Cheap but bombproof
January 13, 2008 9:27 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of insanely overbuilt, reasonably-priced consumer goods: "Cheap, bombproof...XXXXX"

I was talking with a friend the other day and we got on the subject cheap, readily available goods that aren't simply reliable but stand up to abuse beyond reasonable expectations. He used the phrase "like an AK47."

I had an '86 Toyota pickup, purchased used for $2500, that was thrown into reverse at 70mph with no damage (long story) and I drove it for another 125,000 miles.

Other examples we came up with- Nokia 61xx, 90s era cellphones that seemed to function no matter how many times they were dropped or spilled on. He and I both still see them in use around the world. Casio G-Shock watches, cheap and available at any Wal-mart, are issued to the Navy SEALS. I've had one for 15 years that I cannot kill, and is still running on the original battery.

What else can you add to the list?
posted by oalocke to Technology (94 answers total) 561 users marked this as a favorite
You already mentioned it, but the Toyota Hilux has rather famously been proven to be absolutely indestructible.
posted by googly at 9:38 AM on January 13, 2008 [13 favorites]

Nokia slab phones in general may have bomb-proof quality. My four-year-old Nokia was submerged in a ziplock baggy full of water for an hour two summers ago and is still going strong. I also dropped it in a bowl of salsa before that. I've had three Nokia slab phones and none have broken. But cell phones aren't cheap. The cost is supplemented by the phone companies. These slab phones may be relatively cheap compared to other models, but still an expensive toy.

Also: my sony walk-about walkman from the 80s (it still records and everything).
posted by Eringatang at 9:46 AM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Peavey's Session 500 steel guitar amp. Maybe not super-cheap, but reasonably priced, and you could roll it down a flight of concrete stairs as long as you didn't mind doing some damage to the concrete.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:56 AM on January 13, 2008

I had a Mighty Mite vacuum cleaner for over 12 years that was about $50 new and would suck up a sock from across the room. It was virtually industructable. I traded up for the same brand with a HEPA filter and it seems just as industructable.
posted by 45moore45 at 10:01 AM on January 13, 2008 [9 favorites]

I have a TI-82 that is over 10 years old now, and it's still kicking after all this time and a hell of a lot of abuse. It's a little sticky after I spilled a few drinks on it.
My old Nextel Motorola cell phone (flip style) lasted me three years. No phone has done so since without some form of major structural damage.

thanks for the link, googly! I had almost forgotten about that awesome clip
posted by nursegracer at 10:10 AM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Doc Martens are known for their longevity.
posted by nitsuj at 10:11 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've heard that Kitchenmaid stand mixers last forever, though they aren't necessarily cheap.
posted by happyturtle at 10:24 AM on January 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

My Teva flipflops lasted for ten years. Ten years! Wearing them everywhere, over rocky, gravelly, dirty terrain; in the shower; everywhere! Technically, they are still wearable, but I got a new pair anyway.

Ten years! They're made of recycled rubber, for chrissakes! I've had Docs that wore out before these guys!
posted by infinitewindow at 10:28 AM on January 13, 2008 [8 favorites]

If you want a motorized two-wheeler, go for a Honda Nighthawk 250: oh-so-pure air-cooled, twin-cylinder naked bike goodness. (The only real standard Honda makes anymore.) Phenomenally easy and cheap to operate and maintain. Perfect for in-town and two-lane highway rides. The engines have been known to last over 100,000 miles -- pretty long-lived for an air-cooled twin. A bit expensive if you buy it new, but they're really cheap used, and used ones typically have low mileage (because beginners are, foolishly, often in a hurry to move up to something bigger).

Shaft-driven BMW K75 -- aka "The Flying Brick" -- bikes are even more long-lived and would be better for touring and interstate riding. They're not made anymore, but they're regularly available used and in good condition.
posted by cog_nate at 10:32 AM on January 13, 2008 [15 favorites]

I have Reef flips-flops I bought in high school and I'm in my mid-30s now and they still look and work fine. And I spent 10 of those years in CA so I wore them all the time. Still do in fact.

I also have cassette tapes form the 80s that work perfectly.
posted by fshgrl at 10:37 AM on January 13, 2008

Seconding the Nokia bar phones, I've seen some pretty banged up ones.

