I bought my last cheap tool


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I heard a saying once years ago that has stuck with me....

"I'm too poor to buy cheap (insert whatever item you want)"

Meaning that sure you get a break on the price up front. But how many problems will arise, and how many times will you have to replace?

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I think that is a tough lesson every new woodworker has to to learn. I am in the process of evaluating band saws for hopefully a purchase in the near future. As I have worked my way down to what I will finally select, SWMBO has asked me on more than one occasion if it is a good tool or will it need replacing in a few years.

Buy a cheap tool will cost you more in the long run. I replaced my 6 year old table saw with a good 25 year old table saw earlier this year. Despite the age difference, the good saw runs circles around the cheap newer table saw.

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Yeah it took me a while to realize some cheaper tools are just fine but the majority while they will get the job done either make it a hard task or don't last very long but some cheaper tools just refuse to die ive had a really cheap air grinder for like 8 years and keep saying if it ever breaks im going to buy a nice one but it just keeps on taking a beating :angry: lol

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I will usually go for the "One step below the top of the line" whatever I am buying. This means not getting the bells and whistles that are attractive, but get used once in a century. Buying the BEST you can afford saves a lot of frustration and is much less expensive in the long run. A couple of the bigger tools in my shop were bought by my brother in law, and given to me, because the table saw he purchased was one of the $100.00 on sale specials. He was dissapointed with it, and got away from the hobby, and took up golf. I got a nice band saw and planer out of the situation. I have some CHEAP tools, but they are used for the extremely rough work that may result in their destruction.

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I think that is a tough lesson every new woodworker has to to learn. I am in the process of evaluating band saws for hopefully a purchase in the near future. As I have worked my way down to what I will finally select, SWMBO has asked me on more than one occasion if it is a good tool or will it need replacing in a few years.

Buy a cheap tool will cost you more in the long run. I replaced my 6 year old table saw with a good 25 year old table saw earlier this year. Despite the age difference, the good saw runs circles around the cheap newer table saw.

It must be one of those belt driven table saws. The kind that the motor is in the back..Those are good saws..

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And this is why I don't buy any products that are made in China. I don't know of one product made by the Chinese that I could say this is the best tool or machine I have ever bought. I drew the line when I went to put on my hearing protection (muffs bought at blowes) and the top snapped and the plastic piece cut my head open. While I'm bleeding I'm thinking to myself that,,, some Chinese guy is laughing his ass off saying dumb American by my product to hurt himself.

So like you I refuse to buy garbage.

Just to be clear, the issue with poorly made products is not that they were made in China, or any other geographic location you care to name. The issue with poorly made products is that as long as there is a market made of consumers who only buy on price (and many woodworkers fall into that category), cheap crap will be made and sold.

There are plenty of high quality products that are made in China. All you have to do is pay the manufacturing costs to ensure good quality control, which automatically prices your product out of the market segment that only shops on price.

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If we all agree that it is better to buy quality tools rather than cheap ones, then the real question is "why do we keep buying cheap tools?" Is it because we need something to get us by until we can afford the quality tool? If we were to avoid purchasing low quality would manufacturers realize that we demand quality and stop producing crap? Have we become such a consumer driven nation that we will buy anything that is on sale for $19.99? This is a really interesting thread that makes me wonder why I am so eager to hit the sales for Black Friday.

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If we all agree that it is better to buy quality tools rather than cheap ones, then the real question is "why do we keep buying cheap tools?" Is it because we need something to get us by until we can afford the quality tool? If we were to avoid purchasing low quality would manufacturers realize that we demand quality and stop producing crap? Have we become such a consumer driven nation that we will buy anything that is on sale for $19.99? This is a really interesting thread that makes me wonder why I am so eager to hit the sales for Black Friday.

Cuz we wanna build sh#t and not wait to buy the expensive tool we need.

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I try to stick with the "no cheap tools" mantra and generally succeed (much to the chagrin of my Amex). But I also don't have to buy shoes for a wife or Dance-Dance Revolution mats for kids so that lends to more disposable income. That said, I know the guy who buys the $19 drill would rather have the $200 drill, but maybe the $19 drill is all he can actually justify and afford. Not gonna judge his buying habits if that's the case. Sure, he could save for the $200 drill, but the $19 might last through the few projects he'll do (a Harry Homeowner) or last long enough to realize he likes woodworking enough to buy $200 drills. Besides, as gardnesd pointed out, he needs to build some sht and waiting for a piggy bank to fill for the $200 drill leaves you shtless for a rather long time.

One other angle to the $19 drill. If it takes 2 years to save for the $200 drill, he'd likely overall pump more money into the economy giving $19 to the cheap tool maker. Why? Because he has the drill today so tomorrow he can buy 100bf of oak from a local hardwood dealer and buy $50 worth of finishes at Rockler and all that gas for those second and third trips in one day to Home Depot because &*$%! you forgot something, again. Then he supports American woodworkers by buying their DVDs. Then likes it enough to get a pre-framed shop put up in the back by locals. Yeah, thinking about it that way, you're right, cheap tools are expensive :)

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Cheap and poor quality aren't necessarily related of course.

When I was just starting out, I did a lot of reading on product reviews of tools I was looking for and still do. As much as I would love Festool gear or Powermatic stuff, it doesn't make budgetary sense to me as I don't make the majority of my income from my shop. Sp a lot of my research was looking at the best value tools and not the best of breed stuff, and it really hasn't steered me wrong. The only mistake I made was the first tablesaw I bought which I did before I started doing my research. There's also a lot of good quality old hand tools that can be picked up cheap if you want to put some work in them. My old Stanley handplanes, cleaned, trued and sharpened cut very well and I paid less than $10 for most of them.

