Gilbert wrote in with a question I don’t think I can handle in a quick or easy fashion. Awesome ToolGuyd readers – if you’ve got an opinion about this, please chime in!
I am interested in buying a socket set. I’ve read your postings on the subject, but I must say, I’m still confused as to what set to lean towards. I’m not necessarily looking for an inexpensive, but a good quality set with good ergonomics. I’m also looking for Standard & Metric. I’ve been leaning towards the Wera Zyklop set. Does the price justify the means or do you recommend any other sets..?
Who makes the best socket set? Probably Snap-on, but you would pay dearly for it. I say probably because I don’t own a single Snap-on socket. The only Snap-on drive tool I have is a small 3/8″ extension, and that’s because my father found it on the street a couple of years ago.
I have a lot of Craftsman sockets, a couple of Beta sockets, an increasing number of Wera sockets, and a handful of sockets by other brands. I also have some Kobalt sockets that I bought for testing, but lost track of them.
In recent months I have checked out JH Williams (USA-made), Wright, and SK Hand Tool sets. The JH Williams and Wright sets were purchased and then returned, the SK Hand Tool set was supplied by the company.
I returned the JH Williams and Wright sets because of a couple of unacceptable chrome issues – chipping due to shipping damage, and a couple of manufacturing flaws. For the amount of money those sets cost, they should have been in far better condition. Cosmetic issues are one thing, but chipped chrome due to damage or dimpling is not really something I could accept. Who wants to warranty individual sockets out of a brand new premium socket set that costs big bucks?
The SK set I’ve been checking out is very impressive. Aside from rough interior hex recess of one shallow socket, it’s perfect. You’ll see more about this set later this week.
Now, as for the sockets I’ve owned and used for a few years now:
Craftsman socket sets offer – or offered – the best bang for the buck. These days, with Craftsman sockets being made in Asia, the brand has lost a lot of their appeal, at least in my eyes. They’re still decent, and still offer very high bang for the buck, but they’re not as great a bargain as they used to be.
To be fair, some of my USA-made Craftsman sockets look rough, some are imperfect, and I was wrong to buy into the laser-etched markings hype. But they’re strong, durable, and as functional as I can ask for. And they were very inexpensive, at least for USA-made sockets.
Beta makes some beautiful sockets. Inside and out, they’re perfect. But they’re also pricey and availability in the USA – while growing – isn’t quite the same as with other USA, European, or import brands.
Wera Zyklop sockets are exceptionally well machined and finished as well.
As with Beta, other European brands are not as well-established in the USA as domestic brands, meaning warranty exchanges might be lengthy or complicated.
I am happy to have purchased my three Wera socket sets – inch sets in 3/8″ and 1/4″ sizes, and a very small mixed 1/4″ set. But, Wera sets don’t include deep sockets. Wera doesn’t even make deep sockets. And there are no socket-only options, and so you have no choice but to buy duplicate drive tools and accessories with each set. And then you still have to buy a pass-thru socket set or a deep socket set for those times when shallow sockets just won’t fit the fastening application.
Wera is not the best choice to build up a socket collection with. It’s the brand you choose when you want one or two super-portable socket sets for particular purposes. The same goes for Felo, Facom, and other European brands I would otherwise recommend.
Right now, I’m rather indecisive about what to recommend. Craftsman sets still offer great bang-for-the-buck. Gearwrench these days is a step above Craftsman, but you still don’t have quite the same number of sets or configurations as with Craftsman. Actually, I don’t think there is any other brand that offers as many options as Craftsman does. Maybe Kobalt, but I find Craftsman tools – even the imported ones – to be a step above Kobalt.
These are my current thoughts and recommendations, but I must remind you that I’m still a little wishy-washy about this.
Low budget: Kobalt, Tekton, Stanley, Craftsman
Medium budget: Craftsman, Gearwrench
High budget: SK Hand Tool, Wright, JH Williams, Proto, Proto Blackhawk
Very high budget: Snap-on
I plan on looking into the matter further, but didn’t want to leave Gilbert’s question unanswered in the meantime.
Everyone’s got something to say about sockets, so please chime in with your experiences and recommendations in the comments!