Sunday, August 22, 2004

Cheap Tools

You generally get what you pay for when you buy tools, so I rarely buy cheap ones. However, sometimes when I expect light, infrequent use, I'll get something cheap. Today was a case in point.

A Harbor Freight store opened up earlier this month in East Norriton, less than 10 minutes down the pike. HF seems to specialize in inexpensive tools, mostly imported from China. Having become a tool junkie since moving into our house, I took a spin down there today to see if they had anything interesting.

I came home with a folding workbench that's a cheap knockoff of a Black & Decker Workmate. I figure it'll be useful to hold a rifle while I'm working on it. It's smaller than the Stanley folding workbench I already have, which I'll store in the shed.

Along with the pseudo-Workmate, I picked up a machete for use around the yard, and just because I didn't have one. The machete is one of the most important tools used in developing countries. It's used for cutting, digging, chopping, and for defense. (Unfortunately, as seen in Rwanda, it's also frequently used for offense.) Machetes are typically made of easy to sharpen soft carbon steel that will take a keen edge. Also, they are usually inexpensive, affordable to pretty much anyone.

The Chinese machete I bought today would look right at home in any third world country. It has an 18" blade and plain, unfinished wooden handle scales held on with three rivets. The handle is pretty comfortable although we'll see how true that is after I've used it a bit. The balance seems good for slashing and chopping. It came with a cheap canvas belt sheath that looks like it would fall apart if subjected to much use.

This machete is the dullest piece of cutlery I've ever bought, though. If you hold it so that you're looking edge-on, the edge is actually flat. The bevel grinds on the sides of the blade don't meet. So, I'll need to spend some time with a file and probably my Dremel tool to put a usable edge on it.

Oh yeah. I spent a total of $13 and change between the workbench and the machete.

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