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Cheap tool fiascos

Treetalk_'s picture

Okay weve all done it! Bought that great price tool only to have it meltdown,explode whimper and die. So lets have it...and lets try and keep the expense to under $20-$30 anything higher were ashamed,hurt or plain mad.Example: Guy I work with brings ext. cord to job says he got great buy at one of those tractor trailer/armory sales.We plug the old makita into it and start to rip a 2X and I swear it looked just like a string of Chinese firecrackers zooming right to the outlet where it popped .All we could to is laff.Turns out cord had nice thick insulation and about 26 g.auge wire.

(post #120602, reply #1 of 25)

Sometimes you get a surprise... About 7 years ago I bought a cheapo B&D sawzall. I mean like under $100. It even says "Do-it-yourselfer line" right on the stupid thing. Thought it would last a year and then I'd just throw it out. Well, 7 years later it's still cutting. Kind of been hoping it would burn out so I could buy a Milwaukee. Might have to throw it off the roof yet.

(post #120602, reply #2 of 25)

When I first got out of High school I spent a summer working with a mechanic who really stressed the importance of good tools. I admired him alot and learned alot from him. As a result I always have bought top quality tools. A few years after we both moved on I was working for a guy who thought it was absured to spend top dollar on tools. He shopped at flea markets and yard sales for his. One day we were tightening track bolts down. They require alot of torque. He was going on about how foolish I was for blowing money on good tools. Said I didn't have my priorities straight,blah blah blah. I took out my 3/4" Proto socket set, attached a 5 foot cheater pipe on the end and stood on the end. (220 pounds at the time.) Smiled at him and invited him to do the same with his. I enjoyed the rest of the day in silence.

(post #120602, reply #3 of 25)

Don't have much use for crescent wrenches, so I bought a 4 pack for $15. Imagine the quality. All I wanted it for was the biggest one to keep on hand in my truck for changing the ball on my hitch. And as it turns out, it's not even able to do that. There is so much slop in the threads and so much wobble in the jaws that you can't even turn the nut on my hitch. I'm still trying to find some unsuspecting friend to pass them on to.

(post #120602, reply #4 of 25)

I never buy cheap tools as I have no patience when they fail. That being said, I have sitting in my shop a Milwaukee Sawz-all that quit after one year. And I have two or three Arrow hammer tackers on the same shelf ( We now use the Rapid line which is less expensive and performs much better).

(post #120602, reply #5 of 25)

I buy good Frued router bits now because I once locked in a MCLS bit and when I turned it on in the router table, one of the cutting carbides nicked my earlobe on the way to the cieling where it made a nasty hole. The resulting off balancec twiched the armature of my router enough to ruin it. Must've saved 2-3 dollars on that bit when I bought it

(post #120602, reply #6 of 25)

Most times you get what you pay for. Sometimes you get lucky. I've been screwing around with cars for 20 years, and have been a master mechanic/master engine machinist for the last ten. I now own my own speed/off road shop. I got a central pneumatic cutoff tool that's still kicking after 15 yrs of hard use, and believe me, CP is junk! I also realize that my average size prybars get beat to hell after 2-3 years no matter what brand they are, so I use the cheapo flea-market brand($5-set compared to $50), and replace them as needed. The bulk of my tools(about $30k) is Snap-on(box included). I've been through all kinds from when I started out. Craftsmen stuff is NOT pro duty quality, but acceptable for light work. Lifetime warranty? GOOD...your gonna need it. Home cheapo/Husky-garbage. A few years back, Snap-on had a demo of a school bus with a toolbox under each wheel-you were invited to walk up and open/close all the drawers...not that I regularly park vehicles on my toolbox, but it sure showed how well it was built.
On the other hand, in my own shop, I've got armory-sale jackstands, floor jack, and engine hoist. Why? Because that stuff doesn't take brain surgery to build(like the prybars). If that engine hoist is rated to handle 4,000lbs, I figure it'll really handle 2,000(because it's a junk brand) and that's more that it'll ever see. Same logic applies to the jackstands, etc.

Gunner, most 3/4" torque wrenches are rated to 600lb/ft(so I would assume the sockets,etc. the same), and I figure you had about 990lb/ft on it. Not bad at all! Proto isn't exactly a pro brand, but obviously it's not junk.

Sorry for the long post guys......

(post #120602, reply #7 of 25)

Hey Harbor Frieght has its triumphs and diasters.CP electric Impact hammer lasted 6 bolts, a set of wood bits that folded over and bent when pressure was applied,. ect. But for heavy metal nonelctrical stuff you wonder how they can even ship it for free like my 60 bench vise.I believe there are cases for sacrificial tools.MMMmmm ..wondering about that $9.99 cordless it disposable?

