I sincerely doubt that anyone reading this has not heard of DELTA and PORTER-CABLE. In fact, I’d bet good money that most of you have not only used, but currently own some of their tools. After all, PORTER-CABLE has been around for more than 100 years, making tool fans happy since 1906, and DELTA, whichstarted in 1919, is not far behind. The two companies first joined forces in 1960, and in 2000 merged into one location in Jackson, Tennessee. Now, they are merging their marketing strategies and coming up with a whole new approach to appeal to you, their cadre of loyal woodworking customers.
To that end, they launched a brand-new marketing product strategy along with some new and improved tools at the Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers [AWFS] show in Las Vegas this summer. I called Chuck Hardin, the vice president of marketing for DELTA, PORTER-CABLE and Beisemeyer to get some insight into what is happening, what cool new tools are in the offing, and what we can look forward to in the near future.
“We are merging the DELTA and PORTER-CABLE product lines,” Chuck told me, “and redirecting them to a new market. In the past, we’ve often focused on construction workers and DIY customers but beginning now, these two brands will focus on the professional woodworker.”
Just who is the professional woodworker? “We consider the professional woodworker as someone who does woodworking for a living as well as those hobby woodworkers who insist on professional quality tools,” Chuck explained. “These folks tend to want tools with durable parts, guts and cases that will last a lifetime and tools that are easily serviced over the life of the tool.
“We are also launching a new trademarked industrial design look for both companies to make it easier to spot our tools, and some comfort features like more ergonomic handles. The new tools will have a look of precision and refinement that will set them apart from our competitors. We’ll also be marketing the two brands together. There will be one web site and one catalog. Stores that carry one brand will also carry the other. Hence, it will offer the woodworker the broadest product line in a single source and make it easy to set up a coordinated DELTA/PORTER-CABLE shop.
“We also rolled out some new tools at AWFS. Under the DELTA label, we showed a line of industrial drill presses with woodworkers’ tables instead of metalworking tables. A woodworker’s table is larger and has both T-slots and easy clamp edges. The new table tilts not only left and right, but also forward up to 45 degrees. That makes it easier to drill at compound angles, a boon for drilling holes in chair seats for the chair leg and back slat tenons. The table also has a removable three- and three-quarter-inch square insert that you can quickly pop out to accommodate Forstner bits and sanding drums, and two of the models sport a pair of twin lasers that pinpoint exactly where the bit will enter the wood no matter what angle the table is at. There’s a huge ‘steering wheel’ on the front to change speeds while the drill is running and, of course, a gooseneck worklight to illuminate your tasks. On the 20-inch model, there is also a digital depth and drill bit speed readout right in front at eye level.
“Also wearing the DELTA label is a 14-inch band saw with a large, 16-inch square tilting woodworker’s table, again with T-slots and easy clamp edges. There’s a quick release lever to relieve the pressure on the blade when not in use. The lever also makes for very easy blade changes without having to readjust tension each time. Rounding out the package is a full one horsepower motor, a four-inch dust collection port, nine-spoke precision-balanced wheels with urethane tires, and fully adjustable upper and lower guides with replaceable blade support blocks.
“Under the PORTER-CABLE banner, we showed the new version of our Omnijig™, which has for years been the market leader in dovetail cutting jigs. It got a complete makeover. Now there are self-aligning templates that eliminate the need for test cuts and color-coded instructions for all cuts right on the machine, so even if you lose the manual it won’t matter. There are also pre-set router bit depth stops for setting up your router right on the machine, and even an accessory storage case so you will always be able to find the parts you need. We are offering a 16-inch model, ideal for small professional woodworking and cabinet shops, and a 24-inch model for handling larger pieces.
“Then there’s the Porter-Cable Compact Belt Sander, the only two-and-a-half-inch by 14-inch belt sander on the market, a size that makes it very easy to handle. Ergonomically, it is ideal for one-handed operation, making it perfect for things like overhead work, chamfering and edge sanding. One side is completely flush, which allows you to sand to an adjacent edge or inside corner. It is only three and a half inches wide and 10 and three quarter inches long and weighs only five pounds. That’s 15 percent lighter than any other belt sander, 33 percent thinner and 17 percent shorter. This mighty mite has a powerful four-amp motor and a speed of 800 sanding feet per minute, which will allow it to handle even the hardest woods. We feel it has created a whole new category that bridges the gap between belt sanders and random orbit sanders, allowing you to save a ton of time without tearing up your work.”
All that is just the beginning. Chuck promised me that more new tools are coming right around the corner and that toward the beginning of 2008 we can look forward to several more innovative tools focussed on the professional woodworker.
It sure is nice seeing an old dog like DELTA/PORTER-CABLE learning so many great new tricks.