Why do many tools appear to be inferior?

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There are several reasons why many tools appear inferior. First, machines are made of poor materials. Second, the average person has more tools today then ever before. Third, motors only have a certain life expectancey. Therefore, the central purpose of this article is to discuss how the misuse of materials, the number of power tools that a person owns, and life expectency of motors makes many tools appear inferior. In many machines, plastic has replaced metal to the degree that a great deal of strength has been lost. For instance, in one of the table saws made by Sears, the nose of the saw fence is made of plastic, and there is a steel pin that goes through this nose piece that is used to put tension on the locking mechinism of the table fence. Since the nose is not made of aluminum or steel, and because there is a great deal of pressure on the point where the pin goes into the plastic, there is cracking around the holes on both sides of the nose. I have experience this twice. At one time, the amount of plastic would have been limited in a machine, but now every part that can be made of plastic as opposed to aluminum or steel is done so in order to cut costs. Of course, the number of tools a person owns is a factor too. The more power tools a person owns, the odds increase rapidly that something is not going to work. It mearly follows the law of probability. For instance, I own a jointer, radial arm saw, table saw, shop smith, home made band saw, home made spindle sander, finish sander, battery opperated drill, electic drill , two routers, belt sander, saber saw, spare electric motor, belt and disc sander, polisher, compressor, Dewalt Saws All, and a portable power saw. That makes a total of eighteen electic motors and all their parts that might not work when called upon. If I have eighteen machines, I have eighteen times more likely that something is not going to work, then if I had only one machine. At least as far as the individual was concerned. Each machine would have the same odds of working, but the individual who is exposed to eighteen machines as opposed to one has 18 times the number of chances that something is not going to work. If you rely on a fewer number of tools, you will have less break downs. The average person has more tools now then twenty years ago. This simply adds to the illusion that things are always breaking down.The life expectency of a motor plays a part as well. Motors are designed by the manufacture to have a certain life expectency. We see this in springs, batterys, car engines, transmissions, etc. Things are built to last so long, and then crap out. The manufacture pits quality against cost, and cost , the underlying factor of all manufacturing, is the more important of the two. For the manufacture to be competive, he must always cut costs, and he will do this at the expence of quality over the cost to manufacture the product. The manufacture must give the illusion of being competive by lowering the price of his product to that of his competition. If he can not keep his price as low as his competition, he will go out of business. Thus, something has to give. If you can't cut the cost of the manufacturing process, you will cut the quality. For instacne, less expenisve motors have bushings rather than bearings, and bushings wear out faster than bearings. As a result motors with bushings will cost less than those with bearings, but they wear out faster too. In closing my opion, there are many reasons why it appears that machines are getting worse. First, manufactures of machines should not try to cut corners by using plastic in every situation just because it saves them money. Second, the number of power tools a person owns increases his or her chance that something is going to go wrong. Lastly, life expectency of a motor is determined by pitting quality agianst cost.
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The market demands "low, low prices". In a market-driven economy, manufacturers provide what people want.
There are many high quality tools available. Because the market for those tools is smaller, the price is higher.
QED
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I've begun to keep a log of my tool purchases, as I find it to be a source of entertainment. Even when a tool turns out to be somewhat less than expected, I keep it, and I keep it in good working order. Why? I have no idea, other than that I like to experiment with tools.
So you think you bought a dud? Maybe so - but LEARN from it. Put it through all of its paces before you write it off.
JP
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I didn't say I bought a dud. All my tools perform as expected. Except, sometimes. the grey one between my ears...
;-)
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The law of planned obsolescence. You see it everywhere.
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wrote:

Law of planned failure actually (which is in one of Parkinson's books).
A tool built according to a law of planned obsolescence might work forever, but would be rendered useless by convincing us that we no longer needed it. One way would be to rely on funny-shaped dowels, then stop making the dowels. Or to bring out a car model next year with the door handles on upside down, and have an advertising campaign to convince the neighbours to laugh at those still driving "last year's handles" (US car adverts from 1945 to 1975).
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vaguely proposed a theory ......and in reply I say!:
remove ns from my header address to reply via email

Not quite the same thing. Planned _failure_ (as we have been told it actually is <G>) is quite different from the economics of producing a longer-lasting machine. The first has the aim of deliberately causing repeat purchase, keeping cash-flow going by relying on greed, desperation and short memories (all very reliable human traits I might add). The second is simple economics of cost vs sale price in the market. That is what the OP is talking about above.
I do feel that if neither (D'Oh! Another bloody e before i word that breaks the rules!) of the above were applied in manufacture, none of us could afford tools. LOnger-lasting tools have a double cost bump. They cost more to make, and the cash-flow from sales is slower. So the maker has to boost prices twice.
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On Thu, 25 Nov 2004 20:13:07 -0600, Thomas snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (Thomas Beckett) wrote:

I think your claims are too broad and unfairly denigrate the good along with the bad.