Old computers are also a great example, the cases in particular were often much heavier and stronger than ones today. A while back I had to use tin shears to cut part of one of those cases, and it was nearly impossible. Not so on a newer one.

another thanks for the Toyota video, that was really amazing.
posted by DMan at 10:41 AM on January 13, 2008


While they may not be totally invincible, they at least have what is one of the best warranties on the planet. Mine got ran over, they fixed it. Broke the hinge by stepping on it, they fixed it. Both times they sent me some spare flints, gave it a new wick, and sent me a freakin' keychain for abusing their products.
posted by piedmont at 10:42 AM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Cast iron skillets. I've got two that are at least three generatios old, my mother pulled another pair out of the garbage. Can't beat free.
posted by Skorgu at 10:45 AM on January 13, 2008 [16 favorites]

I have a little Krups electric coffee grinder that celebrated a 25th birthday last year. Totally solid little deal, hums like the day I bought it.
posted by gimonca at 11:25 AM on January 13, 2008

For that matter, I have a Cuisinart food processor that's almost as old, missing a couple of relatively non-essential attachments, slightly grimy with age, motor still runs like new.
posted by gimonca at 11:27 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nalgene water bottles are just a hunk of cheap plastic, but they're virtually indestructable. Mine have taken years of abuse while camping and backpacking and I expect to own them for many more years.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:31 AM on January 13, 2008

Best answer: Any love for Mag Lite? I became a flashlight snob and switched to Surefire (which I don't nominate because they're tough, but expensive for a light.) Mags on the other hand are overbuilt out of aircraft aluminum and surprisingly cheap.

Also, I once had an HP Inkjet printer that, thanks to a roof leak, took maybe a gallon of brown roof-water directly into its rear cooling vents. Two days later, once the parts had dried, the printer started working again.

I'll Nth the Hilux. In the many wars fought by Ethiopia against Eritrea and Somalia, Toyota pickups were the vehicle of choice for getting men to the battlefield.

The AK-47's lesser-known cousin, the SKS rifle, is similarly unbreakable, though not as full-featured. But, it's FAR cheaper. You can get a serviceable one legally for around $200.

Not exactly a common item, but my new Cold Steel Recon 1 folding knife is an absolute beast, and cheaper than the price listed on their page. (Funny enough, they also have a knife called the AK-47)
posted by Doctor Suarez at 11:34 AM on January 13, 2008 [5 favorites]

Craftsman hand tools. Well-made. Reasonably-priced. Lifetime guarantee.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:34 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I used a Mr Coffee espresso maker for on around 15 years before I finally upgraded. I'd also add Waring Blenders, Pyrex generally, old Honda Civics, Black and Decker toaster ovens and shopvacs. I'd also agree with cast iron pans and Doc Martens. I sort of think of them as the kind if items that if you see them in the thrift store you grab them up cheap because you know that no matter how someone treated them (unless the cast iron is cracked which sometimes happens) you know the item will still be in great shape or fixable.
posted by jessamyn at 11:38 AM on January 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

Oh yeah and every Craftsman tool I ever had, thanks for the reminder.
posted by jessamyn at 11:38 AM on January 13, 2008

Um. Hardback books? For the bargain price of $2.00 at Goodwill, you can pick up hardbacks from up to a hundred years ago that are still in mint condition. Yea, books!

I have to quibble with the Honda Nighthawk 250. I had one for a year and a half to my everlasting regret- difficult to maintain (more so than even the BMW motorcycle I had) and one slow-mo accident completely and utterly totalled it (and nearly me). Kaput. So, MEH.
posted by arnicae at 11:44 AM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

As you mentioned, mid-80s Toyotas are nigh-on indestructible. You still see a fair number of them on the road. How many other mid-80s cars can you say that about?

Also, I have a pair of Timberland boots that are still kickin (pun intended) after three years of heavy wear. Still comfortable, too.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:54 AM on January 13, 2008

Seconding the indestructibility of my TI calculator that I've had 20 years, still on it's first battery; Teva sandals that have only just died after 15 years and my stove top espresso maker that is over 10 years old and still works/looks as good as the first day I got it.

Oddly enough, all of these things are a daily joy to use - good design counts.

My dad has an old valve Blaupunkt radio he bought second hand for GBP10 about 40-45 years ago, still works fine.
posted by arcticseal at 11:58 AM on January 13, 2008

Doctor Suarez reminded me. Old HP Laserjets. (Up to around the LJ5 generation I'd reckon) They're big, heavy, old, need parallel ports but they'll stop a bullet. And they're cheap now.
posted by Skorgu at 12:01 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, almost forgot, Sony Trinitrons have an excellent reputation for sturdiness.

I dropped mine on its face twice, and it's still working, good as new.

