Top 10 "Crappy Tools" You Always Seem to Use

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Forum topic by DamnYankee posted 09-11-2011 02:03 AM 3946 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3312 posts in 3125 days

09-11-2011 02:03 AM

In the vein of cosmicsniper’s Top 10 Most Used Tools, and my Top 10 Bought but Never Use, this question is to name the Top 10 “Crappy Tools” that just seem to get the job done. This would be that tool that the general woodworking community might turn their nose up at (like a Buck hand plane verses a LN) but in your shop it always seems to come through to you. Maybe its a fluke, maybe you used for year so that even when replaced with “better” brand you still keep going back to it, maybe you just can’t bring yourself to replace it. Maybe its new maybe its an old hand-me-down. At any rate they’ve proven to be tried and true and hard to part with.

Let’s see what I can come up with…

1 – Tri-square – I don’t even know what brand it is. Don’t know when I got. I do know that I’ve had it so long it had to have been a VERY inexpensive one. Everytime I check it against a newer better brand it seems to be perfectly square so I just bring myself to pay the “big bucks” for a better namebrand.

2 – TS Miter guage – The one that came with the TS. I’ve even purchased a INCRA 2000, but I still keep pulling out the miter guage that came with the TS. I attach aux fences to it, I do lots of things with it. Okay, so the ‘0’ make isn’t quite accurate, but I adjust it and its on the mark and it works.

3 – B&D Mouse sander – yeah I’ve got others, but I still seem to use it on many projects

4 – Hand Brace – got it from my Grandfather and I seem to use it almost as often as my cordless hand drill and/or my drill press. It’s easier to set up than the DP (it proved a HELLOFALOT easier to use to bore the 3/4” dog holes into my workbench than trying to use either my cordless or my drill press – quicker per hole too) and easier to control the speed and torque of cordless. This has proven increasingly the case since I purchased a 1/4” hex adapter for it.

5 – Tape measure – I’ve got one I’ve had for years and years, and I’ve owned a lot of others over the years, but this one continues to hold up while others have fallen apart.

6 – Socket Wrench Set – another tool I bought years ago VERY CHEAP, its an off brand that I cannot remember, still using it, hasn’t broken or failed me yet. No I don’t use it like an auto mechanic might but its gotten used a fair bit over the years. I’ve eyeballed newer nicer better brandnamed sets, but just couldn’t justify the replacement expence for a tool that was working fine.

That’s about all I could come up with.

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

27 replies so far

View DonnyBahama's profile


215 posts in 3094 days

#1 posted 09-11-2011 07:27 AM

I have a set of chisels from Harbor Freight that I beat the HELL out of. They hold ridiculously well. On the rare occasion that I Knick one, I don’t hesitate to throw it on the bench grinder. I saw the same chisel set for $8 at HF last month. If I ever need to replace one, I won’t hesitate to buy another set.

ALL my clamps are cheapos from HF as well. They work GREAT, and by picking them up for next to nothing, I was able to buy lots. I rarely need more clamps than I have.

I’m not quite so enamored of my cheap old Skil plunge router. It was a gift from my wife, so it has sentimental value, and it DOES get the job done, but MAN, I can’t wait til I can afford a decent router!

-- Founding member of the (un)Official LumberJock's Frugal Woodworking Society -

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 3203 days

#2 posted 09-11-2011 08:22 AM

Preface: I have nearly total redundancy in my shop of small and large, cheap and better (and in some cases antique). So I have a choice. This list are those choices that are contrary to “quality” and/or even logic.

1. Tape Measure. I have Fastcap and FatMax and Kobalt, but I seem to always grab the 12 ft. Komelon Self Lock. It fits in my pants pocket, is accurate and it has the self lock feature.

2. Router. I have DeWalt trim router, Ryobi plunge router, Triton table mounted and a Craftsman Table Mounted with soft start. I use the Craftsman at least 80% of the time. Router Table. I have a nearly new RT1000 XL from Nova Scotia, then I have a Craftsman on a stand (table height a whopping 45” high). The Craftsman holds the router that gets over 80% of the action.

3. Circular Saw. I have a Skil corded 7 1/4”, a Craftsman corded 7 1/4”, and two Craftsman C3 5 1/4” (one with a plywood / laminate blade and the other with a combination blade. The C3 with the comb. blade wins.

4. Pad Sander. I have Craftsman corded and C3, Porter Cable corded, and Skil corded. The Craftsman C3 gets 95% of the go to.

5. Belt Sander. I have a Milwaukee corded, then Craftsman corded (2). The Craftsman that is the oldest and without the extended nose (for getting under cabinet toekick overhangs) is the choice (except when I need to get under toekicks).

