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Cheap vs. expensive tools

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Forum topic by Viktor posted 10-26-2011 11:16 AM 2133 views 0 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Viktor

448 posts in 2114 days


10-26-2011 11:16 AM

Topic tags/keywords: tool cost resource tip

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21 replies so far

View Cobwobbler's profile

Cobwobbler

31 posts in 1182 days


#1 posted 10-26-2011 01:16 PM

Chipping in my 1 1/4 pence, I use the cheapest tools I can get, or second hand, then sharpen and tune the living Christmas out of them to get the very best I can, this teaches me what to look for in a tool if I ever replace it, and makes sharpening or tuning less daunting on a cheap tool as I’m not too worried if I mess it up. I’ve got a £12 block plane that works as good as any Lie-Nielsen I’ve tried costing £100 more.
Speaking as a beginner I think you can learn more by getting the very best out of a cheap tool before moving up a notch.

Standing by for the flak….
Martin.

-- Martin, Rugby, United Kingdom. Make Tea, Not War. http://thecobwobbler.blogspot.com/

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

3507 posts in 2656 days


#2 posted 10-26-2011 03:36 PM

The operative wording here is “price/value relationship”.
Of course, I take generic drugs, buy old Stanley planes, Grizz equipment, and rough sawn lumber.
Bill

-- bill@magraphics.us

View Mike's profile

Mike

302 posts in 1383 days


#3 posted 10-26-2011 04:02 PM

I see a flaw in the graph… what are the units of measure and what is the scale on the graph? In school, my teacher told me to show all work.

;)

-- look Ma! I still got all eleven of my fingers! - http://www.termitecrafts.com

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richgreer

4524 posts in 1770 days


#4 posted 10-26-2011 04:19 PM

I can’t tell if this graph is based on some kind of data or if it is just the impression/opinion of the writer.

Regardless, I will make a couple of points.

In an overly simplified way I will say that price goes up for 2 reasons: (1) basic tool quality and (2) the addition of features. I value you good basic quality much more than most additional features. When I say “basic quality” I am talking about the quality of the steel in the cutter or the quality of the bearings. Basic quality usually translates in to dependability and long life.

For me, how much I am going to use the tool enters into my decision. I once had a need for stapler gun. I didn’t anticipate that I would ever use it again after I completed my current project. In that case, the $20 Tool Shop stapler gun from Menards worked just fine. I would never buy such a cheap tool if I thought I would use it more in the future.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5386 posts in 1927 days


#5 posted 10-26-2011 04:20 PM

Sadly, your graph takes no consideration for things such as tuning of the particular tool in question, and the skills of the craftsman using them. My argument is, has been, and always shall be, that a fair to good craftsman can, and as can be seen from the posted projects here, and on the other WW forums, often does do high quality work using low end tools, and that no matter the cost or brand name applied to the tool, a poor craftsman will remain a poor craftsman until he gains some skill and experience. The amount of money you spend on your shop machines does not somehow magically convey woodworking skills to you. That comes with time, experience, and for those that are blessed with it, training under the assistance of a master craftsman…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

15965 posts in 1562 days


#6 posted 10-26-2011 04:39 PM

If you take carving tools I will guarantee you that buying the best you can afford is by far the better value. I try to buy all Pfiel tools because they seem the best to me. However I own several other brands as well that have an excellent reputation and they are expensive as well. If you want to carve well your tools have to be as sharp as you can possibly get them and they also need to hold their edge for as long as possible. First of all, after carving for a while you will soon realize that for efficiency you need quite a number of gouges and various other tools. There is a lot of time in maintaining all of the tools and good quality tools will minimize this effort. Secondly, nobody wants to quit carving to sharpen tools. Finally, if the tools are not very sharp the quality will show up in the carving and the difficulty will increase disproportionally. This will be most discouraging to especially one who is still learning to carve – someone like me. I don’t recall ever reading a good book about woodcarving without the author stressing the need for using good quality tools and they have usually learned things the hard way. This sort of thinking will be the same as many woodworkers as well I imagine.

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

5796 posts in 2124 days


#7 posted 10-26-2011 04:54 PM

I’ve owned GMC and Dodge trucks.
Almost adequate is never good enough!

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

2879 posts in 1939 days


#8 posted 10-26-2011 05:58 PM

I have a mentality of treating a tool, all tools with respect. I’m not talking of the plastic handled 99¢ screwdriver or the soft steel drill bitsfrom China, but of the tools that were made 50+ years ago. Except for a few high quality tools from Lie Neilsen, tools made today no longer exhibit the quality and beauty of those made many years ago. True, they function as well as tools of the past, as they should, but the glamour that used to be present in the old tools is gone. I mentioned mentality and by that I mean; some people couldn’t care less about a tool and a cheap tool will suffice. Some people will open a can of paint with a screwdriver and stir the paint with that same screwdriver. I had that happen to me many years ago with a Stanley 100 plus series screwdriver. It was a beautifully made tool with a wood handle and alloy steel shank; no chrome plating. I still buy the best tools I can find, usually used ones. I care for them and don’t mistreat them. I care for my tools the same way a coin collector cares for his coins, or an audio enthusist cares for a rare vinyl recording. I also use my tools. I guess it all comes down to preference; the reason why some people drive a Lexus and others a Chevy. They both get you from point A to B, but the way in which they do it may be worth the extra cost. If you can afford it, and you want the best; money is no object; it comes down to taste.

