Brand Wars

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Blog entry by Dustin posted 05-15-2010 01:00 AM 2735 reads 0 times favorited 29 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Ok, so everyone has a favorite tool brand. What I want to know is everyone’s opinion on who has the best value. I have really enjoyed my Shop Fox machinery because they are not as expensive as Jet, Delta, and Laguna but it seems like they are just as nice. I have the 26” double drum sander, four shapers, a power feeder, 15” planer, and some other smaller stuff from Shop Fox so far.

Who do you think makes the worst tools out there right now? I’d say Harbor Freight is the worst followed by Ryobi, Craftsman, and Delta. I hear that Delta used to make some great stuff but I can’t stand using their newer stuff. Of course I’ve never used the uni-saw that I hear is great. I love opinions!

29 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117721 posts in 4082 days

#1 posted 05-15-2010 01:04 AM

Well Dustin Each type of machine will very but in general I like Grizzly tools . Shop Fox is made by Grizzle also.

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3739 days

#2 posted 05-15-2010 01:45 AM

Interesting Jim, I had no idea Grizzly made Shop Fox… explains why so much of their stuff is for sale on Grizzly’s site :D

As for the bad tools, I have mostly Ryobi/Ridgid/Craftsman stuff, being a novice and just getting started (purchased almost exclusively off of Craigslist). I’ve been happy with the performance of the tools I have, and haven’t really noticed any major problems (except for my Ryobi planer not holding it’s depth 100% of the time, but I paid $90 for it so how can I complain?). If you’re running a professional business then yeah, you’d probably want to move up a few tiers in cost, but for a beginner like me the class of tools sold at Home Depot/Harbor Freight is good enough for now.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 4257 days

#3 posted 05-15-2010 01:58 AM

I have delta band saw and drill press, jet table saw planer and RAS, all porter cable routers, drills,sanders and nailers. Hatachi sliding miter saw, some bosch and other power tools. I will not allow craftsman tools in my shop as years ago had so many break down. I try to buy the best tool that I can afford when I need it. My only dewalt is a scroll saw, that I love, It had the best reviews the year I bought it. However most of my tools are 10-20 years old, and I would have a hard time getting the same quality in a lot of the newer tools IMHO. I have luck with a HF 3 1/4 inch power plane (25 bucks), and their 6×48 belt/disk sander. Their small compressors suck. Good luck.

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

View Novicebutlearning's profile


25 posts in 3441 days

#4 posted 05-15-2010 02:06 AM

When it comes down to table saws, I have to go with SawStop. Yes, they are a lot more expensive than other brands, but the investment is totally worth it. Apart from the obvious safety features that all-but-guarantee you will keep your fingers, the fit and finish is outstanding!

I got the contractor’s version with a 52 inch fence and it out-cuts every saw I have ever used – and I have worked on a Unisaw in college and at my friends’ shops.

About one month after buying the saw, I had the opportunity to see accidentally the break in action. Well, “see” is the wrong word, the break worked faster than an eye-blink. I just heard it. Amazing!! I was passing a piece of plywood that had just come from outside, the blade hit a wet patch on the wood and instantly stopped and disappeared. $47.00 for a new brake and another $90 for a new blade, but now I know I will safe. I also learned to inspect my wood before passing it though the saw: a good practice no matter what machine you are using.

Yes the cost is a lot extra, but how much are your fingers worth?

-- A laborer uses his hands. A craftsman uses his hands and his head. An artist uses his hands, his head and his heart.

View stuk4x4's profile


115 posts in 3572 days

#5 posted 05-15-2010 03:17 AM

Now this is a blog I can give some of my trumped up thoughts on tools!!! I am hooked on a lot of ridgid’s tools. Years ago I owned a 10” Delta contractors table saw, I wish I never would have given it away when I bought my Ridgid saw. I would have set it up as a dedicated tool. I have several other ridgid power tools as well. a router, 14” Band saw, right angle power driver, 12” sliding compound miter saw mounted on rolling SUV. late 50’s craftsman jointer, drill press and a craftsman jig/scrolling saw (20 yrs old). A Ryobi scroll saw. Milwaukee Drill/driver set.