No doubt. Too much plastic. There's several problems here - poor design. Someone didn't anilyze the stress properly and account for them. And plastic tends not to age well. And there's heat transfer issues too. But I don't see that plastic is entirely bad when used correctly.

Balogna. The issue is quality, not quantity. If you want to play a numbers game, I have 14 tools with electric motors. I used to have 17. Three of them failed because they were pieces of shit. Not because they took a census and decreed one day that three must die. The "good" tools are all name brand, the failed ones are a name brand famous for failing early.

If only it was so easy. Design to run x hours and upon reaching that number, immediately stop.

First, a well designed bushing isn't necessarily bad. In a router, yeah - bad. Don't do that. In other electric motors - not bad, depending on the application.
Again though, too broad a generalization. Else, how do you account for Hitachi, Porter-Cable, Makita and Milwaukee? Not cheap, and very good quality.

Some machines are bad. Not all. And the number of tools I (or anyone else) own has nothing to do with the likely hood that one will break. It's the quality, not the quantity.
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On Fri, 26 Nov 2004 04:00:41 +0000, Lazarus Long wrote:

The referred-to poster's argument was correct. The larger the number of items, the larger the chance that one will break in a given time. His probability calculations are, strictly speaking, incorrect, but the gist of his message is correct. Now, if the collection of items is not homogeneous, e.g., some "good" mixed with some "bad," then the calcs don't apply so well. Have to compare apples to apples.
LL's argument looks at the situation from a completely different point of view from TB's. Both approaches are valid when the appropriate parameters are correctly specified.
[In the bushing/bearing argument, does "bearing" mean "ball bearing?" I thought bushings were just another kind of bearing (e.g., pillow blocks). Seems a mech engineer could inform us about the appropriate usage of the various kinds of bearings out there.]
--
"One word: plastics."
vladimir a t mad scientist com
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But the OP postulates that motors have a calculated lifetime. That suggests that the 1 tool instead of 5 is going to die in 1/5 the time because it gets 5 times the use. Your total shop down-time would not be diminished at all having fewer motors. Or the other way around: more motors does not mean more failures because the tools are getting less user per tool.
This, of course assumes equal quality as well as equal shop throughput.
One could argue that the tools would fail less frequently because as special-purpose tools, they would besubject to lower or more appropriate stress (e.g. OSS rather than a DP with a sanding drum). Since tool quality (service life) is not linear with price, the whole notion of "motor math" is hogwash.
Although I agree with the OP's premise that tool quality has gone down hill, I suspect that it is partly the effect of our ability to engineer to closer tolerances of quality. We now have the means to engineer just enough plasic to handle 18.632 lbs/square inch of impact resistance rather than beef it up just in case.
One other factor comes into play: We tend to say "they don't build'm like they used to". Dawin owned tools too. All the shit quality stuff from 60 years ago has long since been tossed in the dump. Almost all the old tools we see today are the good ones that lasted. It's a bit of an unfair comparison.
-Steve
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C & S wrote:

I think this is a great point that's useful to remember about a lot of things. There aren't any thirty-year-old lemon cars on the road. If it's thirty years old and still running, it's a _honey_, because all the ones that weren't are in the junkyard. I used to own a Honda Sabre motorcycle, and they had an engine design flaw which would cause the V45/V65 engine to not deliver enough oil to the top of the engine. Some number of these engines also were made with cams that were made out of an inferior quality of metal, and these two problems resulted in some engines developing terrible pits in the cams, leading to failure. But, that's not a problem, anymore. If you find a V45 or V65 engined Honda, and it still runs, by definition it doesn't have that problem, since they fixed that problem in '86. All of them that did have the trouble are dead (or were preemtively fixed).
This is probably true of a lot of other things, too. I'm sure there were a lot of really awful symponies written a couple of hundred years ago, but the only ones you hear today are the really really good ones. Makes you wonder if the popularity of Shaker furniture doesn't have something to do with its excellent construction...
-BAT
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Brett A. Thomas notes:

