“You get what you pay for” is an adage I don’t live by. I’m very frugal, so I’m always watch for great deals or just buying cheaper stuff. Many times you are paying for a brand or a “lifestyle”. This applies to nearly everything you can buy, but today I want to talk about tools.
Background: My old miter saw
Last spring I built a chicken coop. Everything went really well until my miter saw stopped working. I’m a big DIYer and love to learn new things, but in this case I wasn’t interested it fixing it. I probably needed a new switch, which would require taking it apart, finding a part, installing that part, and putting it back together. I’ve never worked with this type of electronics before, and I didn’t have the time or interest right now to learn right then and there, especially being in the middle of this project.
I decided to buy a new saw and to sell my old one on Facebook Marketplace. It went really quick and I realized afterwards that I could have got more money for it, but it was a cheap saw and I was just happy that I didn’t have to throw it away. The old saw was a WEN compound sliding miter saw. WEN looks to be a lower end brand, but I got a solid 5+ years out of it and it worked well enough. It definitely wasn’t the best saw available, but it functioned well…until it didn’t.
The new miter saw
Did I learn my lesson on cheap tools? What saw did I get to replace it?
I quickly made the decision to buy another cheaper tool, but this time I chose another brand. I also determined that the sliding feature wasn’t a critical feature and wasn’t worth the added cost or size/weight for me, so I opted for the $99 Metabo HPT 10 inch compound miter saw. Metabo HPT is the new name for Hitachi Power Tools. My first impressions of using this saw was really good. The old saw never felt that bad or cheap, but this Metabo feels way more premium. The motor feels more powerful and the saw cut through my 2×4 like a knife through soft butter. The factory blade was a significant improvement over the WEN (which I probably should have upgraded), and overall it is a better saw. Obviously, we’ll see how long it lasts, but first impressions were good and it’s been great for the year I’ve had it.
The future: it depends
Yeah, I’ll probably continue to try to spend less on tools if I can. Sometimes there’s an obvious disadvantage: features, durability, etc., but with certain tools there really isn’t. Many cheaper hand tools are great, especially since I’m not a professional using them every day. I frequently buy the Menard’s brand Tool Shop tools, and for their hand tools, they offer a free lifetime replacement warranty. I just recently replaced some side cutters that went dull after ~10 years. To me, that’s hard to beat.
On the other side of the spectrum, I’m really happy I spent the money on the Makita Impact Driver I got last year. It is one of the cheaper (or cheapest) lines that Makita has, but it’s brushless and has a nice big 3mAh battery. It has more power and better battery life than my next cheaper option, which would have been Black + Decker. I have no problems with my 12v B+D drill (except power sometimes, but that’s due because it’s 12v), but I went with my gut. I’m sure the B+D impact driver would have been fine, but the Makita has been awesome.
I try to strike the best balance. This means you probably won’t ever catch me with a Festool tool…unless I get it for free.
What about Harbor Freight?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a convenient store close to me, but I have been happy with their pocket hole jig. If I ever decide to upgrade my trolley jack to a larger floor jack, I’ll probably pick up a Harbor Freight one. I think HF is pretty hit or miss. They are some of the cheapest stuff out there, but some of it is really good quality. Some is junk. I’d probably shop there more (than once) if they were closer, but it is what it is.