Cheap tools

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Blog entry by Rob McCune posted 03-12-2007 03:23 AM 1531 reads 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Okay, I am kinda tired of just how cheap my cheap tools can really be. I have always had trouble with my $179 compound slide miter saw. I was never able to get it to make an exact 45° degree miter. I have always kind of assumed this was lack of talent or skill. I kept working hard to get it lined up exactly right and it always ended up just slightly off. Not a lot, but maybe 1/2°. It really hasn’t affected me since I have mostly done crown molding and chair rails with it. Coping a mitered edge has always taken some finessing the edge anyway so no biggie. Well now I am doing some trim “frames” for my walls. Look above the tv cabinet in my project to see what I mean. These take accuracy and accuracy takes skill, so I sat down and busted butt to get my miter saw set up EXACTLY right. Now my miter saw has wings on each side of the turn table. When you turn the saw one direction or the other, these wings are the stops against which the turntable ends it’s movement. The more I worked with it, the more I tried to line the saw up to 45°, the more frustrated I got, until I finally realized these wings were actually limiting the turntable travel to about 44.5°! Here I have been thinking it was me and the dumb machine just isn’t capable of making a 45° cut!!! Well let me tell you, I got out my grinder and my mini-mill and it will d*mn well make a 45° cut now! What kind of miter saw can’t make a 45° cut? Isn’t that about the most common cut after 90°? Are the engineers who designed this machine so dumb that they couldn’t figure out how to make a machine that could travel an extra degree or two past 45? Anyway now that it is done, I did most of the trim pieces and they all came out perfect. I wish I would have done that a year ago.

Okay you have heard mine so tell me your cheap tool horror stories now.

-- Rob McCune

18 comments so far

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4203 days

#1 posted 03-12-2007 03:28 AM

the sad part is it wasn’t a cheap tool…well maybe it was. Is a $500.00 table saw cheap?

View Rob McCune's profile

Rob McCune

123 posts in 4064 days

#2 posted 03-12-2007 03:33 AM

Obi, mine was $100 from Home Depot, but the one I want is $1200 from Ideal, so yes and no.

-- Rob McCune

View BassBully's profile


261 posts in 4063 days

#3 posted 03-12-2007 04:14 AM

I’ve learned that you get what you pay for (Most of the time). My wife doesn’t always like the money that I put into my tools and is always asking me, “Why can’t you buy this than that is $$$$ cheaper?”

So, this summer I wanted a jointer and there was a local wood worker’s swap meet in town. A gentleman happened to be selling an old Rockwell/Delta jointer for $120. At the time I wasn’t that informed about jointers and I asked him how true the jointer cut the boards and why he was selling it. He told me it was accurate but he had recently purchased an 8” jointer and didn’t need it anymore.

I was happy because I got my jointer at a cheap cost and made my wife happy at the same time. Later when I tried to cut some wood, my two pieces didn’t join up very well. They both had a bow in the middle and clear sky in between. I did some research to learn how to adjust a jointer. What I found is that I bought a dud. My rear feed table is completely stationary and has a slight bow in it. My front feed table obviously isn’t fixed but there is no way to adjust it and it is also slightly bowed.

Now, I’m going to have to purchase a brand new router and could’ve saved myself $120 if I had done that in the first place.

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4203 days

#4 posted 03-12-2007 04:18 AM

Bully, what did your wife learn? I keep trying to tell mine, that just because it’s on sale doesnt make it a bargain.

View Dollarbill's profile


91 posts in 4104 days

#5 posted 03-12-2007 04:25 AM

I bought one of the HF compound sliding mitre saws for $169 and it works great. But sometimes I have to put the right size rock behind my work to get the correct angle.

1- Cheap saw
1- Rock



-- Make Dust

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4293 days

#6 posted 03-12-2007 04:30 AM

I borrowed my Dads old mitersaw, and the fences on both sides of the blade were connected, and not inline with each other. You could adjust one side to 90, but then the other side was way off. passable if you were just squaring up the end, useless otherwise. You had to try to hold a pice square, and keep the blade from pulling it back making an angled if not curved cut! At least It gave me an idea of what to look for in my new one!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View WayneC's profile


13753 posts in 4063 days

#7 posted 03-12-2007 04:56 AM

My version of cheap is buying quality old tools. Although knowlege is key, I have bought a number of junkers and consider them “lessons”.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4203 days

#8 posted 03-12-2007 05:48 AM

Well here are several tool reviews … bottom line: You do get what you pay for. If you pay cheap, you normally get cheap.

When I built the 7 sided tree house I told the guy I needed a smooth-faced California Framer. When he bought the one I wnated for $35.00 he said “I’ve never spent $35.00 for a hammer before.” I replied “Yeah, and Im sure you’ve never spent $150.00 for circular saw either.

