Indulge in a quick poll: Name the first five manufacturers of router products that come to mind.
Did you include Trend Routing Technology? Possibly not. However, if you work wood in the U.K., I’ll bet Trend made your short list. It’s the dominant brand for router bits. Soon, this English company hopes to become a household name for woodworking supplies here in the States, too.
To some extent, it isn’t surprising that many of us don’t know about Trend. Their products have only been available here since 2004. And, it takes a while to get acquainted when you’re competing against long-standing North American brands like Porter-Cable or JessEm. But Trend certainly isn’t a new kid on the block. The company has a proud tradition in routing that dates back to 1955, when founder Jim Phillips first saw the opportunity to give English woodworkers a helping hand. Jamie LaMuraglia, Trend’s vice president of sales and marketing here in U.S., recently recounted the history for me.
As the story goes, Jim Phillips fell victim to a con man and lost his family’s fortune back in the mid-50s. That stroke of bad luck forced him to get creative about paying the bills. An avid woodworker already, Phillips also happened to have a relationship with the German router manufacturer Elu and several other tooling suppliers there. In Phillips’ mind, his fellow Brits needed better sources for power tool supplies, and he knew where to get the good stuff. It seemed a golden opportunity — and a bold vision for a new company … one that Phillips literally took on the road to realize.
“Mr. Phillips obtained samples, filled a van and began to tour factories and jobsites around the U.K. Armed with an outgoing personality, he demonstrated Elu’s advanced new router (the first ever with plunging capability) as well as jigsaws and drills,” Jamie says. He also became the first authorized distributor of Elu products in the United Kingdom. His ambitious road show worked. Within two years, customer demand for jigsaw blades and router bits alone enabled Phillips to park the van and rent a permanent facility for his new enterprise. Trend had gained a foothold in the U.K. woodworking industry.
Phillips would continue to make strides in the woodworking market — not only as a product supplier but also as a routing innovator. “(He) was the designer of variable speed technology for the router, top-mounted bearings for router bits, dust extraction devices and the first affordable dovetail attachment,” LaMuraglia reports. In 1981, Phillips also authored a groundbreaking book on routing called Techniques of Routing. It’s been updated over the years and is still available through the company.
In the half century since those early days with Elu, Trend has established itself as an industry leader of router supplies “across the pond.” “We are especially dominant in the router bit category, where we have an approximate 75 percent market share. Trend offers over 2,000 variations of styles and profiles… (We) have four different lines of router bits that cater from the entry level DIY to industrial manufacturers. We even sell CNC machinery and the bits that go with them.”
LaMuraglia says that Trend has always been an “open-minded, solutions-based company,” which is in keeping with Jim’s early vision. That helps explain why, in the 1990s, Trend began to expand its product line beyond routers and bits. The company now offers an extensive collection of routing jigs and accessories, including a mortise and tenon jig, various straightedge guides, dado and grooving guides, ellipse and circle cutters and many more. Trend offers a variety of accessories to benefit the contractor market as well. Some of those options include templates for milling staircase housings and scribing countertops, plus a flooring hole cutter for creating access openings. The company is servicing the door-hanging market, too, with adjustable jigs for milling hinge mortises and locksets in entry and fire doors. One of the full-size hinge mortising jigs recently won a “Best Overall” award from a leading homebuilding magazine.
A new line of professional saw blades, biodegradable tool and bit cleaners and diamond sharpening products help to fill out Trend’s broad catalog. If you’re a woodturner, you may already know about Trend’s air-circulating AirShield helmets. They were my first exposure to Trend products some years ago.
The company is also committed to teaching end users about its products. An in-house video production studio enables the company to take manuals to the next level of accessibility. “Many of our main products have instructional videos posted on our website. There are plans for all key products to have an instructional video…We are firm believers that education is a key ingredient in our relationship with woodworkers,” Jamie says.
Trend has certainly come a long way since those early days of an enterprising “tool man in a van.” But, some factors within our woodworking industry remain the same. Opportunity is still where you find it. LaMuraglia envisions a bright future for Trend here in the States, even in a “down” economy. “There has never been a better time for companies that have a unique idea or product to present it to the marketplace and reach the world of woodworking. As long as we maintain Jim Phillips’ vision of creating problem-solving solutions…there will always be a need for Trend.”