It applies to just about everything. Add pleasing design to good construction and something survives. It pleases the eye enough for someone to take care of it, while being well enough built to withstand normal rigors of use/weather/whatever it needs to withstand. We say that homes today aren't built like the used to be. I've lived in one house built in 1839 and another in 1855. In some ways I'm glad my newer house isn't built that way, because I don't bump my head as often, but in other ways it was easy to understand why those houses lasted. And both were attractive through numerous eras, not just a few decades. Right now, a small house near Bedford is being torn down. The under-house is a log cabin, with dovetailed cuts on chestnut logs. Heaven only knows when it was built---this area was originally settled in the mid-1750s, but it is probably newer than that. My cousin and her husband own an old house that has a similar base structure, though it is now a fairly large clapboard farmhouse.
Old structures aren't always all old, either, as the above shows. Some parts are a couple hundred years old, while others are 20-30-40 (obviously, old in houses and old in vehicles fit on different calendars).
Charlie Self "Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good." H. L. Mencken
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"Charlie Self" wrote in message

construction
of
another in

why
just a

This veers off just a bit, but I am in the design/planning stage for a set of chairs and "chairs" in general have caught my eye for the past few months, wherever I may be.
Noticed, for the first time but I am sure they have been there all along, some beautifully well made wooden chairs for customers at, of all places, Barnes and Nobles last night. They appear to be made of mahogany of some sort, are heavy and solidly built, with comfortable curves, and are not so obviously machine made despite the fact that there are dozens of clones throughout the store.
These chairs are the embodiment of your "... pleasing design to good construction".
Point is, if these things don't last a couple of hundred years it will not be from the heavy use they get, but from corporate mentality when their interior designers go for a different look based on demographic or psychological studies on what decor will facilitate parting customers from their money.
Besides, did you ever think, being raised in the 50's, that you would see automobiles made with so damn much plastic? Certainly gives a new meaning to the word "bumper", with which we were raised.
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Swingman responds:

Yes. The "crumple" theory has produced some really easily damaged bumpers. Gone are the days when you could safely push another vehicle. Front or rear, push starting most cars or light trucks today can cause a thousand bucks worth of damage in an eyeblink.
Charlie Self "Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good." H. L. Mencken
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Charlie Self wrote:

They're even starting to put plastic on big trucks. I guess there's still a real bumper under the plastic, but I'm not quite sure.
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Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
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Charlie Self wrote:

The crumple theory doesn't have anything to do with bumpers, it involves controlled collapsing of the major structure to control g-loading on the passengers, and exists primarily due to Federal laws that require that all cars be able to keep their passengers alive in a 30 mph barrier crash. If the structure under the bumper attachments is what gets damaged then you might have a case for this being responsible but that is not usually what happens.
Ralph Nader and his fellow nutcakes induced Congress to enact laws many years ago that require that bumpers be undamaged in a 5 mph impact. I seem to recall that that was reduced to 2.5 a few years ago. It could be that your perception that newer bumpers are weaker is due to the reduction in design speed.
The problem with such bumpers is that at at any speed above the design speed a great deal of costly damage occurs as the mechanisms necessary to absorb the energy of the design-speed impact get destroyed. That's why you can do thousands of dollars worth of damage easily--it's not that the bumpers are weak, it's that the mechanisms necessary to comply with the law are expensive to replace when they are broken in an impact at a speed higher than that they were designed to survive.
The other difficulty is that bumper-heights are not standardized in a way that is beneficial for pushing--getting bumper to meet bumper when one vehicle is a truck and the other is a car isn't always easy.

