Why We Don’t Take Back Orders

Posted on 15 January 2019

We keep selling out of lump hammers within hours of releasing them – no matter how many we make (and we make hundreds and hundreds each month).

As a result, we get this question a lot: Why don’t you take my order and fulfill it when you have more hammers?

The answer is: Sorry, we don’t accept back orders. This blog entry seeks to explain why.

Simply put: We’ve watched too many small toolmaking and furniture-making business get destroyed by a big backlog of business that eventually crushed them, personally and professionally.

If the above statement sounds weird, read on.

When you take an order or a deposit for a yet-to-be manufactured item you establish a relationship with that person. Most customers are wonderful. They’re easy to deal with, patient and they understand that making tools or furniture is difficult. But a small percentage of people use this relationship to hound the maker.

I’ve watched it time and again. Certain customers ask – over and over – when their item will ship. And if you have enough customers ask this question, then you spend hours each day just responding to the query: Hey, where’s my thing?

If the maker took a deposit (or, God help them, the full purchase price), then they are in for more trouble. The few difficult customers will hound the maker. Sometimes they’ll threaten them. And when they don’t feel they are getting enough attention they start to defame the maker on Internet forums or chat rooms.

If this sounds like we are down on our customers, we’re not. The vast majority of you are wonderful people – honest, patient and supportive of what we do. But the tiny minority prevents us from entering into a situation where we could be overwhelmed by back orders.

We’re a tiny company. And we’re not trying to grow quickly, take on a penny of debt or hire a bunch of people to address what could be a passing need. We’re working as hard as we can to supply more hammers (and dividers). We hate the fact that we are out of stock, and we work every day to fix that problem.

We think our tools are worth waiting for. But we promise that we don’t want you to wait too long.

Thanks to everyone who has supported us and has been patient during the last 30 months.

— Christopher Schwarz

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  • Martyn Oliver: January 16, 2019

    I completely take your point about how committing to provide in the future a good or service that is, at the present time at any rate, beyond your means. Quite apart from the psychological damage that coping with the fallout must cause, there’s the physical time consumed in responding rather than making.

    But consider this. About five years ago I ordered online, from a well-known British design company, a special kind of knife. It was for an upcoming birthday gift, and the knife’s purpose was a perfect professional match for the birthday boy. I paid by credit card and waited the advertised five days for it to arrive. It never did arrive. Instead, after prompting (and long after the birthday had passed), I received excuses, promises of a refund or a special bonus gift. None of those arrived either. I gave up after a year, but the firm still advertises its products, and today, five years later, my order is still on their web page, marked “status: processing”. What would you, or your other readers, do? Let it go, as I have done, in sympathy with a small firm overwhelmed by the success of its products? Or say to hell with it, they’ve had my money and I want my goods, and harry them until you get a result? It’s a dilemma!

  • J.R. Stowers: January 16, 2019

    Wise policy choice. So many companies fail at trying to be everything to everybody citing “the customer is always right” BS. Make what you want, charge what you need. Free market at it’s best. I’m glad you follow that up with speaking your mind as well. Keep it up.

  • Patrick : January 16, 2019

    Thanks for the explanation. Every time I get shut out of a given production run I wonder why you guys didn’t implement the (original) Bridge City model. Makes perfect sense now. I never thought about the customers that aren’t patient enough to wait for something they ordered even though they knowingly agreed to wait for an extended period for the product to be manufactured and delivered when they placed the order.

  • Adam Brown: January 16, 2019

    Love your tools, your honesty, your sense of humor and the way you go about things. But I hate the fact that I cannot get your tools in Australia.

  • w15p: January 16, 2019

    I like your approach both conceptually and for giving me an air-gap.

    I saw your post last night on the lump hammers and I hurriedly loaded the crucible tools website to find that, if I clicked “order”, I could have my very own lump hammer.

    I paused.

    I read for a while (workbenches something or other) and figured I would check back later. I checked this morning, still not entirely sure that I needed it (yet) and – it was sold out.

    I know that I will own a lump hammer at some point (unless you stop making them… and that ghost haunts me) but the reality is that I have WAY too much in flight right now and I appreciate the pause, because it allows me to reflect on whether I really need it right now.

    Anyway, this sounds a bit anti-capitalistic and I don’t really mean it that way, but when I buy your lump hammer, I want to buy it and put it to use and not set it on a shelf somewhere to let it rust.

  • Sam Okerlund: January 16, 2019

    I’m happy wait. Thanks for making great tools!!

  • Dean Wolfe: January 16, 2019

    Keep up the great work! I have purchased your books and tools and all are wonderful. I even have bought your books for fledging woodworking friends. Great problem to have, selling everything you can make. You are wise to not overcommit. I just need to get faster with my orders to get that hammer order in, in the first 5 minutes after you announce they are available.

  • Patrick: January 15, 2019

    Amen. I know exactly what you talking about and it’s 100% true from my experience in business. Don’t change and stick with your principles. They obviously serve you well.

  • Thebigfish: January 15, 2019

    It’s very thoughtful of you to explain the wisdom behind your sales and production. I agree 100% with your cautious and experienced perspective. It’s refreshing to see a business not stressed over quarterly earnings, rather you make great stuff for great people while making a reasonable profit. Now I better understand the name Lost Art. Fourtune finds many forms.

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