Don’t Know My Own Strength

3 minute read

I like to subscribe to Adam Savage’s philosophy on buying tools, which goes something along the lines of, “buy cheap tools until you know know what you really need from them, then buy the best version you can afford.”

With that in mind I tend to buy the cheapest thing possible for the job I need to do and use it until it breaks, wears out, or otherwise fails before replacing it with a more expensive version. The idea is that I’ll have no idea how much use I will get out of a tool so this way, if I end up using a tool just once or twice or year then I haven’t wasted any money on expensive tools that I barely use and if I’ve used a tool so much that I have broken it or worn it out, then I have a good excuse to buy a more expensive tool and will have a much better idea of what to look out for when doing so.

Here’s a compilation of some tools I’ve broken recently and my plans for their replacement.

Rolson Quality Tools Screwdriver

When they have to write “quality” on the product, you just know that’s exactly what it isn’t.

With this screwdriver I was removing some fitted cupboardry from my porch that was attached to the stone floor with, it turns out, 120mm unobtainium wood screws – I’m honestly surprised that the handle gave up before stripping the screw head. The handle appears to be made entirely of some kind of rubber polymer and just sheared off the driver shaft in my hands.

A "Quality" Screwdriver

Since I have no special requirements for screwdrivers and this Rolson already lasted for years, I just replaced it with another budget brand driver from the big, orange DIY retailer. This one however appears to have a PA6 Nylon handle (with some rubber overmolding for comfort) so hopefully it holds up better.

MacAllister Clamp

Although it looks like I squeezed the handle off this clamp, I can’t take all the credit for breaking this – it was mostly a bit of plywood. I was moving a full sheet of 18mm plywood and didn’t see that this clamp was on the floor when I set it down, but I did hear the tell-tale crack of snapping plastic. MacAllister is the power tool own-brand from the big, orange DIY retailer, so I don’t expect the greatest quality, but I didn’t expect the handles to just snap off when subjected to a bit of side-load.

A Squeeze Too Far

Since this clamp came in a set from the reduced bin, and you can’t have too many clamps, I have a bunch of them knocking about so I haven’t needed to buy any replacements yet.

This Anonymous Clawhammer

We’ve had this old clawhammer for so long I don’t remember where it came from originally, but it has been a faithful servant for years until one day when I was (ab)using the claw and exerted what was obviously too much force and the handle finally gave up and snapped in two.

The Final Blow

I really liked this hammer, so instead of buying a replacement, I will be making a new handle from a nice piece of slow-grown hardwood and repairing it. A future blog post will detail this process.

MacAllister Miniature Bench Vice

We bought a couple of these cheap, miniature bench vices for work-holding in the sewing room. Unfortunately the plastic knobs on the handles came pre-cracked from the factory and fell off as soon as the vice was out of the box. This means that they are, unsurprisingly, quite difficult to use due to the handle bar falling onto the floor and rolling under the bench whenever you turn it.

A Bad Habit

Since there seems to be nothing wrong with the vices themselves (qualified with a “yet,” since they are still brand new) I’ll be making some new vice handles in a future blog post so that we can give them a fair try.