I’ve been meaning to go and see the Best Made Co. offices for at least the past two years. Communication flew back and forth, I just never seemed to make it over there, and not for lack of desire to check it out. Further confusing the whole situation was the fact that I basically walked by the place on my daily walk for years. I have no excuses. Well, it now seems that my procrastination has paid off, because by the time I found myself on White Street in NYC the studio had morphed into the first full-blown Best Made Co. shop that opens its doors today.
Housed in a quintessentially skylighted TriBeCa space –which was previously used by it’s former tenant for crafting fine art– the handsome well-designed nook of outdoorsy-ness occupies most of the space with a new loft and catwalk in the back that will still serve as the Best Made Co. offices. The front of the store is open to the public during the week, with a larger offering opening up for the weekends. The store offers everything that’s available on the e-commerce shop including a strong selection of painted axes (which judging from my Instagram can be quite polarizing), the Lightweight Cruiser, mugs, prints, knives and all sorts of other interesting stuff. And the brand doesn’t wholesale, so if you want it you have to order from them directly online or stop by this new outpost.
At the new shop, everything is beautifully designed and aesthetically pleasing regardless of your level interest in the outdoors. At its core, Best Made Co. is a celebration of good design and utility in its purist form.
There’s an optimistic spirit of adventure and inclusiveness built-in to the shop and the brand. You can feel it when you visit and also when you talk to brand founder Peter Buchanan-Smith. To me it’s seems increasingly rare that you encounter positiveness like this. Read the comments on my Instagram from last night and you’ll notice that it isn’t always an inclusive and response back. So many seem to want to take things away from people simply because they feel differently about how others approach a shared interest. â€œI’m into the outdoors and I don’t like your expensive axes so you aren’t a real outdoors-man.â€ That’s what I am hearing. I feel similar negative vibes coming from those that are into cycling about what you ride and what you wear. There are so many opinions and so much pressure to conform. It’s bullshit. Dress how you want to dress, wear what you want to wear and ride what you want to ride. Live and let live. Don’t pressure others to conform, it just makes you look insecure. You should be happy that people actually choose to get outside and do things that they enjoy. Happiness is not a zero sum game.
Like they say at Best Made: Be Positive.
[Best Made Co. | 36 White Street, NYC]
Comments on “Procrastinators Delight | Shopping Best Made Co.”
Axes are not my thing, but I couldn’t agree more with the writer – “Happiness is not a zero sum game.”
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I’m hesitant to buy anything from best made because of how they got their start. I heard about them from the Bike Snob, who was making fun of people buying bedazzled axes. After reading some articles I was pretty convinced the guy bought the axes, painted them, and resold them for 3-5 times the original price – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/01/garden/01peter.html – but at the end of the day people can spend money on whatever the hell they want to.
Can’t say I followed the story from the beginning regarding the axes–but as an objective observer this seems like a clever idea (re-branding a tool and reselling it at a profit) that I am sure others wish they’d have thought of it first.
Imbue an otherwise bland and functional item with some personal flair and character? It has been done in so many ways it cannot still be a taboo. Just look at 90% of dive watches–who uses them for diving any more??? What are they if not pretty tools?
Back to the axes, If there is someone who likes it enough to make it, there is someone who likes it enough to buy it! And if something functional also puts a smile on your face because it has some pretty colors… well that can’t be bad can it?
I do like their stuff (just ordered their enamel mugs) but some of the collabs are just ridiculously overpriced. Their Hudson Bay company axe was nearly $800 when in fact I think it was just a basic axe painted with the HBC colors.
I just received their mothers day gifts ideas email, one of which was an axe, which was quite amusing…
I always thought the axes were just painted Snow & Nealley’s.
I’m with bob
I’m a carpenter – not a cabinet or furniture maker, but a house builder. My hands are not smooth, my jeans are not clean. Have I bought things from Best Made? Yes, I have, and I love them. But, Michael, I see where people are coming from with the axes/poseur thing, and I don’t think it’s quite the biker thing, either. It’s a bit more subtle than “my gear is better than your gear,” or “your gear is wrong.”
Let’s take the brand-new steel tool box from Best Made. I have never, ever seen a carpenter on a job site use a steel tool box. I’ve never seen a mechanic use a steel tool box in a shop. Never an electrician, a plumber, etc. They’re heavy, they’re bulky – they’re not practical foray tradesman.
They ARE practical for the weekend warrior woodworker, the guy who wants to look cool with his tools while he’s making a bookcase for his son, or working on his midlife-crisis car, whatever. And in my opinion, that’s totally cool! You don’t have to be a 7-3:30 tradesman to work with tools. But the tool box does irk me – only because BMC markets it as so authentic , like I’m going to use it on a job site. I won’t. But many city slickers or wannabe carpenters WILL, and more power to them! BMC should embrace their demographic, not feel like they should pretend guys like me are buying their toolbox.
