, and no other SBD brand does.

And… Seriously Satch… Your phrasing and dialect are straight out of the UK dialect. Not even “Proper English” I’m talking straight up UK English, including the sayings and slang terms. If that’s your goal… Wow… You rock! I happen to be a Linguistics major as well… (I’m a freak IQ type… Don’t think much of it, I just learn too much, too quickly, and it’s always about stuff no one else cares about. Needless to say, there is a lot in my skull pan.) so your use of the dialect, despite being so far away from the source is… Well, you have my deepest respect!