What is the difference between DIY and professional power-tools?
Professional power-tools can cost substantially more than DIY hand tools or power-tools. Why is there a price difference and when should you buy professional power-tools?
Commercial-grade power-tools cost more because their life expectancy is longer due to their design and build quality.
It might make good sense to buy professional-grade or commercial quality power-tools if you plan on turning your hobby into a business.
The typical home DIY workshop or garage power-tool collection
As a DIY person, hobbyist or maker, you may work from a shed or garage and have workshop power-tools or gardening equipment such as:
- bench drills
- rivet guns
- nail guns
- plasma cutters
- bench grinders and linishers
- angle grinders
- hand drills
- air compressors
- lathes or milling machines
- lawn mower
- pole saw
- rotating blades
Whether they have rechargeable batteries, electrical power leads or petrol engines, there will usually be a commercial or professional power-tool option for each type.
When you bought your tools, perhaps there was a more expensive option that you ignored?
As you probably do one project at a time, because of limited need, time or space, this probably made sense.
Why are professional grade power-tools more expensive than the DIY range?
Part of the design process for a tool or motor will centre on things like:
- how many times it will be used in its life
- how much time will it be run for in each use
- what conditions will it be used under
A DIY tool that spends most of its life sitting in a workshop may last many years. The overall time you own a power tool can mislead you into believing it is very robust.
Add up the total number of times that the tool was used and it might not be many at all, even over many years.
It could also be that each use was for a relatively easy and short task.
In a DIY environment, it is more likely the tool was used, in a fairly clean, dust-free atmosphere.
What is different about the design of professional or commercial grade power-tools?
During the design of a professional or commercial grade power tool, the frequency and the duration for each use will be estimated.
It could be much higher than the DIY tool.
A business user or an industrial workshop may use the device for extended periods on a frequent or daily basis.
In a factory, environment durability is crucial to productivity.
Additionally, allowances may be made for the atmosphere or environment the tool will work in. In some workshops or worksites, the atmosphere may be very dusty, which could cause motors to overheat.
Even consideration about how many times an electrical lead might be wound up might be estimated.
The capacity and charge rate of Lithium-Ion batteries also needs to match the expected use.
The warranty period offered may also be longer than a DIY range tool as the components are stronger.
Why is a professional-grade power-tool stronger than a DIY tool?
For a commercial power-tool to last during its warranty period, a more robust build may be required.
- metal bodies or housings rather than plastic
- larger bearings for rotating shafts
- the use of bearings rather than bushes
- brushless electric motors
- larger air filters
- larger oil filters
- heavy duty electrical switches
- heavy duty electrical contacts and cables
- sealed switches
- heavy duty Amp hour (Ah) batteries and charger
The professional series may come in power tool combo kits with better charging stations or storage systems.
Power-tool consumable parts can last longer
The range of consumable items for power tools will also include more expensive options. Longer lasting consumable items can be made depending on, for example, the choice of steel, alloy or abrasives.
The materials used may be upgraded for commercial or industrial use in consumable items such as:
- drill bits
- router heads
- saw blades
- grinding discs
- sanding belts and papers
- mower blades
Is it worth paying for professional-grade power tools?
If you use your tool in a business, then it has to perform consistently and reliably.
When your income depends upon tools, then your attitude to them should change. Price may no longer be the prime factor as productivity, quality of job and customer service are vital.
Tools that break or don’t give as good a finish may be a liability.
In an industrial production unit, efficiency and productivity are crucial if jobs are to be completed on time and within a cost estimate. Labour is usually a significant component of a job cost, and poor quality tools can lead to high labour costs and losing money.
It is also worth remembering that using a DIY tool for commercial use may invalidate the tool manufacturer warranty.
Using commercial or professional-grade power-tools makes perfect sense once your hobby becomes a business enterprise.
Which are the leading brands of power-tools here?
You can check some leading brands and their websites here:
What changes to your workshop and mindset might you need?
As a hobbyist, you might handle one project at a time which suits your choice of tools, workshop floor area and your free time.
However, to scale your business up in size, you may need to review things like:
- the type of tools you need to make you more productive
- upgrading to commercial-grade tools
- a bigger workshop area to cope with multiple jobs
- decluttering and re-organising the workshop floor to increase productivity and safety
- the amount of lighting
- fume or dust extraction
- a fire prevention and escape plan
- an organised storage area for materials
- is the electrical power supply in your workshop big enough?
- your choice of material suppliers and their service agreement
- any new products that you might offer
How do I know if this is a good business idea?
Owning a business does not suit everybody. We created The Should I Own A Business Podcast to help people who are thinking of starting a business find out what it’s like.
The Should I Own A Business “Pathway” covers the essential things you should consider and how to prepare yourself to be successful.
For example, Episode 14 is called How To Evaluate Your Business Idea, which explains why to use a simple Business Model Design before writing a business plan.
Other episodes such as You-360 and Understanding Your Motivation help you work out if owning a business is right for you.
How do you get from being an amateur into a business owner?
- If you like the idea of owning your own business, there is some preparation that you can take to increase your chances of success greatly.
- The preparation includes assessing your business knowledge, defining your ambitions and deciding if owning a business is the right choice for you.
- You must also establish that customers will keep buying before you become a full-time business owner.
- Owning a successful small business requires a lot of things to work in harmony, and it is vital to have a good understanding before you leap in. That’s why we say Listen Before You Leap!
How do you convert your hobby into a business?
For your hobby to generate the major part or all of your income, you will have to consider how you would scale your business up so that you could have a constant supply of work.
Building your past-time into a business will require some systems and disciplines.
You may need to improve some systems to speed up things like:
- design software
- cost estimating
- price quoting
- purchasing materials
- warranty terms and conditions
- customer order acknowledgement
- workshop job instructions
- stock management
- work health and safety
- quality control and quality assurance
- any license or certificates you may need to operate your business
- insurances for your workshop, products and people
What is micro-manufacturing?
Micro-manufacturing refers to the size of the company and not the size of the products. Many countries describe the smallest firms that employ one or a few people as “micro-businesses”. Increasingly, micro-businesses are involved in manufacturing or micro-fabrication.
Micro-businesses are in all economies and account for the greatest number of businesses.
What does running a micro-manufacturing business entail?
As a part-time or full-time micro-manufacturer, you will be spending time running and growing your business.
This means that not only will you be the “manufacturing manager”, but you will need to be across the other Critical Business Functions.
Critical Business Functions are in all businesses, and they have to work harmoniously for the business to thrive.
Episode 6 Critical Business Functions is a good place to hear what some of these are.
Understanding The Reality of Business Ownership
The Should I Own A Business Podcast explores the reality of being a business owner in plain language, for ordinary people.
Local manufacturing and fabrication present a huge opportunity for new business owners.
Here are some other resources you might find helpful:
You might like this blog called What is it like to run a manufacturing business?
We also have a great article on manufacturing productivity for beginners.
Our free Business Readiness Test highlights areas you might need to prepare more before starting a business.
About the author: Brendan Barrow has extensive experience in leading and managing manufacturing businesses on 3 continents.
He also has experience in DIY renovations and managing workshops.
Brendan Barrow Co-Host
The Should I Own A Business Podcast-Listen Before You Leap.
Avoiding new business failures, one owner at a time.