Buying a basic, commonsense tool kit - Be a Smart Tool Buyer

When you're ready to buy tools, shop carefully. Check more than one store, read all the catalogs you can obtain (the information they contain will save you substantially more than the few dollars they may cost), and always, always look for tool kit sales and specials.

Mail-order advertisements in magazines such as WOOD regularly offer substantial price reductions on top-quality tools. And sales are such normal marketing techniques at several nationwide retail chains that it sometimes seems difficult to pay full retail price for their popular tools.

Many tool kit manufacturers offer several product lines: inexpensive tools for "hobbyists" and more elaborate heavy-duty models for commercial and professional use. How much tool do you need?

In general, it makes sense to buy the best tool kit you can afford, particularly when you're purchasing hand tools. It's unlikely that a good saw or plane will become obsolete, and with basic maintenance there's no reason why these tools can't last for centuries. The thought that a great-great-grandchild might one day enjoy using your combination square could make spending extra dollars seem like a wise investment.

When it comes to power tools, however, it gets easier to fall into the "overkill" trap. If a 1-horse- power router will be entirely adequate for your needs, do you really need a 3-horsepower model?

Good tool kit don't go out of style. A 100-year-old hand plane or wood chisel looks pretty much the same as a brand-new one, and some woodworkers insist that, the older the tool, the higher the quality. As this issue's article about classic saws demonstrates, old tools can actually be more expensive than new models. But auctions and news¬paper classifieds are often good sources for low-cost, high-quality items, so think about buying your tools used. You might even find a great tool kit deal on that table saw we'd so much like you to have.