I have found that as long as you tune the table saw up periodically that it is spot on 99% of the time. I am always reading articles and tweaking it to try and keep it 100%. I change the blade pretty often as well. It has a fence with built in slots for T-bolts that I find very useful. I have only used the Band saw a couple times as I have not tuned it up yet, I have a book for it but just haven’t gotten to it yet… The miter saw is worth its weight in gold, It breaks down to a small foot print when not being used. I have had it for about 6 years or so and have yet to be displeased with it. As far as the craftsman stuff I have, it is all older and made out of cast. I would like to own a nice heavy duty cabinet saw one day, I would probably buy a shopfox or Griz… I tell guys that I work with to look on ebay and craigslist for used tools when starting out. I love old tools so I am always looking on those sites. I was taught by my grandfather and father that if you buy a good tool and take care of it, it will last you a lifetime. I think that’s true as I am using a lot of my grandfathers tools still.

So I guess I could answer the question by saying buy what you can afford and if you cant afford really nice tools (like most of us) then take care of them, tune them up as best as possible. A good blade and an hours worth of tweaking, aligning and tightening go along way on any tool.
Thanks for starting this Blog.

-- All the tools in the world wont make you a good mechanic or craftsman... however it helps!

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4273 days

#6 posted 05-15-2010 03:49 AM

if you want the best there is period…. its Northfield

the stuff is BEAST

View Dustin's profile


392 posts in 3954 days

#7 posted 05-15-2010 05:00 AM

As much as I am in awe with the shear size of Northfield tools I hate using them. I work with them constantly and I’ll be honest, just our bandsaw scares me so bad I never want to use it because it’s so huge. I’d rather just use my 3/4 hp Steelex any day.
Now, I’m talking about tools that a person can move… without the use of a front end loader :)
I think Northfield is in a whole other category than fine woodworking and cabinet making.

View Don's profile


517 posts in 3577 days

#8 posted 05-15-2010 06:38 AM

Harbor Frieght is definately the worst junk I have ever used with Craftsman a close second. Delta Unisaw is an excellent saw but Saw Stop is by far the best table saw I have ever used. I’ve got a grizzly jointer with a spiral cutter head that is an excellent jointer and is as good as any much higher priced jointer I’ve used. I like my Porter cable routers a lot but I don’t have much experience with any other brand of router.

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

View Novicebutlearning's profile


25 posts in 3441 days

#9 posted 05-15-2010 07:13 AM

CessnaPilotBarry has an excellent point. Value is in the eye of the beholder. I am a nurse by trade so I hold great stock in harm reduction strategies. For me, I value my health above all else, which makes the SawStop so appealing to me – especially since I am a novice and highly prone to making stupid mistakes. I can always replace a blade, I can’t really replace my fingers.

-- A laborer uses his hands. A craftsman uses his hands and his head. An artist uses his hands, his head and his heart.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3502 days

#10 posted 05-15-2010 07:26 AM

My own unsubstantiated and purely anecdotal experience:

Almost all of the lower end power tools are all from the same assembly lines in Taiwan and China. A lot of them are from the same castings and made in the same factory. The only real difference is that the brand they are being sold under (Rigid, Grizzly, Jet ,Woodtek, Harbor Freight, Craftsman, Delta, Whatever) demand the final fit and finish under their contract with the manufacturer.

Some of the cheap no brand ones can be a real bargain if you decide if you want to spend the time getting them tuned up to their potential. Some can be really surprising in their quality, some are a disappointment. You just better know what you are doing if you go with the cheaper ones. You might be doing a lot of your own final finishing and quality control. You might also have to do a lot of double checking when you make some settings and not trust a scale.

The other side is that there are some real surprises in the lower end of the price spectrum. I have been happy with some of the “cheap” tools. No, they are not the same as some of the “better” brands but have been good value for the money. It just depends on your expectations and how much you are going to use it.

