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A bad workman always blames his tools, so the saying goes. I've bought cheap ones in the past. And you do indeed get what you pay for. My recommendation is to buy the best you can afford - that way works out cheaper in the long run. Not only that, but a cheap tool will invariably slip, rounding off a bolt head just when you really needed to remove it in a hurry. You also don't want the experience of a cheap 19mm spanner letting go just when you've got your full weight bearing down on it.

Speaking of bolts, it will inevitably happen that you come across one which has rusted solid. All else has failed, when you suddenly remember that cheap stud extractor set you bought at a car boot sale. So you drill the required hole in the bolt. It's supposed to be in the centre, but your drill bit wanders off slightly to the side. Never mind, at least there's now a hole in the bolt. Fired up with new enthusiasm, you insert the stud extractor, find a suitable spanner to fit the end, and turn.


This is when you discover that stud extractors are made from the hardest metal known to man. Call them what you like (and you probably do, at this stage) - they may be brittle, but they're hard.

Well, having experienced this in the past, I bought a set of Snap-On stud extractors. They have a lifetime guarantee. Of course, this doesn't mean they won't break - I broke two when trying to remove a seized bolt from my motorcycle brake caliper. But I contacted their Customer Services via email. I was advised to return the broken pieces to them for examination, and they would see if they could be replaced. So I put the two broken stud extractors into an envelope, together with the broken left-hand-thread drill bit (although their website did point out that this was a consumable item) and posted them. Two days later a parcel arrived. Not only did Snap-On replace the two broken extractors, but the drill bit as well. Now there's customer service for you.

Now I'm not advocating that you ditch all your current tools and rush out to buy Snap-On. Unless of course you've just won the lottery, in which case don't let me stop you. But it is worth paying a bit more for quality. (Only my stud extractors and thread tapper are Snap-On, just in case you were wondering. Oh yes, and my drop-arm puller.

I have a Skandia socket set which is also a lifetime guarantee (although I don't think the company is around any more so that's not much help). Bahco and Gedore are also good makes.

Try to go for chrome/vanadium sockets and spanners.

I used to own a shop selling tools and power tools, plant hire and repairs, so I have a fairly good idea of what lasts and what doesn't. Here's a non-exhaustive list regarding good quality power tools (unfortunately I'm not on commission!)

  • De Walt
  • Festool (if you're into woodworking)
  • Fein (extremely good drills)
  • Metabo
  • Hilti (good quality but not one of my favourite makes)

As regards angle grinders, the 115mm type is ideal for rust removal - it's not as heavy as the larger 230mm grinder, so it can be used for longer periods without fatigue.

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