Quality marks @BrianHydeLtd

Sell: With such a wide array of tools and work wear to choose from, it can often be tempting to base equipment purchases on price first, quality later. Here John Dabb, Sales and Marketing Director for Hyde, explains why that may be a false economy and could even be bad for your health, as well as your wallet.

Saving money and reducing costs is an inevitable part of survival for tradesmen when it comes to balancing the books, but there are some things that it’s simply not worth scrimping on and this includes the quality of your hand tools.

We all know the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’, and in the case of hand tools this has never been closer to the truth.  Quality tools that come with a guaranteed long life will inevitably cost that little bit extra, but opting for the cheaper alternatives just to save money in the short-term is likely to be a false economy in the long run. That’s because six months down the line you’re likely to need to restock your tool bag once again and end up paying out more than you would have on better quality equipment into the bargain.

Long-life tools

Perhaps the most obvious benefit to be gained from investing in quality tools is the durability and longevity they provide. When you consider the amount of times you drop your tools from heights, or they fall out of your pocket during an average working day, the importance of buying hand tools that won’t fall apart easily soon becomes clear. Tools should be manufactured and designed to last, but sadly not all manufacturers take this long-term approach.

Spirit levels are a good case in point. With cheaper models the vial is often held in by glue, making it prone to moving or even falling out completely when it is dropped. This isn’t a problem with Stabila spirit levels as they have a patented moulding-in process which locks the vial in place. The Stabila Type R 300 is the manufacturer’s strongest ever extruded level, with an easy grip to maximise on comfort, it also ensures the very highest levels of accuracy, which is something else that can’t always be guaranteed with cheaper alternatives. Ideal for working in environments where normal levels would topple over in use, the Stabila Type R 300 spirit level has an extra-wide base of 4cm to give a whole new level of stability, whilst its unique R-Shape extrusion delivers unprecedented levels of strength and toughness.

Got the know-how

Cheaper tools don’t always equate to maximum efficiency and ease of use either, whereas the bigger manufacturers are more likely to have the expert know-how to put into producing tools that are designed to work harder on the tradesperson’s behalf. Take the Stabila Type 196-2 K spirit level, which has been developed and engineered for the specific demands of bricklayers and has a patented top edge impact protection guard, which means that any out-of-line bricks can be corrected with taps of a trowel. Added to this the hand grips make for easy handling and the tough reinforced aluminium profile precisely aligned with the STABILA locked vial system guarantees accuracy on even the harshest of building sites.

And then there’s the Stabila Type 196-2 LED spirit level which has its illuminated vials lets you take accurate readings and keep working even when levelling an object or marking out in poor lighting conditions which would otherwise slow work down.

Are you gripping comfortably?

Other advantages of paying that little bit more when it comes to hand tools may not be as obvious at first glance as how well they are made or even some of the main features that they offer the specific trades, but will soon become apparent when you start using them every day. Comfort, for instance, is something that is often overlooked in favour of saving money, with installers soon regretting their buying decisions when the blisters start to appear.

Cheaper tools are less likely to be ergonomically designed, while paying that little bit extra will buy soft grip handles on tools such as screwdrivers, pliers and tape measures. Pay just a few pounds more and you’ll cut down on the amount of blisters on your hands and suffer from less cramping as you’ll be able to get a comfortable grip. This will also mean of course that you can get the job done far more efficiently, as there’ll be less need to down tools while you take a break to rest your hands. By paying just that little bit more you can enjoy innovations that will make your job a lot easier, such as Wiha’s SLIMTECHNOLOGY screwdriver which integrates insulation into its super-narrow blade, making it easy to use on even the tightest of profiles. The result? Fewer blisters and less hand fatigue which in the long-term leads to a better rate of efficiency on site.

Health matters

Health and safety is a serious concern for any tradesperson, but it needs to go further than simply donning a hard hat and high vis vest when required to do so. Hand tools that have undergone rigorous testing to conform to all the relevant safety standards are proven to be better for an installer’s health, and there really isn’t a price that can be put on that. The cheaper the tool the less likely it is that it will have been subject to any level of innovation, leaving installers ‘making do’ and the quality of their work often suffering as a result.

You won’t just be paying for comfort and longevity though, as the more expensive tools are also far more likely to have undergone rigorous testing to ensure your safety and that they conform to all the relevant safety standards.

AGR-approved hand tools for example, such as those from WIHA, feature concepts that can make a huge difference to your health. The secret is in the turn, and without getting too scientific, is based on the development of handles adapted to suit the size of your hand. The four different WIHA SoftFinish® handle sizes, for example, mean that each handle offers the ideal balance of guidance, speed and torque for the respective fastening task. The handle size concept means that the user can both quickly screw in screws and transmit high levels of force. Shorter, thick handles are great for applying maximum power for larger screws with low fatigue levels, while long, slim handles with a thin quick-turning zone optimise the dynamic quick-turning dynamics for small screws. The WIHA SoftFinish® screwdrivers feature soft and hard zones integrated into the handle of the tool to support the hand and reduce pains in the joints and muscles, not just in the hand but throughout the body.

No two installer’s tool bags will ever look the same and that’s because it’s important to choose the tools most suited to you – there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Don’t be afraid to try before you buy – hold the tools in your hand and see for yourself how comfortable a grip they offer, rather than just taking the salesman and the packaging at their word. Remember to think quality first and tailor your tool bag to your requirements and you won’t go far wrong.

For more information on the wide range of quality tools available from Hyde call 0121 705 7987 or visit www.brianhyde.co.uk