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The Task Force jigsaw we have here in the shop died last week. We’d like to be upset about it, but we’re actually amazed it lasted this long. The Task Force cost us $19 brand new — and though it was never a looker, it did work for a little over a year.

When you break it down, our saw cost us a little over a dollar a month during its time here. We’d have liked it to hold on another year, but the non-stop action in the shop of hard knocks didn’t exactly prolong its service life.

In the end we’re left with this question: Is it better to pay up for a longer-lasting tool, or to take the disposable tool for all it’s worth and see what you get out of it? Looking back over the life of the saw this last year, we’re inclined to think we got our money’s worth out of it. What do you think? Is this a bad deal or a great way to get some work done cheap? Let us know in comments.

Task Force Orbital Action Jigsaw [Lowe’s]


29 Responses to Death Of A Jigsaw

  1. Chris says:

    The problem I have is how do you know that spending more money is going to get you a better tool? For commodity things like a Jigsaw how many different designs are there out in the world? It’s such an established tool that you won’t seem too many engineering differences. The commodity tools are all seem to be equal. Another example is the market for 1/4 sheet finish sanders. No matter who makes it the design is the same.

  2. John says:

    well, there’ the resource waste issue. A more durable tool won’t die in a year and that’ll be less trash and stuff to throw out, if you take the green view.

    But the real issue for me is ‘will this tool crap out on me in the middle of a project?’ and if it does, can I deal with it or should I pony up some more for something that I can depend on. For major stationary tools, I’d rather have something I can depend on, since replacement will take some time/coordination. for small things, I hate disposable tools, but sometimes they fit the bill, so long as I can replace the tool during a project if it dies (cost, availability, and time (shipping if bought online) all being factors here for me). But even here I often lean towards the buy once/cry once camp.

  3. fred says:

    Re Chris Says:

    Knowing if the design is the same is really the rub.
    Does the tool use quality ball/roller/needle bearings or just some plastic against metal junk as bearings – or maybe only some grease lubricated sleeves? What’s the quality of the switch(es). – and how many operations can you expect out of them. If it is a circular saw – is it fitted with a decent blade? What about its sole plate – some wimpy piece of sheet metal that will bend and warp? How about bearings and blade runout? Are the motor brushes of adequate length to provide a normal life – or has this been cheapened up too. Does the motor have thermal overload protection – or will you just burn the whole tool up if you push it too hard. Does it sport a long rubber-insulated cord or a cheap plastic insulated cord that will stiffen and/or crack in the cold. What is the housing made of – high quality impact-resistant plastic or something less? And on and on.

    If I were buying tools to use only once in a while – and could send someone to run out and buy new anytime the old one failed – then I might say that all sanders are the same. But – sending someone off to a tool supplier or Lowes etc. when we are in the middle of a job – is bad business.

    Thank you but I’ll stick to my Bosch jigsaws – not Task Force or some other sourced-out low end tool.

  4. Will says:

    Commodity tool? A power tool like a jig saw is hardly on the commodity level; I mean it is not like a basic 16 oz claw hammer. I generally viewed jig saws as the last resort saw (weak cutting, the vibration,etc), but after I got my Bosch barrel grip (1581evsk), it is a different story.

    To me it comes down to more than the cost per month. There are things like the power/capability of the tool, features and reliability. I really don’t want to stop in the middle of a job to go out and pick up the next replacement tool because I tried to skimp. Yes, you could buy 7 of these for the cost of the barrel grip; are they worth it? Heck no.

  5. John says:

    For me, I will pay more both for reliability and longevity, but also for the quality of the work that the tool does. With jigsaws, I’ve found that the cheaper ones don’t cut as well as the more expensive ones (they tend to drift off lines, and have problems making perfectly vertical cuts). Also, a quality tool tends to just “feel right” when I use it.

  6. Loren says:

    The deciding factor should be, how much do you use the tool? Is it something that you will use every day, once a week? Every couple of months? If its just a one of job, and you have never needed it before, and don’t see any immediate use for it in the future.. I think a $20 “Disposable” tool is a great idea. Especially for those quick, rough jobs. If it’s a tool that you’re going to use often, or know you will use it for many projects, then it’s less about the cost, and more about, comfort, quality, and maybe features. But In my mind, it always going to be the best option to buy something that will last as long as possible, have a good warranty, and will be easy to find service and parts for. Many of my power tools are over 10 years old, by that math, that $20 dollar a year get-the-job-done saw, winds up costing more in the long haul. And that’s not even getting all earthy crunchy and looking at the environmental costs of disposable tools.

  7. cb says:

    i think that’s actually a really philosophical question. because i think you have to ask yourself a lot of questions — like what both chris and john mentioned respectively: is the extra money going to add any value and is buying a cheap tool a waste of resources?

    it’s hard to know whether a “quality,” more expensive tool is really going to last you longer. though i would hope that it would last longer than a year, it’s a valid question. things these days are made with planned obsolescence in mind so it’s reasonable to question how much more use you’re going to get out of the expensive, higher quality tool versus the cheaper, lower quality one.

    believe me, there are a lot of people out there asking this very question and are trying to get as much money out of you and me on this question. it’s a mix of buying philosophy, brand loyalty, marketing, and price points. i don’t think there’s one answer to your question. i am pretty sure it depends on the tool and which particular cheap and expensive tools you’re comparing.

