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What quality vs cost considerations drives your buying?

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larry Phelan13/02/2018 13:19:40
544 forum posts
17 photos

Dave,remember the old song ;


In days of old,stuff made in Germany was top class,I still have a water heater which my Mother bought in 1937,and it still works ! I cannot see that happening today.

There is a lot to be said for being to see a machine before buying it,not always possible,I know,but you can end up buying "A pig in a poke ",and a lot of hassle. I,ve been there,done that ! now I tend to ignore the name and just ask around,that way,you get more facts,less fiction.

David Colwill13/02/2018 13:36:02
549 forum posts
32 photos

Another factor to consider is how you feel about using the item. The best example I can think of is pillar drills. I have used the cheapest pillar drill B & Q sold and it drilled holes where I wanted them and with no problem at all. In my workshop I have a Fobco Star as my go to drill, everything about it is nice and I enjoy using it. In the unlikely event that it broke, I would be straight away on the lookout for a replacement. Given that any holes that require accuracy are done on the milling machine there is no other reason to justify the cost.

I often wonder how places like the National Physical Laboratory open paint tins. Quite a few of us will have some drawer somewhere that is full of cheap knackered screwdrivers that are just the job.

As for power tools I have used both cheap and expensive and have had very few failures with either but then as I am the only one using them this is understandable.

My heart goes out to the folk that have to buy tools to be used by other people.



not done it yet13/02/2018 13:58:41
1961 forum posts
11 photos

Agree with Hopper, but obviously no Asustralian experience of spanners. The real cheap rubbish are the tools that are not in spec when supplied (thinking here banggood, specifically) - some can be tolerated, while some cannot.

Files and threading are another couple of areas where good is good - and less good is often folly. Although most of my files were purchased at farm sales, I have thrown away an awful lot of them - but the good ones are still more cost effective than new, branded in a box purchases. My Britool socket set was also extremely good value as secondhand, too, but that was buying good quality at the right time and the right price!

Pero13/02/2018 14:01:43
56 forum posts

Much food for thought and more than a little introspection!

On the hand held power tool front I tend to follow the line of a cheapie for the dirty and nasty jobs and a quality one for best, although I'm not sure when best is as the cheapies tend to carry the workload. The one exception would be battery powered tools which in my case are all DeWalt. The 18/54 V Li Ion batteries stay charged for months when not used and have plenty of power when they are. Hand tools: chisels, planes etc. I buy the best I can afford and try not to abuse them.

In the engineering department, again I tend to buy the best machines that I can afford (probably more than I can afford to tell the truth) and do the job that I require, but tend to have good, better and best drills and cutters. When considering what I should pay for sacrificial/expendible items I think on a set of El Cheapo Chinese needle files that I purchased decades ago that have spent their life filing stainless steel and continue to do so (not every day of course). Who says the Chinese can't make steel? Cheap does not always equal bad. It does not necessarily equal good either - caveat emtor.

Looking back, my greatest mistakes would be the purchase of expensive tools to do a one off job that then sit on the shelf for years waiting to be called on again when an inexpensive one would have done the job adequately and could have been discarded instead of taking up that valuable shelf space for all those years.

So many tools, so little space. Time for another cull me thinks.




Gordon W13/02/2018 14:06:33
1993 forum posts

I buy stuff I need, when I need it. I bought an expensive battery drill because I had to build a roof, it did the job well and I now have a decent drill. I also bought a very cheap battery drill at the same time just to avoid changing bits, this also has lasted. I use it more than the good one just because it is much lighter. I have a very expensive socket laying about, bought for a job I can't even remember, must have been worth it at the time.

Martin Kyte13/02/2018 14:27:23
1302 forum posts
9 photos

There is also the cosideration that there are possibly 2 categories of 'cheap' tools.

Cat 1 Tools that do the job but don't neccesarily have a long life. (Not so serious.)