6. Sawzall. I have a Ridgid corded, a Craftsman corded, and a Craftsman C3. The C3 almost always is the one I grab.

7. Multi-tool. I have the Dremel Multi-Max corded and a Craftsman corded. I go back and forth depending on the blades I have or don’t have at the time. However, I consider them equal and usually get Craftsman blades (cost less).

8. Planer. I have Stanley planes (too many), Craftsman corded and Craftsman C3. Craftsman C3 almost 100% of the time.

9. Chisels. I have several Kobalts, a set of Stanley 60’s and a set of Neiko’s. The Neiko’s are keeping the others in the drawer.

10. Jig Saw. I have a Bosch corded, a corded Craftsman with scroll feature, and a Craftsman C3 with laser. The C3 gets 100% of the action.

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

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18744 posts in 4239 days

#3 posted 09-11-2011 09:06 AM

I’m still a woodworker wannabe, but my old Craftsman table saw seems to get it done, it is perfectly true rightout of the box. We’ll see what happens when I start working more and bigger hardwoods?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View DamnYankee's profile


3312 posts in 3125 days

#4 posted 09-11-2011 10:01 AM

David – what you listed was really what I was after…those tools, while supposedly of inferior quality, still are our tried-and-true go to tools … even when whe have the supposedly “better” ones

or those of supposedly of inferior quality that because they “just get the job done” we just don’t see the need to buy their “better”.

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

View Paul Mayer's profile

Paul Mayer

1082 posts in 3628 days

#5 posted 09-11-2011 12:21 PM

Don’t know that I can think of 10, but here are a few:

- I have a cheap Japanese style saw from the borg that I reach for a lot of times when I want a quick clean cut and it does a respectable job.

- Also, I use my cheap set of chisels more often than my good set, on things like glue scraping, etc.

- I bought a set of junky machinist style squares for 2.99 that test out dead accurate, and I use them to set-up tools (although they get a lot less play now that I have a Wixey digital angle gauge).

- I have a nice set of hand planes, but the one that I probably use the most is a cheap box store Stanley block plane that performs really well.

- PVC dust collection rather than the far more expensive metal. No, never had a shock.

- I use cheap router bits from MLCS and never had a problem.

- I used a low end junky drill press for over a decade that met my needs fine until I finally upgraded it. It worked fine but I couldn’t stand to look at it. :)

- Before I got into woodworking I bought the cheapest belt sander I could find; Skill 3×18. I have since upgraded to a monster PC, but I still use the skill for tasks that require using it vertically or other situations where the weight of the PC becomes a negative, and the Skill is a light and easy to handle.

-- Paul Mayer,

View ShaneA's profile


7084 posts in 3161 days

#6 posted 09-12-2011 12:33 AM

I tend to grab my ryobi 1 1/4 hp, 1/4” collet router. I use it more than my lot nicer PC, and my Freud ( I would assume also nicer, but still in the box) 2+ hp routers with multiple collets and soft start feature. Gonna have to work on that. I also will grab my OEM ridgid miter gauge, even though I have a nicer incra. I tend to use my cheap chisels more often, because I may be a chisel abuser. So I am not scared to bang em around and gunk them up with glue. Almost forgot, my craftsman HC mortiser. Got it on sale, and hey, it makes square holes where I want them. Need some more chisels for it though. As I said, I may be a chisel abuser.

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3614 days

#7 posted 09-13-2011 06:38 AM

1) My $4.99 HF chisels—like Donny says, they are rugged;
2) my $4.00 HF stamped-steel pos block plane. By the time I learned to set it up and sharpen it, I found I didn’t need a more expensive one. I can read through the shavings.
3) My 39 year-old American made Craftsman 9” bench saw. It still purrs like a kitten, has never given me a problem, and the cast iron top has such a lovely patina.
4)My HF oscilating spindle sander and my HF 1×30 belt sander. Super cheap, use them on nearly every project, and they work PERFECTLY.
5)A Craftsman try-square I bought 43 years ago for $5.00. Three years ago I decided I HAD to have a Starrett so I bought one. Hate to use it because it’s so damned expensive, so I checked the Craftsman against it and the Cman was dead on-still. The Starrett stays in the drawer where it’s safe.
6) My HF F-style clamps. DIRT CHEAP, so like Donny I bought a bunch. All work fine. I noticed in several pictures than no less than Michael Fortune use them as well.
7) I have a Bosch evs1617, a old Craftsman commercial, a old (American made) B&D, but for all my small routing chores (which is about 75% of them) I use one of my 3 HF cheap-o pos trim routers. Average cost $17.00 each, Smooth, powerful (for a TRIM router), good visibility, ugly orange color, but the satisfaction of doing the job well and inexpensively; PRICELESS.

