Cheap vs Expensive tools

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Jan 9, 2008
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I've recently gone back to school after many, (too many to say) years of work. I'm studying HVAC and thought it was time to replace some of a lifetime of tools that I have. I've used tools all my life, so I know what I want. Although I like the 'made in the USA', I'm trying to be completely objective here. We were give some very expensive tools for school, most of which were Klein. After using the Klein phillips screwdriver for only a few weeks, it began to cam out of screws easily, making it a pain to use. One day after school I stopped by HF and picked up the Pittsburg Pro screwdriver set and a bunch of extra size singles they had, making a very complete set. I figured for around $20, I'd see how they fared. Well, I gotta tell you, they're pretty darn good. After three months of use, they work like new and are some of the best I've used for worn screw heads, and their handles are perfect. So good, in fact, I gave all my Craftsman screwdrivers away to the kids, and neighbors. I was simply amazed. The guys at school have been using them and can't believe it either, we've yet to destroy one. On a whim, I was at HD and saw a set of Milwaukee screwdriveers that have the wire stripper and hole for bending wire, so I bought them to. They are fantastic also, and remain in my tool bag for service. I was so surprised at the lack of quality metal in the Klein drivers, they just don't hold up at all. My tools also came with nutdrivers from Klein, and I added some magnetic Klein nutdrivers to the kit. I love them, and they work great, but in the end it's hard to screw up making a nutdriver. I mean hollow shaft, and hex on the end is pretty hard to screw up. But they do work well. I messed with some of the new Milwaukee magnetic drivers, and they're not so hot, the magnet is so far up inside the socket, that it won't hold a screw at all, which is the whole purpose of a magnet, so I guess you can screw up a "magnetic" nutdriver! A lot of the other drivers that are magnetic are not hollow, so Klein wins here by a huge margin. The Klein crecent wrench in the kit was junk too, not a wide mouth version, and no more well made than a Craftsman of a much cheaper price. Not junk, but certainly a waste of $30. I gave it away and bought a Husky from HD, with wide mouth and very well fitted jaws. A lot of adjustable wrenches have jaws that are not parallel, usually narrower at the tips, and when you try to pull the wrench off for another turn, it jams. The Huskys are very parallel indeed, and no slop in the moveable jaw. I also liked the Channellock wrench, but couldn't find one when I wanted one. As for pliers, Klein is a good bet, they're made well and you pay for it. Some of the HF stuff is ok, IF you look it over and get a good one, but really hit or miss. I think I'll stick with Klein here. If you want a set of long nose pliers for electrical work, Klein makes what they call the All Purpose pliers, which are long nose, with wire strippers built into the jaws, and spring loaded handles. They are EXCELLENT, and I use them every day. There is another variation, without spring loaded handles, but with a wire crimper, which are on my list to buy. So, I guess all this is to say, you have to pick and choose, look around and don't write off cheap as junk until you've tried it. Look at it this way, a Klein phillips screwdriver at HD is around $13, and I've heard Klein is not good about replacements. A HF is $8.99 for the set on sale, and singles are usually less than $3, if you break one, or wear one out, or simply just get mad at it, they hand you a new one. Not bad.
 
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The run of the mill screwdrivers from HF are surprisingly good. I bought mine for "free" with a coupon a few years ago. They are now my junkyarding set and haven't let me down once.
 
Joined
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I bought a set of screwdrivers made in Asia many years ago. They work better on "metric" Phillips screws than my Craftsman set which goes back to the days when Craftsman made good products. I wouldn't use anything but the Asian drivers on expensive Japanese electronics.
 
Joined
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Originally Posted By: HerrStig
I bought a set of screwdrivers made in Asia many years ago. They work better on "metric" Phillips screws than my Craftsman set which goes back to the days when Craftsman made good products. I wouldn't use anything but the Asian drivers on expensive Japanese electronics.
I believe the Japanese phillips is a slightly different shaped head than a normal one.
 
Joined
Nov 25, 2011
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Seattle, WA
I bought another set of the HF "free" screwdrivers last week, and I have to say, they recently switched their material formulation, because the cast on these is rough and porous. They haven't broken yet, but they aren't the same as another set I bought a couple years ago that were great.
 
