Good tools are worth it

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 13, 2012, 4:40 PM | comments: 0

Diana started to get into quilting this year. The sewing machine she inherited from her mother, as you might expect, is quite old and limited in its capabilities. As you might expect, a new machine that helps do the work in a capable way isn't cheap, and this discouraged her a bit. I told her she should do the research and buy whatever made the most sense. I'm totally behind her.

The fact is, even when it comes to hobbies, it's worth it to buy the right tools, if you have the means. Buying something less only leaves you frustrated, and you won't enjoy it as much. Certainly, you find what the sweet spot is in terms of price and performance, but if you cheap-out, I think you're wasting money to an extent.

For example, my inner video nerd will never go away, and this year I decided I wanted to buy a new camera. I bought the previous camera six years ago, and learned a lot from the experience. The replacement is something I would like to last another six years. The ideal would have been to buy the $15k Canon that makes dreamy images. While not a $50k camera, that's still a bit much. But I could justify $3,500, an improvement over the 2006 purchase. Granted, I make a little money with my tools, but I know that a $300 consumer camera won't do what I want.

It's really not any different from regular tools. I learned as a teenager what happens when you have a cheap socket wrench (hint: it splits). That's why after almost 20 years, I've only bought one set of sockets. Car mechanics don't buy their tools at Wal-Mart. I wouldn't buy a $300 Dell to use for software development either.

Yes, constraints can force you to get creative. A lot of artists are fond of reminding you of this, from Jack White in music to Robert Rodriguez in film. I agree with them, but there's a difference between constraints and being Amish. In the case of sewing, you could use your hands, sure, but there's a point in which the right machine gets you most of the way to realizing what you want to achieve. The camera scenario is like that too. I can't record uncompressed video without additional equipment, so I have to be careful with what I shoot, but it sure beats trying to get some Best Buy camcorder to do what I need.

Diana will be happy with her machine (merry Christmas and happy birthday, dear!), and I suspect having it will help her enjoy the process a great deal more. You can't feel bad about buying the right tools.


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