Useless Tools – Avoiding them

Useless Tools – Avoiding them

Actually this is a brief tale of spending wisely, hopefully, just the once.

This is a good tool

This is a good tool

I am fortunate to have two workshops plus an office/design space. Simplistically the garage (ish) is the heavier engineering workshop with mills, lathes drills and the heavier tools, upstairs I have my model room (which the boss tells me would be the master bedroom if we were selling) which was supposed to have my layout in it but ends up as the model works and we have an office/study and my desk ends up covered in bits of models when I am doing CAD design.

What these three locations have in common are crap digital callipers.

Over time I ended up with a digital calliper in each location as they end up being my main measuring instrument rather than face one always being in the wrong place.

This post is prompted by yet another one of them going mental. So, I am in the big workshop late in the evening trying to turn something to an accurate length. To know how much to take off you have to know how much is there already. I knew it was a bit over the 10mm I was aiming for but not by how much. Ideal work for a calliper so I took the workshop one off its hook, made sure it was closed and zero. Opened it up and closed it on the work. -6.31mm Wrong!  Did it again, +15.2 Possible but a bit large.  Tried it many times and noted that as the calliper was opened and closed it was just displaying random numbers. Tried the usual trick of changing the battery. Screwed up just the same. Time for a bit of research and buy an new one.

A quick trip to Amazon reveals them as low as £6 with lots in the £15-£20 range and some quite a bit more expensive. As you start reading the revues you see them with 3 or 4 stars but this from only 87 revues and when you read them they swing massively from “best tool I ever owned” to “load of crap”. When you look at the good revues they are the superficial “it turned up on time” often with the rider “not used it yet”. The most believable and consistent reviews are the ones highlighting poor performance, them not lasting long or eating batteries like they were going out of fashion.

It was about this time that it started to dawn on me that I was a serial purchaser of crap digital callipers and resolved to do better.

Further research found several brands of a higher quality with Mitutoyo coming highly rated. This one had 1600 reviews and a 4.8 out of 5 rating and when you looked at the plus ratings they were from people actually using the tools whilst the poorer ones were from things like a late delivery.

Well I went for it. For this set I paid probably four times the cost of my usual crap one. Straight out of the box you can feel why. The movement is a lot smoother, the display is steady and when measuring the same thing several times you get the same answer.

I am very happy with my purchase and I wait to see if it outlasts the crap one by four times. This one will go in the workshop with the lathes and as I have a half decent Moore & Wright one by the PC that just leaves the model room in need of a decent one.

The moral of this story is to buy the best you can afford.

The slightly annoying aspect of this is that it is a lesson I had already learnt. Over a long time in engineering and modelling I have bought the best I could afford and bought once. For some reason measuring tools were a blind spot.

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5 thoughts on “Useless Tools – Avoiding them

  1. My late father also had the “Buy the best you can afford” motto, and as a result, I still own many of his tools that I inherited 49 years ago. My late mother had a different motto, buy as many items as you can afford. These of course, were rubbish, and most are now landfill

    • Same from my parents and I usually adopt Dad’s buy good, buy once philosophy. For some reason had a blind spot with callipers and only noticed when this one went bonkers after not very long.

  2. I have also had the same problems with digital calipers.

    I ended up buy a Moore and Wright vernier caliper. Still more accurate than my engineering skill and the battery is never flat when I take them out of the box!

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