Part of my job as a woodworking writer is to test tools. That’s always fun, and a real perk of the job – until it comes time to pick a “best tool.”
Buying tools is a game of researching as much as you can, comparing what you’ve learned with your own experiences with a particular brand, and then choosing one to spend your money on. If you’ve researched well and luck is on your side, you pick the right one. Imagine, then, how much easier it would be if you had every example of a particular tool to test side-by-side before picking the best.
I’ve done a number of tests like that over the last several years, and usually picking the best one is easy. In most cases one tool clearly beats the others, one tool obviously brings up the rear, and the rest fall logically somewhere in between. In some cases a tool that might not otherwise come out on top does so because of its pricing, or because it has features the others don’t that give it the edge over what you may have chosen as the best one.
Sometimes, though, it’s just not that clear. Back before I had my arm surgery I mentioned a tool test I was doing on plunge-cut track saws (“New Toys” – 8/7/09). I completed my testing some time ago, and now it’s time to pick a winner. But all of these saws are incredible, and I’m finding it difficult to crown one of them as the best.
When reviewers judge tools, we juggle performance, price, features and a host of other factors. And when one tool is a clear leader in each of those factors it gets the ribbon. But all of these saws perform terrifically, they’re all priced about the same, and each has a boatload of features. You just can’t lose no matter which one you’d buy, and they’ve been a pure joy to test.
Still, I have to pick winner, so I guess I’ll just have to go have fun playing with them some more.
*sigh* The life of a woodworking writer is so tough.
Till next time,