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Cheap tools

I have always subscribed to the idea that I would rather go without something than to settle for an inferior product. My advice (when asked for) has always to buy the best you can afford. And there is no more important time to apply this "philosophy" than when buying tools.

With the large number of cheap, rather poorly made tools on the market (I wanted to use the word "glut") it is tempting to spread your tool budget a little thinner than you might otherwise consider. And with some of the best tools either being discontinued or "re-engineered," it is getting harder to avoid buying what are basically low quality tools that simply will not stand up to rigorous daily use. Things like the "classic" Porter-Cable belt sanders, the 503 and 504, are disappearing at an alarming rate and being replaced on store shelves with "new” and “improved" models that may have more features but are never going to withstand the test of time and use.

I have an old (late 70's) PC 1/2 sheet sander and a 1/4 sheet sander from the same era. They are still in good working condition and I use the frequently. I have lost count of how many "newer" DeWalt and Makita and Rigid RO sanders my shop has gone through in recent years. I have a whole box of them with broken plastic standoffs, fried electronics, failed switches ... you name it. Sometimes I can dig into those and scavenge parts to keep one going for a while longer but it's almost more trouble than it's worth. It is obvious when you try to repair one of these things that they were never intended to be repaired.

I realize that the new sanders have features like variable speed and random orbit action and hook and loop pads that the old tools didn't have. And I understand that these features can make the new tools seem much better than their older counterparts. I just don't understand why "new" and "improved" has to translate into "lower quality.”


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