Random question: why is ordering cutting tools online so weird?

Hey, I had a totally random question; just wondering if people have any insight into this.

Ordering cutting tools seems really weird and indirect. I found a dovetail cutter with the dimensions I wanted from Harvey Tool (though I had this same experience at a lot of other sites as well). They have a price and even a stock check (they have 15 “available”). But you can’t order one from their website - you have to find a distributor. So I found the closest distributor (Western Tool and Supply). Western Tools’ website is kind of a bear to navigate, and even when you eventually find the dovetail cutters, they are listed in what appears to be totally random order (size, length, manufacturer totally randomized across 34 pages of listings), so the only reasonable way to find the item you want is simply to search for the item code that was on Harvey Tool’s website. Anyway, I eventually found the item and ordered it online from Western Tool,

And then I got an invoice which said “Direct from Harvey Tool”, which means they (I assume) just called up Harvey Tool for me and got them to ship it to me directly.

This setup seemed not that unique - I’d find a website that would list some tool I’d be interested in, and then I’d have to “find a distributor” even though they’d have a price and remaining stock listed.

Is there some legacy reason for why it’s set up this way? Some laws protecting the distributors (like auto dealerships)? Some leverage by the distributors on the manufacturers (don’t sell your items directly, otherwise we won’t sell your items for you)?

I had the exact same experience ordering a keyseat cutter from Harvey Tool. My understanding of the machine tool world is either you sell direct to consumers and only direct … or you go through distributors. Seems like a really outdated business model in this day and age especially when Harvey Tool is just drop shipping them anyway. Silly stuff.

I order my cutters from a guy on EBay - Drillman1. I know that doesn’t address your question, but it’s quick and easy to get great stuff from him.

But I can relate to your frustration - it seems like certain industries are way behind the curve with regard to online ordering. With tools I guess they are used to selling to local distributors who supply local hardware stores (type thing) and are perhaps either inequiped or unwilling to sell in small volumes to individuals.

I get almost all my endmills from Enco ( http://use-enco.com ), have for at least 10 years. I only use carbide (other than specialized cutters like Woodruff etc. for T-slots), and they sell Atrax brand which are usually on sale in one size or another (it might be Enco’s "house brand) and are good quality for a low price. It is easy to find free shipping codes for $25 orders if you search a little online so it is worth buying several of a size when they are on sale to make the $25 cut.

I’ve bought a lot of end mills, drill bits and collets from Lakeshore Carbide and Maritool. Both great sources that sell direct.

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+1 for Lakeshore Carbide, Maritool, and also 2Linc.com
All very helpful friendly staff and not weird at all.