Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Modern tools seem to be rubbish

While I accept that I often buy cheap tools in the knowledge that they are rubbish and to be treated as expendable, or even disposable, for use in awkward situations, I don’t extend the same low expectations for those I consider to be of reasonable quality.

Cheap copies are usually easy to spot, especially some items on sale in ‘Pound shops’ which can be less than useless once unpackaged and handled. That said, I’ve also picked up some surprisingly good items, which I suppose make up for the outright disasters.

My best and most reliable hand tools are probably post war industrial items, and can be used hard without any fear of breaking.

But I’m finding that even a decent modern tool doesn’t like to be stressed. Some very expensive wire-cutters (for PCB use) started to throw off chips of metal from their edges, even though they were only used for trimming copper wire on electronic components.

More recently, while using a pair of new(ish) angled pliers to attach some instrument springs, one part just failed outright and failed. They weren’t even large hand tools, so I couldn’t exert that much effort. Pretty sure there must have been a flaw in the metal.

Irritating, as I had found them to be quite an effective shape, since another problem with modern tools is often poor design, and shapes that don’t work well, or are awkward to use or hold.

Broken Pliers

Broken Pliers

Maybe I just have to remember that not ALL my tools are as robust as the few Snap-on examples I own. While I don’t treat them as indestructible, the seem to be, as I used to have a friend with a small car repair business. It was quite impressive to watch him abuse his Snap-on tools, use them as levers, or hammer sockets as if they were drifts, yet they appeared undamaged, even after being hammered mercilessly with a mallet.


April 28, 2017 - Posted by | Civilian, photography | , ,


  1. I fear there have always been poor quality tools. I had some of my grandfather’s tools, dating from the 1920s and 30s. He wasn’t well off and the quality of the tools was generally pretty poor. Perhaps they are like houses and furniture; it’s usually only the good quality examples that survive, leaving a false impression about the general quality of old things..


    Comment by Allan | April 30, 2017

  2. While I agree with the generalisation that there were always poor quality tools, those from the era mentioned were never great – not a criticism, rather just a reflection of time when mass=production was yet to evolve. The best quality was then only to be found in watchmakers and instrument (scientific, not musical) makers – and the masses (like me at least) could not even have afforded them.

    I should perhaps therefore explain the title and moan a little more – it’s really motivated and directed at the type of modern tool that can be bought today, and while it appears to be superficially of good quality (like the relatively fine nose pliers seen above) fail catastrophically when relatively little force is exerted. That example does not even have large handles, and failed while being used to spread a circlip.

    Abusing old tools on my cars for example, while the tips of slightly larger old pliers of the same type merely bend – and can be worked back into shape after the job is done.

    While I may have worn out old screwdrivers, modern examples have actually split and even crumbled when used on seized screws. They may LOOK great, but are made from the wrong material and/or not properly heat treated in manufacture.

    I started this, but only made it to the second (so far 😉 )


    Comment by Apollo | April 30, 2017

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