As an example, I like the cheap routers. Are they the same a $300 Dewalt or an $800 Festool? Of course not. They can do something that the expensive ones cannot do. They can multiply. I can pick up a 2hp plunge router for $100, a fixed base for about $45, and a cheap laminate trimmer for $25. Think about it. Some are cheaper than the bits. Do a lot of dovetailing in a jig? Have one leave ready and leave it set up with the right bushings. Leave another in a table. Have another with a circle cutting jig permanently. Make another one into a horizontal borer. Set them up and leave them.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Blue Mountain Woods's profile

Blue Mountain Woods

110 posts in 3439 days

#11 posted 05-15-2010 08:50 AM

I’m going to cheat, here…... the following is a cut-and-paste from my website. And, while most of my tools are Festool and Powermatic, I stand by what I say:
“Often, people who are unfamiliar with woodworking methods believe that there is a clearly defined difference between an object of wood produced using power tools and one produced entirely using non-powered hand tools such as chisels, hand planes, etc. It is also often believed that a higher level of skill is required to produce an object without the use of power tools. Like many other professional woodworkers, I know that this is absolutely untrue because:

Some would argue that, from the moment humans learned to knap flint to produce a cutting tool, true handwork was done for, because there was now a tool between one’s hand and the material being cut. Others are not so rigid in their definition, but argue that, for example, using a chisel 200 years ago required more skill than it does today, because the nature of steel produced back then required much more frequent resharpening, by hand, and without today’s precise resharpening tools. Still others will say that using a bandsaw to make a cut in the 19th century required more skill than to make the same cut using a hand saw, because of the absolute unreliability of those early bandsaws, their very delicate adjustments (which often failed) and the need for the operator to become intimately familiar with the nuances of the particular machine he or she was using.

I believe this:

As any experienced woodworker will tell you, a new machine generally never comes out of the box calibrated, adjusted and working perfectly. Some machines require considerable knowledge and skill simply to get them set up for production. ALL machines require considerable skill and experience to produce good results, in part because no two pieces of wood are the same. Variations caused by species, grain direction, mineral and moisture content, dimensional characteristics, etc. mean that how a particular machine is used varies a bit with each piece of wood. Machines also require periodic recalibration and other forms of maintenance. If, for example, one uses a bandsaw to slice a 1/8” slab from a piece of 12” wide stock, and the piece cut is thinner along one edge than the opposite edge, it means that the relationship between the saw’s fence, table and blade are not square. It may also be the result of incorrect blade tension and/or blade drift adjustment…..or…..any combination thereof. Knowing how to properly make those adjustments requires developed skill and patience, along with a solid mechanical knowledge of the saw. While it certainly requires skill and experience to use a backsaw, chisel and mallet to make a mortise and tenon joint, it does not require any more skill than it does to make the same cut using machinery.

That said, I do not exclusively use hand tools or machinery. I use both, where appropriate, to achieve the desired results.

Today’s woodworkers have far more to choose from, when selecting high-quality machinery than any of our predecessors had. Because of the proliferation of quality machinery available, I recommend careful research of each tool, especially where the reviews and experiences of others is concerned, prior to making a purchase. And, while it can be easy to get caught up in “bigger (and more expensive) is better”, often a less expensive tool will exceed the real needs and expectations of even a serious hobbyist. A cheaply designed tool will satisfy nobody, however, and will most likely discourage the beginner from ever working with wood again. When you decide to purchase a particular type of tool, research the manufacturer’s industry reputation, read as many user reviews as you can, and consider the environment (novice, hobbyist or professional) that the tool will be used in. That said, there are some tools which perform functions that are exclusive to that make and model, as in the case of many of Festool’s products. Various design features and sometimes even the basic function of a tool are protected by various patents. Festool’s Domino dowel mill is a good example. Its price often puts it out of reach of the typical hobbyist, but it is so revolutionary a tool, that I have completely changed (for the better) how I assemble some of my most important joints. As with all machinery, the ones I’ve chosen have their proponents and detractors. With any machine, you’ll find people who love one, and others who would never own the same one. That’s because (in spite of various personal opinions and marketing statements) there is no Holy Grail in any machine type when considering, say, the top 3-or-so manufacturers. Consider carefully the features you’re looking for, and you’ll find one that fits what you’re looking to do with it.

Most of the tools and machinery I use are considered to be of the highest quality and consequently, are expensive. Because I’m a professional woodworker, it is critically important that my tools are absolutely reliable in an industrial environment where they are run daily, sometimes for hours. For the hobbyist, often far less expensive machinery will produce nearly equal results, so long as daily industrial use is not a requirement.”