(post #120602, reply #8 of 25)

My worst experience was with a hammer for doing body work. I bought this thing for $6, because I was poor and it was the only one I could find at the time. So I started my work, and gave the body panel exactly 4 whacks before the head flew off the steel handle. It was then that I realized the head was fastened with electrical tape! I brought the thing back to where I bought it (the largest Canadian hardware retailer) and had to argue to get my money back. The clerk said 'what do you expect from a cheap tool?' to which I replied that at $1.50 a whack it was one hell of an expensive hammer.
Needless to say, I have rarely bought anything from that chain in the past 20 years.

(post #120602, reply #9 of 25)

Mike,Proto is made by Snapon, and I've seen them around alot. Not cheap but worth it, I love my set. I still have them twenty years later.

(post #120602, reply #10 of 25)

I have decided that tools, like people, are all individuals. I would bet that three tools, same make model, will all perform differently over their lifetime. (sounds like a good tool test)
I've tried to settle the great tool debate single handedly by owning one of just about everything.
I've got a mila'kee right angle drill, $$$ powerful, runs smooth, but I've had to replace the chuck and the switch, it's less than a year old. My super cheap Black and decker drill that I got ages ago just won't die, and believe me I've tried. What gives? And what is going on with my Ryobi router.! I could put four wheels on that thing and drive it to work. I know you all hate dewalt, but I dropped my 14.4 drill off of a two story building in Mexico, it bounced twice on the concrete, and is still running strong three years and much more abuse later.
I do walk right by thoes discount tool bins though, I wouldn't take anything out of their unless they duct taped it to a beer and passed it out for free.

(post #120602, reply #11 of 25)

When it comes to switches, they all come from one of two manufacturers and like all electrical devices, can fail occasionally.
I know of a guy who couldn't drive his new expensive tool- a truck- because he broke the key off in the ignition switch.

(post #120602, reply #12 of 25)


In the old days, before tool companies were bought up by two or three companies, Snap On was at the bottom of the list for quality. The old professional lines of tools , that is those that were used MOST by the pros in the field, were Williams, Proto, Ridgid, Crescent, Ingersol-Rand, and Diamaloy (to name a few). Craftsman hand tools were very popular also, and were very top quality.

Over the years, Snap On became increasingly more popular in the professional shops because of marketing, and the fact that they came to you in a truck loaded with tools. They would sell you these tools on credit, and that made them desireable. Matco did the same thing, and became almost as popular as Snap On before they blew the marketing end of their business.

Over the years, Snap On increased their quality because they dealt with pros only, and their tools could not be bought in a store by everyday people. The shops were their market, and they did very well there. The other tool companies needed a way to get their tools to sell, so they concentrated on homeowner versions. This cut production costs tremendously, and enabled them to cut costs. They may sell more tools now than Snap On, but they sell them to more non professionals than professionals. The quality reflects this.

A few tool companies still concentrated on the pro market, and their tools are as good, if not better than Snap On. Sears Industrial tools are one such brand. These are NOT the same hand tools that you buy out of their store, although you can order them from the store. Only problem with the Industrial line is if they break, the store must order a replacement. Longer wait for a replacement. Of course, if you have a problem with Snap On tools, you gotta wait for the truck to come back to the shop, and hope they have one on the truck. If not, you will wait for the tool to come in, and then wait for a delivery.

When I was teaching Automotive Technologies, we used the Sears Industrial tools for cost reasons. We had lots of Snap On tools also, and a few Matco tools. The Sears Industrial tools performed as well as any of the others, and outlasted some of the best. Kids WILL test tools to their limits, and they break quite a few just to see if they could.

It is mostly a matter of preference, and like many pro sports teams, everybody has their favorite.

Just a thought...

James DuHamel

(post #120602, reply #13 of 25)

Hey Mike williams... Trus me on this, that old B&D sawzall will run circles around the new Milwaukee. Save your money for something that will repay you. Just buy another low priced B&D.

(post #120602, reply #14 of 25)

I've only had limited experience with Sears Industrial, so I hesitate to pass judgement on them. All I am saying is that, IMO(an informed one at that), Snap-on tools are far and above the best tools I have used in my experience. Below them I would put MAC, then CI, then Matco. The rest are in the budget bin.
Here's an example. After beating a craftsman 1/2" impact gun around for about 3 years(and 4 rebuilds), I broke down and bought what was then Snap-on's new IM5100 gun. That was in 1991, when I was an A tech at a Mitsu dealer. It has never been repaired or rebuilt, and has just about as much power now as it did 10 years ago. And that's after 10 years of constant use-not rotating my wife's tires every six months in the driveway-all day, everyday.

Yes, it was expensive, but yes it was worth it when I think of time and frustration saved.