View DS's profile

DS

2131 posts in 1116 days


#9 posted 10-26-2011 06:20 PM

I own a lot of cheap tools in my shop and usually make the most of them. For example, I have a heavy duty, albeit Chinese made, thickness planer that has run miles of lumber through it with little loss of benifit because of its affordable price. Carving tools, on the other hand, are a funny lot.

I’ve been adding to my Pfiel carving set for years ,as I can afford them, and would never consider using a “cheap” chisel because the increased effort and decreased quality of the resulting work usually isn’t worth the expense of a cheap carving tool.
A lot of woodworkers I speak to think carving wood is difficult, or beyond thier abilities, but, most have never held a decent chisel in thier hands. (Present company excepted , of course. ;-)

All this seems to run contrary to the above graph by the OP.

I suppose the real trick is knowing which tools you can get away with being cheap on and which need to be the best you can afford.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2072 posts in 1335 days


#10 posted 10-26-2011 07:41 PM

I see your point, but the graph is representative of nothing but an idea. BS flag raised. ;=)

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View Viktor's profile

Viktor

448 posts in 2114 days


#11 posted 10-26-2011 07:47 PM

Bill White: Point taken.

Mike: Measure is of course dimensionless, in other words relative.

Richgreer:
I can’t tell if this graph is based on some kind of data or if it is just the impression/opinion of the writer
-Yes and no. This is an oversimplified representation of the price/value relationship for goods. So, you could say it is based on data in the most generic sense. The curve is often exponential decay y=C(1-exp(-kx)).
price goes up for 2 reasons: (1) basic tool quality and (2) the addition of features
-Yes. However, there is a relationship between shape of the curve (k) and product “complexity”.

Dbhost:
With all due respect you missed the point completely. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough about what I was trying to say.

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1526 posts in 1171 days


#12 posted 10-26-2011 07:53 PM

IMO price has nothing to do with the value of a tool, although generally those which have higher prices tend to be better. A tool should disappear in your hands, so that you can concentrate on the task at hand. There is nothing worse than doing something that requires care and concentration and in the middle of the process stop so that you have to fight with your tool.

That said, I have no use for a $10,000 plane that is going to work just as well as my $300 plane. There is a point of diminishing returns.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View Viktor's profile

Viktor

448 posts in 2114 days


#13 posted 10-26-2011 08:03 PM

JGM0658, you contradict yourself: “IMO price has nothing to do with the value of a tool, although generally those which have higher prices tend to be better. So which one is it?

“There is a point of diminishing returns.”
Exactly! And for different tools those points occur at different places of the price range.

View dbhost's profile

dbhost

5386 posts in 1927 days


#14 posted 10-26-2011 08:33 PM

Viktor,

Possibly. Perhaps you could elaborate on what you mean…

For example…

“For complex things such as table saw you get only mediocre performance at Cost 1. Doubling (Powermatic), quadrupling (Hammer), or further increase (Felder) in cost yields considerable increase in benefits and (if money allows) could be a wise investment.”

Now I have an inexpensive Ryobi BT3100 table saw, that I spent the time, and effort to properly tune. I have added the miter slots, and aligned miter slots and fence to the blade all within .001”. I set up my cut, start the saw, make my cut, and move on, it’s blissfully accurate and stays that way.

I have a neighbor that is in the same house position one block away from me, he’s got a nice vintage Rockwell / Delta Unisaw. And although that would be considered by most to be a medium high to high end saw, he can’t seem to be bothered to tune it properly, and his results speak volumes about how poorly the saw is tuned…

So if cost1 (Ryobi) is tuned properly and is outperforming cost2 (Unisaw) at far less money, how is cost2 a wise investment?

Conversely, if cost2 were properly tuned, due to the difference in sheer mass, and power (3HP vs 1.5HP) there WOULD be several good arguments in favor of cost2 budget allowing of course… There are also arguments against cost2 (splitter instead of riving knife, lack of sliding miter table etc…) that work against it…

My main point is that it isn’t necessarily how much you spend on your tools that makes you a good woodworker, it just makes you end up with an emptier wallet, an expensive tool collection, and quite possibly an angry wife…

-- My workshop blog can be found at http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1526 posts in 1171 days


#15 posted 10-26-2011 08:33 PM

Apparently the word generally is not clear to you. If you have been at this for a while you should know that sometimes you buy a cheap tool that is a great performer, and sometimes you buy an expensive tool that sucks.

Exactly! And for different tools those points occur at different places of the price range.

Not really, is like audio components, unless you have an ear with perfect pitch, 99% of the population will not be able to tell the difference between a $5000 audio system from one that is $50000, same with planes. I doubt a Holtey plane will preform 20 times better than my $500 plane. Yet, I have an $80 ship plane that is fabulous. It is not the price, it is how they preform in my hands…. is it clear now?

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

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