I like the series! Why? Because he reveals that tool reviews are not always honest, or written by people who truly know about the tools they are writing about – the most notable example he gave early on in the series was Consumer Reports, and with good reason. While Schwarz also admits he has written reviews that could have been better, it is a hard admission to follow, for I know he writes with his heart, even if he suggests he has done otherwise in the past. This guy honest to a fault; I have followed his work for many years, I have watched and filmed some of his demos at Woodworking in America conferences, I have watched him work tirelessly while getting ready for a presentation, pushing carts with materials to use and share with people attending them.
I know I cannot fully interpret the meaning of his series on tool reviews, or where he is headed with it. However, I believe I understand the spirit of what he’s saying. Please read on.
To me, Schwarz is saying that tool reviews must be written by people who totally, completely understand the tool, and what that tool is supposed to do. Moreover, if the tool under review is indeed performing the job it is intended to do, the reviewer should state so; if it is not, the reviewer must be honest, and state what the tool is not doing, to the best of his or her understanding. No sugar coating is needed to do this. The weaknesses should not be glossed over, nor hidden or ignored.
Why? Because, sooner or later, users (i.e., consumers), will find out whether a review that swayed them to buy the tool really performs like it’s supposed to perform. However, this may lead to an interesting conundrum: What if the buyer, the consumer, of the tool is not familiar with what the tool really should do? The simplest example I can think of is a chisel, which Schwarz mentions. The user may not even know he or she is not using the tool properly, and only later finds out what the reviewer meant by “bruising the cheeks of a dovetail”.
As Schwarz suggests, the best a consumer can do prior to purchase is touch and feel the tools. I agree, for there is no substitute. He also recommends we stop buying online; while easier said than done, the extra effort is worth the time and money. This will help put behind the promises “…I wish I had known better…” and “…next time…”
Thanks, Chris! I look forward to the next article! I may even have to change some of what I wrote in this article.
— Al Navas