Artisanal toilet plunger or iconic felling axe… Can you tell which is parody?

    Peter Buchanan-Smith is the founder of Best Made Co., a high-end New York-based design boutique specializing in the production of items like this $350 artisanal American felling axe.

    CHALLIS_960a_1_1024x1024

    The model above is called “Challis” Here’s how Best Made describes it:

    “Dependable, versatile and with a rich and powerful history, the American Felling Axe is the quintessential woodland tool and an icon of American design and ingenuity. Every feature of this axe was meticulously designed by Best Made in New York. The Dayton pattern head is made from high carbon American steel and is drop forged in North Carolina by fourth-generation axe makers. The Best Made helve is lathed from Appalachian hickory and its elegant curvature and slender form factor ensure superior efficiency and safety. Every Best Made axe comes numbered with our documentation and guarantee, and a fitted, top-grain leather blade guard. This Special Edition axe will arrive in a hand-built crate with wood wool.”

    And this is Master Plumber Peter Smith-Buchanan, the founder of Best Made’s rival, Re Made Co.

    re-made-american-master-plunger-05

    He makes artisanal plungers.

    “It’s wood and a piece of rubber put together,” says Smith-Buchanan, pointing to one of the 16 models in Re Made’s American Master Plunger series. “Sitting there in this capsule of stored energy. That’s what makes it very powerful. You put a plunger in someone’s hand and they feel empowered.”

    Here’s his $300 “Emmet” model, followed by its description, taken from the company’s website.

    Emmett

    “We stopped in Emmett to change our city duds for some heavy worsted wool. Snow was coming, we were on horseback and heading into the Payette National Forest with our best buds Nate Bressler and Remington Kendall to hunt elk. An adventure was had, and a series of plungers devoted to some of our stops along the way were adorned and emblazoned… Dependable, versatile and with a rich and powerful history, the American Master Plunger is the quintessential aquatic tool and an icon of American design and ingenuity. Every feature of this plunger was meticulously designed by Re Made in New York. The Dayton pattern head is made from fine silicone American rubber and is hand cast in North Carolina by fourth-generation plunger makers. The Re Made helve is lathed from Appalachian wood pine and its elegant curvature and slender form factor ensure superior efficiency and safety. Every Re Made plunger comes numbered with our documentation and guarantee, and a fitted, top-grain leather bowl guard. This Special Edition plunger will arrive in a hand-built crate with wood wool.”

    One of them, I have a hunch, is parody… but I’m not sure which.

    Here’s Smith-Buchanan discussing the vision motivating the American Master Plunger series. It’s absolutely beautiful.

    [Tonight’s post was brought to you by the bankrupt ghost of the J. Peterman.]

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      26 Comments

      1. Posted December 4, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

        Based solely on this epic 2010 feature in the New York Times, I’m going to say that Re Made is the real company.

      2. Kristin
        Posted December 5, 2013 at 4:41 am | Permalink

        As someone who has written ad copy for a lining I salute them both. Also, I got a Peterman catalog just last week! I settled in with it like it was Bonfire of the Vanities.

      3. Mr. Y
        Posted December 5, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

        I want desperately to be able to share in the joy of mocking Best Made, but, truth is, this kind of shit resonates with me. I think it’s a reaction to the fact that everything these days is made by Chinese child and prison labor. I like knowing where things are made and by whom. While $300 for an axe is laughable, I’d rather that people with money spend their dollars with Best Made than with Home Depot.

      4. G.
        Posted December 5, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

        It’s against web protocol to reference J. Peterman without a Seinfeld link.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad5Bu9GN3zg

      5. anonymous
        Posted December 5, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        That video is breathtakingly beautiful. I wonder if anyone has purchased a plunger, either as an art object or as a household tool.

      6. deleuzean
        Posted December 5, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        That NYT article is a fake based on this one:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/01/garden/01peter.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

        Best Made has a very deep catalog and “projects blog”

        http://www.bestmadeprojects.com/

        It’s a “for the outdoorsman who has everything” kind of company that appears to specialize in going against the grain of planned obsolescence and disposable goods. If you want stuff that lasts, It’s gonna cost you ^_^

        The single biggest clue to the intensity of their intentions is that they carry this:

        http://www.bestmadeco.com/collections/all/products/alone-in-the-wilderness

        …which is the true story of a dude who lived more or less by himself for 30 years in a cabin (that he built by himself) for 30 years in a remote location in Alaska. I have seen this video, and it is craze-mazing. Serious Werner Herzog type material.

