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About Tools

About Power Tools and Hand Tools
One third of any quality home improvement job is having the right tools. The other two thirds is labor and materials. As any serious do it yourselfer or contractor will tell you, having quality tools inspires quality work.

Perhaps there is nothing more frustrating than to have a tool break or breakdown in the middle of a job. Nowhere is the old adage, "You get what you pay for" more true than when it comes to tools.

Tools can be classified into four categories. These grades apply to both hand tools and power tools.

  1. Cheap grade
  2. Homeowner grade
  3. Serious Do It Yourself (DIY) grade
  4. Contractor Grade

Evaluation Time
There are three main factors to consider when grading tools.
They are:

  • how users feel about the tool's performance
  • how manufacturers target groups when marketing the tool
  • the construction of the tool

The way users feel about a particular tool's performance will often determine its intrinsic value to the user. Serious DIYers and contractors tend to develop loyalty to certain tool brands. This loyalty stems, in part, from the actual performance of the tool over a period of years and the amount of service available in the event the tool fails.

Tools that breakdown or wear out prematurely tend to get flamed (flaming refers to negative remarks) by people who've had unfortunate experiences. Most serious DIYers and contractors will not lend their quality tools to friends or relatives. A better quality tool is almost like an extension of the hands.

Manufacturers and tool makers target certain groups when marketing and promoting tools. The tendency is to break the groups into three categories:

  • light use
  • moderate use
  • heavy use

Tools and Intended Use
As you probably imagined, the intended use is reflected in the price of the tool. Intended use determines the amount of research and technology the tool maker allocates to the manufacture of the tool. It is not unusual for a tool with a heavy use rating to cost five times more than a tool with a light use rating.

However, a light use tool differs significantly from a tool with a cheap grade. Do not confuse intended use with grades. There are many excellent home owner grade tools on the market that are intended for light use. There are also many cheap tools that, according to the manufacturer, are promoted as contractor grade tools. Unfortunately, there are no objective testing standards to determine a grade.

Use Ratings
Use Ratings have to do with the average number of man hours, machine hours and/or tolerances a tool is expected to endure before it fails or needs servicing. Use Ratings also take into account how easy it is for the user to repair or have the tool repaired, including the availability of service centers in given locations when the tool fails. This does not exclude hand tools.

Tools rated for heavy use are generally more repairable if (or when) they fail. Most heavy use power tools can be repaired locally at an authorized service center at a fraction of the cost of replacing the tool. It may be more cost effective to replace light use tools. Heavy and moderate use tools are generally built to last forever if maintained properly.

Tool Construction
Tool construction is an important factor in determining the grade. Many of the cheap grade tools are not subjected to testing and will fail under moderate stress. Likewise, the internal parts of cheap power tools are often inferior.

Some manufacturers are sensitive to how users perceive their products. To ensure that the tools meet user expectations, random samples from 'lots runs' are subjected to vigorous testing for quality control. Should the random sample fail, the entire lot is inspected or discarded. To achieve these standards, as set forth by the manufacturer, the manufacturing process as well as the raw materials must meet certain standards.

Tool Grades
Tool grades overlap to some extent. Barring cheap tools, a light use tool may perform well as a homeowner grade tool and/or a serious do it yourself grade tool. Likewise, a tool graded for serious DIYers may perform well under light, moderate and heavy use for many years. See the table below.

  Cheap Homeowner Serious
Do it yourselfer
Red Checkmark Red Checkmark Red Checkmark  
  Red Checkmark Red Checkmark Red Checkmark
    Red Checkmark Red Checkmark

When you are selecting your tools, choose the proper grade for your intended use. Do not make the mistake of allowing the price of a tool to overly influence your buying decision.

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