I have others, I’m sure, but that’s all I can come up with now. Fun topic, Rob. Thanks.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View Flyin636's profile


57 posts in 3057 days

#8 posted 09-14-2011 05:03 AM

Really try to avoid cheap tools….....but years ago bought a set of cheap gear pullers,figuring to replace which ever of them ** the bed w/higher end stuff.Well,we’ve beat on’m…..modified them….hit them regularly with big impacts….and they’re still here.I’d’ve bet money they wouldn’t last?Also bought a complete POS little air compressor from Chinamart one time… of those little barely pump up a bike tyre type,for 50$Only use it once and a while on the job….but gets used almost daily on a air/Hyd vise on a Bridgeport…it hasn’t died yet,knock on wood(we have several other big shop AC’s).636

View bobasaurus's profile


3616 posts in 3747 days

#9 posted 09-14-2011 07:58 AM

I have a grungy metal spackle knife that I sharpened on a grinder that works remarkably well for rough glue removal. It’s almost embarrassing to have that thing in my tool drawer with other nicer tools, but it gets the job done. I also use a super cheap pair of digital calipers (which is perfectly accurate) as a marking gauge to score lines, even after I bought a nice Veritas wheel gauge.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View MikeNap's profile


10 posts in 1821 days

#10 posted 01-27-2015 06:25 PM

I also have a set of HF chisels, and found that some sizes hold an edge better than others. I do some work outside of my home, and in my portable tool kit I have 2 FastCap folding pocket chisels. They take and hold an awesome edge.
The other tool I use often is a very simple caliper – you can’t even read the markings on it, but it is so small and light, I always go to that when I just need to transfer a dimension. ‘How big is that? Just about that big!’ My father had one and used it often, so when I was putting my own set of tools together, looked in flea markets until I found one just like it.
Most of the stuff I do is on the small side, so my little Driver 8” table saw is just perfect in my tiny shop.

View knotscott's profile


8346 posts in 3939 days

#11 posted 01-27-2015 07:15 PM

- I picked up a cheap 4” belt/disk bench sander from a Homier sale years ago…HMC brand. It still runs, and is convenient enough that I reach for it pretty regularly.

- My 33 year old Craftsman circular saw is still going strong, and used for rough projects.

- My CMS is old and heavy…I only use it when I have to crosscut long boards/molding/etc.

- My Lufkin 25’ tape measure is pushing 40 years old….love it.

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

View bigblockyeti's profile


6130 posts in 2284 days

#12 posted 01-27-2015 08:47 PM

I have a Black and Decker wizard rotary tool that works great for small detail sanding where nothing else can reach. I have better rotary tools, but this is the one that for some reason I always reach for. It finally broke the drive coupling spring (very poor design) and Black and Decker doesn’t carry replacements any more, perfect timing, don’t carry the parts when they are designed to fail. I was a little suspect of the quality of this tool ever since I bought it, but until very recently it scraped by getting the job done.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View Robin1's profile


137 posts in 2054 days

#13 posted 01-27-2015 09:05 PM

When we moved I got a Lowes gift card for $25. I bought a Skil jig saw. Thought it would be a tool for scrap cuts but it must have inherited some of its Bosch ancestry because it keeps my Makita in the case. I’m curious which Harbor Freight chisel set a couple of you are referring to?

View Woodbum's profile


898 posts in 3628 days

#14 posted 01-27-2015 09:11 PM

Interesting forum topic. Strange, but interesting.

-- "Now I'm just another old guy wearing funny clothes"

View bandit571's profile (online now)


24118 posts in 3246 days

#15 posted 01-27-2015 09:36 PM

HF chisels, there are two kinds right now, the yellow plastic handled ones, and the wood ones. I have a few of each.
An OLD Craftsman 6” dual wheel grinder, traded some shelving for it years ago, still in use.

Craftsman 13” Scrollsaw, $10 @ a garage sale.

B&D Dragster beltsander, still going strong

Have a few of the HF F clamps, and a few pipe clamps

Spent $3 on a B&D all metal “Industrial” 1/4” router, and hung it from a Skil router table, which sit atop a homemade bench.

And, last but not least, a HF Windsor #33 handplane. POS as a smoother, but, grind the edge into a 3” radius, and it is one hungry, mean, #3 sized scrub plane

Just used it again lastweek, have sharpened it twice in three years, tough little guy.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

showing 1 through 15 of 27 replies

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