I recently had the opportunity to receive a new Craftsman Pro Series Tool Storage Combo with Smartphone Connected Locks for testing and review. It’s also described as a Smart-Lock tool box.
I had actually received 2 units. The first test sample was damaged during shipping (via freight truck), and so it was sent back and a second test unit was sent to me.
After I give you my initial thoughts, the next part of the review is a cautionary tale to not sign for freight goods without fully inspecting the merchandise thoroughly first.
The main part of the review will be sectioned as follows:
- Quality Control Issues
- Craftsman Response
- Final discussion about the current state of the combo
I was sent the 41″ 17-drawer combo unit, consisting of a top chest and bottom rolling cabinet.
- Chest (58662): 41-in. W x 21-in. D x 24.5-in. H ($730 list, $480 on sale)
- Roller Cabinet (58663): 41-in. W x 21-in. D x 42.5-in. H ($1220 list, $820 on sale)
Combo Price: $1300
I like the concept of this tool storage product family. With a top shelf height of 62″ and drawers measuring 18.5″ deep, the Craftsman Pro combo is taller and deeper than most of the other consumer cabinets on the market. The limiting factor in fitting a storage combo into a space is probably going to be width, so why not take advantage of extra height and depth for more storage space.
Rather than having a large open space on the top where’s it’s hard to use the space efficiently, Craftsman chose to add more and larger drawers.
Aside from the top compartment and full-width drawer, the chest and cabinet are divided into 2 sections. The larger section has 22″ wider drawers, which makes it easier to transfer your tool layout from a narrower cabinet, if you’re upgrading from one.
The full-width drawer is convenient for expanded layout capabilities. For instance, when I actually move my tools to this combo, I’ll be able to move all of my sockets, ratchets, and extensions to the same drawer.
Stuart’s Note: Ben’s idea is a good use of a full-length drawer. I currently have my ratchets, extensions, and breaker bars in one drawer of a 26″ wide cabinet, and sockets in another.
The actual construction of the combo is pretty sturdy. It doesn’t have an angle iron frame on the bottom like the Milwaukee cabinets, but it is still sturdily built. I measured a side thickness of 0.042″ (maybe 20 gauge) and the bottom reinforcing tracks were 0.062″ (maybe 16 gauge).
Each drawer is said to have a load capacity of 200 lbs, enough to hold almost any tool configuration you could come up. I’m sure there are exceptions, such as if you have a huge granite surface plate.
It is also one heavy set. I was barely able to tip the cabinet back upright after I installed the casters, and I had to use ramps secured to the cabinet to get the chest on top. You can see the removed drawers stacked near the wall.
There are no side handles. Take the drawers out to shed weight, and find a buddy to help you. If you have to lift the chest by yourself, find a way to do so SAFELY.
Stuart’s Note: To lift a very wide and heavy chest onto a cabinet, I turned it onto its side and used ratcheting tie-downs to stabilize the load as I pivoted it up and onto a very sturdy workbench. That’d be harder to do with this unit, as the chest doesn’t have side handles. Removing the drawers and finding a buddy or two is the better option.
When the delivery guy was rolling the boxes off the truck, I noticed one of the edges of the lower rolling cabinet’s cardboard box was damaged.
I was in a hurry at the time and the drivers were really eager to leave, so I signed the paper thinking that the cardboard box had just been ripped in transit. I’ve had boxes arrive pretty much shredded while the contents inside were just fine, so I didn’t think much of it.
When I went to put the combo together later that day I discovered that underneath the “slightly damaged” box was a huge dent in the side of the toolbox, most likely from a forklift tine.
Stuart’s Note: I’ve had tool boxes damaged in transit too, and sometimes the damage is hidden by intact cardboard sides or top panels. It’s easier said than done, but it’s best to have the shipment moved into place and unpacked before signing anything.
It’s hard to know where the damage occurred. One would think that damaged goods would not leave the manufacturer or the retailer unchecked. As no amount of packaging is going to survive an errant forklift tine, I though it had to be the shipping company’s fault, but after the quality control issues I had with the combo, I now have my doubts on who’s to blame. Maybe the damage occurred at the factory or at Sears’ warehouse, there’s no way to know.
