09 July 2008

Hecho en China?

This is a bit of a different post than usual. It will come with a lot of explanation before I get to the point. For a long time, I have wanted to talk about buying American, but didn't quite have the right story. Lately, my family and I have put some time into our latest diversion, Jeeping. Right before I deployed, I finally traded in the Civic we had bought when we were scraping by on resident pay, and bought a Jeep. The Civic had actually been built by Americans in Ohio, but there is no escaping the fact that the parent company is foreign. When I bought the Jeep, Daimler Auto Group had finally given up Chrysler to some American venture capitalists, so Jeep was domestic again. Unfortunately, while I was deployed, the price of gas went up about 90 cents/gallon, but you all know that story. It may cost me $12 dollars to get to work and back each day, but it is worth double that price to be going topless, in American steel, with the wind and/or rain blowing through my hair. My son and I have had some fun lately modifying our Jeep.

Yesterday, I had a bit of a disconcerting tool experience. Don't worry, it doesn't involve loss of any parts. I'm building half doors for the Jeep. That in itself is a long story. There is no sense having a Wrangler if I keep the doors on all the time. However, our boys still have a certain spontaneity. I wouldn't put it past them to choose to exit while the Jeep was moving. The stock doors are fine, but half doors give such a great line, and let in more wind. (More wind is good, it tends to tame the noise from the back seat.) Trouble is, half doors aren't free. Tube doors are a little cheaper, but I still think the kids could squeeze through the gaps in the tube frame.

So I decided to throw together a few wooden doors. For $49 dollars, I got the raw materials, and was able to buy a new angle grinder so I could cut the pipes and shape the hinges. The angle grinder was a tough choice. Every label I checked read"Made in China." I was amazed. I always try to buy American, and I would have thought that I would have been able to find "Made in the USA" in the hand tool aisle. I was about to give up and look for a good American-built hacksaw, when I found a Skil 4 1/2 in. grinder, and written on the box was "Hecho in Mexico." I figured that was at least a little better than sending more of our country over to China. Mexico is almost USA, sort of America light. And truth be told, as many friends from South America have reminded me, America means all of us in this hemisphere.

I got the grinder home, along with a few extra cut-off disks, and it worked well. It was pretty sturdy, even though the 90 degree stabilizing handle was plastic, not metal like the larger models I was used to from cutting pipe for chain link fencing. As I coiled the cord to put it away, I took a closer look at the plate on the housing. There in tiny letters was printed, "Made in China." Mert? What could it mean that the box the grinder came in read "Made in Mexico?" Could it mean that only the box was made in Mexico?

I do understand the value of globalization, and manufacture of products where they can be made most efficiently, but it seems to me that we are buying so much garbage from China that we are hurting our own workers and economy. How much weaker can the dollar get? I think if factories from other countries are going to get free access to US consumers, they ought to at least be required to treat their workers at the level regulated for US employees of domestic companies. It would help level the playing field. It is a lot easier to undersell American products when the workers get paid pennies a day.

So, rant aside, the doors are coming along okay. I usually get a few stolen moments to work on them each evening after a night swim with the boys. Chiseling the wood around the brackets for the hinges was like trimming a piece of polypropylene mesh around the spermatic cord when fixing a groin hernia. The doors open smoothly, and lock securely with a three inch carriage bolt. With a couple coats of marine varnish, they should shine. Also, I think the style of natural plywood perfectly compliments the shark tooth grill and the roar of the aftermarket performance muffler my son and I installed.


laurel said...

Cool doors! Are those things legal?!? Amen to buying American!!! ; )

kiz said...

I agree with Laurel- YAY to buying American!! I can actually find "Made in America" things in my hardware store and, believe it or not, the Dollar Store!! I'm willing to pay more for American made, but those things are nearly impossible to find. [When I lived in Calais (on the Canadian border), I uded to have to buy "Made in the USA" in Canada because you couldn't find it on OUR side of the border.] I'll get political here and say repeal NAFTA. A lot of our jobs went to the cheap labor countries because they don't have to meet the standards required of American companies. OK... enough ranting from me!

The jeep does look good. I really like the front grill! :-)

ChefSara said...

So have you heard of Camp Jeep? My BIL is a jeep enthusiast and went a few times (you could probably google it). It's basically a long weekend of camping with your jeep, and they set up all kinds of great off roading jeeping type fun things to do. I have great pics of Bryan and my BIL going through a river in his jeep!

Chris said...

Dear Laurel, Kiz, and ChefSara,

Thanks for the comments! I don't know if the doors are legal. More importantly, I don't know that they are NOT legal. The urge to buy American is a good one that helps us all! I do think that companies have to do their part and make their products the best so there is another reason to buy American. I'm very excited to go to my first Jeep Jamboree. I'll probably make it to the NOV one in Pearsall, TX. Would love to have company!

Be well,