      7. Posted December 5, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        I don’t understand how this ax can cost $350. A Gränsfors Bruks, which is handmade in Sweden and has the blacksmith’s initials imprinted in the head, only costs $130, which is still pretty expensive for an ax.

      8. Eel
        Posted December 5, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        Can’t you read, Ben? This one comes in a hand-made crate, packed in wood wool! And it’s “lathed from Appalachian hickory”!

      9. Leah
        Posted December 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        My price point is mid-way between goods made with cheap, Chinese labor and artisan crafted, best that money can buy, yadda, yadda, yadda. That’s my main frustration with the buy local movement. There’s tons of tchotchkes, artwork, jewelry and food items, but almost no useful home goods. What if I want to buy a locally made but still sort of reasonably priced spoon or piece of hardware? I’m still having to go to big box stores for those, or pay $350 for a damn axe.

      10. Leah
        Posted December 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        Also, J. Peterman has been resurrected but the quality has gone way down. I bought the same flannel nightshirt that I originally got for Christmas in 1990 (no joke) and, though the hand painted picture looked the same, the cut and quality was vastly inferior.

      11. Meta
        Posted December 5, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        Ben,

        According to this review of the Best Made axe, Peter Buchanan-Smith spent time in Sweden at Gränsfors Bruks.

        The sheath is similar in style to those used on Swedish Gransfors Bruks axes. This is not surprising, considering that Smith visited the Gransfors factory a couple of years ago and took note of their simple, yet elegant sheath designs. On longer axes, these sheaths tend to be easier to use, compared to the top loading sheaths on the shorter Council Velvicuts. The strap also bears the “C.C.G.F.” logo, which stands for Smith’s outdoor credo; Courage / Compassion / Grace / Fortitude.

        Read more:
        http://rockymountainbushcraft.blogspot.com/2012/01/review-best-made-26-unfinished-hudson.html

      12. Elf
        Posted December 5, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        The Wandering Axe Man thinks that Best Made is a “marketing company that simply re-badges other products and charges a ridiculous mark up”.

        “It’s finally happened” he says. “The tool most people don’t know how to use properly has become the status symbol of the yuppy. Now, folks who have never done any manual labor in their lives can hang an axe on the wall and look at it with fond admiration while bragging to their friends. All this for the low price of…”

        http://wanderingaxeman.blogspot.com/2011/03/axe-as-status-symbol.html

      13. Posted December 5, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        You, believe it or not, I have a couple of Gransfors Bruks axes, and that’s the first thing I thought when I saw the picture of the axe. The axe head is in a GB shape and not traditional for American axes.

        I will add that Gransfors Bruks axes are fantastic. Well worth the money. I’m interested in Best Made’s axe now.

      14. Posted December 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        American axes are usually in a “maul” shape, where the axe can be reversed to use as a mallet (though no one ever does), but importantly, have the function of splitting wood quickly due to their fat shape.

        The Swedish axes (like this one) are thinner, easier to swing and work much better as a multi function carving and hand tool.

      15. Posted December 5, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        I’ll also point out that $300 isn’t unreasonable for a quality axe. There is a HUGE difference between a high grade artisanal axe and what you buy at Home Depot.

      16. Elliott
        Posted December 5, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        A “Hobo Knife” is only $26.

        http://www.bestmadeco.com/collections/all/products/hobo-knife

      17. Posted December 5, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

        Assuming the accusation above is unfounded, and the folks at Best Made aren’t just slapping their labels on products that can be had less expensively elsewhere, I don’t really have a problem with them. I agree that their prices are steep, but if people are willing to pay it, I think that’s great. Yes, it’s silly, and pretentious, but there are things in this world that are worse… Like American clothing companies paying people pennies per garment to work in unsafe conditions in Bangladesh… So, if they’re making it possible for people to earn a living wage by producing real, tangible goods, by hand, I think that’s great. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that the plunger parody is brilliant.

        Also, I knew that the piece in the New York Times was a prank. I just really liked it.

      18. anonymous
        Posted December 6, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        I was brought up thinking that a “hobo knife” was what you called the knife you killed hobos with. “Son, bring me the hobo knife,” I can remember by father saying.

      19. Scott T.
        Posted December 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        I met some guys out in Portland that were finding old vintage axes (from the lumber industry heyday) and planning to start a business to restore and resell them…

      20. Mr. Y
        Posted December 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        The axe is the new fixie.

      21. Emmet S
        Posted December 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        A great old video, shot in Finland, of men building a log house with an axe.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3J5wkJFJzE

      22. translation
        Posted December 6, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

        Is the new fixie. Haha.