  8. Almurph says:

    I think that what it really comes down to is what are you going o do with the tool. For rough cuts and the occasionaluse, a cheap(er) saw will be fine. For heavy duty or precision work a higher quality tool will make a huge difference.

  9. Charles Anderson says:

    My dad used to say “buy the best you can afford, and it will last a lifetime”. After having a bunch of tools lost over the years. I have this new philosophy. Buy a cheap ass tool and if you actually use it enough to wear it out. Then go out and buy the best you can afford.

    You wore out the cheap one, you are obviously using the tool enough that a higher quality unit will make a difference in A) Your project outcome or B) Your pleasure in using the tool.

    I say, do the research, and buy the best you can afford. Look for one with replaceable parts (bearings, brushes, and Cords).

    Notice I said “best” and not “most expensive”. Those two are not always the same.

  10. modernman says:

    I have the bosch barrel grip and it’s worth every penny. I think of cheap jigsaws as mini pavement breakers that take blades for some reason. I can’t imagine using one of these cheapo saws is good for your wrist.

  11. mike t says:

    For me its all about the features, The harbor freight saw of the same price has a laser, whereas this saw doesnt….

  12. joel says:

    I can’t believe that in 2008 it’s considered “earthy crunchy” to consider the environmental costs of such a disposable power tool.

    I’m an industrial designer, and I get a cold chill reading these arguments in favor of the cheapo throw-away jig saw.

  13. MikeT says:

    First purchase of a tool, buy cheap. If you wear it out, upgrade. An alternate strategy is to combine the two and buy a good tool cheap from a pawn shop.

  14. I have a solid aluminum cased Skil saw jigsaw that I bought at a tool swapmeet for $3. I had to find a set screw that fit the blade holder to put it to work. It cost $.24

    It’s probably 50 years old and will surely outlive me, though at some point my son may have to open it up and put in new brushes.

    It’s 50% heavier than my cheap plastic one (which minimizes vibration) and VASTLY more powerful.

  15. l_bilyk says:

    Buy a good quality tool and you only buy once. My bosch jigsaw is damn near bullet-proof and cuts really well. It’s cheaper to run than your task force jigsaw because I will probably own that tool for a lifetime. And during that time it will cut better because the base is square and solid and because it’s a hefty saw.

  16. Joe Birmingham says:

    I bought a $20 Black & Decker jigsaw from Home Depot. I used it once and tossed it in the trash. It did not break down but it cut so poorly that I did not like having it in my garage.

    You don’t have to buy the best but you should at least buy good when it comes to power tools.

  17. kif says:

    I still have a B&D I bought in downtown Leavenworth, KS in 1984. It is mustard/baby poop yellow in color, the de rigeur power tool color of the time. It has a hole labeled ‘oil’ that I have ignored to this point. I got it when I was 13 and it was my everything saw until I bought a B&D circular saw in ’87. It’s helped put together many a planter, bookshelf, model train benchwork in my youth. It’s done bodywork. My Dad pruned with it. I still use it, even though I bought a high-line Dewalt last fall. It just keeps kicking butt.

  18. Manny says:

    Anyone who has tool use experience knows that for every day use, you ONLY buy brand name you know and trust. They will also have a honourable warranties as well. A solid name brand tool will always go on sale at some point so you can pretty much get it close to cheapy china prices if you’re patient enough. If you pay full price, its still worth it. I stay away from the “china” route as much as possible. Unfortunately in this day and age you sometimes are left with no choice. I don’t like they way this cheap crap made in sweat shop countries promotes a “disposable world”. Like :

    “oh well, it was only $20.00. If it breaks in a few months or so I can always afford to buy another….”

    Mass producing cheap crap just seems like a waste of material. especially with so many “green” issues going on in our planet. Don’t you think its time we do things more efficiently? everthing counts..

    Make it well, price it accordingly and stand by your product.

  19. ambush27 says:

    Some tools can be bought cheap and some tools should be bought for quality, This mostly depends on usage. If you are buying a micrometer or precision instrument of any kind buy quality, if you are buying a sledgehammer, its up to you. I have been really disappointed with the quality of many of the cheaper power tools and now would only buy mid to upper end gear when it comes to power tools, but it scarcely matters when buying an anvil.