Although mine is a big-screen set, I believe that all Trinitron CRTs are built with the same technology, and should be equally sturdy.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:10 PM on January 13, 2008

2000/2001-era Archos mp3/WAV player/recorders. Built like tanks. Can be used to club unsuspecting strangers. Easily expanded to 300+ GB with 2.5" drives. Electronic SPDIF. Replaceable cheap batteries (4xAA!) act as structural reinforcement. Perfect for cars. Mine is still ticking along nicely.
posted by meehawl at 12:13 PM on January 13, 2008

Matchbox toy cars.
I tried and failed to blow them up with fireworks, destroy them in plunges off 'cliffs' (deck), run-overs by vehicles, etc. Good times.
Cool question.
I also support mentions of Nokia's durability.
posted by uni verse at 12:20 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Panasonic Toughbooks and IBM Thinkpads.

Video games: Atari and Nintendo hardware (with the single exception of the stupid front-loading cartridge slot in the NES).

Bicycle stuff: King headsets, Thomson seatposts, Brooks saddles. Park or Pedro's tools. And no tire lasts forever, but Schwalbe and Continental tires are both very durable.
posted by box at 12:20 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Kitchenaid stand mixers.

IBM Model M computer keyboards (one of mine is 19 years old and still in daily use)

Mid-80s/early 90s Honda Civics and Accords.

Craftsman hand tools. (mentioned above)

Older Leatherman tools, assuming yours haven't been stolen by the TSA yet. (grumble)

US military issue field jackets & duffel bags.

Travelpro luggage (very pricey at the outset, but I know a pilot who's been flying with the same bag for 15 years).

Lodge cast-iron cookware. (also mentioned above)

Weber kettle grills.

Hi-Tec boots (Mrs. Deadmessenger still wears the pair she's had for 15 years - they're on the 4th or 5th set of soles now)

Fender guitars & basses.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:23 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

IBM Model M keyboard. Big, heavy, loud, and indestructable. And with unbeatable tactile response.
posted by Emanuel at 12:31 PM on January 13, 2008 [9 favorites]

Slant-six engines i.e. Plymouth Valiant, Duster. Used to be cheap to come by ever since they were made, (couple hundred) before the classic hot rod market exploded in late 90's.
posted by uni verse at 12:32 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

My mom's '95 Corolla has been the first car of three teenage girls (all four of the women who have driven the car are incorrigible speeders, too). It's still diligently taking my kid sister to school every day and has made three hour roundtrips from LA to Fresno/LA to San Diego probably over a hundred times. My sister dented the door, and I managed to rip off half of the front bumper, but it takes repairs well and runs great. One time the radiator cracked (I guess this was probably three years ago) and it obligingly did so right before an annual service. That's a great car...if it's going to have a systemic problem it waits until it's going to head into the shop. So considerate!

I agree with Hi-Tec boots, too. They're the cheapest in every store where they're carried, but mine are still going strong - I think I've had them for only 5 years, but they've never been resoled.
posted by crinklebat at 12:39 PM on January 13, 2008

Technics SL-1200 MK2 Turntables
Silca bicycle pumps
Nalgene water bottles
Craftsman tools
Levis 501s and 505s
Sierra Designs tents
Speed otpeners used by bartenders
IBM Selectric II typewriters
1979 Pontiac Bonnevilles
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:56 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Swingline 747. The King of Staplers. My dad has owned his for longer than he's been married to my mom. It can't. be. killed.
posted by brain cloud at 12:57 PM on January 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This is one of my FAVORITE topics.

Camber Hooded sweatshirts If all clothes were made to this quality, you'd buy clothes once and be done with it. Same goes for Dickies. My dad has Dickies that are older than I am. He also used to have that Toyota pickup, and I'm still pissed at him for trading it in for a Dodge Ram. I was looking forward to inheriting that Toyota at some point down the line.

Don't know if these mercedes count as "cheap". When new, they were (are) quite expensive, and I don't know if the new models are as rock solid as the old ones. I have an uncle who lives in Anchorage, and has driven his '78 benz down to the lower 48 and back at least 15 times over the past 20 years, and it still goes. He put a chevy engine it about ten years ago, ensuring that it will probably be driven by cockroaches when the last human has perished from this earth.

Craftsman tools, of course.

Cutco Knives

Thirding the Nokia. I had This phone Back in 2001. Gave it to a friend when I upgraded. She still has that same phone, I've been through at least 6 phones since then. I asked for the phone back at some point and she freaked out. I think her exact response was "Hell no! I'm gonna have this phone until I die"

Alpha Industries Parkas and Pea Coats

So obvious that I almost didn't think of it...Tupperware

Colman camp stoves

Gold toe socks

Another super obvious object that is so ubiquitous that you don't even notice it...The Bic lighter

The Merkur HD safety razor Not cheap at first glance, but considering that double edge razor blades cost about .50 each as compared to $2.00 each for Mach 3 refills, and that the Razor itself wil probably outlast you, it's a bargain.

