Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: A Rant on Biased Tool Reviews - Router Forums
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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 04-17-2013, 10:56 PM Thread Starter
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Angry Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: A Rant on Biased Tool Reviews

Something struck me yesterday, and I wanted to get your take on it because it’s bugging me. Last night I picked up a copy of the “Woodworker’s Journal 2013 Annual Review: Woodshop Tools and Supplies”. Generally I enjoy looking through review guides like this and always pick up a few ideas on things I can’t live without. My wife jokingly calls me a “tool snob” because I do love good tools.

The first article in the Handheld Power Tools Section was a review of ¼-Sheet Palm Sanders by Sandor Nagyszalancy. I have a few of his books and consider him a pretty knowledgeable guy. Little did I know how much his stock was about to drop (at least in my eyes). He identified things he looked for and factors he considered. Those were power and sanding performance, ergonomics, ease of paper change, and dust collection. Sounds good, right? He included a review of the RTS 400 EQ in the article. The first two sentences are “By far the most expensive sander in the test group – more than 10 times the cost of the low cost Craftsman 11177 – Festool’s RTS 400 technically is not a ¼-sheet sander: It accepts only the company’s 5-1/4” x 3-3/16” rectangular hook and loop sandpaper. The Festool sheets are relatively expensive…..”. Hmmmm, I thought. Two dings on cost in the first two sentences. Where was the cost in the list of things he looked for and factors he considered? It seemed to be a bit biased. Then I got to the clincher in the last section entitled “Picking the Winners”. He wrote “To further narrow the field, I eliminated the otherwise terrific Festool for simply being too expensive”. WHAT????????????? At that point I had to stop reading because the smoke issuing from my ears was making it hard to see the words. What happened to power and sanding performance, ergonomics, ease of paper change, and dust collection as being the important factors? Nope – Festool is too expensive, so it’s outta here, even if it is an otherwise terrific sander. I only have one thing to say – Shame on you Sandor Nagyszalancy! And shame on Woodworker’s Journal for publishing an article that doesn’t even follow its own stated criteria.

Please understand, I don't work for Festool and don't have any connection to them other than owning some of their tools. I started wondering what Sandor would say if I wrote a magazine article saying his books were otherwise terrific but weren’t worthy of consideration because they were too expensive. I imagine he would say “But they are worth the money because of all the good stuff inside them”. I would agree. Isn’t that the same issue here? You can indeed buy a sander for $20-30, but the more expensive ones have a lot of good stuff inside them.

I started thinking about what is probably the most maligned tool in my recent arsenal – the Festool Domino. I am a proud owner. I struggled for years with a sub-standard excuse for a biscuit joiner and hated every minute of it. The first time I used my Domino, I thought I could almost hear angels sing because it worked so well. The problem is every woodworking acquaintance I talk to about it says “But they’re too expensive!”, and ends the conversation there. Really? I remember about 10 years ago a certain Mr. Norm Abrams on the New Yankee Workshop used a biscuit joiner from Lamello, and everyone had to have one. It was the best thing since sliced bread. I also remember it was around $700 at the time for the pro model. Isn’t $700 about 10 years ago just about the same as what we pay for a Domino today? Strangely, I can’t remember one person complaining about the cost. You paid it and smiled. And without taking anything away from Lamello, we can do 10x as much stuff with a Domino as we can with even a high-end biscuit joiner. I also recall the Lamello Joiners being included in the magazine reviews. I still have a couple in my archive. What was said about the cost then? Nothing!

It just seems to me that there is a bias against higher-end tools by reviewers these days. The average DIYer doesn’t need higher-end. I get that. If you use homeowner or DIY-grade tools and they do what you want and do it well, by all means use them. I just wish the reviewers would also include a phrase like “If you’re tough on your tools, use them a lot, or want more precision or higher quality, look hard at the (insert brand here)”. Is that too much to ask?

What do you think? Is there really a bias in tool reviews, or am I looking at this the wrong way? I’d like to hear your thoughts.
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 04-17-2013, 11:19 PM
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i don't know ... i didn't read the article, but for some reason, it made me think of the car reviews.

in those, they put some constraints on the cars they are reviewing to keep them in the same class. they would never compare a corvette to a civic.

perhaps he was doing something sort of similar, without actually disqualifying it up front? i agree though, if he is going to include it, then all the reviews should be based on the same criteria.
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 04-18-2013, 01:26 AM
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"Festool’s RTS 400 technically is not a ¼-sheet sander: It accepts only the company’s 5-1/4” x 3-3/16” ..........." Why was it included in this category in the first place?

And then to discard it as "it" was too expensive.

At least they got their ad in, or am I being cynical again?........LOL

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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 04-18-2013, 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by jw2170 View Post
"Festool’s RTS 400 technically is not a ¼-sheet sander: It accepts only the company’s 5-1/4” x 3-3/16” ..........." Why was it included in this category in the first place?

