Loaning Tools: What’s Your Take?

Ryan's advice about loaning tools? Borrowers to pony up when they pick up.

Ryan's advice about loaning tools? Borrowers should pony up when they pick it up.

A big sawdusty thanks to all of you who left comments about the recent blog post “Got Rules for Your Tools?”. I think we woodworkers are a pretty organized, attention-to-details sort of bunch. So it came as no surprise that you folks would have some rules to live by in your shop. Still waiting to hear from some of you that don’t choose to keep the place spotless. Maybe us neatniks are missing something…

Aside from being a kick to read, your “rules” also had me nodding yes. No goofing off. Keep wet beverages off the table saw. Wear your shoes in the shop. Keep things sorted. Goggles on or you’re gone.

Yep. Check. Agreed. (Guess there’s some shop teacher genes in many of us.)

But, I’ve just got to call attention to a topic raised by Ryan, in his response:

If you’d like to borrow one of my tools, that’s okay. Just leave a deposit of 2x the replacement value of the tool on the workbench. Half of your deposit will be refunded upon return of the tool. The other half will be used to buy a new one because chances are you’ve broken it, dulled it, rusted it, bent it or worn it beyond repair.

Aside from having a good laugh about this rule (and it’s a gutsy one at that, Ryan!) here’s the issue: Loaning tools.

LOANING2Do you let those prized tools out of the shop and into a buddy’s trunk, or do you keep your stuff on a short leash? How do you deal with the awkward matter of asking for the borrowed tools back—especially if your saw or biscuit joiner takes a longer leave of absence than you’d expected?

I’ve been in these situations before. I once loaned a post-hole digger out for so long I forgot that I even owned it. A nail gun spent about a half year moonlighting on a friend’s big remodel, but it came back in great shape—not everything borrowed is doomed.

Should we take Ryan’s advice and put some terms to those loaned tools? Or, should we continue to be generous friends (and really cheap rental centers)? Maybe you’ve got a war story to tell about a tool that went to hell and back, all for the sake of a friendly loan.

Do tell.

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

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About Chris Marshall

Chris Marshall has been writing for Woodworker's Journal as a contributing editor and field editor since 2001. Prior to that, he spent five years developing home improvement and woodworking books. He's written five of them and has served as a contributing writer on many more. A wood and tool junkie since childhood, Chris thoroughly enjoys building projects and reviewing woodworking tools for the Journal. When he's not assembling new machinery, sawing parts, taking photos or crunching text for an upcoming story, he enjoys spending time with his family and a houseful of pets at their home in rural Ohio.

22 thoughts on “Loaning Tools: What’s Your Take?

  1. Tool Loaning is a big question with no single answer: My favorite hand plane? Never. A drill? Most likely. Manual screwdriver? Sure! Unless you are the neighbor’s kid and I think you really want to pound it into a tree. For bigger tools, come on over and I’ll help you with the project. But I’m not leaving you alone in the shop with a table saw, unless you are my father. Then again, I don’t know anyone else who has used one much and doesn’t have their own.

  2. It depends on the tool for me. If it’s something of decent value, chances are I’ll offer to come and help and bring the tool along with me- to my friend’s place AND back home after :)

  3. My prized woodworking tools never leave my shop, not even for my own use in the house (home projects can be hard on tools and it just isn’t worth it). I keep several duplicates of almost everything. I have a set for my own use in my house and another set that can be loaned out. All are clean, sharp, and ready to go, they just aren’t my favorites to use in the shop. I’ve never had a bad experience with loaning my tools because I have very clear rules when doing so and I never lend a tool that I would be devastated to lose.

  4. I do loan my tools, but only to a couple (like, two) trusted friends who will definitely take care of them. What I have less control over is when the family wants to borrow them, and use them inappropriately. It’s much more common that, when someone wants to borrow my tools, they will be invited to my shop, and I’ll help them with the project. It’s an opportunity for me to learn, and possibly help someone else learn from me.

  5. While the original comment was made (mostly) in jest, the point is that almost nobody takes care of your tools like you do.

    Horror story:
    While visiting a neighbor, I noticed a portable generator sitting under a tree. You could tell by the amount of leaf and tree debris on it, as well as the rust, that it had been there a while. When I asked when he had bought a generator, he replied that it wasn’t his. He was just borrowing it from a friend.

    From that moment on, when that particular neighbor asks to borrow an expensive tool, I do as John G commented… offer to help. I bring the tool and it returns with me when I leave.

    Positive take:
    I have no problems with another friend who occasionally borrows things. When a sander is used, it’s returned with an unopened pack of discs or paper. A jigsaw is returned with a new pack of blades. Power miter saw came back cleaner than when it went out and with the dust bag emptied.

  6. Like my guns “You can have them when you pry my cold dead fingers from them!”

    I will be happy to help anyone, but the tools are my mine, if one is damaged it’s nobody’s fault but mine. Saves friends.

  7. I do and I don’t. Depends on the person and the tool. If I get it back right away and in as good shape as it left then I’ll probably do it again. If I have to go get it back, find out it’s broke on my own, abuse is obvious or don’t get a simple “Thank You” then that person needn’t ask again!

  8. I really like the idea of “Bring your project to my shop and you can use my tools” or “I’ll bring my tool(s) to your shop and help on the project.” That’s friendly, generous and might be educational. But the idea of a tool of mine being in somebody else’s shop without me seems like inviting disappointment at best and “goodbye tool” at worst.

  9. I keep a few “junker” tools, usually from Black & Decker or Skill, around for people to borrow. Drills, Circular Saws, Mini Table Saw; you get the idea. These are always cheap at garage sales or just given to you free because someone has died or divorced.

