Tool Snobs?

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Forum topic by SchottFamily posted 08-14-2011 08:28 AM 2686 views 0 times favorited 37 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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105 posts in 3052 days

08-14-2011 08:28 AM

Topic tags/keywords: newbie beginner tools bargain budget culture

Just staring out, I’m the first one to admit that I know just about NOTHING about woodworking, but I’m trying to soak up as much from those with the expertise. The one thing I know is that I’m smitten with it. For example, my wife just left the room, annoyed, after I kept droning on and on about section in a book I’m reading that’s talking about making cove cuts on the table saw. I had no idea you could do that! I run to the garage every chance I get to try out something new that I learn – which is often. But I’m on a budget, so while I have this running list that comprises my dream shop full of powermatics and the like, my garage is filled with the sale items I could afford from skil, craftsman, B&D, porter-cable, etc. I’m not a professional. Heck, I’m not even a very good amateur. But I am having fun and what I have works so far – when I get better, I’ll probably want/need better quality stuff.

When I talk to people on boards, and read articles, I get the impression that my tool selection makes me out to be some sort of second class citizen. I’m aware of it, but personally not all that sensitive to it. I don’t care. Like I said, I’m having fun. I just thought it was an interesting observation because I’ve seen the same sort of thing go on in my other hobby – cars. I’m a classic GM guy myself, but I still think it’s kind of cool to see the kids with their souped up asian cars. It’s not my bag, and sure, I think some of it’s a little silly, but we’re all digging on the same thing, right?

So here’s the discussion I’m looking to spark – are YOU a tool snob? Do you know one? lol Maybe the label is a little harsh, since we all have our reasons for preference. Do you ever give a brand a second chance, especially if it’s been years since your bad experience? Do you make allowances in quality for price – with a reasonable expectation of performance? Are you aware of this vibe that exists?

Of course, this isn’t directed at anyone, and I haven’t personally experienced it on LJs (but I’ve seen it done to others in old posts I’ve searched through). It did happen to me on another board when I volunteered that I used a skil table saw. I just thought it would be interesting to see if anyone else saw it and get your thoughts on it.

And before you rag on my Skil, yes I sat on eBay and CL for almost three months waiting for a good deal on a used saw – and everything that I found and went to go look at was TRASHED or way too much money for what they had.

For $200, I got a 15amp skil 10” bench saw, table saw stand, fence, and some diablo blades. See what I mean? I said skil saw and some of you rolled your eyes! ;)


37 replies so far

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 3791 days

#1 posted 08-14-2011 08:36 AM

While my shop is fairly complete, I have very little high end stuff. Tool sobs drive me nuts. Nothing wrong with that Skip saw if you use it well.

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View WayneC's profile


14358 posts in 4657 days

#2 posted 08-14-2011 08:38 AM

Hmmm. There is a discussion about buying quality and ensuring you get tools that will last a lifetime and will work well for you. I’m not sure if it is snobbery or not. I would question how long your going to be happy with your table saw. As you grow in your woodworking you may find limitations. I know I did, starting with an inexpensive craftsman direct drive saw.

If you have a little time I would recommend reading The Anarchist’s Tool Chest by Christopher Schwarz. It might give you some interesting insights that would guide your tool buying along the way.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

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David Grimes

2078 posts in 3199 days

#3 posted 08-14-2011 11:06 AM

No, I am not a tool snob.

I have lots of tools that fall into the low to medium end price range that have outlasted the bragging brands. For example, we had a Ryobi 1/2” corded drill that outlasted everal others in heavy use turning a stirring paddle for grout and thinset. It eventually died from being drug around by the cord and not being blown out from time to time (abuse). I had a Milwaukee angle grinder that was a POS. The cheapies from Tractor supply last longer. I have had most excellent results with everything from the Craftsman C3 line including drills, batteries, jigsaw, planer, 5 1/4 circ saw, etc. etc. You’ll find many turn their nose up at Craftsman.

If you are a hobbyist and take care of your stuff, you probably don’t need production quality continuous use tools from the high end. I will never buy Festool anything because my needs don’t require that I spend 3 to 10 times as much for a sander or shop vac, etc. Some of these guys DO need and can justify that grade of equipment.

Starting out, I’d recommend using good blades and only adding tools as you need them. Welcome to woodworking and have fun !

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View SSMDad's profile


395 posts in 3156 days

#4 posted 08-14-2011 12:28 PM

The point is that you get enjoyment from your hobby and create what you want to create. What brand of equipment you use doesn’t really matter. Re Wayne’s post, I agree that there is a lot of value in buying top quality but it’s hard to say what is tops.

I have all kinds of different brands but it’s what I could afford at the time. If I was making tons of bank on woodworking then perhaps something else would be appropriate. My list includes:

Bosch 4000 contractor table saw (works well and folds up…tiny space in my shop)
Craftsman Band Saw 12” (nothing great but it “usually” gets the job done and was cheap on CL)
Grizzly lunchbox planer
Porter Cable lathe with shop built table (cost about $17 to build from no plans but my head)
Hitachi orbital sander and 10” compound miter saw
Husky 5 gallon air compressor (was $99 at HD)

My chisels are old. Found on eBay
My planes are old (mostly Stanley and Millers Falls) found on eBay from cheap. THEY ALL WORK THOUGH!

