It isn’t often that a new woodworking machinery distributor enters the market, especially within the benchtop tool category. But that’s just what happened when Cutech Tool LLC was formed about a year and a half ago. If you aren’t familiar with the company’s silver and black machines yet — or if you’re thinking about adding a planer, jointer, dust collector or combination sander to your shop collection this winter, here’s an introduction to the newest kid on the “benchtop” block.
While Cutech is a name new to most, its president and managing partner, Doug Davenport, has been around the woodworking tool business for a very long time. He started out selling fasteners and component parts to Delta Machinery, RIDGID and several other power tool manufacturers in the mid-1990s. Then, after 13 years in the nuts and bolts business, he became a manufacturer’s sales rep where, as fate would have it, he happened to meet the owners of the factory that currently produces Cutech’s planers and jointers. After that, there also was a stint at the former Steel City Tool Works.
“When Steel City reorganized about nine years ago, I agreed to become an independent rep for Steel City and worked with them for years,” Davenport says.
Initially, Steel City sold the jointers and planers that are manufactured by the factory Doug already knew overseas. But by fall 2014, Steel City no longer carried those machine models, and Davenport decided to leave Steel City as a tool rep. In March 2015, Steel City Tool Works shuttered its operations in the US.
“I saw an opportunity to continue to offer [these discontinued planers and jointers] to the market under my own brand … since the factory only had rebranded a couple of their machines in the U.S. market,” Davenport recalls.
He was also excited about design improvements the manufacturer had made to its spiral cutterheads — from a segmented head to a one-piece extrusion that allowed the cutterheads to hold much tighter and consistent tolerances on the location of the carbide inserts. That translated to better surface finish on the wood.
So, after a trip overseas in 2014, Davenport drafted a business plan to launch his own benchtop planer- and jointer-based company, Cutech Tool LLC, in April 2015.
“It took about three months to get the doors open, and our first sale was made in July of that year,” Davenport says. The company, which currently has three full-time employees and a 5,000-square-foot warehouse, is based in Memphis, Tennessee.
“Cutech” stands for “cutterhead technology,” which Davenport says captures the idea that Cutech Tool planers and jointers have improved cutterheads.
“While working at Steel City, the industry was always debating the differences in spiral cutterheads versus helical cutterheads. I thought it was important to show that (our) new cutterheads could perform much better than the previous versions of the spiral cutterhead.”
And to that end, Cutech currently offers five base models of benchtop planers in straight knife or spiral cutterhead variations. The company also carries a 6-in. spiral cutterhead jointer with a 30-in. table length and a 1.5hp (110-volt) dust collector.
Davenport says the Cutech 40200HC-CT Planer is its best-selling planer model. It has the new-style spiral cutterhead with carbide inserts and a patented snipe-lock feature. Previously, this machine sold under several brand labels, including Steel City, with the original spiral cutterhead on it.
“There are literally thousands of these machines still in use today,” Davenport adds. “As Steel City and other brand owners find out about us, we are enjoying a brisk business in offering and supplying repair parts to support them and keep their machines running.”
In a few weeks, Cutech’s product offerings will grow again when the company adds a $240 straight-knife planer and $120 6- x 4-in. disc and belt sander. Davenport says Cutech may also add a benchtop lathe to its catalog in the foreseeable future, “if we can locate the right machine with the right price point and quality.”
Quality is one of the cornerstones of Cutech’s business model, Davenport explains, and he feels it’s a characteristic that can be hit-or-miss among distributors in the benchtop tool arena.
“We strive to give the best customer service and technical support available on these types of machines, which is lacking in a lot of cases. We do have a few dealers, who were old friends from the Steel City days, who know the value of these machines and have a lot of experience with them.”
However, Cutech sells primarily through its website rather than an extensive dealer network, to help keep both street prices and overhead low. And, while his company serves as a distributor rather than a manufacturer, Davenport says the factory that makes Cutech machines has been very responsive to his input on design and quality control issues.
Reflecting on the past year and a half of business, Davenport is pleased that Cutech has exceeded its short-term goals and is on the road to long-term stability. He also is proud to share that the company started without debt, “so we should be able to continue to grow through cash flow — the old-fashioned way!”
The biggest challenge so far has been visibility within the marketplace. But, as woodworkers become aware of Cutech, Davenport says they seem to be rooting for the “little guy” and “the new kid on the block.” That support makes him and his employees work harder to maintain a level of quality and customer service that seems, in his estimation, to be getting lost in today’s “throwaway society.”
“As a new generation of woodworkers emerges and they become serious about their craft, I want to be in a position that Cutech is the first name they think of when starting their new collection of benchtop power tools,” Davenport says. “We want to make sure their buying experience is pleasant and quick and, most importantly, that they are getting the best quality tools possible for their money.”
Learn more about Cutech Tool and its product offerings by clicking here.