Cat 2 Tools that do actual damage to the job such as ill fitting screwdrivers or spanners that chew up screw heads and round off nuts. Much more serious and really should be avoided completely.

oh and there may actually be a Cat 3 . Tools that kill you like cheap ladders for instance.

regards Martin

richardandtracy13/02/2018 15:14:09
938 forum posts
10 photos

I reckon Hopper had a point about the inconvenience of a cheap tool being out of service for a while, but where is the line drawn? In my case with the cheap power tools, I've had 3 fail (with plenty of warning) in 30 years. That's an hour wasted every 10 years... However, there are lots of tools in a workshop.

I like the idea of tool categories, how critical they are and therefore how important it is to have either good tools or spares. Must admit I have been thinking about what may need spares for a while after the insert retention screw on my RH lathe tool seized and the insert wore out. Ended up having to drill out a screw I could barely see, and if I'd bodged it up, RH shoulder turning would be somewhat more difficult, and words would have been spoken. At length, with feeling.

I do agree, with battery powered tools, the more expensive ones are usually better. To avoid waste on a very cheap 12v drill driver, I was fortunate that our car battery died at roughly the same time as the screwdriver cells. The battery's no good for the car, but has plenty of oomph for a screwdriver. OK, it meant turning a cordless driver into a corded one with a big, heavy lump attached, but It now works better than it did when new.

Definitely food for thought.



Mike Poole13/02/2018 15:29:30
1406 forum posts
41 photos

A friend who worked a lot on building sites adopted the policy of buying cheap power tools on the basis that they were guaranteed for a year and if you could avoid having them stolen for a year you were doing well. The tool store in the factory usually bought Makita, the problem was they got stolen faster than they got replaced so often you were out of luck if you wanted a battery drill, good job they had air ones as well.


larry Phelan13/02/2018 15:42:40
544 forum posts
17 photos

From all the posts on this subject,it seems to be a case of "You win some,you lose some",like so many other things.

One thing to bear in mind is that years ago none of us could afford to buy many of the tools we now can,they just did not exist,so I,for one,am happy to be able to buy an angle grinder in Aldi,s for half nothing and get years of use from it [I,m still using one I bought 10 years ago ]

Good stuff when you need it [if you can find it ] and cheap stuff for the rest.

An Other13/02/2018 17:31:35
92 forum posts

My biggest annoyance is the life of the batteries for battery-powered stuff. I've had expensive and cheap battery powered drills over the years, but have invariably had battery problems. I use them often, but I wouldn't say they get 'heavy-duty' use, in the sense of being overloaded. I charge them as required, and I have even had one make which boasted that it discharged the batteries fully before charging them, to prevent the 'memory' effect. It doesn't matter what type of battery I have had, I have found they have all lasted for maybe 1 or 2 years, then they will not hold sufficient charge to make them useful.

At first, I searched for somewhere to get new batteries (goes against the grain to dump an otherwise serviceable drill), but found the cost of new batteries was often as much as 80% of the cost of a new drill, when it was possible to get them. So now I have a mains powered drill for most work, and I buy the cheapest battery drill I can find which will do the job, then throw it away and buy a new one when it begins to fail.

While on the subject, I wanted an electric chainsaw for the winter logs, and knew it would have to work hard, so I bought a Makita - about 200% of the cost of the next cheapest in the shop. After one season, I found out that the chain adjustment would not work, so stripped it to take a look - it was a flimsy threaded rod, running directly in the plastic housing. Heat transferred from the chain had softened the plastic, allowing the whole thing to move. Now I'm trying to work out how to make some kind of modification. Cost isn't always a good indicator. As Larry P says "You win some, you lose some"

Edit for senior moment.

Edited By An Other on 13/02/2018 17:32:27

Ed Duffner13/02/2018 18:26:51
694 forum posts
61 photos

An Other,

If your chain-saw is less than a year old from your date of purchase, you should be able to get it repaired under Makita warranty. I do tool repair/servicing as my day job now (since last November) for some of the major tool manufacturers.

