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Most construction trades jobs require you to own a set of tools before starting, which can be a significant investment. When starting in the trades, your tools are one of the most important investments you will make. However, deciding whether to splurge on higher-quality tools or opt for cheaper alternatives can be challenging with so many available options. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of both options and help you make an informed decision.
Adam Savage's Philosophy of Buying Tools
Adam Savage has the best philosophy of buying a tool when needed. If it is needed more than once a year, buy the cheapest version initially, then upgrade to the highest quality if it works in your workflow or when it breaks from overuse. For trades workers, it's essential to get something that will last a long time for everyday use and that you can buy replacement batteries for quickly, but if it's a specialty tool that you will only use once a year, you are best to buy the cheap version.
Marking Your Tools
Marking tools to ensure they do not get lost or mixed up with others in a shared workspace, shop, or job site is also a great idea. Adam recommends using colored spray paint to mark tools and avoiding tape or zip ties, which can leave residue or sharp edges.
Deciding When to Splurge on Higher-Quality Tools
Investing in high-quality tools is a wise decision, but knowing when to invest is important, especially if you are getting your first set of tools as an apprentice. The decision to splurge on higher-quality tools depends on various factors such as frequency of use, durability, and reliability.
Benefits of Cheap Tools:
- Cost-effective: Good for tight budgets.
- Ideal for Beginners: Suitable for those starting out or for infrequent use.
- Test and Upgrade: Buy cheap, upgrade if it breaks, indicating frequent use.
- Cheap Tool | Quality Blade: Sometimes, the blade, cutting edge, or bit is more important than the tool (in a multi-tool, for instance). You can buy an inexpensive electric hand tool with a more expensive, well-reviewed blade can work well.
Cons of Cheap Tools:
- Durability: It might break or wear out quickly.
- Tolerance of Tools: Typically expensive tools have tighter tolerances so they cut / drill straight for longer and hold up to years of vibration.
- Safety Concerns: May lack vital safety features.
- No Warranties: Might not come with guarantees.
Advantages of High-Quality Tools:
- Longevity: Made with superior materials, they last longer.
- Safety: Often have better safety features.
- Cost-Effective in the Long Run: Fewer replacements are needed.
- Better Performance: Enhanced efficiency and accuracy.
Drawbacks of High-Quality Tools:
- Higher Initial Cost: This might be a significant investment.
- Potential Overkill: High-cost tools may be unnecessary for infrequent use.
Choosing the Right Tool:
- Purpose & Frequency: Consider how often and for what you'll use the tool.
- Materials in Use: Specific tools for specific materials (e.g., metal vs. wood).
- Power Needs: Ensure the tool's power matches the job. Now many tool brands offer 40v versions which last much longer and are more powerful, but that means you need to buy all-new batteries and cant interchange the batteries on the job site. Most wall plug tools are a bit cheaper but you always need to find an open outlet.
- Safety First: Opt for tools with safety features and use protective gear.
If you're interested in buying used tools to save money, there are a few good places to look. Online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace can be great options, as well as local garage sales or estate sales. Be sure to thoroughly inspect the tool before purchasing to ensure it's in good condition and works with your brand of batteries.
Choosing a Brand:
- Research and Reviews: Look into brands known for durability and reliability.
- Battery Compatibility: Sticking to one brand can save on battery costs.
- Top Picks: Brands like Milwaukee, Dewalt, Bosch, Makita, and Festool are popular choices. For pliers, Knipex is premium but pricey. Royobi is a great budget option and its available at every Home Depot.
While the allure of saving with cheap tools is strong, the benefits of investing in quality tools, such as safety and longevity, often outweigh the initial cost. Your needs and budget should guide your decision, ensuring your work remains efficient and safe.