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Originally Posted By: Donald
Originally Posted By: HerrStig
I bought a set of screwdrivers made in Asia many years ago. They work better on "metric" Phillips screws than my Craftsman set which goes back to the days when Craftsman made good products. I wouldn't use anything but the Asian drivers on expensive Japanese electronics.
I believe the Japanese phillips is a slightly different shaped head than a normal one.
It's obvious on the brass screws on high end Japanese communications gear.
 
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[/quote] I believe the Japanese phillips is a slightly different shaped head than a normal one. [/quote] Correct answer, I work primarily on Japanese motorcycles and the majority of them are equipped with JIS (Japan Industrial Standard) screws. If you see screw heads like these with a dot imprinted they are JIS types. Here is some JIS screwdrivers. Just search JIS screwdrivers on Amazon and you can find them.
 
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May 27, 2013
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New York
I think there's no way to be a "Tool Guy," today, without having a box filled with Globally Sourced tools. Being loyal to only one brand or one Country of Origin is limiting. My box is a Mutt box; a mix of everything from everywhere. There's Snap On at the high end and Harbor Freight at the low end but I'll also add that there's nothing in my box which I consider to be junk or disposable. I also wouldn't say that there's nothing I have which can't be replaced except maybe some of the tools I got from my Dad. I keep those for sentimental reasons and they'll go to my sons when I can't use them anymore. Cheap tools, to me, mean poorly made tools which don't perform their intended purpose well and price has nothing to do with being cheap. Cheap doesn't necessarily mean inexpensive just like expensive doesn't always mean that it's the best or even good. I have always bought what I considered to be quality tools and price was usually not the primary factor in makin my choice. Sometimes my tool purchases are pricey and other times they're the lowest priced items on the shelf. I have rarely been disappointed by my inexpensive tool purchases because I put alot of thought into them. This past weekend I was working on an old boat which was still in the water. No way was I going to use Expensive Snap On tools for the job we had to do. The Marina had a box full of Pittsburgh Pro Combination wrenches which I used very effectively. Now, I have to say that these wrenches weren't finished very well and they were not very comfortable in the hand but they worked and they worked well. In fact, I'm actually a bit surprised That I cranked on them as hard as I did and that I didn't get the open end to spread and damage a fastener. I'm not kidding, I figured, beforehand, that I would at least damage the wrench the way I was using it but it didn't even break a sweat. Make your tool purchase choices wisely and you'll never own a cheap tool. -Valentine
 
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Joined
May 21, 2013
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Saskatchewan, Canada
The short answer is it's almost always worthwhile to choose good quality tools over the least expensive options ... buy a cheap tool twice, or replace a cheap tool with a more robust one, and chances are you've spent more than it would have cost to go with qualtiy in the first place. Re: Phillips and JIS tools ... Phillips are specifically designed to cam out when the fastener torque is exceeded, which is why you can't say absolutely that a Phillips driver that cams out is defective. It may be working perfectly to spec. JIS drivers will not cam out, and JIS drivers can be used on Phillips fasteners. Going the other way, you CANNOT use Phillips drivers on JIS fasteners; you will deform or destroy the fastener. So, the answer is do not buy Phillips drivers in the first place, get JIS drivers instead.
 
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Feb 9, 2008
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Originally Posted By: bchannell
A HF is $8.99 for the set on sale, and singles are usually less than $3, if you break one, or wear one out, or simply just get mad at it, they hand you a new one. Not bad.
I suppose if you enjoy supporting a country that has a history of poor product quality and safety, horrid labor standards, and some of the worst environmental issues imaginable, then making a point to purchase something from Harbor Freight is acceptable. They are a leader, along with WalMart, in making China a world power. If you are comfortable with a company that has a history of disregarding the dignity of their employees, and has been in the midst of a family ownership squabble for the last few years (the son managed to leverage the father out of the business) then financially supporting Harbor Freight is probably acceptable to you. For the above reasons, as well as a myriad of quality issues, I don't financially support Harbor Freight, and as often as possible I choose not to financially support Chinese manufacturing.
Originally Posted By: Valentine
I think there's no way to be a "Tool Guy," today, without having a box filled with Globally Sourced tools.
That simply isn't true. I can and do go to estate auctions or farm auctions and pick up very high quality, pre-owned tools. Virtually every tool that I own is made in the USA or at least non-China, and all are excellent quality. I don't get to show off a matched set of shiny new tools in a fancy plastic carrier, but that has never been a priority for me, and I can't imagine it being a priority for a real "tool guy". Another advantage is that by buying a lot at auction I end up with multiples of almost every hand tool, so I can donate the items I don't need to a place like Habitat for Humanity. And by doing so I support local businesses (the auction company) as well as local people (the local family holding the auction), and I pay a lot less than the retail price for new tools.
 
