What Makes a Quality Tool?

Opinel 8 - Folding Knife Comparison Open

Updated: April 2018

You might be asking yourself what I actually mean by a quality toolIs it just marketing jargon?

Perhaps more importantly you are wondering why it even matters, I mean, most tools are the same, right?

If you’re a craftsman of any kind, if it’s a hobby and especially if it’s your livelihood, you know well that all tools are not created equally, and that a good tool effects both the end product and the ease and flow of the process taken to create that product.

Having learned this the hard way, I am tickled when customers tell me with surprise, “I had no idea this _____(insert task here) could be so easy,” or “I can’t believe I used to use that cheap tool….”

So, for those of you don’t already know the joys of working with a quality tool, and who might want a little more detail on the subject, this article is for you.

Here’s the way I think about it:

Bahco Pruners - All Metal Pruners Open Detail

Thoughtful Design
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SHW Grub Hoe Main

Quality Components
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Skilled Craftsmanship =

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A Happy Gardener

Yep, it’s pretty simple, add these three elements together and you have a solid recipe for a happy tool user.

  • Thoughtful Design:  Designed with intention, with user experience in mind.
  • Quality Components:  Built with appropriate, durable materials.
  • Skilled Craftsmanship:  Put together in such a way that one can appreciate the first two points.  (i.e. your car might be well-designed and built with space age components, but if the door is put on backwards it doesn’t matter much what it’s made of.)

Now let’s take a look at each element in more detail.

Design

Good Design means your tool is more comfortable and performs its task efficiently.

For example, our  SHW Grub Hoe has an oval handle which is surprisingly comfortable and helps reduce fatigue.  The angle of the hoe blade itself is also important and allows for effective chopping and soil transfer.

If the angle is too wide the hoe won’t penetrate well, too shallow and it becomes awkward to pull soil.

Bahco Ergo Pruners have two slight angles: one allows you to make pruning cuts near the trunk without bending your wrist while the other keeps your arm and wrist in line with the cutting pivot for maximum leverage.

These seemingly small details add up big with repetitive tasks.

Components

The selection, treatment and quality of the materials for a given tools makes a big difference in its performance, durability and value.

High carbon steel stays sharp longer than lower quality metals and is easy to sharpen when it does get dull.  Good stainless steel (Sandvik) found in our Mora and Opinel knives resists rust and maintains an edge.

Sharp tools weed more easily and help your pruning cuts heal properly.

Ash and hickory handles absorb shock well, are quite durable and feel great in hand.

A number of our tool handles come from FSC Certified forests, which are managed for long term health and timber yields.

Craftsmanship

Skilled craftsmanship creates strong, steam-bent ash handles on Clarington Forge Spades and Forks.

Forged steel tools, such as from Dewit, SHW, Clarington Forge, and many from Japan, are far more durable than the stamped steel tools found at most box stores, and require great skill in their making.

Proper heat treatment and tempering ensures that blades, whether on a hoe, an axe or a knife,  are durable and hold their edge well.

This workmanship is the final step that ensures the good design and appropriate material selection add up to a tool that is a joy to use, and one that could last for decades or more.

I hope this article gives you a sense of the general features of quality tools.

But what about benefits?  How will a well-made tool benefit you?

Click here to read 7 Reasons to Invest in a Well-Made Tool.

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