I have often seen the case where an instrument selling for 20
percent the price could accomplish 80 percent of all possible needs
for the effect. This is, in engineering parlance, known as a
variation of the Pareto Princile, also known as the 80:20 rule.
Andrew, our field may be one where you’ll find it useful to forget
that rule. It may apply to some fields, but in ours, that 20%
increase in functionality may be the difference between a tool worth
owning and using, and one which, though it tries to work, simply
cannot do the job well enough to be worth the aggrevation.
I can think of many examples:
Cheap drawplates made in India, often available for under ten bucks,
will indeed give you wire, most of the time. But sizes are variable,
and finish isn’t so good. The first time you try a good well made
french steel plate, or a good carbide plate, you’ll never use those
Indian plates again.
Pepe Tools makes a wonderful looking dapping die (Harbor Freight
sells an equally decent looking chinese copy for even less) and
dapping punch set. The steel is good, the finish is great. They look
wonderful, and cost a lot less than a good french or german dapping
block. But the devil is in the details. The block is made with
depressions which are full 180 degree hemispheres, and the matching
dapping punches are exact fits. Looks good, but there’s no clearance
in there for the metal thickness. And if you try to produce a full
hemisphere, the sharp edges of the hemispheric depressions leave
scars on the metal, and the lack of a draft angle at the top makes
the metal very difficult to remove from the block, and that’s if you
can even find a punch that gives you both a good dapping job and
enough clearance for the metal. You don’t become aware of these
limitations until you try to use the tool, and for many uses with
smaller discs not fitting the whole hemisphere, you don’t notice. But
it’s a key difference.
A number of other Pepe tools have similar deficiencies, not obvious
at first. Their jump ring winder, a cheaper copy of Ray Grossman’s
"jump ringer", is a good example. Looks good, and saves you money.
But trust me. Ray’s tool is much more usable, even if the differences
appear quite minor. the devil’s in the details.
Or how about a neat looking little swiss made saw frame. Very light
weight and good in the hand. comfortable, looks good, nicely made.
But the blades fit into these drilled holes, held by a set screw. Too
small a clamping area, those set screws often won’t hold a blade much
finer than about 3/0 size. First time you notice that, you’ll go back
to your old standby german saw frame again.
I suspect this whole principal is less applicable to tools we use
for a couple reasons. First, jewelry is all about the details. A tool
that does 80 percent of the way it should be done, is probably not
doing a good enough job to pass muster. And with hand tools, the
limits are often in the hands themselves, as much as the tools.
Limiting a tool by 20 percent performance may mean a much larger
limitation in the degree to which the human precion user can make it
work. Think, for example, of the dramatic difference between what you
can do with ordinary sawblades, versus higher quality ones. Or high
quality swiss or german needle files versus cheaper ones from china
or the like which may still work, but just not give quite as uniform
and precise a cut and finished surface. Or the subtle difference in
feel and performance between good german hand pliers versus the cheap
ones from pakistan. The latter may be fine for beginners or those on
a budget, but for fine control and good work, most experienced users
simply won’t bother with junky cheap pliers if they’ve got a choice
(not to say there isn’t a place for them too, especially when you
need to modify a plier for a specific job)
And the list goes on.
It’s like jewelry itself. It’s either made right, or it isn’t.
Almost right is usually simply not right. There’s a lot of commercial
junk jewelry that fits that description, but we all know the
difference when we see it. It’s right or it isn’t.
Same with tools.