--
--John
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And if a collision passes the airbag initialization force - Katie bar the door....

speed
do
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Swingman wrote:

Probably some foreign mahogany-looking wood that's all over the place in Indonesia or wherever.
That made me think of a really ironic thing. Usually the reason American companies go under is because nobody wants to pay for American quality, and the Asian stuff is cheaper, and "good enough."
I'm watching a domestic furniture manufacturer slowly going, going, handing on by the tiniest thread. We had to start selling more imports and fewer of this company's products because everybody else was selling imports, and we had to compete.
I finally took a good look at one of these "crappy imported pieces of junk" and I have to say I'm pretty amazed. Some kind of mahogany-looking wood (that's where this thought came from :) that's got beautiful figure, solid, sturdy, good M&T joinery throughout.
I have one of the domestic products, and it was put together with staples and screws. When we were carrying a lot of these, we'd take one truck out and ship back two pallets of rejects every week. The stuff would fall apart if you looked at it funny because of the crappy construction.
I guess the crappy construction itself was their answer to trying to keep costs down and stay competitive, but if I were shopping, it would be hard to pay twice as much for something not built nearly half as well. They build all their stuff out of ash, which is still ash no matter how you dress it up. Not an ugly wood, but if you don't want that look, you get it anyway. I think it's more valuable for being hard as a rock than for beautiful figure.

I dunno. I did most of the growing I remember in the '80s. I did find it surprising in the '90s when they started making cars with plastic bumpers, but the '90s cars with plastic bumpers generally look much better than anything they ever came out with in the '80s. That was a bad decade for cars. They even made Corvettes look gay.
Anyway, I was delivering next to a car dealership the other day, and they had a Wilys Jeep straight out of WWII. It was the first time I had ever seen one in real life. I was amazed at how incredibly SMALL it was. Tiny little thing. Four guys and two duffle bags, and it's full up. Little half windshield. Really poopy looking motor. Best of all, the seats were a green cushion tied to a piece of steel, except for the driver's seat, which was a green cushion tied to a gas tank.
I guess some of you old codgers remember these things up close and personal, but I was really surprised at how primitive those things were. Not a piece of plastic anywhere except maybe the gear shift knobs, but how safe can it possibly be to sit directly on the gas tank in a military vehicle that's going to take fire? Oh good, he missed me. Oh shit, he hit my seat.
There again, I finally got to drive one of those much coveted, much touted, much loved '57 Chevy Bel-Airs. A 500,000 pound vehicle with no power steering, a master cylinder that held about two and a half ounces of brake juice, a metal dashboard with pointy things everywhere. It had room for three Honda Civics and six dozen Mexicans in the engine compartment, but there was no motor in there. Just a little weedeater engine.
I think I'd rather have a '67 Hemicuda, thank you very much.
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Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
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Charlie Self wrote:

Houses are a mixed bag for sure. On the one hand, it's sad to see so much OSB and particle board and stuff going in. The framing is definitely much more wimpy, and they just don't seem to be built to stand up to time.
OTOH, a friend of mine growing up lived in a house like you're talking about, and there's something to be said for modern construction and materials. Their bathroom was a converted bedroom. There were no halls. Every room had four doors. Every room on the back had a door for the slaves to use, and every door leaked air like a sieve. The windows were paper thin, and they leaked air like a sieve. The walls had no insulation, and they leaked air like a sieve.
There were no sheet goods anywhere, T&G subfloor, plaster lathe walls and ceilings. It made many matters complicated at repair or modification time. The walls being so hard to work with made it a really unappealing prospect to do anything about the ancient, turn of the century wiring, or the bad retrofit plumbing from the '40s.
It had a huge ass coal gobbling furnace, but a very inefficient heat distribution system. They could burn up a massive amount of coal, have a fire in every fireplace, and still have to have five quilts on the bed to keep from freezing at night.
They finally had to move. They couldn't afford to retrofit it with insulation, new wiring, new plumbing, new HVAC, but they couldn't afford to keep heating it either.

The place we used to live had an under-house made out of locust logs. That was a weird little house, similar to what I just described, but smaller, and with the bathroom tacked onto the back. The living room floor was held up with an old bumper jack. Quality living conditions. It also had about 17.3 quadrillion spiders in the crawlspace. I hate spiders. The rent was only $200 a month though. We mostly moved because of the crazy neighbor who used to pull up a lawn chair and sit staring in our back window eating popcorn.
I just now realized that I felt comfortable enough selling off my guns to pay for Christmas a few years ago largely because we no longer live in that dump. I had forgotten why I owned guns in the first place.
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Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
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"Silvan" wrote in message

My oldest daughter and her husband live in a 175 year old house in Sheffield, England. A recent visit still fresh in mind, I'll take my "stick-built" house over that one for overall comfort, convenience, and economy any day.
Comfort is relative, however ... just imagine how much more comfortable it probably was for the first occupants than what they had lived in previously.
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