Jean McGuire wrote this for the README file that goes with our STL releases. I thought it was of general interest, so here it is! – SJ
Many people, when getting started with a new hobby, want the cheapest tools they can get. I get asked about tools a lot . . .
I used to manage a craft store. We sold two styles of beading looms: A good hobby loom, and one that was little more than a toy. Over and over again, I had customers who wanted to learn loom beading wanting to buy the toy loom. It was the cheapest, certainly. But it was difficult to use, even for me, and I knew what I was doing. For a beginner, that difficulty added to learning a whole new set of skills would make using it nearly impossible. It's not surprising that it was the people who got the good bead loom who came back again and again to buy more beads. The ones with the toy loom gave up; they decided it was too difficult, but it wouldn't have been if they weren't fighting their tools.
The same is true of any skill. A good auto mechanic can do minor car repairs with little more than a bent screwdriver and the wrong size of wrench. But a novice is going to need a complete tool set, and a good one. The novice can't compensate for unsuitable, misfit, or difficult tools because they haven't yet learned enough to know what they're compensating FOR. Never start out on a new hobby by shortchanging yourself on tools. You're learning something new; you want it to be as easy as possible.
While you don't want to go the other way and buy something more elaborate and expensive than you can take advantage of, you don't want to get started in anything with tools that make it harder rather than easier to get the job done. If you get tools that make it harder to do the job – whether it's a cheap screwdriver that strips out or a cheap 3D printer that won't give you good prints – the odds are that you're going to be unable to do what you set out to do. The money you spent on the cheap tools will be wasted.
In the case of 3D printing, the money you will save by printing your own miniatures is worth the slight extra cost of getting started right and not giving up because your cheap printer isn't giving you good results. Whether it's weaving beaded bracelets or printing 3D miniatures, you don't waste money buying good tools – you only waste money buying cheap tools.
-- Jean McGuire