The Case For Inexpensive Tools?

Is there a case for disposable tools? Every now and again I can say “Yes” but not very often. I recall when I went into business for myself back in 1990 wanting to have nicer hand tools and equipment than my former employer issued to our crews. In fact I recall making tool purchases of my own to replace the bottom of the line Union “knuckle-busters” we were issued. Not to bash Union Tools but the low end stuff is what it is, they’re the equivilent of MTD these days owning the competition’s names. One of their gardening tools I consider absolutely essential can be found on the web under the True Temper and Jackson monikers, the sod lifter. I learned how to do border edging with those funny looking tools and still find them perfect to put a “speed edge” on a properly maintained landscape. I do prefer a good spade for neglected beds, still, I feel under-equipped without a sod lifter on-board the work truck. Slow and tedious but an excellent choice for their designed purpose. Great for tree rings or expanding a bed that doesn’t warrant a gasoline sod cutter. Definitely to be discussed further soon.

Back to the “inexpensive” tools. Getting started I spent the bulk of available funds on my larger power tools, ten dollar shovels and rakes seemed to be justifiable. A few hundred dollars down the road it just seemed wasteful. I started buying tools a notch above basic and with this new season I’m going to be buying and trying many tools. One particular brand of long-handled tools has served me quite well and I’ll compare new vs. old very soon.

Todays tools are one disappointment and one new purchase that I have no intentions of using. First off a Craftsman bypass lopper. Sears clocked me for close to $30 on this clunker. I was in the store for another reason and decided that I “needed” a new lopper. This was the best they had, I questioned it at the time. Just another Chinese novelty they chose to tag with their name. The same exact POS is now sold at Menards for under $15. I do shop Menards, but not for tools. As for the lopper? Guess. The plastic “cushions” between the handles were gone within days. The design did prevent them from becoming the proverbial “knuckle-busters” but the overtravel made them less than desireable. Cleaned and sharpened with a temporary fix they’re useable, a few bucks at the hardware and they will serve someone else’s needs. (the garden hose stops as a prototype, I’ve got the permanent fix in mind)

Second up for the day, a pair of pruners I couldn’t walk past. True Temper 3/4″ bypass pruners at a local “bargain outlet” for $6 and a cheesy holster for another dollar. Seriously, one could do far worse with a $20 in hand. For seven bucks this was a steal. The pruner’s design is contemporary to every TT pruner found online save for the color of the handles. Oddly enough the cheap nylon holster is a perfect match. I find the pruners to be O.K., the finger groove thing is utterly useless but it is the selling point True Temper has chosen to go with. Again, you can find a bargain but I know I wouldn’t pay full price for these or ever consider the heavier forged version.

I gave these a quick workout, they are worth what I paid. I’ll keep my “cheap” Coronas for back-up duty. However if they still have the anvil version (which I rarely use) in stock I will snag a pair for myself. The wide rubber grips might work quite well for that type of pruning.

These tools with both be gifts. Not to be mean-hearted or remotely rude, I have a client that they should be perfect for. One of my oldest and dearest, a sweet friend in her early 70’s, she always needs to borrow one or the other when I’m on her property. Soon she’ll have her own. I’m certain I’ll still be trusted to the roses and ornamentals, at least she’ll be able to deadhead without tearing the roses by hand. The True Temper pruners do have a lifetime warranty, many “disposable” tools do. The manufacturers just bet on everyone buying new…

Is there a case for cheap, er, inexpensive tools? Not very often.

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