From a professional wrench turner, I've used no better.

(post #120602, reply #15 of 25)

Hughes Tool and Die ring a bell anyone. They made some of the best and the worst lines of tools. Several are mentioned in this thread. Cheap tools cost more than expensive ones. Ever had an end wrench slip while your working in a confined space. I usually loose about 15 minutes looking for band aids and another 15 minutes trying to get them out of the wrappers. Then I spend even more time because I have to go out and buy a decent tool to finish the job.

Bottom line ---- I just doesn't pay to be cheap on your tools if you plan to make a living using them or not.

(post #120602, reply #16 of 25)

I was cutting something in a floor with a circ saw using a blade from the famous Canadian hardware retailer Brian Piccioni mentions above. I touched, jsut barely touched, a nail and every one of 30-odd teeth flew off that blade.

Most embedded themselves in the wall about ten feet away. Three or four went through the glass on a picture just like shotgun pellets. Fortunately for me they didn't then go on through the picture.

When everything calms down, I poke around in the saw kerf and pull a 2" finish nail not cut all the way through.

Now I still buy cheap blades because I often cut in places where there might be nails but I sure don't buy from Canadian Tire any more.

(post #120602, reply #17 of 25)

Hey Ron,

The only tools worth buying at " Crappy Tire " IMO are the Mastercraft Professional series sockets & wrenches . Lifetime replacement gaurantee & 99% stock in the bigger stores.
I wonder who actually makes them ?

(post #120602, reply #18 of 25)

I'm thinking Mastercraft might be K-mart(Benchtop), but I don't know who makes them. Then again I could be way off.

(post #120602, reply #19 of 25)

mccraneconstruction in post#4- you shoulda sent dat mcwacky sawzall back to the maker. they stand behind their products pretty well. call even now and i'll bet they're take care of you.

(post #120602, reply #20 of 25)

Not sure who makes the master craft product line but I do know it's not all that hot. I have a set of their 1/2" metric sockets and a sidewinder. The side winder is o.k. once you figure out the inaccuracies and you can't use a guide at full depth because the motor is too close to the foot. The sockets are all right but I haven't really stressed them too much. My standard sets are all Hughes Tool and Die Proto, passed down through the family. If you knew my family you would have no problem understanding the durability of the Proto tool line.

(post #120602, reply #21 of 25)

$8 6" stamped-steel dado set from Menards used in a secondhand Crapsman portable table saw. Pure comedy - good thing I kept my expectations low and only tried to use it once!


(post #120602, reply #22 of 25)

Here's one. ATD 1/2" impact sockets. Bought 'em maybe 10 years ago as a second set, they shortly went into full-time use, still using them! And that includes 10 years on the business end of a 600lb-ft impact gun. Sometimes ya get lucky I guess.

(post #120602, reply #23 of 25)

I guess I'm due to include a lesson learned too, about 10 yrs ago, MAC introduced the "ROBO-GRIP" pliers that Bob Villa is hawking for Sears these days. I bought a set-looked like a great idea. MAC dropped 'em a couple of years later-why?

Because they SUCK!!!!! They've got more dust on'em than wear because they simply do NOT work as well as ya might think.

Aside from taking up drawer space, the only thing they do well is destroy any relatively soft metal(copper,alum), when those laminated steel jaws slide around whatever yer trying to hold.

(post #120602, reply #24 of 25)

Bought a right angle drill attachment from HD for drilling joists for my staple-up radiant tubing. I got maybe 3 inch & a quarter holes done and the gears stripped out. Took it back and they gave me another one. That one lasted 2 holes. Bought a Milwaukee right angle drill. End of problem.

(post #120602, reply #25 of 25)

Sometimes you do luck out. Most of my hand tools are top quality. I will buy a cheap hand tool if I think I will destroy it on the job I am working. About 10 years ago I needed a 9/16 and a 5/8 deep well sockets that I figured I would destroy on an impact wrench. I was borrowing the electric impact wrench and didn't want to buy a whole set of nice impact sockets. So down to the local ODD LOTs( very cheap junk if you are not aware), I went. I got a 9 piece SAE set for $3 or$4. They were so cheap they didn't even have a name brand. They were not even impact sockets. You can't kill them, and believe me I've tried. I have even loaned them out, hoping that they would die. They have rebuilt two Harley's, a chevy and countless houses. I even lost them in the a yard for a whole winter once. The chrome won't even crack, A statement I can't make about my $200 Craftsman set. The cheap metal rail that came with it has even outlasted any other socket organizer that I have owned as long. I have since bought an impact wrench and a nice set of sockets. I guess if you don't expect much from a cheap tool, you will occasionally be amazed by the ones that last.