View Rob McCune's profile

Rob McCune

123 posts in 4064 days

#9 posted 03-12-2007 09:15 PM

My curcular saw came with a set of cordless tools from Ryobi. It’s Ryobi’s One+ system and I actually love it quite a bit. 18v will handle a lot that most cordless stuff can’t. I thought it was a cheap set when I got it for $150 or so but the drill that came with it has been able to take everything I can dish out. The circular saw will do 1” thick wood with ease, though it tends to bind easier than a corded one. I just burned out the trigger switch on the drill this weekend after a year of pretty intense usage. All in all this was one of the few cheap tools I bought that I haven’t regretted very much.

-- Rob McCune

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2008 posts in 4371 days

#10 posted 03-12-2007 10:24 PM

“Dumb Engineers?” After spending some long years working in the Engineering field before being “freed-up”, I found that the engineers were never allowed to do what was right. It was always management that made decisions that messed up, what otherwise, would have been good engineering. So, blame it on management!

Maybe you can list this chop saw in the Trade & Swap Forum, or sell it on eBay.

I’m just kidding,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Rob McCune's profile

Rob McCune

123 posts in 4064 days

#11 posted 03-12-2007 11:16 PM

lol I am one of those dumb engineers Mark. :D

-- Rob McCune

View Drew1House's profile


425 posts in 4054 days

#12 posted 03-21-2007 04:11 PM

I like good tools… I own one Chicago Electeric hammer drill (Its a big one for taking concrete up) but I got it for less than renting an Hilti would have cost for a day and if i use it once a year I would be suprised… Aside from that guys… I would rather wait to get something decent than get a crappy tool and wrestle with the tool the entire time I am trying to work. To me useing bad tools or those that are not set up properly ruins the joy I get from the work. Then I would rather watch TV… then I see some reality TV and it is so bad and cheaply done I go find something else to do… Hmmmm… A pattern…


-- Drew, Pleasant Grove, Utah

View Rob McCune's profile

Rob McCune

123 posts in 4064 days

#13 posted 03-21-2007 09:33 PM

I have used the saw 4-5 times since posting this blog entry and I am very glad to say the saw has good repeatability on 45° cuts now.

Drew when I was a mechanic I learned (in a way doing something hardcore for several years will teach) the advantage of good quality tools. I only have Snap-On, Matco, and Mac tools in my toolbox. Unfortunately I also saw the flip side of that when I had $2000 worth of tools stolen from me while it was being shipped out from Kansas City to Fresno.

What’s odd is that my wife doesn’t want me to buy cheap tools. She is focusing more long term than I am much of the time. When I told her I wanted to buy a jointer I said I would get a cheapo and get a good one later when we could better afford it. She said no. She told me flat out to get one I would be able to use for as long as I had it because she didn’t want to pay for it twice. Plus it was going to be her furniture I was making and she didn’t want it to be low quality. She surprises me like that sometimes. I can’t say money is really tight in our household, but we don’t go out and make $600 purchases frivolously. I am very grateful for her support of my hobby. I know it’s not just because I like it. She loves the work I do around the house (well maybe not my painting ability). I put shelves in a pantry, built a raised panel door for the staircase storage, and I do a lot of work around the house in general. She is glad she doesn’t have to pay someone else to do it. She hates how much cajolling it takes to get me to do something but that’s another story. :D I think I am rambling now so I better get back to work.

-- Rob McCune

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4126 days

#14 posted 03-21-2007 09:47 PM

sounds like more than just a “hobby” when your skills are being put to such good use – furniture building, fixing, .. etc.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 4051 days

#15 posted 03-22-2007 12:31 AM

I knew it was too good to be true…and it was. The Tale of the Ebay Router. I won! couldn’t beleive it…got a 3 hp router for $25 (plus the $20 shipping) It even arrived in good time (7 days) That’s the last of the good news. When I opened the box, I couldn’t even find the name of the company who made it (didn’t want to get a bad reputation I suppose.), that was the first clue. Opened the box and pulled it out, well at least the biggest part. The collect fell off and the base plate crumbled into about a dozen peices, the second clue. “I can fix that, no problem.” Ha. I got the collect back on and made a new base plate. Suprise, it even comes with a free bit (not carbide, not sharpened, I don’t know how they could have made it any more dull.) Plugged it in, nothing….go back to the poorly writen instructions (must have been translated by somewho failed english.) only to find out that you must install the brushes. Look in the box again, wallah, found them. Oh no…they are mangled beyond use. emailed the seller….”Oh really, that’s too bad. My stuff is sold as is.You might want to call the phone number in the owner’s manual. Perhaps they can help.” Great idea….I always wanted to talk to someone in India. They must have been the one who translated the instructions. ” I sorry sir…we do not sell brushes…perhaps you should ask your person who cuts hair.” At this point, I give up….I give it to my younger brother….he was looking for a boat anchor anyway. True Story…really

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

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