Tools Used To Last Several Lifetimes

Prairie Gleanings

Does buying cheapo tools from the $1.99 bin really save money?

Published on: October 30, 2009

Last night, my wife coasted into the garage on vapors. Too busy to fill the tank this morning, she grabbed the keys to my car. Thankfully she warned me and left my wallet on the table.


As I filled up her tank, I noticed her front tires looked a smidge low. Knowing I'd purchased a cute little pink pressure gauge for her, I rummaged through her glove box trying to locate it.


I finally found it and went to work. I pulled off the first valve stem and fitted the gauge overtop it. Poof! The pressure from the tire blew the gauge apart, separating the canister from the head. I grumbled and went about picking up the pieces.


I found the cute little pink body and began to reattach it. As I pushed it into place, I had an "aha" moment. There on the side in little gold letters, it said "China." It might as well say "Piece of junk."


I've always been an advocate of buying quality tools. My father taught me the value of a tool that lasts multiple generations and only has to be purchased once. In fact, the trusty Craftsmen pressure gauge he gave me years ago still sits in my tool box.


With a cap and trade bill looming on the horizon, I hope we can still find quality tools. It's already getting tough. According to a recent article in Popular Mechanics, Irwin now manufactures its locking pliers (vise grips) in China. I have yet to hang on to a Phillips-head screwdriver for more than a year. The heads are just too soft. I bought a new hammer from a big retailer a couple years ago. A month later, the cushion grip came off in my hand.


I have yet to reach the age of 30, but I'm already starting to wonder which tools I'll be able to pass along to my son. Thus far, I still have faith in my Craftsmen wrenches, sockets and ratchets. I think my Kobalt vise will still be around. However, I don't use it a whole heck of a lot.


When you look at your tool collection, what do you hope to pass along to your children?


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  1. D. Crummett says:

    Good points Josh!!!

    Still use a Plews squirt oil can my father was using in the early 1950s. Still have his 1/2-inch drive Craftsman socket set, along with a Craftsman grease gun and an Emerson 1/2-inch drill.

    While I don't use 'em often, the Craftsman tap and die set he had still works well, as do the Stanley (pre-China) wood planes.


  2. J. Flint says:

    I bought a Plews filter wrench a couple years ago. Still looks as good as the day I bought it. The cheap strap wrench I bought, now that's a different story. After two uses, the webbing fell out of the crimped steel tube. I had to use the vise to get things back in order. That also seems to be a common theme: using quality tools to repair the cheap ones.