  20. fred says:

    I see many good thoughts posted – and some make a good distinction between what you purchase for work which may need to be OSHA compliant and more reliable than that what you purchase for home use. There is another perspective that was voiced about some name brand tools having better features that make the tool work better. Jigsaws are a case in point – where lower blade bearings make a great deal of difference in the quality of cut. I also read the comment about why not start out cheap and upgrade as your skils build. That’s probably OK if the cheap provides the necessary level of serviceablility and performance. If it doesn’t the novive user may walk away from the tool/task frustrated and thinking that the task was impossible for him or her. I had a new employee tell me that a bandsaw was not up to producing reliable cuts. This was apparently based on his buying and trying to use a cheap benchtop machine that was as much a board vibrator as it was a saw. He came to a different conclusion when using our Laguna on wood (he has yet to be in the metal fab shop and see the Armstrong-Blum machine).

  21. J.R. Bluett says:

    I can tell you at least one point of side-by-side comparison, and then later you’ll have to read the Hands-On that is coming out on the Skil jigsaw. (There is already one on the TaskForce in the archives. http://toolmonger.com/2007/02/04/hands-on-the-task-force-orbital-action-jigsaw/)
    We were cutting out the trial run for Bob the big dino for Maker Faire and I torqed too hard on our old Skil and broke it. This happened pretty early in the hundreds of feet of cutting. So I pulled out the Task Force and went back to work. It worked fine and it ran pretty solidly for something like the next day and a half before it quit. It’s a good tool.
    Then we got the new Skil jigsaw. The speed with which the Skil blew through the cuts was dramatically higher. At least in this case, if you have a big job to do, the extra cost for the Skil is probably worth the time you will save.
    If you just need a jigsaw, and you won’t need it much or often, save the money and get the Task Force.

  22. Noah says:

    The thing that struck me while reading this discussion was:

    Presumably you’re going to strive to create long lasting, high quality products with this tool. (Sure, some jobs are going to be rougher or more temporary than others, but this is generally true, I’d imagine.) Shouldn’t you be valuing the same principles of design and manufacture in your tools that you value in your own work?

    (I would feel bad and kind of ashamed if a cabinet or a chair I made was thoughtlessly tossed away because it broke due to shoddy materials or craftsmanship.)

  23. l_bilyk says:

    I still can’t agree. You can buy a bosch 1587AVSK for well under 100 dollars. It’s alot more than 20 dollars, but it’s a much better jigsaw. For many years this was the hands-down best jigsaw money could buy. Yeah it costs 4 times as much as this thing, but you won’t have to replace it any time soon, and it cuts like a dream. Yes it costs more, but a hundred dollars doesn’t go very far these days

  24. fred says:

    Re l_bilyk Says:

    4 of these saws will never equal 1 Bosch. My mechanics like to know that the blade will not defelect and wander in a cut – even in 8/4 oak – and that the tool can be relied on for both rough cutting and finish work. We use our bosch barrel grips with a coping foot all of the time to create molding copes where the joint line is nearly invisible – maybe if we were making backyard decorative cutouts – close enough would be good enough – but its not for us.

  25. kif says:

    I would address Sean’s original question as to whether or not he got his money’s worth out of the tool. The answer is yes. Every once in a while you hit into something good that’s a pleasant surprise. I think that’s the point of the post. I bought the Dewalt because I wanted something nice to replace the B&D, but as long as the B&D can turn out the same results, I think I should use it and use it up. Sometimes you take a chance and it turns out good, and you only chanced $20 or so. Nobody is suggesting you change your plans to buy that Bosch and go to Harbor Freight. Sometimes tools are like “two-buck Chuck.”

  26. PutnamEco says:

    Do the math. 1 saw for 1 year @ $20 per. 1 saw for 10+ years @ $150.
    seven years to equal, You going to need to saw for more than seven years, or do you plan to quit before then?

    Note That $20 dollar saw will probably be about $30 in 5 years.
    and we’re not mentioning all the time you’ll spend on trips to the store and the easier time you’ll have using the quality saw.

  27. bob says:

    For me I buy the low cost power tools for most things, & spend the money to buy the good bits or blades to go with it. I have a lot of tools that I can use to develop skills with. If I end up using a tool a lot I’m sure it will eventually breakdown & then I’ll buy a higher quality one to replace it. But most of my tools just don’t get enough use to justify payng 3 or 4 times the cost for a Dewalt one.

    But if I were a contractor or professional I would buy the high quality tools, because they will see more use in a year than my tools will in a lifetime.

  28. SuperJdynamite says:

    I generally afford better quality tools by biding my time and waiting until I see one on CraigsList. This strategy has worked out well for me.

    I also buy good quality specialized tools this way (like a Bostitch flooring stapler) instead of renting them. When I’m done I’ll put them back onto CraigsList. It ends up being cheaper and less hurried than renting.

  29. SuperJdynamite says:

    “Another example is the market for 1/4 sheet finish sanders. No matter who makes it the design is the same.”

    I used to think that. I picked up a 1/4 sheet sander from Habor Freight using the philosophy of “it just needs to vibrate — how much better could the expensive ones be?”

    Well, it vibrates, all right. It vibrates every bone and joint in my hand and forearm. It’s pretty painful to use. If you tried to use it in a production setting I’m confident it would cause joint injury in fairly short order.

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