-- Pete -----

View sweebs's profile


9 posts in 3804 days

#12 posted 05-15-2010 10:49 AM

Previously, I earned my living in residential remodeling and counted on my tools to work properly day in, day out and not leave me fatigued. That said, unless I was buying that one-time-use Ryobi angle grinder for $25 (which 10 yrs later, I still have, still use & it still works great) and didn’t really care if it lasted more than a week – I always look at reviews in places like Fine Home Building, Journal of Light Construction, Remodeling Magazine, Tools of the Trade, et al and go with what works, &/or someone else’s tool that I used & basically test drove. A side note, it is interesting how few tool makers there actually are now a days eg. Black & Decker makes the crappy Black & Decker home owner line, the excellent DeWalt line (DIY & Pro models), the once-respectable Delta (cheapo now, except for the excellent UniSaw) and the once terrific Porter Cable, now relegated to the DIY crowd, though I bet their routers are still great; Techtronic Industries Group makes Milwaukee, Ryobi & (along with Emmerson) Ridgid. Anyway, in no particular order, here’s a rundown: BOSCH: 15A wormdrive circular saw (powerhouse!), 5A drill, ?A portable/handheld planer, 10.8Li I-driver; DEWALT: DW369CSK 15A sidewinder circular saw w/elec brake (can swing this thing around all day, very light & nimble), 13A portable table saw w/26” rip cap, 6.5A jig saw, 15A 200 psi wheeled air compressor, DW520K 6.5A hammer drill, DW716 12” double-bevel miter saw; MILWAUKEE: 18v hammer drill; RYOBI: 2.5 amp 9” band saw (barely adequate to cut balsa wood), cool laser level that attaches vertically by powered-suction, 4 ½” angle grinder, oscillating spindle sander (works great). RIDGID: R2720VS 11A 3×21 var-speed belt sander [specifically got the Ridgid belt sander instead of the Porter Cable on the shelf next to it, because of the 11 ft power cord which also lights up and has velcro strap vs the much shorter, probably always need to get an extension P.C.], R2600 3A RO sander, 12g 10A wet-dry vac, 16g 12A wet-dry vac/leaf blower; Bostitch (the BEST nailers & staplers) narrow crown stapler; PORTER CABLE: 10A Tigersaw reciprocating saw, pancake compressor, 16 ga finish nailer & 18 ga. brad nailer (combo kit), 10A router fixed & plunge bases, framing nailer; Senco (works great & was a freebie) 23 ga pinner; RAM SET: 27cal powder actuated nailer; HITACHI: 10.8Li drill & impact driver.

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4273 days

#13 posted 05-15-2010 12:59 PM

haha…. I’ve used Northfield tools a few times and while they are massive I love them. Just the bulk of them. as well as how smooth they run and how powerful they are. I plan to either get their 36” bandsaw or preferably an older American made one some day. You just can’t get good bandsaw’s that cut over 20” without paying a fortune new. And the made in AMerica is a big draw factor for me. I agree though that they are probably in a totally difference sector of woodoworking than average tools

View Blue Mountain Woods's profile

Blue Mountain Woods

110 posts in 3439 days

#14 posted 05-15-2010 08:43 PM

Like all tools, there’s a “right” one for the job. Northfield makes high-grade, industrial machinery which is generally produced for the commercial mill. The reason you won’t find high-end cabinet shops stocked with Northfield is because a 36” Northfield bandsaw is not designed to cut intricate curves with a level of accuracy or repeatability to approach say, Laguna, Minimax, Agazzani, etc. Even if you get a 36” Northfield, I think you’ll find that you’ll also need a woodworking (as opposed to milling) bandsaw. (My own preference is for the Powermatic PM1800).

-- Pete -----

View Dustin's profile


392 posts in 3954 days

#15 posted 05-15-2010 10:26 PM

My military shop that I work in has a bunch of Northfield tools because they thought bigger was better. Oops, bad idea. No one can use the tools because they are too huge. Powermatic, Shop Fox, Grizzly, and Laguna make some of my favorite tools for cabinet making. Our 36” Northfield bandsaw has just sat there for years collecting dust. Every now and then we get a kick just by turning it on to witness the overall power but that’s about as far as it goes.
I wouldn’t mind trying out their shapers but I’m pretty stuck on the idea that I’d like to move my tools around by hand, not a tow cable.
I have a vendetta against Craftsman and Delta, both used to make excellent tools back in the day, but now have become mostly junk. I absolutely can not stand using our Delta shaper. It’s the worst engineered machine I have ever witnessed.

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