I find myself buying a lot more supplies online, these days. While I personally try to live by the credo of spend-it-where-you-make-it, the sad truth is that there are fewer and fewer brick-and-mortar stores that sell the tools I prefer to use. I’d gladly buy my tools from the one or two remaining mom & pop paint stores near me, but they keep very little inventory on hand, and they don’t carry the brands I like. The major paint-store chain nearby that will special-order non-stock items for me is so expensive, that it’s often cheaper for me to buy from an online supplier, even with the shipping costs added in.
Here are some examples of recent online purchases I’ve made.
I like two different models of smoothers. One is made by Shur-Line. It’s my everyday smoother for residential work. The other is made by Zinsser. The plastic is very dense, but the tool is still a little bit flexible. It’s the smoother I’m most likely to use on commercial vinyl, where the texture of the commercial vinyl would quickly wear down the Shur-Line smoothers, which are made from softer plastic than the Zinsser smoothers.
The Zinsser smoothers are carried by some True Value stores, but good luck finding them in stock. Shur-Line tools used to be carried by my mom & pop store, in New Jersey, but since I’ve moved 400 miles west, I’ve yet to find a store that carries them. I could go looking for them, but with gas at nearly $4 a gallon, at what point is it counter-productive to drive around hoping to find a specific tool in stock? Yes, I could telephone all the paint and hardware stores within thirty miles of me, but the odds of getting someone on the phone who knows exactly what I’m looking for are pretty slim.
Enter thepaintstore.com. Not only do they sell both brands of smoother, but they sell them in bulk. The Zinsser smoothers are packaged (6) to a box, in multiple colors. The Shur-Line smoothers are (20) to a box. I ordered two boxes of the Zinsser smoothers, and one box of the Shur-Line smoothers. With shipping, the total was around $52. That’s 32 smoothers, delivered to my door, for $1.62 a piece. I won’t have to buy smoothers again for at least a year, maybe longer.
I had thought that good razor blades went the way of pagers and Walkmans. Nobody seemed to be making them any longer. I’d always heard word of the revered PAL blades, and had even seen a couple of relic boxes in Roger Coupal’s garage, in Springfield, Mass., once. A single store in Long Island was rumored to stock them. None of my normal supply stores knew of them, and their distributors were clueless, as well. They didn’t even turn up in search-engine results, at least not at first. After digging deeper, I found a warehouse source in Texas which sold them by the 50-box case for about $280, plus actual shipping. For me, that worked out to just under $7 a box, which — for the best #9 blades you’ll ever use — is a very good price. I bought my first case in August 2010, and I didn’t run out of blades until the autumn of 2012. (I use Tajima snap-offs for most of my cuts; #9 blades are for my table trims and doublecuts.) Here are the elusive PAL blades, available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Removal Solutions * Drywall Sealers
There are some products which simply aren’t available in stores, at least not nationally. Two west-coast products that I rely on are Safe And Simple Removal Solution, and Scotch Paint’s Draw-Tite No-Run. Fortunately, both can be ordered from a single supplier: safeandsimple.com. Unfortunately, shipping is pricey, due to the weight of the products, but such is the cost of being in business. I find both products to be worth their weight in gold, so I don’t much mind paying a premium to have them shipped. As far as I’m concerned, there is no other removal solution that even comes close to working as well as Safe And Simple, and when I need it, I need it. Ditto, Draw-Tite. I use Gardz quite often, because it’s a good product that’s available locally, but it doesn’t hold a candle to original Draw-Tite No-Run, which is a lot less less drippy and a lot less smelly. It’s comforting for me to have the products I like on hand at all times.
Blankstock * Wheat Paste
Finally there are those products which you won’t find on any store shelf, or in any distributor’s catalog, because the vendors choose to direct-sell their goods to the end users. Among such items on my shop’s shelves are cases of blankstock lining paper, in various widths, from wallliner.com; and bags of wheat paste, sold by Bob Kelly, of paper-hangings.com. There are instances when I don’t know what type of material I’ll be installing until I get to the job. If the material calls for liner and powdered wheat paste, it’s good to be ready, because there’s no “running out to the paint store” to pick up either of these two items.
In the old days, when wallpaper stores existed (and a tank of gas cost twenty bucks), you could usually find blankstock on the shelves, along with wheat paste, table trestles, straightedges, trimming wheels, and actual in-stock wallpaper. Those days are gone, but the sources for the tools of our trade are just a mouse-click away.