In the late 1950s, two gentlemen worked together to pioneer router cutter technology in the UK. One was called Phillips. The other Titman.
However, in the early 1970s, these pioneers had gone their separate ways. Mr Phillips had decided that manufacturing router cutters wasn't for him. So he formed Trend Router Technology (recently renamed Trend Tool Technology), importing router cutters from Asia and rebranding them for sale around the world.
Mr Titman, however, decided to pursue the manufacturing route and opened a factory in Clacton-on-Sea. His company, Titman Tools, has been making router cutters there ever since.
Two Different Approaches to Bringing Router Cutters to the Market
With our global economy resembling a village, it's not uncommon for companies based in one part of the world, the UK, for example, to outsource the manufacturing of the goods they sell to where labour is less expensive. And then bring those goods on container ships to the UK to sell.
Alternatively, despite market trends, some companies continue to rely on British tradespeople to manufacture products in Britain. And while this goes against the typical "made in China, sell everywhere else" approach, it does have its advantages.
Which Brand of Router Cutter Should You Own?
All of this leads us to the question above. Now, we understand that for many tradespeople, the decision on which tools, accessories, and consumables to spend their hard-earned on will come down to 3 things:
- brand loyalty
Of course, when you're selecting a consumable like a router cutter, brand loyalty might go out the window. Then you're only considering how much it costs and whether there are any in stock.
Which is fine. Up to a point.
Select Router Cutters Based on Quality, Not Price
There's probably no debate that a router is one of the most dangerous tools in your kit. Think about it...fast-spinning, ultra-sharp blades housed on a piece of metal 1/2" or 1/4" in diameter, locked into a spindle that you've tightened yourself.
In lesser-skilled hands than yours, routers are a disaster waiting to happen.
So, that's why you make sure you check the shank of the cutter for the maximum safe RPM. And that's why you make sure you've followed the router's instructions on safely inserting the router cutter into the collet and tightening it.
But how often do you think about how that router cutter, the one that's spinning at 24,000rpm in your router, was made? Because at the end of the day, the quality of that router cutter matters just as much as fitting it correctly...
Finished By Hand in the UK Since 1973
In January we had the chance to tour Titman's factory to see how the company's manufacturing heritage is still at play, 47 years after it was founded.
One section of the factory is dedicated to brazing the tungsten carbide-tipped blades onto the shank of the router cutter. And we were blown away to witness a skilled engineer brazing these blades, by hand. That brought home to us the care and attention to detail that goes into the manufacturing of each router cutter shipped by Titman Tools.
No mass production line. No "pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap" approach. No anonymous shift worker who is skilled in only one job on a production line.
And while this method of "making stuff" is dying out, Titman Tools told us that, for them as a company and brand, it's quality over quantity each day of the week. On our tour of the factory, we got introduced to one worker after another. Each one had been with the firm for years, some of them decades. Each one was a skilled, master craftsman who takes personal pride in the work they do milling, refining, brazing, decontaminating and hand finishing the router cutters made in their British factory.
And the strip of paint seen on each Titman Edge router cutter? Hand-painted in a little room at the back of the factory.
While we could debate the economics of such an enterprise, "the old lady", as the company is affectionately referred to, is ramping up in 2020, to launch a new range of Titman Edge Trade Router Cutters.
Each cutter will be hand-finished by skilled craftsmen who only ever use the finest British steel in the cutter's body.
So, which brand should you buy: Trend or Titman Edge?
For many of you, it's going to come down to price and availability. But as we've argued here, your first concern should be quality. Not just the quality of the manufacturing process, the grade of British steel used, the skill of the craftsmen involved in the manufacturing, but the quality of the tungsten carbide blades.
After all, it's these blades that are going to be doing all the cutting for you.
A cheaper router cutter will use a cheaper, lower grade of carbide in the blades. That's just basic economics. However, with cheaper, lower-grade carbide, you get blades that just won't give you as many cuts. That's science. Equally, cheaper router cutters could mean a less stringent quality inspection process. Lower tolerances meaning poorer quality cuts. More contamination in the manufacturing process. More likely to break or shear when you're using them.
And remember that old saying from your grandmother, "buy cheap buy twice?"
The same applies to your choice of router cutter. Buy a cheap router cutter, expect to buy more of them. Whereas Titman router cutters, through independent testing, will give you among the most metres of cut on the market.
Which Brand of Router Cutter? Make the Smart Buying Choice
Ultimately, the buying decision is yours. Do you want a mass-produced Chinese router cutter spinning at 24,000rpm when you're chamfering a piece of oak worktop? Then that's fine, it's always a buyer's market.
Or do you want a hand-finished, hand-brazed router cutter that you know has had 47 years worth of British engineering heritage poured into it? Then buy Titman Tools.