Are They A Buyer?

By Noah Graff

Machinery deals are often like fruit. Sometimes you just have to wait for them to ripen. — Old machinery dealer proverb.

The Swiss CNC market is red hot. Of course, that’s if you have the right machine on the right day.

Graff-Pinkert has a beautiful Tornos GT-26 Swiss machine for sale. It’s manufactured 2015, has about 4,000 hours on it, and looks almost new. A lot of people have come close to buying it—I think.

In July, a dealer I enjoy with working on the West Coast “had it sold.” But when it was time to wire funds, his customer hesitated and then backed out.

Around the same time, another dealer told us he was very close to selling the machine to an old customer who had several of the same model. “A 70% chance they would buy!” he said.

A guy in Estonia has also inquired on it several times in the last year, texting price proposals back and forth with me on WhatsApp. We even reached the point where we were getting pricing to ship the machine to Helsinki, Finland, which I learned is a short ferry ride from from Tallinn, Estonia.

Tornos GT-26 being sold by Graff-Pinkert

A few weeks ago, the owner of a company in Savanah, Georgia, inquired on the Tornos. He makes a product called a KeyBar, a mechanism similar to a pocket knife but for keys. We talked a while about the machine and his company. He hasn’t purchased it yet, but at least it led to a fascinating podcast interview we posted a few weeks ago. Podcast interviews are often the consolation prize for deals that don’t work out.

A job shop in the Midwest called me Monday, saying they thought they were ready to buy the machine. I’ve talked to them several times this year about it. They seemed like they were serious about buying it then as well. Maybe this time they will buy the machine, maybe they won’t. I’m keeping my expectations tempered. 

I spoke to a different customer about this machine also on Monday. He has a business out West making body jewelry. He emailed us, inquiring about a Citizen L20 that we no longer have. I told him about the GT-26 and he got excited. He said he had researched the model but hadn’t thought he would ever find such a good deal on used one. He has never owned a Swiss machine before but told me he is the type of person who “jumps into the deep end of the pool feet first.” He says he’s not afraid of taking a risk if he sees a great opportunity. I told him about the other guy who called the same day, who said he was ready to buy the machine, and he was disappointed. He said finding the used Tornos GT-26 that day seemed like fate. I told him I loved his serendipity mindset and that he should listen to the podcast I recorded about the topic. As of today, the machine is still available, and it’s fair game. Is he another person who got excited but then couldn’t dive into the pool? I honestly don’t know.

I’ve learned it’s hard to tell when someone really is going to buy a machine. Often people I think are hot on a machine, just can’t pull the trigger. Part of my job is to figure out the difference between “someone who wants a machine” and “someone who is going to buy a machine.”

I know most of the machines we sell aren’t cheap. They can sometimes cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t blame people for shopping around. They want to be sure of themselves before they spend the money.

Also, I have to always remind myself. For me, these machinery deals are the center of my attention. They pay the mortgage. Perhaps at a specific moment, while selling the machine is the most important thing to me, the customer has something entirely different on their mind. That is out of my control.

The question is, what is within my control? Maybe nobody has bought the machine because its price is too high. Maybe I haven’t been persuasive enough. Perhaps if I was more creative we could have made a deal. What I’d like to think is that the machine just hasn’t found its right match for a new owner.

A fellow dealer once told me that finding a wife is like finding the right machine. When you see it, you just know it’s right. That may be true. After all, these days the Web is a good place to find both.

Question: What’s your favorite used machine you’ve ever purchased?

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7 thoughts on “Are They A Buyer?

  1. Michael R Bowser

    By far –
    The most productive machine was a 1990 10,000rpm Fanuc Drill-Mate, the last of the Pratt & Whitney branded tools.
    For a low-horsepower drill + tapping machine, it could high-speed machine O1 and A2 steel parts and make aluminum and plastic prototypes like crazy.
    That thing paid for itself every month!

  2. Keith

    I bought my first Hitachi Seiki lathe HT20SII IN 1990 New. It is still running and hold +/-.0035″ every day. I liked it so much I have bought over the years 14 Hitachi Seiki lathes, 3 new and 11 used. To answer your question about how to know if a prospect is reall a buyer I can only tell you about me. Most important is knowing that the workload will be consistent. I often believed “Build It annd They Will Come” and would invest without the actual job or jobs. Again, I had to be pretty sure that “They” would come. I don’t know if that help but that is my story and I am sticking to it! Turned 80 this year and still love machines and machining. And Noah, I have really appreciated your Blog, please keep it up.
    With best regards,

  3. Robert Ducanis

    Bought a very good condition 7/16″ RA-6 Acme from a local manufacturer that went belly-up after attempting to make & market retractable golf spikes (when steel spikes were still common). Paid $1200 for it and it came with a Winter’s thread rolling attachment. Cost about $300 to have it moved 15 miles. We ended up making small brass ‘pips’ that held the glass bulbs in overhead sprinkler systems. We must have made 5 million+ on that little machine. Part eventually went to some type of headed part because customer was concerned about ‘dezincification’ when the 360 brass was exposed to stagnant water in the sprinkler system, possibly causing the ‘pip’ to bind and not release as designed to let the spray of water thru the head.

    The 7/16″ machine was Acme’s response to try and compete with Davenport. They were not very successful in their attempt.


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