In 1957, Harold Macmillan, made a speech in Bedford, UK, to his fellow Conservatives in which he gave the opinion that "Let us be frank about it: most of our people have never had it so good". In the speech he celebrated the success of Britain's post-war economy.
And not wanting to get into politics he was right. Full employment [ for those that wanted it ! ] shops full of affordable goods and the start of leisure time.
But when translated into the Model Engineering realm things were still not so good and the shadow of wartime austerity was still upon Chuck and the other Muddle Enjineers.
New lathes were available from Myford, Boxford, Raglan / Little John, Harrison's and Colchester's but at a price. Anyone not being able to afford this was left to buy pre war clunkers that owed more to a cost cutting exercise than good engineering design.
Milling machines were like hens teeth, Tom Senior being about the only small maker but at very steep prices for what in those days was basically a deluxe add on for any workshop.
Attachment were even worse, pre CNC, rotary tables were still the mainstay of industry and to get a 5" dividing head you needed to kill someone for it. There were a lot of work around's in the mag hence the prime years for ME with people like Proof Chaddock and J A Radford.
No one in 1957 could buy small collet chucks, tilting tables, diamond wheels and other goodies unless they were very wealthy.
People like Hemingway and Model Engineering Services filled this gap by providing kits for things like rotary tables, boring heads and even in Ivan's case he did the Dore Westbury miller in 7 easy stage parts to spread the work and the cost.
Many Muddle Enjineers cut their teeth on these kits and got good use out of the finished products, they truly filled a gap in the market.
Fast forward a few years and we started getting the relatively cheap imports, from initially, Taiwan. Cheap and in many cases shoddy but as times and shipment with feedback went on they did improve.
That much so that even Myfords started buying a mill from Taiwan, reworking it and fitting French electrics, then bagging it as a Myford. As things progressed so did quality and slowly their prices caught up with the result that the Taiwanese started to out source to China and the cycle was repeated, cheap and shoddy, later to improve.
By this time the western world had caught onto outsourcing in all trades and so had the money men. People with millions of pounds or dollars looking for something to invest in to get a decent return on capital, insurance companies, pensions fund holders etc. It was no good investing in a dying western manufacturing trade, they needed new blood and China was ripe for it.
"If we loan you $20 million for two years can we have $25 million back ?" So One Hung Low grabs the $20 mill, goes to Japan and buys 20 machining centre's which then run two years non stop and produce $50 mill worth of goods. They then pay the $25 mill back and Mr Money says "Do you want to borrow $50 mill ?" So One hung Low goes back to Japan and buys the bloody company, ships it to China and carries on making his goods plus machining centre's.
This isn't pie in the sky, I have seen rows of machining centre's with China Fadal on them, all making generator engines that are that finely made they only lack a cast in "Made in Japan " badge.
The upshot of all this is that goods now made in China is being made on equipment not only better than we have , most times it's made on equipment we have never even seen.
Which leads me to the crux of this post. Currently the quality of goods from reputable factories in China is very good, probably better than we made in our 1970's heydays. Pricing is very favourable at the moment and the choice of goods is better than we have ever known, - period.
Just as Taiwan got priced out of the market before is there now a chance that we have seen the heyday of import goods given the reduction in export tariffs by China ? Is this our 'Mac' point in the goal to equip our workshops? Can this be our "We have never had it so good" ?
A good point to ponder if you are thinking about adding to equipment and it is available to buy. We are not so lucky as the Yanks on this score, their market is far bigger than ours, shipping distances are less and to be honest we have the short straw. An example of this is the BH600 lathe as sold by Warco, I don't know in what quantity they ship them into the UK, possibly 10's or 20's at a time but Grizzly in the US order a 1,000 of these PER MONTH.
Because of the US demand we do have shipping shortfalls and if prices do rise it could get worse.
Just my take on this but I think we are at the peak of the cycle at the moment.
Comments ? arguments ? flaming bricks ? etc ?.