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Thread: The most expensive tool...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Anaheim, California

    The most expensive tool...

    Jim Becker's signature line reads "The most expensive tool is the one you buy 'cheaply' and often...".

    Looking over my largish collection of Harbor Freight stuff, it occurred to me that I worked under a slightly different definition:
    The most expensive tool is the one that would have come in really handy on your last project, so you buy it and then never need it again.

    Any others come to mind?
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    State College, PA
    I bought a $500 MIG welder 11 years ago to weld a floor of a minibus I was converting to a camper. After stripping out the rusted floor, I welded exactly 12 inches of new steel floor. The following week I got a great new job, had to sell the house and move 200 miles, gave the bus project away to a friend who could really use it a the time. 11 years later I still have the welder, never used it, keep thinking about selling it for more space and tool money, but I'm afraid the day after I sell it, something made of metal will crack and I won't be able to fix it.

  3. #3
    Because I earned my living with tools, I never owned a tool that cost me anything. They were included in job costs, and they were always on sale, as they were business expenses, which meant I didn't pay income tax, or Social Security on money spent buying tools. I have tools that have only been used on one job, but if needed are available. I have one router that is used with a special jig to cut dados. Built first jig for such 21 years ago. My MIG welder was bought for and paid for by one job. It was cheaper to buy than to rent.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Dickinson, Texas
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    My thought is that the most expensive tool is one you bought and never use.

    I have several.

  5. #5
    Never say never -- back in the '70's I bought a Craftsman air sander. I finally used it 3 weeks ago
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  6. #6
    My Lions club maintains a small park and pavilion which needs painting every 4 or 5 years. We move all the old wooden picnic tables out on the lawn and I use my HF compressor and a $20.00 HF spray gun to paint the tables and pavilion. At the end of the day, I throw the sprayer away. Can't see spending the time to clean it out and scrub all the dried and half dried paint off of it.

    For 15 years I heated my house with wood. That was a lot of time with a chain saw. I swear by Stihl chain saws and chains. Maybe not the best, but I have great dealers within a few miles and repairs are often made while I wait. However, I bought the cheap $34.99 HF chain saw sharpener. I keep three extra stihl chains handy and when three are dull, I sharpen them. The HF sharpener is a rinky dink thing, but works great for me. I can even adjust the angle for the type of wood I am cutting. I know there are vastly better sharpeners out there. But I do not need an expensive automated chain sharpener to sharpen chains 2 or 3 times per year. Some times a cheaper tool is better suited to the job.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Lee DeRaud View Post
    The most expensive tool is the one that would have come in really handy on your last project, so you buy it and then never need it again.

    Any others come to mind?
    I have a few of those. One that I've hardly ever used - but don't sell for some reason - is my biscuit joiner. Especially now that I have a Domino it doesn't make any sense to keep the biscuit joiner.

    For some reason, I find it hard to dispose of tools that I don't use.

    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  8. #8
    I don't make my living with tools so I buy Harbor Freight for those seldom needed tools. That said, several of their tools have lived long past what I was expecting. The one tool unused that stand out to me is the Hitachi V12 router I bought over ten years ago because it was on sale. It sat unopened until I finally got around to making a router table a couple of months ago.

  9. #9
    My Dad's philosophy was usually to buy the cheap version first. If you find that you use it enough to justify replacing or upgrading it, THEN you buy the nice one.

  10. The most expensive tool is the one you sell or give away because you do not think you will need it again then a few years later you need it so you buy it again.

    dovetail jig
    handheld power planer
    half sheet sander
    15 ga finish nailer
    rabbet block plane
    large mortise chisels
    hollow chisel mortiser
    wide bench chisels

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    I would say that that signature statement largely holds true, but there are certainly circumstances where for "one use" or "very limited use", buying the bargain brand can make sense. A friend of mine has started to do some minor renovation projects on his home, for example. I lent him a pneumatic 18 gage brad gun (which I later gifted to him since I got it free as a promotion on my framing gun years ago). He may need a 16 gage for another small project so I suggested that given his very limited use that buying a gun from Harbor Freight would make sense as folks speak highly of them for non-heavy use. (I told him to avoid their fasteners, however... ) On the same token, I had a need last year for one of those multi-function saw thingies to be able to flush trim something while rebuilding the casing around an exterior door with PVC that was destroyed by insect activity. (now abated) I bought a less expensive tool (Ridgid) for that, but didn't feel I would be needed.

    My intention with the original statement was more around the tools we use at the core of our activity and/or demand more from and is honestly more pointed at quality rather than price. A poor quality product that has to be replaced prematurely is going to be more expensive than buying a better quality product at the outset. I learned that lesson when we moved to this property...I bought a "homeowner" chainsaw from the 'borg. It lasted for exactly one tree and since I hadn't used it right away after buying it, there was no warranty to help. I replaced it with a Stihl Farm Boss which is still going strong 20 years later outside of occasionally replacing the bar which is normal wear and tear. So that Stihl chainsaw actually cost about a $150 more than it would have if I had purchase it first.

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Carrollton, Georgia
    15 years ago I bought a metal lathe that was going to be used in my big signature project. Unfortunately, with so many other ideas getting priority, my signature project is still at the bottom of the list and my metal lathe is in a closet, long unseen.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Cincinnati Ohio
    Years ago I purchased a reciprocating saw. On advice from forum members I got a Milwaukee.
    Not going to argue it is a great, well built saw. But looking back for the very, very limited use it sees I should have purchased a $19.99 Harbor Freight. We had a HF at work, it was cheap made but would have fit my needs. Could have saved $150.
    "Remember back in the day, when things were made by hand, and people took pride in their work?"
    - Rick Dale

  14. #14
    Yes. Agree with Dave. And Harbor Freight has replaced the rental places. It's often cheaper and I get ALL of the pieces.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Lehnert View Post
    [SNIP] Years ago I purchased a reciprocating saw. But looking back for the very, very limited use it sees I should have purchased a $19.99 Harbor Freight. .
    I have a $20 HF recip saw that I've used off and on for years. It's lived long past it's expected life. If it fails tomorrow, I'll have no regrets.

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