Phil Wood Bicycle hubs

and then just to be super sure, keep all of the above in Pelican Cases. Probably my favorite thing on the whole list. Know what's fun? Take something valuable and fragile, put it in a pelican case, and then throw it down a flight of stairs. Just because you can. The Pelican lifetime guarantee covers everything except Shark Bite, Bear attack and children under 5. Their iPod cases are awesome.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:09 PM on January 13, 2008 [28 favorites]

Not just old HP printers, but calculators too. I have an HP-32S that I bought new around 1988; it ran for more than ten years on the original batteries, and still looks and feels like new.

A lot of old sewing machines are indestructible, too. My wife uses a Singer Featherweight, built in the 30s or 40s, that used to belong to her grandmother; it runs like a dream. She's found several more at estate sales, and with a little bit of cleaning and maintenance, they usually run like new.
posted by xil at 1:11 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: These aren't necessarily "cheap", but they are very durable items in my experience and sometimes only 10% more than the alternatives.

Old government-type (say, 1930s) solid oak desks. I expect them to last hundreds of years under normal use. Same with the oak office chair.

I have a swisstool leatherman-style gizmo that I've used for 5 or 6 years of intense fieldwork, in caves, saltwater, whatever. It's as good as new, meanwhile, my colleague's leathermen and gerbers etc last about two seasons. For the extra 25 bucks, its a no-brainer.

The Pentax K-1000 SLR. Absolutely bombproof and therefore loved by archaeologists worldwide.

The Marshalltown trowel, the only trowel most archaeologists will use. Unbelievably durable.

Stihl chainsaws.

1970s-era 9.9, 6 and 4 horsepower 2-stroke outboard engines. Indestructible, but if they do get destructed, then you can rebuild it with a screwdriver, a file and a rag. The only vintage outboards I regularly see running.
posted by Rumple at 1:16 PM on January 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

Oh yeah, Pelikan cases/ Well, they aren't cheap. But I dropped my digital camera down a cliff -- around 40 metres, once and it was just fine. The camera was too. And another time, our field laptop computer was in its pelikan case on the beach, "above" the high tide line, when the tide lifted it off very gently in the middle of the night, and it spent six hours floating down Darwin Sound in the Queen Charlotte Islands. We found it the next day, opened it up, and the laptop booted up right away. So in terms of dollars spent:dollars saved - worth it. Also, I've never seen a broken one.
posted by Rumple at 1:19 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Rockport shoes.

Champion Sports Apparel. (warning, site has loud obnoxious music.)
posted by jayder at 1:20 PM on January 13, 2008

I have a TI-82 that is over 10 years old now

In my desk, I have one of the original TI-30 calculators that dates from the late 70s or maybe early 80s (I used to have one that I bought in maybe 1978 but this one is my wife's and I'm not sure exactly when it was purchased--but this model wasn't made after 1983).

If you slip a 9-volt battery in it, it still works just the way it did the day it was made.

Back in high school (late 70s) we used to throw these down the hall like footballs or drop them down stairwells (on purpose) because of their reputation for near-indestructability. Never saw one come out the worse for the wear.

US$25 new.
posted by flug at 1:25 PM on January 13, 2008

If you're into this topic, and you don't know about the Cool Tools blog..... well, you'll be very pleased to find it.

Nthing Kitchenaid mixers, craftsman tools, leatherman tools, the General Motors 3.8l "3800" engine.

Bike stuff: Wolber rims. Park tools.

Any clothing made for Columbia or LL Bean or Land's End.

Computer Stuff: Apple Extended Keyboard II. (best damned keyboard I've ever used, and I've stockpiled several more in the basement.) Logitech 2 button optical scrolling USB mice.

Zippos and Craftsman tools <>
Haliburton cases, from suitcases to PalmPilot size.

This is also one of my favorite topics.
posted by Wild_Eep at 1:27 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

They're the opposite of cheap, but Linhof Master Technika cameras are massively overbuilt.

Used Graflex Speed/Crown Graphic 4x5 cameras are dirt cheap and almost indestructible.

Mid 90s Toyota 4Runners and Corollas.

Kubota tractors of the same vintage.

