Just like with many things in life, we are attracted to the beauty we see in power tools sitting on the shelf in the home improvement store, hanging from the rafters in our workshops, waiting patiently on the workbench in the garage to be needed. Sometimes we can get lost in the beauty of their sleek lines, the thunder of their roaring motors, the scent of fresh sawdust we know will soon be piled up on the floor underneath. We’ve all been taken in at one time or another simply by the way a tool looks, spurring our imagination into dreaming of what we could do with it if we could just get it home. We’ve laid down our credit cards and packed the box into the car, got it home and called everyone we could think of to let them know of the new addition to the family.
Then it was time to open the box and expose the newcomer to the light of day on the first day of its new life in its new home where it would serve us well with its power and its might, and we couldn’t wait to get it into our greedy little hands. The box is opened, the User’s Manual tossed to the side (we’ll get to it later), and the new beauty lifted out. But… wow. It seems a little heavier than it did in the store. Ah, no matter, it’s just new. We’ll get used to it. And then we tried it on a project. Or two. After a while, it was moved to a different corner of the shop or garage to make room for another new family member. And there it sits, collecting dust.
But why? Why would this happen? Why would we let our beloved be turned into a footstool the dog sniffs at every once in a while before whining and taking off back into the house? That is indeed the question: why? The answer: because before bringing that roaring powerhouse of a new tool home, we didn’t stop to actually consider its physical attributes and whether we would enjoy or even be able to use the darn thing. It’s not always easy to remember to look before you leap, but when it comes to the money we (ok, I) spend on our tools, whether they are for work or for play, there are things that need to be considered so we don’t end up with a garage full of giant paperweights. Let’s discuss a few of them.
When you buy something from a brick and mortar store you do have the chance to hold the tool. You can feel just how heavy it is, figure out where your hands go in order to hold it correctly, see if it is comfortable in your grip and if you could actually use it for its intended purpose. Buying online doesn’t give you that option, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to a tool’s physical attributes. My suggestion is that if the size and weight of a tool are not specified, don’t buy it because you have no idea what is going to end up your doorstep.
Let’s take power drills as an example. You could buy one that weighs less than 3 pounds, one that weighs in around 6 pounds, or anywhere in between. You might say to yourself that 6 pounds isn’t really that much, but if you’re working with it hour after hour, maybe even over your head, those extra pounds make a difference. What about a hammer drill? You can find one that weighs about 8 pounds, or 14 pounds. And if you’re not careful, you could order a full size tool when what you really want is a compact one and end up with something much larger than you had anticipated.
Another thing you want to look at is how well the tool handles and if it is ergonomically designed. In regards to the handling, pay attention to the size of the trigger – is it only big enough for one finger, or can you grip it with your entire hand? There have been complaints about some tools which have different controls in awkward places where they can be bumped accidentally or take both hands to hold the tool and find the adjustment button or switch with the other. That can certainly be a major irritation, depending on what you’re doing. Does the tool vibrate unmercifully? Will it make your hand or arm go numb if you use it for a prolonged period of time? That could be not only irritating, but dangerous.
Many manufacturers are paying closer attention to incorporating ergonomic design into their tools, which is a great thing. Ergonomically designed grips have been proven to cause less physical stress on the hands and arms, they reduce user fatigue, and they even reduce the chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome or other disorders caused by repetitious motion which are very common among people who use tools on a regular basis, as well as others.
So the next time you’re lured by an incredible looking power tool, whether it’s in a store or online, remember that you are going to actually want to use it, not leave it on a shelf getting dusty. Close your eyes, take a calming breath, and repeat to yourself, “I love myself as much as my tools.” You can do that as many times as needed to get yourself thinking rationally, or until store security taps you on the shoulder, whichever comes first. When you are again of a rational mind, really look into the physical aspects of the tool to make sure it is something you will be able to use as often as you want, as much as you want, or until your family or neighbors pull the plug, metaphorically speaking. The point is, do some digging and make sure you’ll be able to handle it for the jobs you need it for.
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