      23. Posted February 23, 2014 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

        A friend on Facebook just made me aware of Shinola’s $400 leather-wrapped bike lock.

      24. Fernando
        Posted June 17, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

        I recently bought my first axe, so naturally I spent two weeks before hand researching what to look for in an axe, brand, quality, and most importably value. As a noob, my opinion should not hold much weight, but I’m also no fool and do my due diligence to be a savvy shopper. I camp a lot so I knew some basics but rather than continue using large knives to split firewood I decided to take the plunge and invest in a dedicated chopper. Best-Made drew my attention at first because they make a beautiful looking axe, and I’m sure the quality of the product is topnotch. But as I said before, I am very value driven, if the best product is the most expensive I do not mind forking over the extra dough to get my hands on it. I am also however, not going to mind spending a few days looking at the competition to see how much or how little quality I loose to save an appropriate amount of money. But with Best made it’s not even a competition. THREE hundred dollars for painted axe that could not compete with a Gransfors Bruk that can be had at ONE twenty seven seems like theft. Then when you find out that Best Made gets their stock from Council, a company that sells great axes (don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the axe itself) but for a fraction of the price I knew Best Made wouldn’t be seeing my money. Now there is a difference between “Home Depot” quality and Best Made, but know that the difference isn’t worth the 300 dollars, its really only worth the first hundred. Buy a Gransfors Bruks, and spend some time painting it yourself (though most people would probably not fathom painting a GB, if you want a painted axe you’ll do way better that way) and you’ll have a fun little project. Along my journey I also read reviews on Husqvarna Axes, similar to Best Made, Husqvarna does not actually make the axes themselves but contract out the creation, slap a new label on them and sell them off. The difference? Husqvarna sells them for less than the original maker does. Husqvarna has contracted out their axe making to Wettlings and Hults Bruks aka Hultafors, and according to some review sites even Gransfors Bruk. Basically the Swedish are awesome axe makers that are rarely surpassed in quality, and Husqvarna sells these axes at even more a fraction of the price, with models ranging from 60-80 dollars. The catch is unlike Best Made, Husqvarna does not slightly improve the axe by painting it. Instead Husq leaves it slightly unfinished, the wood isn’t waxed (which regardless of where you get your axe you should keep it waxed and well taken care of) they also don’t come in razor sharp and require a little sharpening. The metal itself is of the same quality as its producer, and the handles have just as tight and straight a grain. So If you don’t mind doing a little work you can get a great quality axe that needs a little love for sixty bucks, or you can get a better than normal axe for $300. But of course you can always settle for one of the best axes around at a happy middle of 127. (Hint, get a GB and save your money, it wont be painted but you know its quality is bar none; or save half of that if you don’t mind putting some work in- and if you’re buying an axe, are you really the type of person thats going to shutter at the thought of a little labor?)

      25. Hazen Pingree
        Posted August 4, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        Wow, a lot of interesting opinions on axes here. First of all, Best Made axes are made by Council Tool. They’re fine axes, but not the end all be all. Best made marks them up by at least 100%, and in some cases paints the handle (which is a bad idea for an axe). Personally, I would feel like a grade A douche if I went to do actual work with a $300 painted poseur NYC skinny jean axe, but that’s just me.

        By the way, axe heads come in many head patterns, usually named after the area (and the types of trees that are commonly cut in that area). Gransfors are fine axes, although they are way to sharp and brittle for northern American hardwoods (relatively speaking).

        A maul is a maul is a maul (Swedish or American), and all mauls have a hammer end sufficient to pound a wedge to split wood. A “splitter” will generally not have a hardened hammer end. That being said, if you don’t live in Brooklyn and haven’t just “discovered” tools and wet-shaving, then you’ve probably used all sorts of axes to split wood or pound a wedge.

        While I want to applaud Best Made’s entrepreneurial spirit and focus on American goods, it’s just such a weenie move, that I almost find more honesty and integrity in some cheap Home Depot Chinese garbage. Sorry.

      26. anonymous
        Posted September 22, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        How do these stack up against Glenn Beck’s $200 axes?

        http://glennbeck.shop.musictoday.com/Product.aspx?cp=29940_51394&pc=BXAM236

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      1. […] December, I posted something about a brilliant piece of satire directed at the company Best Made and its line of high-end, artisanal axes. The artist behind the […]

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