I would like to thank everyone who completed the Tool Survey we posted a couple of weeks back. It contained a long list of questions and yet over 1800 of you took the time to fill it out and add comments of your own. The survey is still open and can be found on the home page of our website, along with a link to the results. Your responses confirm many of the things we already believed about our readers and show how incredibly well tradespeople understand the tools they use to make a living.
The first question had to do with the types of improvements you would like to see in tools. Out of six possible answers, improved durability won by a wide margin. It was surprising to see safety beat out "ease of adjustments" and "ergonomics and comfort". That's good news if it means tradespeople are becoming more safety-conscious. Dust collection was ranked near the bottom, though that may change as remodelers adapt to the new RRP lead rules, which require power tools to be connected to HEPA vacuums when used to sand, plane, or grind surfaces that contain lead-based paint.
Question number ten had to do with things that affect your purchasing decisions. Quality was far and away the most important consideration. When looking at rankings such as these I like to combine the number of first and second place votes for any one item. If you do that, brand reputation and price emerge as the clear second and third place issues. I thought "performance features" would do better than it did, though in today's economy it's hard to argue with folks who rate it well below quality and price.
Some interesting things showed up in the comments people wrote in the "other" category. To see them yourself, go to the results and click the links for "show results".
Two comments appeared again and again, that people want lower price tools and more tools made in the USA. Of course both things can't happen at the same time. One reason why tools have become less expensive (and they have relative to inflation) is because so many are now made in low-wage countries such as China. As much as I would like it to happen, I don't see tool production coming back to this country any time soon.
Many respondents complained about cordless tools and batteries, which is not surprising given the short lifespan of these tools. The tools themselves hold up pretty well but it would be unusual to get more than two or three years out of a battery. Tradespeople understand that batteries don't last forever but forcing them to buy over-priced replacements or replace tools when the batteries go is like telling someone to buy a new truck when the battery dies or charging them a third of the price of the vehicle for a new battery.
A number of people said they wished batteries were forward and backward compatible. It so happens that some already are; for a list of products for which this is true see the Q&A column column in the October 2010 issue of JLC.
We heard from a lot of folks who said they want straight-forward tools that do not contain a bunch of worthless bells and whistles. It's not just a matter of having to pay for things that don't get used, added features make tools bigger and heavier than they need to be. This is rarely a problem with stationary equipment but is a serious concern with hand-held tools.
There are some interesting things in the survey results and I encourage you to take a look at them. We hope to do surveys on a regular basis because your input is valuable and it helps us improve the magazine. If it pushes manufacturers to produce the kind of tools you want, then that's even better.