Age and Wisdom put the Bigger is Better Myth to Bed

Blog entry by ReubenD posted 09-08-2014 08:09 AM 4615 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My newest powertool wishlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfQN2PMGiKSQmkzQE0DrRJie3vtM4tuwt ( Yep, all of them!)

I have loved tools since I was old enough to walk through the aisles of the hardware stores. Of course, when I started doing that the hardware store was actually a reasonable size store on Main Street, not a warehouse size box just outside of town. My respect for the men that had lots of tools started with my grandfather that had a huge basement workshop filled with tools all neatly placed with pegboard holding the accessories for each tool behind it. I still remember the day when I had got my first apartment and when I got a small cabinet for the TV to sit on I realized I did not have the required screw driver and small hammer to put it together and my first real trip to purchase tools of my own.

Throughout the years I have acquired an array of tools that while I still find wanting, most are quite impressed with. It is very seldom a task comes up that needs a particular tool I do not have. I would like to say it is because I simply love tools but that fact comes from many years in older homes and older cars and a lean budget raising a family. AS the budget improved however, so has my choice in tools. I have not used a pair of vice grips in lieu of a wrench or socket the right size in some years now. I no longer look to the bins at the front of Walmart around Father’s Day to buy a screwdriver set.

Over the years I was constantly looking for bigger tools that were more powerful. Trade the 7.2 volt cordless screwdriver for an 18volt hammerdrill. Why settle for a 10 inch compound miter saw when there is a 12 inch one there to be added to the Christmas list? The bigger and more powerful the better. More volts and more amps and more horsepower. Higher torque and more RPMs – it was simple – bigger was better with tools.

In the last year or two I have begun to rethink this clear and logical fact. Perhaps it is because my arms and hands with a couple more decades of use now complain a little faster than those of years past. So one day while walking through the tool aisle looking for things I can convince myself I have a need for still, I stopped and looked at a new set of cordless power tools. That is nothing strange by itself, as I often do that. What was different was where I chose to stop.

These tools were different. While having all the right “extras” like crazy amounts of torque and real steal and industrial strength plastic trim, they were sub compact tools. I held one for a minute in my hand – a genuine hammer drill with 27t ft/lbs of torque but it fit easily in my hand and weighed little more than one of my standard hammers. It was small – and listed as “sub compact”. The entire 5 piece kit I could carry comfortably.
Maybe I am getting old, but it occurred to me that choosing to not try to impress with the size of the tools but rather the outcome and work I could do with them seemed a good idea. I did purchase them, and I learnt something else. That nice satisfied feeling after a long day in the workshop or doing household chores? You know when you are tired but satisfied that you accomplished a lot? It is even nicer without the tired aching arms from using the bigger tools all day.

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View dbray45's profile


157 posts in 1980 days

posted 09-08-2014 02:17 PM

I know of what you speak.

I too had a revelation although a little different. Over the last several years I have been going through the tool box and drawers and weeding out the what I call “single use” tools – the ones you buy to get through a project but do not have the money to get the “good” one. Since then, I have been very selective in what I get and have actually reduced some of the tools because the better ones handle more tasks.

The idea is not bigger or smaller, it is just better.

-- Love woodworking and fixing most anything

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Dan Lyke

331 posts in 4184 days

posted 09-13-2014 04:04 PM

I have the Festool C12, the Milwaukee M12 combo drill and the M12 impact driver, and RIDGID recently sent me some of their kit. The M12 drill won’t wing around those big hole saws, and it doesn’t have the funky offset and right angle chucks that the Festool has, but it is so nicely designed and is my go-to for a ton of things.

My brother-in-law is an accomplished professional woodworker, and worked in the place where we bought a whole bunch of our tools. When I was trying to decide on routers, he pointed out that if the router’s bogging down you’re probably trying to cut too much or cut it too fast. After a lot of burned and mangled wood, I’ve decided he’s right. When I’m trying to knock holes in the house because I want to get the stupid wiring re-done, I reach for the big honkin’ tools. When I”m trying to do nice work, I go for the smallest lightest easiest to control tool that I can and take the time necessary to do it right.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/

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