BUYING TOOLS? VIDEO: Why Serious Amateurs Should Consider Pro-Grade Gear

Do you have aspirations to grow in your ability to build and fix things? If you do then I want to warn you about a sneaky danger that can short-circuit your success. I call it the “good-enough” attitude when it comes to tool selection, and I see this pitfall repeating itself with surprising frequency.  Here’s how the dynamic unfolds . . . 

Let’s say you feel an urge to repair and improve your home, work on vehicles or equipment, or pursue serious workshop goals. You can’t do much without tools, so you start looking at, say, a hand-held circular saw, a cordless drill or perhaps a reciprocating saw. You feel like an imposter walking down the tool aisle and this sense of inadequacy can easily turn into tool choices that will hold you back in the future. “I’m not a professional”, you say to yourself or perhaps the store clerk helping you. “I just need something basic.”

This belief may be true, but not for most people that I see. If you feel the desire to grow in practical competence, and especially if you feel a passion for working with your hands and the thrill of creating things, then you’re making a mistake with the “I’m not a professional” mindset, even if you’re not working with the tools for a living. And this brings me to the most important tool advice I can give you.

Buy for Future Needs, Not Present Ones

If you’re interested in more than just changing light bulbs and hanging pictures in your home, always buy tools for future needs not current ones. The trick, as a beginner, is that you don’t really know what your future needs will be. This leads to the tendency to under-buy, and though this is not usually an issue right away, under-buying will hold you back in the progress you aim for in the long run. Let me give you a specific example from my own life.

Here I am using a pro-grade cordless ratchet wrench to work on my old but faithful 1990 Ford F-150 pickup. Pro-grade tools often deliver the most bang for the buck over the long haul.

One of the first power tools I bought was a corded jigsaw. I was 18 years old at the time, and price was a vital consideration as I stood in the Canadian Tire tool aisle with a small wad of hard-earned grass-cutting money in my pocket. I ended up choosing an economy model because “I’m not a professional”. Within a year that jigsaw was dead, with the $50 or $60 I paid for it went up in acrid smoke as the motor windings burned while I cut some 1” thick oak. Not only was the cut bad quality, but the saw was now useless and unrepairable. Sure, that cheap jigsaw was definitely up to the light jobs I had in mind for it at the time I bought the thing, but I failed to realize that my expectations were a moving target. When I saw my mistake and got brave enough to spend an appropriate amount of money on a jigsaw, I chose a Bosch model that cost $200 – more than twice what I paid for the econo model and a seemingly outrageous amount at the time. That Bosch is still working perfectly today, 40 years later, after cutting miles and miles of the same kind of stuff that the cheapo could not handle 5 feet of. Which choice makes the most financial sense?

Milwaukee is a premium power tool brand that has been marketed mostly to professionals ever since the brand was modernized beginning in the late 1990s. And while this company has not spent much time marketing to non-professionals so far, you shouldn’t let that get in your way. It’s one of a handful of professional tool brands that actually make a lot of sense for non-professionals who aim for excellence and skills development over the long haul. Click here for a video tour of some professional-grade tools that I find useful in my shop even though I don’t use all of them professionally.