Jotul woodburning stoves.
posted by unSane at 1:33 PM on January 13, 2008

Cant believe I forgot the '70's era GE Clock radio I don't know if the new models are any good, because the old one I bought at a garage sale 20 years ago still works like a charm, and I'd be willing to bet cash money that It will last another 20. And the flip numbers are super suave.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:36 PM on January 13, 2008

Unfortunately, Singer Featherweights have been discovered--the last one I saw at an estate sale was priced at almost four bills.
posted by pullayup at 1:39 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

The P-38 Can Opener. Inexpensive, simple as all get-out, handy as hell and lasts forever.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:49 PM on January 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

billyfleetwood: I second the '70's era GE Clock radio. My parents had one, they are so retro-cool.
posted by uni verse at 2:00 PM on January 13, 2008

Glocks. (possibly more reliable than AK-47's.)
The Beauty and the Beast sound book (the one with buttons on the side that still make noise.)
Reebox sandals (worn 'em since circa '95)
Cake mixer. (It was my mother's when she was a little girl, and it still works perfectly.)
posted by proj08 at 2:01 PM on January 13, 2008

Man those old 'Yoter pickups (as we call em up where I'm from) were the cat's meow. A friend of mine has a stockpile of four or five of em for parts, much to his wife's dismay. You can drive the damn things off a cliff and they keep chuggin' along (speaking from experience). Too bad Toyota stopped producing them in favor of their stupid full sized pickup garbage...

Original Leatherman tools last forever, and they were pretty cheap. Really well made too, one o f the best designed/engineered products of that kind ever I think. I compare the one I used to have to the stupid Gerber one with the scissors and the push-button-deploying pliers that I've got now (actually purchased based on a rave review from the Cool Tools site) and I cringe.

Lever-action Winchester rifles too--I've got one that's exactly a century old, a .32 Special take-down model that you can unscrew and store in three pieces a foot and a half long. It's been our ranch rifle for the past fifteen years, and has probably seen continuous use since the day it was made at the turn of the century. Gets dropped off the four-wheeler and run over all the time, left out in the rain, rarely cleaned, and the damn thing shoots like the day it was made. I mean the spring in the magazine is a hundred years old.
posted by jackbrown at 2:04 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Most Singer sewing machines pre-1985 or so I've heard, and I have a Brother from the 70s that's still going, but that may be young in sewing machine years. Maybe old sewing machines in general.

Old VW diesels.

Timex watches.
posted by dilettante at 2:08 PM on January 13, 2008

Speaking of four-wheelers, how could I forget the amazing Honda TRX-300 ATV. I mean speaking of driving vehicles off of cliffs (and floating across rivers and surviving five successive teenage boys all learning to drive/wreck them and jump them off ramps) we've had a pair of them since 1990 which have survived truly amazing abuse.
posted by jackbrown at 2:14 PM on January 13, 2008

Old National microwaves. This is mine, was a free hand me down from my in laws. These beasts are everywhere. Every lab I've ever worked in has one, as do many office place tea rooms (often the earlier model with the dial instead of buttons for setting the time). They're huge and slightly under powered (600 watts I think) but just keep on going.
posted by shelleycat at 2:15 PM on January 13, 2008

Ah! Forgot to paste in the link, photograph here.
posted by shelleycat at 2:16 PM on January 13, 2008

Timex watches.

Not to start a brand war, but I had a series of terrible experiences with Timex watches that broke in six months to a couple of years and have sworn off buying them. I've had a lot better luck with Casio.
posted by musicinmybrain at 2:17 PM on January 13, 2008

Seconding the IBM Thinkpad. I have one for work; I dropped it down a three-story fire escape. It might even work *better* now than it did before its little adventure.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 2:35 PM on January 13, 2008 [6 favorites]

Not to start a brand war, but I had a series of terrible experiences with Timex watches

My examples would both be kind of elderly...maybe they've gotten crappy in the past 20 years or so. Or maybe I've just had really good luck (if good luck can be construed to include stabbing myself in the hand while trying to pry the back off to change the battery).
posted by dilettante at 2:47 PM on January 13, 2008

I have a Mac powerbook Duo 230 purchased in 1993 so that I could write my dissertation while on the road with my band. It cost some ridiculous amount of money (I think about $1600) for what was then the first true subnotebook (other than the 210 that preceded it slightly), and ran at something like 33MHz. It took an unbelievable beating for 2 years before I replaced it with (I think) a PB1400.

That Duo 230 still boots up and works like a charm (OS 7.1). I have owned something like 14 Apple notebooks since then, and not one of them has lasted more than 3 years under much less rigorous conditions.

Supposedly Apple is about to hit us with a new subnotebook. I wish they'd use the Duo 230 form factor!
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:53 PM on January 13, 2008

opposite of cheap, but Leica cameras should be added to the list.
posted by post punk at 3:31 PM on January 13, 2008

Not as cheap as the K1000, but more aesthetically blessed - I've got an Olympus OM1n that's over twenty years old, and taken it's share of abuse. Plus I think it used to be a fairly common street/documentary camera for the PJ who wasn't using Canon/Nikon.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 4:06 PM on January 13, 2008

Another vote for Nokia. I got my 6110 when I was in high school (2000) and I still use it all the time. It's held together with tape, I've dropped it more times than I can count, but it's still going strong. I laugh when people ask if I've got bluetooth.
posted by twirlypen at 4:06 PM on January 13, 2008

Estwing hammers, Smartwool uniform socks, Old bell rotary telephones, (hurricane phone now).
posted by flummox at 4:45 PM on January 13, 2008

nitsuj: Doc Martens are known for their longevity.