So I feel like the guys crying “poseur” should let it go, but you and BMC should admit that, well, maybe this isn’t gear for the working guy after all.
I mean, what tradesman is going to blow 150 bucks on an axe when he can get one for 25 at Lowe’s? And why do we have to hate on the 150 dollar axe? Can’t we both co-exist?
Not practical *for a tradesman. Damn autocorrect.
The cardboard punch wall with its hanging axes, cruiser coat and other accoutrements looks both perfectly perfect and yet perfectly precious at the same time. Does this look like a well-curated showroom, or the basement of a meticulous serial killer in Wisconsin with an income of 250K + with a penchant for maps of the moon? I myself own several items from Best Made (and no, I’m not a serial killer) and have found the two enamel mugs and new light cruiser coat quite perfect. I do not own any of the axes and probably won’t as they look, well how should I say this? Very gay*.
*I don’t mean that in a homophobic way, just they look…”gay.”
i quiet like this blog but this Best Made store wow! so unnecessary
Sean, the “cardboard punch wall” is actually pegboard. People use it in their shops to hang things off. When they want there shops to look neater, they paint it.
Jonathan, I’m one of those weird people who keeps some of my tools in metal tool boxes. I restore old houses and make furniture. I keep all my plumbing tools in one. My wife has a few of those to keep her glassblowing tools in. All of ours are vintage because I’m cheap, but I like well made things.
I also admit to using 5 gallon joint compound pails.
As to the axes, they’re pretty, but I’ve got some chainsaws and a maul so I’m set.
I do wish Best Made all the luck in the world, their stuff is good looking. It won’t bother me at all to see people visit us our upstate community from NYC with this gear in their hands. I don’t have time nor the inclination to judge ’em for it.
Long time reader, never time commenter here.
I like BMC in exactly the same way I like most blogs: ” Oh, that’s clever. Good for them!”
But if I ever get to the point that my new dining room just wouldnt be complete without a painted axe hanging on the wall, I’d probably just call my Mom in Ohio. She’d be more than happy to swipe one of the many old axes my stepfather hoards out in the garage.
Do you know what I’d do with that axe? Id paint on some stripes with paint I already have in my art supply closet and call it a day.
But now that I think about it, covering the handle in red glitter would be more appropriate for my needs.
Jonathan- I cannot tell you how many Kennedy metal toolboxes roll around our manufacturing facility in Golden, CO. They are definitely the number one choice for machinists. As for home repair or projects to each his own. I have noticed many Gransfors axes in the mountains of Colorado and the pricing is not that far off. Duluth Pack has been selling them for years without the same gripes.
The axes are not “good design” unless you’re the kind of self proclaimed designer who doesn’t know when to stop designing. The design was plenty good when S&N shipped them out. The paint is just pointless embelishment.
The thing that really rubs me the wrong way is the pains they take to keep the maker wrapped up in some secret mystique. I can only assume it’s because S&N only heat treats in Maine. The illusion of authenticity might start to unravel if they disclosed that the heads are forged in China.
Brooklyn (May 10,2013)
A Williamsburg couple, Randall and Evelyn Borden, were found dead in there home today. Police say the couples 10 year old daughter is the only suspect. Found at the scene was a Best Made axe. “The axe still had the price tag on it, kinda like the way kids keep the price tag on their fitties. It was an 800 dollar axe the source said. Despite the ridicoulus price tag, it appears that the axe did a hatchet job on the victims. “You would’ve expected cleaner cuts, you know” said another source who refused to be identified. Neighbors identified the suspect as Lizze Apple Borden, the couples daughter.
As she was led away from the scene reporters asked her why she killed her parents. The precocious ten year old responded “It’s not murder, it’s art!”
The couples three year old twins, Jet and Rocket were not home at the time.
Art–are Snow and Neally ax heads made in China?
Not for nothing, but I think that Mr. Wertheim has it right: the brand draws on enthusiasm and an interest in things that are used. Economy, less so. Hence the tools that working pros use. Best Made isn’t geared toward them. It’s toward men who find themselves separated from tangibly addressing their work. Buy something that feels good and looks good. Maybe even use it. Better than spending it on an X-Box.
