DIY Tools

7 Tricks to Test a Tool’s Quality at the Hardware Store

Buying hand tools can be a confusing—and at times a losing—proposition. When faced with aisles full of putty knives, hammers, utility knives, and other toolbox must-haves, it’s tough to know if you’re really getting the best product for your money. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably purchased a few tools in the past that ended up breaking during use or rusting into a corroded mess soon after you brought them home, and you'd like to avoid that disappointing experience in the future. In search of advice how the average handyperson can make better-informed tool-buying decisions, we enlisted the help of Corey Talbot, Vice President of Marketing and Product Development at Hyde Tools, who knows what goes into making a quality tool and understands how DIY centers market products. The next time you find yourself staring at a wall of similar-looking tools in a bevy of colors and a range of prices, try the following tips to ensure that you come home with a quality tool you’ll be proud to add to your box. This content has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of
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Look Up!

One of the simplest tricks for locating quality tools is to “look on the shelves above eye level,” Talbot says. Retail stores position mid-quality tools at eye level because those are the tools that most customers purchase—but they may not offer the best bang for your buck. With tools, as with many things in life, higher quality often comes at a slightly higher price. The superior materials and the manufacturing methods used to create better tools add a little to the final cost. Instead of grabbing the first putty knife you see, shift your focus upward. That’s where you’ll find higher-quality tools, such as the ones in HYDE’s Black & Silver line, which are made to last a lifetime.

Feel the Weight

When shopping for a quality tool, “take it down off the shelf and feel the weight,” Talbot advises. “A lightweight utility knife might be cheaper, but it might not feel as good in your hand.” Imagine using the tool: Is it substantial enough for you to grip firmly? Typically, a higher-quality tool will be little heavier than a substandard model.

There are exceptions, however. If a tool is used overhead—for example, when a wide taping knife is being used to smooth joint compound on ceilings—a heavy tool can be a burden. Hyde Tools understands this and has developed lighter taping knives in its Black & Silver line. They’re just as durable as all the company’s tools, but you’ll be able to keep taping overhead a little longer without arm fatigue. Consider how you will be using the tool, and then factor in whether it’s the best weight for your needs.

Look for Tools That Multitask

While higher-quality tools will often cost more, you can actually save money and still get top-notch durability and performance by choosing a tool that multitasks rather than buying many separate tools. “Additional benefits and features just make life easier,” Talbot says. A good example of a multitasking tool is the HYDE 5-in-1 Painter’s Tool. This single tool opens paint cans, widens cracks for patching, doubles as a paint scraper or putty knife, and removes wet paint from a roller. Not only will you save money by buying a high-quality multipurpose tool instead of five (or more) individual tools to do the same work, you won’t have to lug around a lot of heavy tools in your tool belt—and you’ll get years of dependable service.

Know Your Steel

A cheap, flexible knife is probably OK for a small or one-time job, but with repeated use, it can bend without resuming its original shape. Quality materials make for a quality tool. “Carbon steel is great for many hand tools,” Talbot explains, “because it can be hardened to various degrees of rigidity, but there’s a problem—it rusts. The next step up, quality-wise, is stainless steel, which will cost more but won’t pose the same issue.” Because both types of steel are useful, Hyde Tools developed a superior combination of Rockwell steel and high-quality carbon to produce knives that have a degree of flexibility yet do not rust. This high-grade steel is featured in their SuperFlexx line of putty knives and taping knives. The next time you’re shopping for a rustproof and durable, yet flexible, putty knife or taping knife, consider the superior steel in HYDE’s SuperFlexx line. Your new knife will hold up under pressure and won’t corrode if you accidentally leave it out in the rain or snow.

Consider Comfort

A tool with a poorly designed grip can leave you with aching muscles and tendons, or even blisters, if it doesn’t fit well in your hand. For repetitive-motion tasks, such as scraping paint from a fence or taping a room’s worth of drywall joints, “look for a well-formed, cushioned grip that will absorb some of the motion or impact,” Talbot suggests.

Ergonomic handles and comfort grips allow you to complete your task without discomfort. Before buying, hold the tool in your hand as you would if you were using it. Does the handle feel good in your grasp? The Dual Blade Carbide Scraper, which features a curved handle to reduce knuckle-scrape and a pull knob that lets you use two hands, is an example of good, functional design. The bottom line: If a tool fits your hand comfortably, you’ll be able to work longer with less wrist and arm fatigue.

Look for Full Tang Construction

Perhaps the best indicator that a taping knife or putty knife will stand the test of time is full tang construction, which just means that “the metal in the blade goes all the way from the end of the handle to the tip of the blade,” Talbot says. “It’s one solid piece, so it will hold up better under pressure.”

Partial tang construction, on the other hand—which is often found in cheaper knives—features a tang that extends only a short way into the handle. After a few uses, a partial tang handle is likely to work loose, and then you’re stuck having to buy another knife to complete your project. Full tang knives last longer and offer increased leverage when performing tasks that require lateral pressure on the blade, such as prying a baseboard away from a wall. Sometimes, you can look at the handle of the knife from the side to see if the tang runs all the way to the end of the handle, though knives with overmold grips will fully encase the handle portion of the tang. If a knife is made with full tang construction, it should say so on the packaging.

Check Out the Warranty

When a manufacturer is confident that their product is top-notch, they’re more likely to offer a long-term or lifetime warranty against defects. Check the tool’s packaging for an indication that the manufacturer is offering a warranty. When you pick up a product from Hyde Tools’ Black & Silver line, the warranty will be right there—a bold black-and-yellow circle announcing that the tool is “Guaranteed Forever.” A clear warranty like this should offer peace of mind. And, when you choose a tool from a company that has been in business for 140 years, like Hyde Tools, you know that company is going to be around to make good on their warranty.