Cheap, quick and (not so) dirty

I never buy cheap, one-time-use tools. Except when I do.

If you’ve been following along, you recall that my first task to prepare for my new shop is to paint the basement floor. That, of course, requires a very thoroughly cleaning. So even though for my initial stay in the mostly empty place I was only able to take what fit in my car, I made room for my big Fein shop vacuum.

Unfortunately, I didn’t remember to take the hose. Or a single attachment. With no way to replace those items short of sending away, that vacuum was essentially useless for my short stay at the house. I shopped around for possible hoses and attachments that I could make fit with liberal use of duct tape without luck.

So instead I went to a Big Box store and bought one of their cheap, but fairly powerful, house-brand vacuums on sale for about fifty bucks. I firmly believe in buying quality tools, but I needed this for just one job. A really big job but a single job nonetheless, so I decided that maybe cheap wasn’t so bad.

There’s lots wrong with this vacuum. No, wait, that’s not accurate. For occasional use in a typical home, it’s fine. But for heavy use it’s, among other things, ridiculously lightweight – a boon for a homeowner, maybe, but a hindrance for doing real work. It’s so light it’s all over the place. It also feels on the flimsy side, and the plastic hose and fittings will never stand up to a lifetime of use.

But I desperately needed a vacuum, and guess what? The suction was outstanding and it worked perfectly for the job at hand. I first swept, and then vacuumed every square inch and corner of that basement and got up a ton of dust and tiny debris. When I was done, I could eat off that floor. Which, in fact, I did – I have no furniture in the house yet save an inflatable mattress upstairs, so after a hard day’s work I sat on the floor and enjoyed a Subway sandwich.

I still stand by my personal rule of buying quality tools, but sometimes breaking that rule proves the best way to go for the situation at hand.



  • Rich says:

    You bought a $50 shop vacuum and you expected performance like that of a $400 Fein. Next time try spending $150 for a home center vacuum. You will get the performance expected.

  • A.J. Hamler says:


    In truth, I didn’t expect my $50 bargain vacuum to perform like my $400 Fein at all — not sure how you inferred that from what I said; perhaps you should re-read — but rather like the $50 vacuum I knew it to be. However, I was pleasantly surprised and delighted that it exceeded my expectations for the price paid. In short, it was $50 well spent and it did the job I required of it at the time.

    And, now that my move is complete and all my stuff is here, I have my Fein again.

    Plus, a decent backup should I ever need one.


  • Sundance1 says:

    I like your logic. You did what made best economic and logistic sense. I am an Engineer and like you go for quality, but economics do not always allow. So I consider all the variables and optimize the equation.
    Would love to hear more about your new place.
    (I have apparently missed your previous messages, and have not been following.)

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