The only two I’d consider to be higher end (quality and reputation wise) would be
Delta 46-460 Lathe
Makita circular saw

I don’t really care what others think because this helps me do what I enjoy and keep the wife from nagging and complaining about spending money instead of saving it. (she really has no idea what top end tools cost)

David makes a great point. Whatever saw you have, it will behoove you to get good blades for them. I use the Forrest Woodworker II blade in my table saw and even though it was costly (little over $100) I definitely CAN see the difference between the stock blade and it.

Point is: Have fun and create. Many wonderful pieces of art and architecture in the past were created WITHOUT the use of Lie Nielson planes or Powermatic table saws.

P.S. Check out Steveinmarin’s videos. He does a great job with little projects and usually mentions something about his equipment (cheap but do the job)

-- Chris ~~Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4565 days

#5 posted 08-14-2011 01:14 PM

Just think of working with inferior tools as the equivalent of the marathon runner applying ankle weights during practice. To grow into a creative and resouceful woodworker, you’ll one day appreciate and look back fondly at these handicapping limitations that were imposed on you. Because the only really important tool in a woodworker’s arsenal is the one between his ears. And the fact is, that tool does not get properly honed without setbacks and hardship.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View SSMDad's profile


395 posts in 3156 days

#6 posted 08-14-2011 02:07 PM

Very well said Miles125

-- Chris ~~Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

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joey bealis

177 posts in 3066 days

#7 posted 08-14-2011 02:21 PM

My grandmother is having to move so we have been cleaning out the attic. During this process we have been finding tools used by family members in the past. One such item was a draw knife. The owner of the draw knife would be my great great grandfather or some such. I will use my Craftsman $200 dollar table saw and my chop saw and thank the wood gods that i have them and i’m not using a hand saw to do all my work.


View knotscott's profile


8346 posts in 3935 days

#8 posted 08-14-2011 02:35 PM

I’m not a brand loyalist at all, so I don’t think I’m a tool snob, but I do prefer to get the most tool for my money, and want my most critical tools to be very capable (like a TS). There are times when it makes more sense to me to “invest” a bit more money in a critical tool than to risk wasting your money by skimping too much, which can definitely happen if you’re not careful. Buying cheap tools can be false economy in the longrun, so I try to do my homework on the more critical tools. Those of us on a budget can’t afford cheap tools! Cry once and smile every day, or smile once and cry everyday…

To stretch my budget I buy quality used tools when the right deal comes along, buy refurbished when the savings make sense, and I buy crazy low priced clearance items when those deals come along. I rarely pay MSRP, or even the going street price if I can help it…patience and knowledge are key elements in legitimate savings.

With all that said, the most important thing is that you’ve got some basic tools so you can enjoy working with wood. Where there’s a will there’s a way….you’ll get it done!

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 3252 days

#9 posted 08-14-2011 03:04 PM

I have this sign hanging in my shop;

It is not what your shop looks like
nor the age or quality of its tools.
It is the quality of work that you can produce there
with them that is important.

If you believe this you never have to worry about tool snobs or shop snobs. Over the years I have seen some of the most wonderful work come from talented people using few tools or what we might call inferroir tools. We have some truely high quality tools and machinery today compaired to what people had in the past but it didn’t stop them from doing masterful work.

As a side bar and in light of what I just said, you plane collector guys; you take an old plane that has worked well in the past clean it, tune it, tweek it, flatten it, sharpen it and make it better than it was barnd new. This speaks of the type of high tech, high quality tools some people want today. Like how sharp is sharp, how flat is flat. Sorry it’s just how I perceive things. You know like car restoration guys today they don’t just restore them they improove them in small ways. Like the guy I met last weekend who rides a BMW 75R, he’s restoring it, restoring it with lots of stainless steel parts that didn’t come on the bike orignally. Is this restoration or improovement? Sorry I’ll stop now, I just got going, no harm , I’m sorry.


-- See pictures on Flickr -[email protected]/ And visit my Facebook page -

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3674 days

#10 posted 08-14-2011 03:30 PM

as a lot of the others say it isn´t what you have but how well you use what you have that counts
and as long as you have fun and enjoy to work with what you have then it can´t be better :-)
that said I also know that alot of woodworkers like tools and to look at the werd buty in them
(including my self)
and try to know how much the single tool is cable of but there is a big different between a collector
and a user who just happen to have many tools that just gives more options to her/him to do
the job the way they want to work
and if you have a good experience with one brand of cheisel you can bett you will go after them or
compare other brands to them becourse they are your reference line ….....hope this make sence to you :-)
and I think the big talk there always will be and has been about handtools planes,cheisel mostly
is becourse those are and have been the dayly tools people use and everybody have an image
in the head of how they shuold performe and how to get there
enjoy the forums of the tooltalk take what you can use or will try yourself and skip the rest
or you wont have time to enjoy the woodworking :-)