Anecdotally, I think Doc Martens don't really live up to their reputation any more and are trading a little bit on their past glories. I've owned half a dozen pairs in the last mumble mumble years which I wear every day as my only shoes. For the first couple I didn't need to replace them until the souls wore through. But for all the more recent pairs it is the leather that has failed. And for the most recent one, the lower sole simply came unglued from the upper soul. :( When I replaced those ones even the folk in the shop commented how they didn't last like they used to.

Errr... no, I'm not sure why I'm still buying them either but what's the alternative? Maybe that's an askmefi question for another day. :)
posted by adamt at 4:50 PM on January 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

Swing-Away can opener. As a bonus, makes a very satisfying noise when you whip it open and closed (keep your fingers out of the way when trying this stunt).
posted by marble at 4:57 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

I love this topic - it appeals to my frugal Yankee ways.

Birkenstocks (husband still wears the same ones he wore in college 25 years ago)

Viking (Husqavarna) sewing machines - mine is still going strong after 20 years

Revere stainless steel bake ware

Ball canning jars - they last forever

Cuisinart food processors

HP calculators - my 11c is 28 years old and works great.

Wool hand-knit items made from Cascade 220 yarn

Most automatic or manual wind watches made before 1960

Gingher sewing scissors (bought mine used 30 years ago!)

KitchenAid mixer
posted by Flakypastry at 5:21 PM on January 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

White Mountain brand hand-crank ice-cream freezers... wooden bucket and all.
posted by deCadmus at 6:06 PM on January 13, 2008

Well flummox swiped two of mine: Estwing hammers and old AT&T desk phones (I have a rotary one). I'll also second the cast iron pans. No real reason to even pay for them when you can just find them at garage sales and either refinish them (if they're messed up) or just enjoy the years of seasoning that you didn't have to do yourself (I have a little one that must have 50 years of seasoning -- it looks like obsidian).

I'll add another one, not cheap but cheap for what you get: C C Filson double tin pants. Double-layered wax-impregnated tent cloth. My brother wore a pair of these for working outdoors pretty much every day for a couple of years, and one of the seams started opening up a bit. He called up the place where he bought them to ask how best to repair them, but after he described what happened (before he had a chance to ask about repairing them), the guy said "yeah, come by in a couple of days, I can have your new pair in by then".
posted by madmethods at 6:29 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bicycle stuff: King headsets, Thomson seatposts, Brooks saddles. Park or Pedro's tools.

All very bulletproof and drool-worthy, all (with the possible exception of the Pedro's) very not cheap.
posted by jalexei at 6:43 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I drive a 1991 Toyota Camry station wagon. It has 248 thousand some miles on it. It went to Burning Man, it survives midwest winters. It's not exactly like new but I can count on it to start every morning.
posted by mai at 6:55 PM on January 13, 2008

Kind of a weird one: British Seagull Outboards. We have one that is at least fifty years old, if not older, and it runs perfectly.

Also, Remington 1100 shotguns have enjoyed the status as the most popular shotgun in America for some godawful number of years due to their reliability and durability.
posted by nursegracer at 6:56 PM on January 13, 2008

Linksys WRT54g = the AK-47 of wireless routers.
posted by bhance at 7:31 PM on January 13, 2008 [10 favorites]

Carhartt double front work dungarees. Not Wal-Mart cheap or anything, but as far as I know, still union made in Michigan. They're awesome.
posted by pullayup at 7:58 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'll take those over Filson any day of the week.
posted by pullayup at 8:00 PM on January 13, 2008

Errr... no, I'm not sure why I'm still buying them either but what's the alternative? Maybe that's an askmefi question for another day.

Frye Boots.

Which brings me to wonder, how do you measure "cheap". Also the OP asked for not just reliable, but "bombproof". I've worn the holy hell out of my Frye Harness boots for years with nary a loose thread. At $200 a pair, not really cheap. But over the course of 20 years, that's 10 bucks a year. Converse Chuck Taylors are cheap (not as cheap as they used to be) but I can wear out a pair of them in 6 months, easy. So at $25 a pair, they're 5 times more expensive than Frye Boots.

But at the same time, G-Shock is cheaper than most other watches, and lasts forever, so maybe my math doesn't work.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:44 PM on January 13, 2008

I remember Tim Allen talking about this once. He said Sears Toughskins pants were so good that, "your knees will wear out before those pants will!" He was right!

