A beginners conundrum on tool quality

I’m looking for opinions?
I am a relative beginner in the woodwork field.
What would the community advise on tool purchases, as money becomes available should I buy more cheaper tools to learn more techniques and jeopardise quality? Or should I save up, wait and buy more professional level tools.

I suppose my question should be, will more expensive tools make my finished work better or can the same be achieved with cheaper power tools?

Not sure what kind of woodworking you have in mind, but I’d say go for quality every time as everything is easier and hence more enjoyable with better tools. If you buy cheap you’ll probably end up buying something better in the end so it’ll cost more in the long run.

If you’re interested in woodturning I’d be happy to share my experience over the last few years from starting out as there’s a few things I’d do differently!

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Hi, Vernon, It can be a bit bewildering knowing what tools to purchase when you first start out. Looking at my own power tools ,I note that they are mainly Hitachi and Makita. I have tried cheaper, unbranded tools in the past, especially drills, but these have only lasted a year or two at best. Having said that , whatever drill you buy, this is probably the the one item that you will be replacing on a regular basis, irrespective of the quality. Other tools can have a much longer life, my Hitachi router, for instance. has lasted well over thirty years, which is quite remarkable, as I had several small Trend routers over this same period that didn’t perform as well.
When I first started out I purchased tools for each job I did as and when I needed them, They weren’t always the best quality, but they allowed me to tackle the job at hand. I was often a case of “This way it happens”. Along with this came the knowledge of what were the best affordable tools. We can all be seduced by the flashiest, most expensive kit, but it seldom justifies its high price tag,
Regarding your rephrasing of the question, it should be simple enough to answer, but cheaper tools are not necessarily bad - neither should expensive tools be regarded as always good. What I would advocate is purchasing tools in the middle price range - rather than those at the top or the bottom. You are at the stage we have all been at when we started out, and apart from this rather vague guiding principle it is really a case of trial and error, as the quality of the known brands can fluctuate over time. I’ve certainly purchased my fair share of duff tools over the years, though, on the plus side , if the tools you buy are usable but unsuitable you can always sell them on, but if they’re rubbish its a case of binning them and learning a lesson. The best of luck Niall

If you are serious about wood working, my humble opinion is to always purchase the best possible tools. In the long run they will save you having to replace inferior quality tools.

Another thing to consider is that good tools that work well are a pleasure to use. If you are not frustrated struggling with a poorly made or designed tool you will enjoy your work much more.

Vernon,
I think you need to decide what aspect of woodworking really interests you first, if you can. Then decide how you want to achieve that and I mean using power tools or hand tools. I spent years building a collection of power tools which I have used to varying degrees. Some things I use all the time but others are hardly ever used. I also like working with hand tools more than power tools and one observation with power tools is each tool tends to lead to another. You want to buy a router, then you realise you need guides and then a router table and then you find the dust is so great you need a mask and then a Vac or extractor because of the health risk. Then you realise you need a bigger workshop to store it all in. Whereas a hand router may need the guides and a few hand tools but you don’t create dust so it cuts your tool shopping list down. Obviously, a powered router can be set up in a few minutes and a few minutes later the job is done or you can repeat the tasks quickly. Whichever route you go power or hand tools, read the reviews, compare the products and do your homework. Keep up to date with the brands especially if and when they are taken over by other companies as these can be the situations where quality goes down or up. All the best in whatever you decide.

If you have a secondhand tool shop near you it is always worthwhile looking for gems amongst the rubbish. I brought a Stanley 5 1/2 jack plane for £15. It needed the handles re-finished, some light surface rust removed from the body and a lot of grinding of the blade to remove the notches where someone had tried to plane some nails ! For £15 plus a bit of work I now have a good plane. I look at hand tools mostly as they are easier to check, I have brought things like chisels and unused files as well. As the stock turns over fairly fast you need to visit frequently.

I’d suggest starting with a chosen project and discover what tools you need to complete it. I’ve made the mistake in the past of seeing a particular tool and thinking it would be really useful only to have it sit on the shelf and eventually be given away. In terms of brands, having worked in the building trade for some years I found Makita a good balance between cost and quality. But now retired and with more time to get back into woodworking I’ve been setting up a new workshop and splashed out on several Festool power tools which are lovely to use. Hand tools include Axminster;s Rider planes and a fair bit of Japanese stuff - chisels and saws in particular. I’ve found all of this gear very good and a pleasure to use. BUT, don’t forget the sharpening - a chisel or plane with a razor edge is a joy to use, but if blunt . . . . ! I’d really recommend the Veritas honing guide, Japanese waterstones and a couple of Axminster’s non-slip holders. Mine include a 400, 800, 4000 and 8000 grit staone: not cheap, but essential!

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Hi Vernon,

I tend to buy the best that I can justify rather than the best that I can afford.

I would favour buying middle priced tools initially. They will be fit for purpose and will allow you to do what you need them to do, perhaps not as well as top of the range but much better than the cheap stuff. You can also use them and decide if a given tool or brand adds value to your work or interests. If it doesn’t, you can often sell it on and buy something else.

Unless we do things professionally, where time is money and quality differentiates you from your competition, there is seldom a need to buy the absolute best unless the budget can justify it.

So, while you could go out and buy yourself a few Festool power tools (which I do rate highly), you could also drive to the local DIY store and buy a load of cheap brand stuff which may be fine for the intended job or may be unfit for purpose very quickly.

Equally, you could buy some professional quality stuff, mid priced, from companies such as DeWalt, Makita, the Axminster brands and so on and get decent value and longevity. Your budget may stretch to a wider range of tools and this will make projects easier as you wont need to improvise as much.

Also, don’t overlook used tools. Chosen carefully, you can get some really good stuff for quite reasonable money and if it packs up after a while, you will have had use from it and learned how to use it and possibly not over paid for it.

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