It’s a dilemma. You want the tools you buy to last you a long time, but you don’t want to spend a fortune for ones you only use occasionally.

Here’s one of my experiences. I worked for a business that built tough luxury camper trailers. They were built to order by tradesmen and trainees. The bosses decided to give us cheap $10 XU1 brand electric drills to use. I was surprised with how well they lasted for such cheap tools. In 2 years I went through 2 of them, working one until it died, then getting another.

Other tradesmen were much the same. But one guy went through 7 of them in the same 2 years. He didn’t use his drill more, and he didn’t do different work. He was just a lot rougher on his tools.

The problem with DIY and light duty trade tools is that you can wreck them quickly if you don’t use them correctly. So what should you do?

Basically, you just don’t put heaps of pressure on them. For example if you’re using an inexpensive ¼” drive ratchet wrench handle don’t use it to undo stubborn tight nuts. Crack (that is, loosen) the nut with a wrench or something similar first so you don’t have to put lots of torque on the ratchet. Then use the ratchet to quickly undo the nut/bolt/screw the rest of the way.

I have an expensive and high quality Stahlwille ¼” drive ratchet handle and even with that if I’m trying to undo a really tight nut I use a more solid “T” handle to crack the nut or bolt, then undo it the rest of the way with the ratchet. I bought this ratchet handle when I was an apprentice just over 40 years ago, and it’s still going strong. So why wouldn’t you do the same thing with an inexpensive light duty model?

If you’re using quick change drill bits with a hex shank, don’t put it in your drill press and bore down hard on a piece of ½ inch steel. You run a real risk of the drill spinning in the hex shank. Likewise with drilling into hard wood. Drill so far, then back off and remove the drill from the wood to let the chips fall out, then go again.

If you’re drilling a hole through timber with a hole saw, same thing Drill a bit and back it off then drill some more. If you just lean on the drill and keep drilling until the wood starts smoking you’ve probably ruined the hole saw. (Even if it’s an expensive one).

These are just examples. The point is, it’s not rocket science. Just don’t use excess pressure and force. You don’t have to. You can do the job just as quickly without being heavy handed.

The other thing you have to keep in mind: buy suitable tools. If you’re a tradesman and you’re constantly drilling holes in stainless steel with a step drill then buy an expensive trade quality one. If you plan on using it every day to drill holes in plain sheet steel, same story. Buy an expensive trade quality one.

But if you’re expecting to drill a few holes a year in the car you’re restoring or in an aluminum box you’re making for your electronics project then you can use DIY and light duty trade quality tools. You don’t need heavy duty tools and it’s a waste of money buying them (unless you have stacks of money to spare).

I’ve bought light duty tools for trade work when I’ve known I don’t need to use them often. But when I knew I would have them a long time, use them regularly and maybe be tough on them at times, I’ve gone for heavy duty trade tools.

So that’s my thought on the matter. Inexpensive tools are fine for around the house, in the home workshop and even for light duty trade work depending on the tools and what you’re using them for. Just don’t be rough with them.

And if you need heavy duty tools pay the extra money and get them. It will be cheaper in the long run.