I'll agree with cast iron skillets/pots/pans. I've had some for dozens of years that I also inherited, but don't get the ones with the wooden handles. They must be fully cast iron through and through.

Those old Samsonite ugly suitcases are truly Michael (the silver back gorilla that was in the commercial all those years ago) indestructible. I still have some of those bad boys and they still work wonders. They could fall out of the plane and the suitcase would remain intact when it hit the ground.

You know now that I think about it, all the old merchandise was really well made. The old Timex, the old Sunbeam kitchen appliances and so forth. Those things lasted for years, but today I'm lucky if I can keep anything for over a few years.

I'd say hit some yard sales and just go vintage. ;)
posted by magnoliasouth at 10:00 PM on January 13, 2008

The Parker "51" Aero-metric. Most vintage fountain pens from that era, need a bit of TLC to get into working order: replace the ink sac, piston seals, vacuum seal, etc. Purists will say that a "51" needs a few tweaks to show its true splendour, but most of the time, a pen from the 1950s just works. Not as cheap as a Bic, or even a $2 gel pen, but over time...

Wahl hair clippers: the lump-of-metal impromptu-cosh ones your barber likely uses.

The Navy-issue peacoat.

(Comment confluence: my cellphone is a hand-me-down Nokia 6310i that survived a wash and dry cycle in my Carhartt double-knees.)
posted by holgate at 11:41 PM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Another vote against Doc Martens here. The quality seems to have dropped off since I was young. Mine tend to last about a year before they develop tears.
posted by pompomtom at 11:45 PM on January 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

Kitchen Devil knives. My flatmate has a fruitknife she's had for over a decade; it's been used for everything from opening laptops to repairing shoes and still goes through a strawberry like, well, a damn sharp knife through a strawberry. Woe betide the unwary washer-upper in our house; I always think we should have the Jaws theme playing whenever that thing's in the bowl.
posted by aihal at 1:56 AM on January 14, 2008

I learnt to drive in a 1979 ZJ Ford Fairlane that I would definitely include in this category. We bought it for AU$1500 in the mid-90s and it has needed very little work since. The thing is a frickin tank.
posted by goo at 2:44 AM on January 14, 2008

Crumpler bags - pretty much bulletproof. I've owned three of them and keep giving them away to people as I get bigger ones, and they're all still in perfect nick, even my laptop shoulder bag that gets dragged through the London commuter rush every morning.

Also, North Face grip bags - you see the all the riggers in Scotland with these because they're indestructible. Mine has been all over the US and UK, jammed in trucks, cars, dragged about by me, filled to bursting point and will likely last me a good 20 years, short of being set on fire.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:39 AM on January 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

Guernsey woll sweaters. I wear my dad's old one, and it ticks along just fine despite a combination of Southern Ontario and London winters.
posted by generichuman at 5:11 AM on January 14, 2008

I don't know how much it cost, it was my husband's grandmother's fridge and she had it at least ten years before we got it about 12 years ago (free). It's a General Electric no frost 390 and we've never had to have a repairman out, and it's moved at least 4 times. I'm probably going to cry when it finally karks it.
posted by b33j at 5:14 AM on January 14, 2008

The Apple Extended Keyboard (or the later II) I have a stack of them I've rescued from thrift stores, and I still haven't destroyed the first one. I've burned through 3 USB adapters, I've walked it across the floor when I picked up my laptop, my dog has chewed on it, and I run it through the dishwasher to clean it and yet the keyboard keeps working. The best thing Apple ever made.

Old 1960's and 1970's Sunbeam toasters. Mine has been with me for ten years, and the previous owner(s) before that. It's shorted out and thrown me across the room, but has never burned a piece of toast.

Seconding the P-38 and K-1000. Absolute paragons of the nexus cheap and good.

I'm quite fond of my Timbuk2 bag too, but I consider it somewhat costly and it's only 7 years old, so I'm going to hold off on calling it bulletproof until at least a decade in.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:25 PM on January 14, 2008

Atwood knife and tool
Myerchin Knives

the HP laserjet 4: I dropped one down two flights of stairs and it still ran like a top.

Old sun servers: They go and go and go and go. I've heard stories about a building being demolished with a couple of sun's in the basement: Four floors of concrete dropped on em. The beasts still ran like a top. They used to cost an arm and a leg, but you can pick em up cheap on ebay these days.

Old (50's and 60's) two stroke, air cooled evinrude outboard motors.

seconding the merkur safety razon, and the wrt54g.
posted by Freen at 1:37 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

This type of Chinese Skimmer, an inexpensive unbranded design available in identical form in just about any Asian market or kitchen supply store.
posted by Brian James at 4:28 PM on January 14, 2008

This is a very masculine thread. I might remark that women's clothes and gear tend to be made more cheaply, on the assumption that they will be discarded when out of style, before they wear out. I don't know if women's outdoor gear is an exception to this rule.

