In this age of plastic and inflation, products with real worth are about as common as inspiring politics.

Buy just about anything and within six months it is used, broken, out of style, waiting for parts or worth less than when you first bought it. In the midst of a gloomy commercial world there is at least one bright sanctuary of value and utility -- the ownership of good tools.

For more than a million years man has been a tool-bearing creature. Many believe it was Australopithecus who invented the first tool: pebbles used to scrape meat from animal hides. One can almost picture the typical family of that era sitting around the carcass of a deceased something while a child is told, "Junior, use your pebbles when you eat so you can grow up to be stumpy and have a low brow just like your father."

It is also believed that Australopithecus invented the family feud, psychotherapy and domestic aggresion. Foreign aggression came later.

Since the invention of the pebble, tools have helped man progress. Today, many would agree with the sentiment, "Tools shall make ye free," the motto of both the hacksaw industry and those seeking personal creativity through the do-it-yourself movement.

The fact is that if you have the right tools you can do the majority of your own repairs. No longer must you be dependent on a repair person who promises to show up as soon as the duck season is over. Besides, you will soon discover that the secret of many service providers is not that they possess a certain level of brilliance o r talent, but merely a decent set of tools and a touch of common sense.

There is a vast range of tools from which to choose, equipment for every possible leak, crack and broken connection. Yet regardless of how many tools you own you will always need one more. Why? Because, according to My Own Adage, "The quantity of potential repairs is always greater and more diverse than the number of tools on hand."

This means, despite ads to the contrary, that one cannot possibly own a "complete" set of tools unless you marry into the family of a hardware magnate and live above the store.

Tools are available from many sources, but one should be careful to select from only the best iron mongers. As a general standard there are certain outlets to avoid. These include:

1. Stores which devote more space to dog food than chain saws.

2. Stores manned by clerks with delicate hands wholly unaffected by the rigors of manual labor.

3. Stores where everything is wrapped in plastic and hung on cards.

4. Stores that engage employes who, when asked where the screwdrivers are kept, suggest checking "the bin back by the pharmacy."

Aside from their obvious mechanical functions, tools have many uses around a home. You may be absolutely certain that a 14-inch pipe wrench will undo any bottle cap known to mankind. A pair of slip-joint pliers is ideal for removing corn from boiling water while a 3-pound mallet can reduce a walnut to a fine powder in seconds.

It also should be mentioned that common household items are valued additions to any tool collection. A combination of oven cleaner, bleach and vinegar, for example, can be used to remove paint from encrusted door handles. A toothbrush is ideal for spreading petroleum jelly or brushing away metal filings. (The very same toothbrush can be retained for visits by-in-laws or other natural disasters.)

While good tools are expensive they will, with use, more than pay for themselves. They also offer the possibility of enormous self-satisfaction. Imagine the thrill of showing your friends pipes which no longer leak, clothes dryers that emit gales of humid air and disposals that can crunch silverware without a whine or whimper. Even australopithecus would have been proud.