    Friends are welcome to borrow them anytime. If they get dropped off the ladder or otherwise abused, I don’t have to loose any sleep over it.

    Sometimes I even use them myself, like when I need to use a masonry blade in a Circular Saw, and I don’t want my good saw filled with grit.

    Back when I worked on job sites, I would paint all my tools hot “Barbie” pink. None of the other trades would ever ask to borrow them; as if the just the act of touching them would remove their manhood. Never had any of them stolen either – imagine that.

  10. I try to be friends with everyone. But I learned a long time ago, that you can’t even trust the people you call friends with your tools. On the other hand if they were truly your friends, they would return it in good shape or repair or buy another one.

    I loaned my chainsaw to a “friend”. When it was returned (and I was not home) I found it all full of sand. I found out some time later the “friend” used it to edge his driveway. Another time I loaned a “friend” my skil saw. It came back all gummy and dirty. Again I found out later that he had used the saw to cut a tree back.

    Now I look at loaning tools the same as loaning money. ” Before you loan a “friend” your tools or your money, be sure of which one you need the most.

  11. Tools should be used. I have a hard time convincing myself that I’ll use some of my tools enough to claim complete control over them. I loaned out an old 6″ jointer to a neighbor 20 years ago and occasionally go and visit it in his shop across the street. I don’t have that much space in the basement and it kind of got in the way. I talk with my next door neighbor about buying a planer with the understanding that he can store it. I just need to use it now and then. Why should each of us have to have one of everything?

    I can’t imagine the need to own a lathe, but once every ten years or so, it sure would be nice. And if I expect to borrow something every now and then, I have to be willing to lend. That oldest, and most basic of religious teachings, to treat others as you would have them treat you. So although I understand the hesitancy to loan anything and obligation to fix or replace a tool you borrowed and broke, I wish there was someway to trust each other a little more.

  12. I heard a recent incident where a tool was “borrowed” by a “friend”, who later got hurt using it. (Two fingers amputated)’ Appropriate usage or not, the person loaning the tool out got dragged into a very nasty liability lawsuit. He came out of it without major liabilities, primarily because he did not provide a blade, or chage for the use of the “borrowed” tool, but still incurred some legal fees, and a wary eye from his homeowners insurance company i.e ” are you running a commerial rental shop?”” Do you loan your tools to lots of people?”” Do you instruct them on the safe use of them?” and lots of time and grief. Ever read the fine print on a tool rental contract? One of the standard lines on most of them is “For use by skilled and knowledgable persons at their own risk”. I asked my layer about it, and his comment was “no way, no time, no how.”

  13. Someone (I don’t rememberhis name) said once that: “It is better to give than to lend, since the end result will be the same…”

  14. I once borrowed a reciprocating saw from a friend, who also helped me with remodeling my house. I was in a store just before I was going to return it and saw a new model of the saw. I immediately bought it and gave it to him. I still have the old saw, and it still works.

  15. Remember in the current world even friends will sue, if there is an accident and your tool is involved. If you do not have proper documentation on maintenance and operating instructions or if you loaned the tool without the operators manual or possibly with a defect you could be going to court. Think twice, don’t loan.

  16. My shop sign says “[t]he reason I have what you want is I never lent it out before.”

    Did I mention my tools not only make my living? Too, there is that my tools also keep me from having to pay others to do the work my tools allow me to do.

    Some of my tools cost significantly more than friends hunting rifles. If they wouldn’t lend me their cherished rifle, should I feel guilty for not lending them my cherished tools? I think not. How about them lending me their used car for an extended period? Or maybe their home computer?

    I have a friend who is know to throw tools on lawns from the roofs of four story buildings, rather than wrestle them down. I owe him favors, so the only solution is to buy inexpensive tools from a well know “freight” store and let him borrow them, for as long as he wants.

  17. I would only lend my tools to a couple of my neighbors. I did one time loan a new electric chainsaw to a neighbor. I got it back with the chain jammed in it, and the bar twisted. Never again to him. I really keep my tool box locked, i can’t trust my own stepson to get in there, can never tell when he will loan them out even when they are not his, then there gone !!!

  18. Due to experiences in the past, I am VERY careful to whom I will loan tools.
    One time a chainsaw came back with the chain on backwards, and the person who had borrowed the saw did not realize that it was backwards!
    I borrowed a Bosch hammer drill from a contractor friend, it broke when I had it, so I bought him a new one.
    I will lend any or all of my tools to my two sons, but am very cautious about outright loaning tools to others. Like others have said in previous posts, it is better to go along with the tool, use it and bring it back so that the tool damage and liability is limited.

  19. Folks, I have been blisterd so many times, even by family & friends. I’ve purchased the same tool over and over again. People think that you’re anice guy and are more than willing to take your tools and, use them, abuse them and feel free to keep them for their very own. If I do loan a tool to anybody, I make sure of the time and date of it’s return. If you do miss the dead line I’ll come and pick it up my self just to save you the trouble of returning it. I don’t feel a damn bit reluctant about comming over and getting personal belongings. When i’t comes to my money and my tools Imyself personaly lose all tact.

  20. My Father-in-Law put it the best. There are 3 things I DON’T Loan out. My Tools, my wife, or my Car.

  21. I rarely do anymore. Only a select few. I usually always regret it and never have what I need when i need it because it never gets brought back. Why do they have time to come talk me out of it, but not to ever bring it back. Brain death, coma, paralyzed, heart attack? I should start buying 1/2″ and 9/16′ wrenches buy the truck load and give them to all I know and family. Have a wonderful day, while using pliers trying to change a saw blade.

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