A durable unisex item: Smartwool socks. The double layer (outside smooth knit, inside woolly) means that they wear out much more slowly and are worth the price.

I walk a lot, and I have to shop expensive lines (or in thrift shops) before I find shoes and boots with solid heels, not hollow rubber heels. The Frye boots mentioned upthread have solid heels. I recently found a pair of almost new Mephistos in a thrift shop and will see if they live up to their marketing. But I think that most manufacturers have stopped making durable shoes (even -- especially -- sneakers) because they assume that nobody walks anywhere anymore.
posted by bad grammar at 6:03 PM on January 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

Kind of surprised that nobody mentioned the KA-BAR fighting knife -- more than a few of the ones that went to WWII came back and then went along with their owner's sons to Vietnam! At ~$50 for one of the new ones or a used classic, they are very versatile and tough knives.

Gurka Kukhri knives are indestructible (made of spring steel!) and verycheap. You can get one for less than $10. These make wonderful camp knives.

Also, more military stuff: the old canvas map bags still compete for toughness with the best shoulder bags out there, for a lot less, and nothing beats the green cotton barracks bag for doing laundry. A good pair of BDUs are near-indestructible, also. I also second the P-38 can opener.
posted by vorfeed at 10:02 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Our Simplex XL 35mm projector head is over 50 years old and is still running like a champ. They have a reputation across the theatrical exhibition industry as being one of the most reliably pieces of used equipment you can buy. I have no doubt that by keeping it cleaned and oiled, it could last another 50 years if needed.
posted by bjork24 at 1:35 PM on January 15, 2008

If you want to see what people thought about this topic 25 years ago, check out a book I contributed a couple of pages to: The Durability Factor, published in 1982 by Rodale Press.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:44 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Most things military, for the obvious reasons. But even the dress shoes are amazing.

But what does it say about me that I have managed to break a Nokia slabphone? Well, the back fell off periodically, and it stopped ringing, but it did get signal and vibrate was just fine...
posted by jb at 12:20 AM on January 17, 2008

I realized last month that my Mason Pearson hairbrush has childhood initials scratched on it from the early 80s.
posted by Phred182 at 7:43 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

In 1987, I received nearly thirty bucks in birthday money. Most money I'd ever had in one place in my life. I took it down to the store and I bought a Mini Maglite and a Sony model ICF-C3W clock radio. Sadly, cheap leaky batteries took the Maglite out of service in just a few years. I woke up to the clock's alarm this morning, as I have approximately 6400 mornings before (had it out of service about three years when I was overseas). There is something loose inside the case, which knocks about with an alarming thump if the clock is shaken (or, um, knocked to the floor, not that that has happened pretty much every year I've owned it or anything), but everything from the sleep timer to the snooze alarm still works exactly as it always did. I don't even set it down level, I stand it on end for reasons of footprint and radio reception. It doesn't care.

For my birthday in 1989, I received a Boy Scout four-blade pocketknife. I last used the main blade yesterday, to sharpen a pencil; the can opener the day before; the screwdriver/bottle opener as a screwdriver last week and a bottle opener the week before, and the awl ... hmm ... I know I've used it to punch a hole within the last three months, and to drive a teeny tiny screw within the year. Sharpen it every year or so, give it a couple drops of oil at the same time. Still holds a great edge.
posted by eritain at 12:08 PM on January 18, 2008

On the electronics side, I would add Tektronix oscilloscopes. I know plenty of labs still using ones from the 60s and 70s. I would also second the HP calculators and printers.
posted by pombe at 4:14 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Glocks are cheap and indestructible.
posted by popechunk at 8:23 PM on January 19, 2008 [7 favorites]

My father has had the same electric juicer for 20 years. I want to say it's a Black and Decker, I have to check with him. It's an ugly beige behemoth, but man it makes some tasty juice.
posted by SassHat at 4:33 PM on January 21, 2008

The DeWalt ToughCase, which unfortunately isn't available on DeWalt's site, (Pic here and link that comes with blades) are crazy tough. I've had several bouncing around in my truck/tool box/dry box for several years now and they are still working as new.

magnoliasouth writes "You know now that I think about it, all the old merchandise was really well made. The old Timex, the old Sunbeam kitchen appliances and so forth. Those things lasted for years, but today I'm lucky if I can keep anything for over a few years."

That is because the crap has been discarded, you only see the survivors.
posted by Mitheral at 5:01 PM on October 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

« Older Nipping crazy in the bud   |   Can I get into America with this ID? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.