Why you should stop asking Facebook for tool advice or any advice

Grizzly Lathe model G0462I belong to a few woodworking Facebook groups and even help moderate a few. However, there is a noticeable trend of misinformation inseminating from these groups, which are primarily based on opinion and have nothing to do with facts.

A few questions pop up regularly in woodworking Facebook groups that make me want to stab a pencil in my eye to keep my eyes from rolling when I read the comments.

Example question:

What tools should I buy? Should I buy a grizzly lathe or a Jet lathe?  Should I buy a Festool sander or DeWalt sander?  And on and on and on, name that tool category, and you’re off to a deep dive of information.

The basis of the question is that the person who is asking it just wants to get the best tool they can for the money they have to spend.  Unfortunately, the people posting answers have not made any direct comparison between many tools and will recommend the tool they have in their shop.  There is also a considerable bias based on brand loyalty; just like cheering for your hometown football team, you want to cheer for the brand of tooling that is most prevalent in your shop, whether or not they make a touchdown or not.  It is just human nature to want to take sides and cheer for something.

Many people have bought Grizzly tools, and if they like it well enough and it gets the job done, they, of course, recommend it, and the next tool they buy will most likely be a Grizzly as well.  I have a Grizzly lathe, it turns wood just fine, and I can make things on it just fine, so if someone asks me if they should buy a Grizzly lathe, I’d say sure it works fine for me.  However, that is just my opinion based on my knowledge at the time.  When I formulated that opinion, I just didn’t know any better.

One day I was at a friend’s shop and had the opportunity to use his lathe.  The casting of the base was heavier, so there was less vibration and chatter, resulting in a smoother cut.  The speed of the motor was electronically determined, not by changing the relationship between pulleys and belts, so it changed speeds smoothly.  The slowest speed was slow enough that you could easily apply a finish without it splattering all over the place.  It had a 12-point spindle lock, and the features went on and on.  As the shavings flew, I realized that my Grizzly lathe was a piece of shit in comparison.

How could this be, people in the Facebook comments would defend it to their death, that Grizzly tools are the end all be all of the industrial equipment, this was the sword they have chosen to die upon.

Unfortunately, there are many things at play in the comments.  They didn’t want to admit that they couldn’t afford the premium lathe, and their ego brought out their need to defend their purchasing choice.  They are brand loyal and are offended that someone took a shot at their team, and are sore losers.  They lack the experience and knowledge to know what a quality tool should feel like to operate.  The reasons can be endless and deep in nuance.

However, at the end of the day, the comments are like reading an opinion piece, and you have no way of knowing who is giving you the best information.  So you end up making a choice based on a guess, and what opinions line up with what you want to believe? There are a few facts involved.

So what to do?  Where do you find reliable advice?   The best thing you can do is close the FB app and get out in the real world to experience it for yourself.  Go to trade shows where companies let you test out tools.  Join local woodworkers’ guilds or clubs and make friends with people.  There is a good chance they will let you stick a piece of wood in their tool to experience it.  Seek out peer-reviewed publications like Fine Woodworking Magazine.  They often have an experienced woodworker put the different brands to the test in a side-by-side comparison.  The side-by-side comparison is key to discovering the different nuances in the build quality and features of a tool.

The most important thing is to take everything with a grain of salt; asking a group of strangers on Facebook who have the time to sit in front of their computer all day dispensing their opinions is probably not the way to go.  You have no idea what their actual credentials are or their experience level. Most of the time, when I click through to someone’s profile that self-proclaims themselves as an expert, they do not have the credentials to back up their claim.  They only have a picture of a cutting board as a prominent example of the thing they have made.  So at the end of the day, you need to keep in mind that people are full of shit, and so am I, so good luck out there.

I’m the owner of Benham Design Concepts, a mixed media art studio where I design and build custom furniture and other works of art using wood, glass, stone, and various metals.
In this blog, I talk about the art I create, my journey, and the things I learn along the way.