With regard to the OP's questions - I think the time spent in a hobby workshop is too dynamic. I mean, how would we know what types of jobs we might encounter in the future and how often. It's probably easier to make predictions for a trade's-person or in a pro workshop where the type of work can tend to be of a similar nature over years and therefore tooling can be planned and purchased to suit.


Neil Wyatt13/02/2018 20:42:30
13849 forum posts
583 photos
68 articles

I have quite a complex approach, and it applies across all my hobbies as well as for things like washing machines.

First, some things (power drills, washing machines, dishwashers) shoudl be treated as having a limited lifetime. Even the best won't last forever. I tend to buy the cheapest that has a decent specification/build quality to get performance and reasonable life without spending a fortune. I am rarely disappointed and sometimes pleasantly surprised.

Things like lathes and other workshop machinery can be expected to have very long lives, but I have to work to a budget. I seek a fundamentally sound machine that I can afford and that is amenable to both repair and upgrades.My mini-lathe falls into this category, very little fundamentally wrong or poor about it but worth doing things to it and far from worn out after nearly twenty years.

My mountain bike is in the same category. I bought the best I could afford, a mid-range bike with a good frame but modest accessories. All that remains of the original bike is the frame, cranks and possibly one wheel hub... but always an excellent bike.

Some things it's nice to have top notch stuff; it's great having a Mitutoyo caliper and various bits of M&W/Starret gear but perhaps its the pleasure in handling them rather than their actual performance that is noticeably better.

Cutters are disposable items; I would never pay a price that woudl leave me gutted when I break a cutter!

Sometimes you do need to make an investment. An Epson EcoTank printer costs four to five times as much as a cheap colour printer, but has tiny running costs and outstanding performance. My Nikon bridge camera cost as much as an entry-level Canon DSLR, but offers excellent results, full manual control and has a huge and very capable zoom lens. It means I can get top quality pictures anywhere without having to lug around (or buy) a bagful of lenses.

With musical instruments it's all different again. Price is meaningless - you have to try before you buy and get the instrument that works for you. Like machine tools, it's often how you use and set up the instrument that matters more than its innate quality. A good example is the Hohner headless bass, a cheaper wooden copy of the Steinberger carbon-fibre bass that costs several times as much, with licensed Steinberger hardware. Many musicians prefer the Hohner ones as they consider they sound and play better...

Other times, sitting back and studying the available options pays off. I have managed to get an incredibly capable telescope at a silly price by looking at what people were achieving with different scopes (and price points) and waiting for a good specimen to come up second hand from a reliable source (i.e. bought direct from an enthusiast).

I was able to review the Dremel 3D40 3D printer on loan. It didn't hiccough once and gave excellent results, but was restricted to PLA and wasn't really customisable. After reviewing the options it was clear the best option for me was a higher-end kit with better (UK-based) support and upgraded parts than the really cheap kits. It has had a few minor issues, but having made it, I can repair it without drama. My next 3D printer will probably be made from scratch.

So on the one hand I have an incredibly complicated approach, but in truth it's more about making a judgement about what I need and want from the object and also balancing to what extent it is a disposable purchase or something that I expect to maintain or even upgrade.


Andrew Johnston13/02/2018 22:26:13
3969 forum posts
487 photos
Posted by richardandtracy on 13/02/2018 09:06:32:

I have seen, and that is what prompted me to start this thread, the assertion that milling cutters should be bought to last a lifetime.

We don't know who asserted that, and it's probably just as well, as it must be the daftest statement I've seen on this forum. smile

Cutting tools are disposable items with a finite life, end of story.


Hopper13/02/2018 23:18:58
2799 forum posts
44 photos

Agreed. With the low price of reasonable quality milling cutters coming out of China today, I don't think it's worth building a T&C grinder to sharpen them, other than as an exercise in itself. I have been astounded in the past couple years how cheap cutters have become and how good quality they are.

But yes, it was a different story years ago where a milling cutter was a major investement to the home shop worker. Ditto all the other workshop equipment we take for granted today. Stuff we could only dream of back in the 70s. Anything remotely exotic like silver soldering or milling etc had to be taken into work and done as a "foreign order".

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