And then to discard it as "it" was too expensive.

At least they got their ad in, or am I being cynical again?........LOL
James, you took the words right out of my mouth. I had more to say, but you said it all

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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 04-18-2013, 08:45 AM
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I would agree with you, in principal, that if he is going to review tools he should review them on their qualities, or lack of. If a tool is outstanding it should be noted. However, for the average user[myself included] a tool that is very expensive simply isn't in the game. I do many different types of things, and therefor have many different tools. Most of them are not "High End" because I simply cannot justify it to myself. I think note has to be taken of cost factors. I do not believe a tool should be dismissed simply becuase it is at the most expensive end of the field. If it is the superior tool that should be stated, and the cost factors should be left to the purchaser to decide whether or not it is a piece of equipment that he wishes to add to his arsenal.

I try to balance performance against cost.

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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 04-18-2013, 08:54 AM
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All reviews of any object is subjective and as such will reflect the bias of the reviewer. Perhaps he discounted it knowing that about 95% of the readers WILL NOT spend that kind of money for a tool. You have to be a pretty dedicated woodworker to buy anything Festool sells due to the cost factor. Like you, I look at the quality and the life of a tool before I consider it. I was told "you can buy a good tool once or buy the cheap stuff over & over." That guides my buying habits but someone who goes into their shop once a month will not likely think about it that way. If you read your comments it shows your bias toward your Domino. I find no fault with that as it is probably a great tool, for you. Others may or may not share that opinion. Remember the old saying, different strokes for different folks. Sandor's opinion is just that, his opinion. I wouldn't make it such a big deal........ JMHO
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 04-18-2013, 09:34 AM
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I generally take magazine reviews with a grain of salt. Some good information may be provided, But how much do you trust someone who accepts advertising money from the companies whose tools/products they are reviewing? I have to agree with Sandor, though.. Festool rarely, if ever gets my consideration on price alone.

The domino fills no need that I have, personally. If it does what you need it to, that's fine, I have no problem whatsoever with you having one. That is why there are a variety of products available!

If I can buy 2 PC, Bosch, DeWalt, or Craftsman, or what have you for the price of 1 High end brand tool, there is a good chance they will last as long or longer. Unless there is HUGE difference in performance, I see little advantage to the expensive stuff. Not to mention in the event they are stolen(can be a big issue in certain locales) I don't feel quite as bad about having to replace them!

As Mike always says, I'd rather try a tool in my own hands, than blindly accept some one else's opinion. Look at any of the "What brand Widget should I buy threads!) Opinions are all over the map... and that is ok! If 90% of the opinions are that a products is good or is junk, it may well influence my opinion/ decision, but it may or may not be the sole basis.

Some buy the cheapest they can find because they have limited use for a given tool or because that is what they can afford, or that is what they want. Some buy middle of the road because it may well be the best VALUE. Some buy high end because they see value or ease of use in them. Some buy high end for the "My tool is better than your tool" syndrome.
Edit: Some even buy tools because someone else bought one, not having any specific need whatsoever!

It's your money, not my job to choose for anyone else. When asked, I may give an opinion, but that all it is, my opinion. My values aren't Sandor's, any magazine's, or probably yours.

Sandor expressed his opinion, it is up to you of what value that is to you! Personally I am not going to think less of his talent because I don't happen to agree with a tool choice/opinion he expresses!

I have found that hand tools are the best choice when I want to make mistakes at a slower rate of speed.

I don't suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute of it.

Last edited by Dmeadows; 04-18-2013 at 09:58 AM.
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 04-18-2013, 09:59 AM
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I have never taken notice of reviews in magazines that carry advertisements. Apart from the conflict of interest, sample tools are often GIVEN to the reviewer so how can a bad review be given.


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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 04-18-2013, 10:01 AM
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After reading this initial post I looked up this Domino tool I've heard mention a few times. Wow! I'm pretty happy with my PC biscuit joiner, but honestly that is like tang orange drink with a whole orange tree.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 04-18-2013, 10:47 AM
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As a professional woodworker, I purchase the best tools I can afford. If a tool is extraordinary I'll save and find a way to afford it such as the Festool domino loose tenon joiner. I was introduced to it in class and immediately saw it's value. Located one on Craig's List and purchased it from someone that thought it was TO EXPENSIVE for what it does. It earned it's keep with the first project I used it on. So much for the word VALUE! Huge value, just have to get over the money thing. Perhaps to expensive for the hobbyist but not for a professional, as was the Lamello biscuit joiner I purchased over thirty years ago. It was far superior to the double dowel-it I was using!! Never forget the word value if you earn your living with a tool.
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