A few weeks ago I came across a forum thread where the poster was looking for durable rotary tool cut-off discs. He had bought some discs for his Dremel-style tool off of Ebay, and complained that they shattered way too easily.
I didn’t respond to the thread, but silently screamed MAYBE TRY SOME GENUINE DREMEL REINFORCED DISCS!!
Not that all name-brand power tool accessories are golden and all off brands’ accessories are junk, but there can be a huge difference in quality.
There are certain accessories where I am a stickler for brand names. It’s not about the names though, but about proven quality and reliability.
This reminds me of when I attended Milwaukee’s 2012 media event, the one where they introduced a new line of M12 Fuel brushless drills and drivers. As we took a brief tour around the headquarters, one of the rooms we passed by was a testing lab that was said to be equipped with an electron microscope.
Once home, I sent Milwaukee an email, asking what their engineers use their test lab SEM for.
In the test lab, we utilize the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) to help determine the root cause of a failure if there is one. This could be on an accessory, like a Sawzall® Recip Saw blade, a hand tool or a part within a tool. By determining this root cause we can modify the design to eliminate any weak points and ultimately provide the best product possible to the end user.
For example, when our concept team develops a new product and a part fails during the testing of the first prototype, the part is sent to the material lab for analysis. The root cause of the problem is determined as well as the location on the part where the failure began. The concept engineer then takes that information and modifies the part design to eliminate stress risers. This new design is then prototyped and retested.
That’s a pretty standard answer, but I wouldn’t have thought Milwaukee did their own metallurgical testing. Now, I suppose I would be surprised to find a major power tool accessory brand or manufacturer that didn’t do metallurgical testing or failure analysis on their accessories.
Do you think that no-name brands go to such lengths to ensure they are producing the best quality accessories that they can? Or do they primarily focus on target pricing and acceptable rejection rates?
This brings to mind an older post – This is Why Cheap Drill Bit Sets are so Cheap – which describes how some Asian OEMs will mix a few well-built commonly used bits with a lot of cheap junky bits in the sets they sell.
I have seen off-brand “titanium” drill bits with flaking-off gold-colored paint. Saw blades with dull and crooked teeth. Sandpaper with uneven grit size and tissue-soft backing paper. Budget screwdriver bits made from super-soft steel.
Still, there are some off-brand accessories that seem to be well-regarded. Take Unibit-style step bits for example. While I have not yet tried generic-branded step bits, I have heard enough praise from experienced users that I might be inclined to give them a try.
Generally, the only time I go for off-brand accessories is when I think I might need a particular tool for very few uses. The only time this happened in recent years was when I purchased a set of generic silver and deming drill bits. As part of the same order I also bought two brand-name bits. The price of one good quality bit approached that for a 5-piece set of no-name import bits, but there were noticeable performance differences.
Aside from the silver and deming bits, I typically gravitate to tried-and-true brand name accessories. As mentioned, it’s about quality and reliability. I trust Bosch for jigsaw blades and masonry drill bits. Milwaukee for reciprocating saw blades. Dremel, Foredom, and 3M for rotary tool accessories. Dewalt for everyday drill bits (Pilot Point) and larger cut-off wheels. Freud and Diablo for 10″ and larger circular saw blades. This list isn’t strict, but reflects my typical preferences off the top of my head.
Do you do the same? In your experience, are there certain power tool accessories where brand names matter more? Less?