MAKE Asks: Tools that won’t Quit

MAKE Asks: Tools that won’t Quit

MAKE Asks: is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.

With proper usage (and sometimes not even that), certain tools seem virtually indestructible. What is a tool or tools that has served you reliably for a long time?

I’d be remiss in not mentioning a 50 year old chrome craftsman drill that belonged to my grandfather. It served three generations before the motor finally threw a commutator in a flurry of blue sparks. I even tried to fix it, was unsuccessful, but learned a lot about motors in the process.

That being said, I currently use a 25 year old Makita circular saw that’s still going strong. You can see a picture of me wielding it mightily in this post.

Post your responses in the comments section.

16 thoughts on “MAKE Asks: Tools that won’t Quit

  1. Rob Last says:

    Machine tools seem to last forever. I’m currently running a Grayson Lathe. Not sure of the year of manufacture but its old. 1920’s to 1950’s A picture can be seem at the top of the page here :-
    Mine has had some rough usage in the past and needed some repair, but its now back in use and going strong. Open gearbox and no safety guards.Rock solid engineering.

  2. clifford paul says:

    found a well not used Craftsman Circular saw at a garage sale. Circa 1940’s with an aluminum body and lovingly cared for as power tools go. Of course, it is a nice pairing for the steel plane I have nestled beside it. One day, they may be used again.

  3. Eric A. Beatty says:

    My grandfather was an engineer at the Packard plant in Toledo, OH. During the war, when Packard licensed the Roll Royce Merlin V12 engine to build for P51 Mustangs and P38 Lightnings, his wife (my grandmother) worked there as a quality control inspector while there oldest son (my future father) was island-hopping in the Pacific. Grandma had a Starrett 1″ micrometer that she used day in and day out. After the war, her son used those mics in his career as a mechanical designer. When I started my mechanical design degree in 1981, Dad gave them to me and to this day (nearly 70 years after they left the Starrett plant) they are sitting on my desk, just as accurate as ever. Starrett rules!! (pun mildly intended!)

  4. Nate B says:

    I have a Gardner-Denver wire-wrap gun that appears to be 1960s-vintage. I replaced the worn cord, and it works like a champ — trigger is smart, motor is quick, indexer is spot-on every time. I’ve personally made about 50,000 wraps with it, and I’m sure it made many more before it came into my hands. If the motor brushes ever wear out, they’re replaceable, but last time I peeked they still had plenty of depth left.

  5. Cory says:

    My craftsman table saw was built in 1952 as best as I can tell. It has a wonky arbor size and doesn’t have all of the modern safety devices, but I still use it with care and healthy respect. It’s shown no sign of quitting any time soon.

  6. Greg says:

    My Fein Multimaster. Not something I use every day. But when I need it, nothing else will do. Absolutely bulletproof. I also have an old Craftsman-branded dremel that sounds like it wanted to die years ago, but is still going strong.

  7. Adam Casey says:

    I have a hand-me-down router made by Montgomery Ward from the 60’s or 70’s. What a beast especially at 1 HP. Its huge and hard to handle sometimes in tight areas but definitely built to last. I also have a pair of Linesmans pliars that are atleast thirty years old. Being an electrician by profession they really take some abuse and are still going strong. Klein used to make some seriously awesome hand tools and I still think their Linesmans or “Kleins” as we call them here in Chicago are the best.

  8. Bob White says:

    I recently inherited a Shop-Smith mark V from 1960. I know these all-in-one tools are not for everybody, but this thing is built like a tank; the design hasn’t changed much since 1953. The best thing is that I can still order replacement parts in the rare event I’d need them. Plus, I have the option to upgrade the motor and speed controller in the headstock to a modern digital design. I’m tickled by the appearance of a modern LCD screen on a vintage machine.

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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