What Tool Brand is Best?

Article - July 5, 2007

This week’s question comes from Shawn. He writes:

Hey Marc, I really enjoy your web site, keep up the great work. I’m thinking about going into woodworking full time and my shop now has more table top tools than big industrial tools. If money was not an issue which manufacturer of tools would be the best for a woodshop and why? I’m really torn between people saying this tool is better even though it’s cheaper than another or vice versa. Thanks in advance for your response, have a great day.

And here was my reply:
Hey Shawn. The best piece of advice I can give you is not to get too hung up on brands. Even well-respected brands make a bad tool now and then, and budget brands occasionally make a show stopper. So the important thing is to be brand blind when shopping for tools. Now you might notice that I do not practice what I preach. Most of my tools are Powermatic. This is because, like many woodworkers, when I have a good experience with a tool, I tend to gravitate to that brand for future tool purchases. Its only natural that we do this and it makes sense. But depending on which brand we had a positive experience with, we all wind up being faithful to different companies. And this is why you will see devotees in each brand camp trying to convince you that their favorite brand is the best. And you know what the truth is? They are all pretty good. The key is to simply avoid the tool that has well-documented flaws. Even still, deciding which brand to go with can be tricky. So here is what I usually do. I read the Amazon.com reviews. I usually throw out the worst reviews and the best reviews and see what’s left. I also check out the latest reviews in the magazines (taken with a grain of salt of course). And if after all of that there is no clear winner, then I simply pick the color I like the most. And for me, that’s yellow (or is is baby poop color?). I have an unusual need for all of my tools to look the same. And I trust Powermatic based on my previous experiences. But I have heard great success stories from people using General, Steel City, Delta, and Grizzly tools as well. So if you want the best tool in each category, do your research and forget about brands. If you want to simplify your life, pick a color and do enough research to make sure you aren’t buying a dud. I am sure you will be happy with the results either way. Good luck.

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