In part one of this editorial, I discussed the international nature of large tool companies, and I laid out my basic opinion: that the “Made in…” stamp doesn’t provide enough information to determine a tool’s quality. In part two, I discussed the manufacturing process. In part three, I explained what all this means to you as a tool consumer. Read on for the conclusion: Just how the hell DO you select a tool?
A few suggestions:
1. Draw on recent experience.
Do you, or has someone you know owned the tool in question within the last 12-24 months? If so, that experience can prove incredibly valuable in making your decision. There’s almost no better way to determine whether something’s a piece of crap than talking to someone you trust. Just be ready to nod knowingly (and ignore them) if they start spewing any of the rumormongering junk above. Instead, ask important questions like: Did it fail? If so, how? How have these tools failed for you in the past?
2. Do your research.
Sources online (like Toolmonger, for example, but others as well) offer lots of details about tools including detailed specifications and descriptions of innovations (if any). If you can’t find clear information about a given feature, you’re completely right to wonder if that feature makes any damn difference. Pay close attention to features centered around reliability.
3. Don’t forget to balance price and quality.
There’s nothing wrong with owning some cheap (and even crappy) tools. My Dad used to keep a drawer of “s#Itty screwdrivers” that were fair game for use as pry bars, paint stirs, and chisels. I keep a bag full of junk hand tools for use at the junk yard — chosen carefully after some dickhead made off with $400 of more expensive stuff while I was waist-deep under a hood looking for an alternator. And when my $0.80 wrench breaks, I’m not gonna bother returning it. I’m gonna pitch it and buy another.
There’s also nothing wrong with spending for the best. In fact, if you’re a pro who depends on using the tool every day to make a living, you’re far better off spending to get both a quality tool and a simple replacement policy that’ll keep you on the job (and in the cash). Again, just make sure that that’s what you’re really getting.
And finally, realize that there’s lots of room for discussion here. We can argue for years about what makes the best tools great — and the worst crap. But please don’t buy into the “Made in…” label. If you can’t tell quality from it and it doesn’t assuredly indicate you’re supporting the country financially, what does it mean?
What do you think? Let us know in comments.