Joined
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Apple Valley, California
Every tool company makes winners and losers. HF has great impact sockets and air tools. Snapon has the best sockets and wrenches bar none. Matco has the best impact swivel sockets.
 
Joined
Mar 30, 2014
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NJ
Originally Posted By: HerrStig
Badly made wrenches and items such as spring compressors can hurt you. Best not to skimp there.
I don't trust any spring compressors. Now that they make ready struts, I'm going that route. My HF stuff is very nice. No complaints whatsoever. I've been to China several times on business and inspected factories that my company sources from. The people look fine to me.
 
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Sep 26, 2002
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I'm just not confit able paying above exhorrebent prices for tools. I've used about every brand imaginable. I've had some Chinese specials outperform snap on's and of course the other way around as well. Even have a set of made in India wrenches I've used for years that have been indestructible. I don't subscribe to HF hating or snap-on hating. I buy and use what works
 
Joined
Jan 30, 2007
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Clovis, CA
Originally Posted By: bchannell
I was so surprised at the lack of quality metal in the Klein drivers, they just don't hold up at all.
They have improved their screwdrivers since making the ones you were using. The ones you were using are from an older batch. The new screwdrivers have improved steel. See link: LINK
 
Joined
Jul 1, 2009
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Seattle
Originally Posted By: Donald
Originally Posted By: HerrStig
I bought a set of screwdrivers made in Asia many years ago. They work better on "metric" Phillips screws than my Craftsman set which goes back to the days when Craftsman made good products. I wouldn't use anything but the Asian drivers on expensive Japanese electronics.
I believe the Japanese phillips is a slightly different shaped head than a normal one.
Japanese Philips are more square than ours and are called "JIS" Japanese industrial system.
 

djb

Joined
Jan 16, 2006
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Los Gatos CA
Originally Posted By: Pop_Rivit
I suppose if you enjoy supporting a country that has a history of poor product quality and safety, horrid labor standards, and some of the worst environmental issues imaginable, then making a point to purchase something from Harbor Freight is acceptable. They are a leader, along with WalMart, in making China a world power.
You are putting a lot of blame on the end consumer. For the most part the end customer doesn't have any influence in where the products are made. The distributors use country loyalty as a selling point only for as long as it suits them. Walmart was literally waving the American flag while becoming, by far, the largest importer of Chinese products. Lowes is a more recent example. They stopped carrying old-line electrical tools, replacing them entirely with the new 'Southwire' brand tools made in China. It certainly wasn't because customers were "demanding the lowest possible price", because they kept the premium pricing of the tools they stopped carrying. Nor was it about choice. They switched over as quickly as possible, with no overlap. No, it was all about controlling what was available.
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2011
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I used a Klein flat-blade screwdriver today for removing a main jet on a Honda EU1000i carburetor and I love my, um, 7 year old Kleins for this sort of thing. They fit well and I feel are least likely to damage brass because of the fit. The Milwaukee 11-in-1 you talked about, I found one recently at work that someone left behind (he's long gone, I'd return it if I could), and the Phillips #2 was pretty chewed up. I bought a replacement. Prior to this I used a HF 4-in-1 and their plating chipped quickly. If you want what I consider the best magnetic ratcheting screwdriver get a Williams WRS-1. GearWrench is very close, and in a way more versatile. Apex makes the Snap-On bits; a 440-2X-ACR is a great Phillips #2, so you can buy those without the markup. Other than that, what I've read from HVAC pros is they like multi-tools, as it gets heavy hauling equipment up on rooftops all day long. If I'm home I'll use discrete tools, but if I have to pack a bag and drive to a job I'll pack multi-tools instead. I don't know why it took me so long to make the switch.
 

Y_K

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After all we are all making choices. modern Americans are cheap, so they make their cheap choices.. Mr Walton had figured that out quite some time ago. When you undercut your neighbor, your neighborhood will go down, and so will you; it just takes some time to get it, and when you get it is too late
 
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