Fingernail clippers. I used to buy these for about $1.00 each:
Then, I was on a ski trip in 2002 and needed to cut a toenail that was bothering me in my ski boot, but I hadn't bothered to bring any $1.00 nail clippers with me. I went to the little store in the ski lodge, but it was a high end luxury store, and the only clipper they had was selling for $20.
Normally, I am far too cheap to spend $20 on a $1.00 item. Blame it on a slightly irrational upbringing, but I'll endure a lot of pain to avoid being cheated into overpaying by a factor of 20. On the other hand, I have a strange habit that comes from too much experience with metalworking: whenever I see a metal object, I subconsciously figure out how it was made, and imagine the factory and machinery used to produce it, estimate the startup costs of the factory and the per-unit costs of the part. When I looked at this $20 nail clipper, I got disoriented, because it wasn't a standard nail clipper. I'm used to seeing three stamped pieces of metal, a screw machine part, and a rivet or eyelet when I look at a nailclipper. Then I imagine a factory with a dirty rattling stamping machine with peeling gray paint, punching out cheap pieces of steel from cheap rolls of cheap low carbon steel. I didn't see that when I looked at these clippers. I saw high end alloy steel, heated until it glowed slightly, being hammered by specially shaped tools that made the metal flow and optimized the microstructure of the metal for a perfect cutting edge, while also building up a reinforcing ridge to add stiffness. This nail clipper was forged, not stamped out of cheap sheet metal. It wasn't just forged, it was forged WELL, with machines without any rattles or squeaks, and probably inline measurement of temperature to keep the steel exactly hot enough. I don't know how to explain the shock of seeing such a skillfully forged nail clipper to someone not in the metalworking industry. It was like seeing a dog with six legs, or opening up a lawnmower and seeing the jet engine from a 747. Nail clippers simply aren't forged, nobody puts that much thought and quality into tools for trimming nails.
I bought the $20 nail clippers, thinking that maybe I wasn't being cheated since so much thought had gone into manufacturing them, and anyway I would have a toy to show my friends at work.
Then I used the clippers. I squeezed, and they moved effortlessly with almost no internal friction. There was the tiniest bit of resistance when the blades engaged my nail. Without such a smooth action, I'm not sure I would have even noticed the added resistance from cutting, that's how sharp it was. The mechanism was so rigid with such good tactile feedback, I'm sure I could have cut through 99.9 % of my toenail and stopped if I had wanted to. I went on to cut the other four toenails on that foot, even though none of them really needed to be trimmed, just because it gave me a chance to continue using the nail clippers. I took off my other shoe and sock, and trimmed those nails unnecessarily, just for an excuse to keep using this wonderful tool, all the while wondering "What is wrong with me? Why am I enjoying this chore of trimming my nails, when I could be out skiing?" That's how amazing those clippers were.
Those original clippers were made by Wusthof in Solingen, Germany. Sadly, they were ruined several years later when shampoo spilled on them in my travel shaving kit and they began to corrode. Wusthof has since changed the design of their nail clippers, so I replaced them with a Japanese set from Seki which seemed more similar to the forged Wusthofs that originally captivated me: