I have been thinking about the usefulness of some "premium" tools, and thei
r uses over the years. Most of them are quite affordable now due to the fa
ct they have outlasted their patent protection, manufacturing techniques ha
ve improved, and in some cases there is better technology available. But s
ome stand out, even to this day.
I think there are a few tools that are in the "super premium" price range t
hat have proven their worth over the years. First one I noticed was the Saw
zall from Milwaukee. I remember back in the very early 70s when I used one
to remove some framing (I was working as a laborer for a framing contracto
r) that it like being a surgeon to cut out and replace a section of finishe
d wall. They were so expensive though, that there weren't many out there.
I still have my first Sawzall, bought second hand in '76 when I started my
own framing outfit, and it still works! I don't use it as it is only a 3.5
amp model (replaced by a 15 amp oscillating model) but it served well for
years. At the time I bought it used, it was more than a genuine Rockwell 3
15 circular saw!
Second would have to be a framing nail gun. At one time these were precisi
on tools, and were priced the same way. I bought my first nail gun in '78
for $495. To put that in perspective, I bought my second used pickup 4 yea
rs before that for $750! It was expensive since I had to buy hoses and a c
ompressor to go with it for another $400, but worth it. This was a solutio
n for me at a time when the young guys weren't able to drive nails all day,
so it made a lousy hand pretty good. The young guys lined up to do buildu
p all day as they loved shooting the nail guns. Since the job site idiot c
ould now shoot a couple of thousand nails accurately to nailing specs very
rapidly without tiring, the gun paid for itself in no time. This was a gam
e changer in its day for the simple reason you had 100X the speed of drivin
g framing nails over hand driven, and you could have someone just over the
laborer status on the job master the gun.
Third, the biscuit joiner. Didn't buy the Lamello, although I knew I guy t
hat had one with his own custom cabinet shop. He used that tool like Leon
uses his Domino, for everything. And when they started making different si
zes of cutters and biscuits, he was in heaven. I bought a PC model, and it
paid for itself in short order. I was sorry I didn't buy one earlier as i
t turned out to be a perfect solution for my style and requirements of buil
Next, the oscillating tool. Robatoy needled me <<endlessly>> about buying
the Fein model, years before their patents expired and the onslaught of kno
ckoffs flooded the market. But I never got a chance to use one. I only sa
w a couple on the job site and they were rarely used. The guys that bought
them at Woodcraft paid several hundred dollars for them, and their blades
cost more than a good circular saw blade. But after using my HF knockoff f
or years now, I couldn't imagine going to a repair or install without it.
It has a thousand uses and had I known just how handy this tool was I would
have purchased it when Woodcraft started carrying it about 20 - 25 years a
go, and would have gladly paid the $595 kit price for the multispeed, dust
collecting, metal boxed kit that included the sanding attachments. There i
s no doubt that some of my repairs and installations would have been a bett
er end product and achieved more easily.
Add to the list the small, drill sized hammer drill. To recognize how impor
tant that tool is, just try drilling a hole in decades old concrete with a
standard drill and masonry drill bit.
Cordless drills? I bought my first one in the mid 80s, and used it to hang
mini blinds in my condo rehabs I was doing. It was a 7.2V, took all night
to charge, and had little torque. But it did its job, and even at $250 it
was a great investment. The first time I used one to drive some small scr
ews into a flashing on a roof and realized I didn't string out a cord, didn
't have to find power, and the drill fit in my nail bags, even 30 years ago
I knew that the battery powered drill/driver was a winner. For any repair
guy, this is one of the most important tools in the box.
I think when the Domino or its subsequent offspring become more affordable,
it will go into that arena of classic tools that were game changers for wo
Seems like things have been slower than usual on the NG, so I thought I wou
ld post some random thoughts.