Professional Hand and Power Tools – Why Some and Not Others?

It Started with a Tweet

Tool Commandments

I haven’t ever started an article like this before but why not? These are some Tool Commandments from a tweet posted by PB Plumbers.

Pretty self-explanatory I think – and I agree with most of the choices – but he does ask for other opinions too so there is a chance that he might be open minded should the need arrive. However, what it really points out that tool users, especially professional ones, do have pet hates and favourites and their loyalty can be quite fierce. I have had many an argument over my choice of routers for example. (Trend and Bosch, if you must know)

Loyalty and Systems

Power tools, especially cordless ones, are now subject to a brand loyalty because of the battery platform. Other tools that are part of a system are also often irresistible because the opportunity to add to your system to make it better is very great. Festool is famous for the way in which its power tools, stands and vacuum extractors fit together, and if you have the wherewithal, it does make a lot of sense. Wera, too, is very shrewd at ensuring that its drivers and screwdrivers etc all work together so it makes sense to buy into it. Wera also supplies spares and single items to refill sets so it’s a no brainer to keep your sets looking fresh and possibly even a bit customised.

But there can be weaker tools in the system mix that you end up buying, and then find out later that a better tool from another manufacturer does a better job. My classic example is the 150mm diameter Metabo random orbit sander, of which I have had three over the years, and remains in regular use. But then I was surprised to find that with some of the newer competition from the likes of Mirka and Flex that vibration levels were more controlled and dust collection were more efficient. Some of this is a reflection of changing and improved regulation for dust and vibration or whatever – welcome progress, in my view, that keeps the level of competition firmly in favour of the consumer.

The Ten Tool Commandments (what you buy Most popular!)

The Top TenAs Listed on AmazonBuy Link
Irwin ChiselsIrwin 10507958
Channelock GripsChannellock CH440 12-inch Straight Jaw Tongue and Groove Plier
Knipex PliersKnipex Tools Cobra Water Pump Pliers
Ledenser TorchesLedenser Police Tac-Torch
Makita Power ToolsMakita DTM51Z Multi Tool
Estwing HammersEstwing E615SR Claw Hammer
Bahco Files saws and adjustablesBahco Adjustable Wrench
Stanely KnivesStanley Quickslide Pocket Knife
Stabila Spirit LevelsStabila 96-22-60 Level 3 Vial 61cm /24 in Spirit Level
Wera Spanners, Bits SocketsWera 8100 SC 6 Zyklop Speed 1/2″ Multifunction Wractet Set

When it comes to hand tools used by specialists, as the Tool
Commandments above show, there is barely a bricklayer in the trade that does not use a Stabila level. I know that there are other very good levels on the market, but there is always a job to shift brand loyalties when the perception of a particular tool is that it is the one to have. Truth is, that sometimes this is driven by kit envy and a desire not to look as though you aren’t professional enough in your choice of tools.


But there are nuances too. My site chisels could be from a number of
European brands like Irwin, Bahco or Stanley. In my woodworking
workshop I have a set of very expensive Lie Nielsen chisels (I still wince at
the cost – which is now even greater because of the weakness of the £)
that I keep honed to perfection and in their leather wallet.

It would be easy to stick to Lie Nielsen for planes and spokeshaves too because they are excellent, but a couple of low angle Veritas bench planes have become my favourites for the majority of planing jobs.

Woodworking magazines publish regular articles on how to ‘tune-up’ or ‘fettle’ bog standard chisels or planes, bought at a fraction of the price of a Veritas, to make a tool that performs as well. Great news if you have the time and skills, but getting perfect performance straight out of the box is lovely, even if it does strain the budget.

Other ‘woodies’ collect old and antique chisels and planes because the steel is said to be of better quality. This may be true, but modern site chisels are made to reflect their users’ skills and desires, so may be less brittle and therefore less hard as, nowadays, we tend to lever our chisels more.

Keep an Open Mind to Get the Best

I have been in the happy position for many years of being able to try out and test loads of power and hand tools. The vast majority of them have been high quality tools that have performed up to or exceeded my expectations. So should I stick only to the Tool Commandments?

Yes, Estwing hammers are excellent, but for my purposes my 16oz Stanley Antivibe is perfect.

There are many knife and tape measure players in the market that I have used and many have performed very well so why stick to Stanley?
I would also be unwilling to overlook Wiha, Knipex or CK when it comes to
screwdrivers and VDE kit.

I admit I am lucky to be able to indulge my eclectic tastes in branded tools, but my experience has taught me that there is a place for many players in the market. Some users want a hammer to use twice, while professionals would soon suffer if they chose the same. What often helps me decide what tool I am going to use is how quickly it becomes a ‘go to’ tool that feels right and has the performance I need. I may choose one router for one job, but a different one for another. However, I generally find that inevitably you get what you pay for. Quality comes at a cost and I like using quality tools. Most often, they perform better, are easier to use and have more features to make them more flexible. Even simple things like having a carry case hat holds cable, accessories, etc and is easy to pack away at the end of a day can be a factor in making a choice.

So get out there and look closely at what our highly competitive tool market offers – we genuinely have never had it so good when it comes to the tools we use.

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