The problem as I see it is that most people just getting into woodworking don't know what is quality and tend to gravitate first to the big box stores. Its understandable, and while they're a good choice for some things (drills, circular saws etc.) the tools they carry are for contractors where precision and durability are of less concern. Cutting a perfect 45 degree miter in an SPF 2x4 that's not straight to begin with doesn't demand the level of accuracy that we're looking for.

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Being less than 1 year into the craft, I made some mistakes and some wise choices. All of my power tools were of the Ryobi/Mastercraft/Craftsman brand. For some, the choice was good. For others, not so much. My Ryobi planer is awesome for the price I paid, but the miter saw and the router are in the undesirably inaccurate range. My hand tools on the other hand, I decided to go with a lot of better quality. Sure, it hurt some, but now I have almost a full complement of tools that I can fulfill almost any task with by power/hand (the tools are complementary to each other rather than redundant).

Yeah, I regret some purchases, but I can make do with them until they wear out and then they'll be replaced by better quality, but like gardnesd said. I wanted to build schtuff. Not just look at the tools! B)

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Saying "I won't buy cheap tools" does seem to be kind of a knee-jerk reaction to a bad purchase. It does also seem to cause some confusion, since some people use the term in reference to price while others are referring to quality. The worst is when people automatically link one to the other. As Mr. Pants and a few others said, "cheap" and "poor quality" are not necessarily related.

I myself buy cheap tools fairly often based on a cost analysis of factors like how often I'll use it, how long of a time period would it take to save up for better, will I be making money (return on investment) now with the cheap one versus loosing potential income waiting to afford more expensive, and so on.

This cost analysis also relates to quality. If I need something once to do a specific task that generates an income, I'll probably buy something cheaper of lower quality (or with less features) and expect it to be thrown away when the task is done. If I buy the expensive, high-quality version for more than the job pays and never use it again, I've lost money that could be used for the more expensive equipment I do need.

Sure you're going to make some bad purchases along the way, but I've made a few expensive purchases that have also failed to deliver. As long as something surpasses my threshold of quality, I'm usually going to go for the least expensive, which in my vocabulary is what "cheap" stands for. I never use the term to mean something of poor quality.

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Cheap, as in cheerful, rather than cheap, as in nasty, has its place for me. Let me give you a sailing analogy - the Comet 770 and the Star. If they still made the Comet 770, you could probably buy one for the price of a set of racing sails of the Star.

The Comet will get you around at a good speed. The Star will run circles round the Comet in the same wind.

If you make the wrong manoeuvre in a Comet nothing particularly bad will happen, but with the Star you'll break something, probably something expensive.

Now if you want to be able to change the rake of the mast, the form of the sail, there are contraptions galore on the Star - and any one of them can be used incorrectly.

If you want to learn to sail, you don't buy a Star. Comets are still used today as training boats.

I'm quite happy sticking with the cheap and cheerful tools for now, because I'm learning - and I don't want to break anything though ignorance. When I know what I'm doing, then maybe I'll upgrade to a Star Lie-Nielsen.

My 2 (euro) cents,

John

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I'm with you, John.

I grew up in NYC, where no one drives. I learned to drive when I was 21, and I knew next to nothing about cars. But I needed a car to get to and from work and that I could park on the street in not the best neighborhood. Should I have gotten:

  • a Lamborghini (It's not cheap, and it's one of the best)
  • a Rolls-Royce (It's not cheap, and it's one of the best)
  • a used, decently made inexpensive car in decent shape

Now, I know a guy who owns a Lamborghini, and he takes it out to a closed track where his driving coach teaches him how to drive it at insanely high speeds. But for me, a Lamborghini would be a waste of money. I wouldn't be using it to it's potential, I wouldn't appreciate the qualities that make it worth all that money, and I have no desire to drive at over 100 MPH.

I'm on my fourth table saw, and none of those was a mistake. Each one was appropriate for what I was doing at the time, and helped me learn whether I wanted a Rolls-Royce, a Lamborghini, a Hummer, or whether I was happy with what I had.

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Cheap is one among three variables: Cost, Quality, and Time. Ordinarily, you can have any two, but never all of them.

  • Cheap, fast and embarrassingly bad. i.e. You buy a Buck Brothers plane from Lowe's.
  • Cheap and good but it takes forever i.e. You find an old Stanley on eBay and spend a weekend fettling, sharpening, cleaning...
  • Good, fast and astronomically expensive. i.e. You order a premium plane from Lie-Nielsen.

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Saying "I won't buy cheap tools" does seem to be kind of a knee-jerk reaction to a bad purchase. It does also seem to cause some confusion, since some people use the term in reference to price while others are referring to quality. The worst is when people automatically link one to the other. As Mr. Pants and a few others said, "cheap" and "poor quality" are not necessarily related.

This is all very true.

But although "cheap" and "poor quality" are not necessarily related, it should not be a surprise when a purchase decision made primarily on price turns out to be something of poor quality.

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If cheap means poor quality, I'm with you. If cheap means low cost, I'm all about cheap.

Just because something is low in price, doesn't always mean low in quality. Just as high in price doesn't mean high in quality. Generally speaking, they do go hand in hand. However I have experienced the exception to the rule in both instances. I paid a pretty penny for a well reviewed and high priced belt sander that is really a dud for what a belt sander should be. I have also purchased the despised Buck Bros. handplane and tuned it up to be a champ.

Ya win some, ya lose some. I usually stay with proven brands and middle of the road in their price range.

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