Friday, October 2, 2015

Finding Inexpensive, Good-Quality Tools

Regardless of the type - hand tools, power tools, woodworking tools, yard & garden tools -  quality tools can be quite expensive. Yet, having the right tools is essential for anyone trying to be self-reliant, as any homesteader or DIYer can attest. The question is: How can we find quality tools at an affordable price?

I've had a lot of luck finding good quality secondhand (used) tools at some very reasonable prices. Sure, there are some potential pitfalls in buying anything used, which I'll address in this article, but there are some incredible deals out there if you are willing to look for them.

Where do you look for good-quality secondhand tools?  Try yard sales, garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores, consignment shops, pawn shops, and salvage stores. Check online with sites like eBay, CraigsList, FreeCycle, etc. Check the classified ads in your local newspaper (especially good for the more expensive power tools).  Many mom-and-pop mini-marts have a bulletin board where folks can post items for sale, so check out those places, too.

How much should I pay for a good-quality secondhand tool?  Typically, you should expect to pay 30% to 50% of the new price for a quality secondhand tool that is still in good condition. The better the tool, the higher the price. If you don't know what the price of new tool would be, then take a notebook around to places like HomeDepot, Lowe's, Ace Hardware, and Sears. Jot down the type of tool, brand name, size, and price. Then take your notebook with you to use as a reference when you shop for secondhand tools.

For what I call Lending Tools (no-name screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, hammers, etc., that you wouldn't mind lending out to others), I would pay no more than $1 each, less if you can. And it is worth putting together a lending set, in my opinion.

What is a good quality tool?  What makes a good quality tool is the materials and workmanship that goes into manufacturing it. You'll eventually learn to tell the quality of a tool by eyeballing it, but if you want some idea of name brands, here's a quick but incomplete guide (ultimately it is a matter of opinion, and opinions vary):

Power Tools - DeWalt, Bosch, Ridgid, Makita, Milwaukee (all considered “job site” tools and used by the pros), as well as Hitachi, Porter-Cable, Skil and Delta.

Hand Tools - Craftsman, Snap-on (including Williams), Wright, Armstrong, and Blue-Point are among the best hand tools. Stanley (including Proto) is also good quality, though maybe a half-step down from the others listed.

How do I know if a secondhand tool is still in good shape?  Caveat emptor - let the buyer beware.

For hand tools, watch out for rust, dents, bends, and other signs of neglect, misuse, or damage. For cutting tools, such as saws, be sure to check the cutting edge to see if it is dented, warped, or dull. Same goes for the edges of tools like shovels and hoes. Look for cracks or other damage wherever two parts fit together (for example, the handle and blade of a shovel).  Make sure any moving parts still move without difficulty.

Remember, you may be able to sharpen or fix damaged tools. However, be realistic about your skill in doing so, and always pay the lowest end (or less) of your price range for damaged tools.

For power tools, be sure to always plug in and test the tool to make sure it works. Walk away from any seller who doesn't want you to test it before buying it, no matter what their excuse. Be sure to examine the entire length of the power cord for fraying or crimping (big dent), and check for bent or broken plug prongs. Check for rust, cracks, and other signs of neglect or damage. Make sure all safety features are still intact and working. Don't buy tools with safety features removed or altered, no matter how cheap. 

Other Articles You May Like

Basic Starter Tool Kit 

Prepper Workshop and DIY Safety

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