As someone who loves custom axes and knives, and no I’m not a serial killer either, I liked the design of their axe. Its very similar to one of Council’s designs but OK, I’m always looking for cool tools and happen to use them. What I don’t like about BM is that they’re professing this bougie bushcraft and trying to sell someone an overpriced tool based on their supposed knowledge of something like an axe. I inquired about the steel used (usually quality axes are made up of a core of one steel and wrapped with another of differing hardness) by email, saying I’d be interested in a purchase. No return email. Their secret “smith” if he was worth a damn would let them reveal what type of steel they’re using, as thats usually what someone remotely inquisitive who is buying a piece of steel attached to a piece of wood would want to know. But no, its about the paint job.
whats next, survival kits with polka dots?
mjking – Exactly! My comment was not pejorative at all. As I said, more power to you if you buy this stuff. I just think BMC should be honest about their market – perhaps that’s why no return email on the kind of shell. It’s not really the issue. And, as Seinfeld once said – not that there’s anything wrong with that.
@mjking – The heads are forged in China and heat treated here. I appreciate the fact that they can’t find a foundry in the States to do the job, but the way the finished product is being marketed is a bit disingenuous.
Hmmm, why would someone need an axe in New York City?
Live and let live does the job for me. At least these axes seem to evokes very strong opinions
If painted axe handles inspire ONE person to become a custodian/caretaker of this beautiful planet, I’m all for it.
While no doubt many, if not most, of their products are of high quality, there is also no doubt that the prices are high. Very high, in fact. You can argue about whether or not they are overpriced or not, though. It’s just that equally good stuff is available for less at other places.
It is an interesting selection of goods, though. None of it struck me as bush-crafty, and not so much weekend hobbyiest, either. The local woodworking hobby shop where I live has an incredible selection of tools and supplies, some of which is a little pricy but nothing is overpriced, or so I believe. And some of their products are hard to find. Looking for a shingling froe? They have them. It’s the same with this outfit here. They have some unusual products that are hard to find and for that matter, slightly archaic, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Of course, on the other hand, not everyone owns a Swedish bow saw they bought when they were a forestry student 45 years ago or has a selection of wooden bodied woodworking planes that came from your wife’s grandfather. Can you even still buy a folding wooden rule?
BlueTrain… I know Lufkin is still making a decent selection of folding rules….
There is the negative vibe coming from people who feel the need to tell others that they are not authentic enough to warrant authentic gear.
There is also the negative vibe coming from people observing that inauthentic goods are being marketed as authentic to folks who don’t know better.
The criticism I hear about these axes is not that the buyers are poseurs, but the AXES are poseurs — heads sourced from China, rebranded and heavily marked up.
Of course, the price is what the market will bear. At least in this case, people who want an American-made axe aren’t being priced out of the market by a marketing hype.
While I think I understand what your are saying, Mr jiheison, it isn’t criticism of inauthentic (unauthentic?) goods but rather very expensive as well as overpriced goods. Some things can be expensive yet not overpriced. And many things that are good value, reasonably priced, well made and perhaps even authentic, whatever that means, can still be unaffordable by someone.
I’m not quite certain what people mean when they say something isn’t authentic unless it’s something like the so-called work boot sold by L.L.Bean, which is not a work boot. I mean, it is a boot, but nothing like workers would wear, although in a pinch you could wear it to work, maybe on Casual Friday or when it snows.
I think the bit about things imported from China is a different issue. Gransfors axes are imported, too. They may be better than the ones from China but are they better than American made axes, assuming there are any still made here. In a sense, if it isn’t made where I live, it’s imported.
We have a cabinetmaking and carpendry shop here where I work. They use rolling tool chests but they don’t wear work boots. They wear t-shirts, shorts and sneakers. They do use a precision cutting machine that cost nearly $200,000. It’s a router and it was imported from Switzerland. I don’t the Chinese make them yet. I couldn’t say what part of all that is authentic and what isn’t.
Indeed, expensive does not necessarily mean overpriced. My take from this post was that people should not be made to feel bad about buying a $350 axe, even if their only intent is to hang it on the wall. But they should be aware of the reasonable market value of what they are buying, and get their $350 worth.
“Inauthentic” may not be the correct word. The painted handles might even look better after few years of use. I would love to see one in 10 years with an immaculately maintained head and the character of its owner reflected in the wear and patina on the handle. But only then would they be worth more than the same axe sold by the original manufacturer (to me).
As far as China, if these are currently being sourced from Council Tool, then they would likely be drop forged in the USA. That said, Council Tool’s premium Hudson Bay axe has an MSRP of $130 and comparing the finish on the heads, BMC is not using that model.
In a way, they have taken a tool, in this case an axe, and turned it into a piece of art to be displayed on a wall. It isn’t quite the same as hanging up an old crosscut saw on the wall of a bar frequented by loggers but pretty much the uptown version. After all, these days, the suburbanite on the weekends is probably going to use a chain saw instead of an ax or crosscut saw.
I’ll bet they have reel-type push mowers in their store somewhere. They’re way more authentic than anything with a gasoline engine, don’t you think?
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