have grat day

View Tedstor's profile


1678 posts in 3192 days

#11 posted 08-14-2011 03:33 PM

I’m somewhat new to the hobby too. When I started buying machines, I considered holding out for top-end stuff. But I was worried I might spend $1500 on a tablesaw (for example) only to have it sit idle OR come to find that I bought too much saw OR come to find that I bought the wrong features. I decided to stock my shop with vintage machines that I found on craigslist. Most of my machines were well under $100 each, but were in pretty good shape when I bought them.
I figured I’d learn the ropes on the dinosaurs and slowly replace them with better tools as I need/find/afford them. ANd since the vintage stuff was cheap, I can probably recoup my money via resale, but won’t have lost much if I don’t. Heck, the working motors alone on most of these machines are worth than what I paid for the entire tool.

All that said there are several schools of thought when it comes to buying machines and hand tools. Some people feel you should buy a high-end product up-front and count on it lasting forever. Its a valid theory for some. But I personally wanted to start working wood before I was a vegetable, and with my limited resources it would have taken me years to accumulate a shop full of powermatics and Lie Neilsens. Instead I have a shop full of vintage craftsman, $20 Disstons, and discounted Marples. And I’m cool with that. MOst of them perform wonderfully.
But I’m now at a point where I feel comfortable that any future purchases of tooling will be better educated decisions and easier to justify. And to be honest, I’ll probably never replace some of my current tools since they either work so well and/or don’t get used often enough to make an upgrade worthwhile.

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1303 posts in 3449 days

#12 posted 08-14-2011 03:46 PM

Its not the brand or price of the tool that makes it valuable its what you can do with it.
A $3000 dollar tablesaw gathering dust and taking up space and never used is worth less than a $20 flea market found no name plane that makes shavings every day. Some like to drive an Escalade, others a rust bucket pickup, the journey and enjoyment depend on the driver and the scenery.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View yooper's profile


228 posts in 3386 days

#13 posted 08-14-2011 04:17 PM

Buy what you can afford now, so that you can get in the shop and have some fun. As your experience and budget grows (hopefully), scale up to better equipment. I know this is contrary to what some believe b/c in the long run you are spending twice on a piece of equipment, but for me it was better to gain an understanding of the tools and what was needed to make projects w/o dropping a bunch of cash initially. As you can see from my projects, I am still a novice. As I scale up, I do notice the improvement in quality of my work, but I do believe part of that is due to my figuring out what I was doing with my “starter tools”. Get in the shop, make some cuts with what you have.

-- Jeff, CT - keep calm and make sawdust

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David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3557 days

#14 posted 08-14-2011 04:22 PM

I think it gets built in by the way tools are marketed. If the tool companies had their way, you would clean out your shop and get this year’s model of everything. The woodworking magazines help promote this with their annual “Tool Buying Guides”. Rampant consumerism at it’s best.

People just getting started have no idea what features they need and which ones make a difference. There are a lot of features that are good, some are garbage just to be able to put more bullet points on the box to attract people that don’t know any better. A good example is a laser sight on a miter saw. What? The blade is going to jump the rails and cut somewhere else? Just lower the blade and see where it will cut.

There are times when high quality tools pay for themselves many times over. You have a big production shop where stationary tools are running 12-14 hours a day, a little contractor’s saw is not going to make it. Something like a Unisaw is really about the bottom end of equipment in that category.You want some big three phase monster that will cut through anything you have without putting a strain on the motor. You want the nice sliding tables and scoring blades that keep people from turning the $300/sheet exotic veneer plywood with into packing crate material. You need the real power feeders and safety guards so you are not out there holding the new guy’s fingers in an ice chest waiting on the ambulance when their attention wanders as they are getting ready to make that last cut at the end of the day. It would be nice to have one, but do I need that in my garage for piddling around in my hobby workshop? Well, if I had the space and can afford the $5-$10K starting price range, great. Otherwise, I will stick to the little contractor saw.

Where people get in trouble is when they don’t have enough experience to judge what level of machine to get to match the job. It works on both ends of the spectrum. People used to the high end know the limitations of the consumer grade stuff and say you are wasting your money because something is not high enough quality and the ones used to the cheap stuff don’t know when to realize the tools are just not up to the task. This is a big part of why many people that try to start up a business fail. They either keep buying cheap stuff and paying 3 or 4 times as much with replacements or they over buy and are making payments on some real nice equipment that they can’t afford. It is a tough balancing act.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Manitario's profile


2787 posts in 3442 days

#15 posted 08-14-2011 04:37 PM

I’m relatively new to the hobby as well; my first TS was a $100 Ryobi which I couldn’t get to cut accurately and couldn’t put dado blades on it. I have a good TS now, but now I can’t blame it when the cuts don’t turn out right…from what I’ve seen on LJ’s, most of us lust after the high end tools, but the majority of us don’t have them, and most of the amazing projects come from the shops stocked with Craftsman and Harbour Freight…

...My best drill is a cheap Mastercraft…

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

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