The damage didn’t affect the operation of the cabinet, so if I had purchased the unit for myself, I might have negotiated a discount with Sears rather than go through the process of getting a replacement. But, we wanted to make sure that my review wasn’t tainted by the damage, so after discussing things with Stuart and our Craftsman contacts, it was decided that the damaged unit would be returned and a replacement sent out way.
Stuart’s Note: The last Craftsman rolling cabinet I bought had a defective wheel. During that first week or two it bugged me more than I expected. Sears couldn’t send me a replacement caster for free, but offered a 10% refund that I accepted. I wasn’t about to drag everything back to the store for 1 caster issue. There’s no reasonable partial refund amount I would have accepted to deal with a severely damaged unit.
Quality Control Issues
When I received the first cabinet and started taking it out of the box, I noticed that the styrofoam inserts used to secure the tool chest and cabinet were meant to be used on smaller cabinets. When I received the second replacement boxes from Craftsman, they still had the ill-fitting styrofoam inserts.
Another issue I had with the packaging was that the staples on the pallet scratched the unprotected paint on the bottom of the lower cabinet. The first damaged rolling cabinet had three spots where the paint was scratched. While the second replacement only had one area that was scratched on the bottom, it was again caused by a proud staple on the pallet.
While perhaps not a big deal to some, this is unexpected and disappointing when talking about a $1000+ tool storage product.
Two of the four threaded inserts for the side handle had burrs that prevented proper assembly. I had use a tap to clean up the threads.
Cabinet and Chest Alignment
As I was attaching the upper chest to the lower cabinet I could not get them aligned. There was not enough adjustment in the bolts fastening them together to bring them into alignment.
Stuart’s Note: I noticed the same with an in-store demo unit when I visited the local Sears in November. It was severe enough that I took a photo.
Paint/Powder Coat Coverage
To access the batteries for the bluetooth locks, it’s easier to remove the drawer underneath, rather than reach inside and fumble around blindly. When I had the drawers out I noticed something else disturbing. The coating on the inside of the upper cabinet was splattered all over the back of the cabinet and was actually missing in one spot on the upper left.
If it seems like a I’m being a little picky about the coating on the inside of the cabinet, I might not have even noticed the splattered and missing coating inside the upper cabinet if I hadn’t already seen the flawless coating on the inside of the lower cabinet. Now that’s the kind of quality I’d expect from a $1000+ purchase.
Stuart’s Note: While we don’t expect for inexpensive storage cabinets to be painted or powder coated in areas most users will never see or access, the higher end tool storage products I’ve seen were powder coated on the inside.
Prior to testing the Bluetooth lock controls, I found that I could not lock all of the drawers in the bottom cabinet at the same time without leaning into them so the locking mechanism in the back would engage properly.
The cabinet and chest have what Craftsman calls “GripLatch.” The handle on the front of the drawer is actually a latching system. When you pull up and out on the drawer handle to pull out the drawer it unlatches the drawer. When you push the drawer back in the GripLatch catches to keep the drawer closed.
Craftsman GripLatch drawers all work in the same manner, with the entire drawer handle being a spring-action lever that releases hooks on the ends of the drawer that interacts with catches built into the chassis.
One would think that if a drawer is latched you could trust that it would actually lock that drawer when you turned the key, but what I found is that I would lock the cabinet and then be able to pull out several of the drawers.
Stuart’s Note: There is a little movement allowed in my Craftsman GripLatch units. The top chest has a lid-connected locking bar type. I lift the lid, pull out the drawers a little bit, close the lid, and then close the drawers. They latch but don’t lock because the lock bar is already lowered. (I do this so that I can open the drawers without opening the top lid.) BUT, my GripLatch storage units are designed differently than this Pro Series units. With an independent locking system found on these Pro Series units, there should NOT be any movement. For this Pro combo, latched should mean “lockable.”
When it was finally time to test the Bluetooth locks, I was in for a huge surprise! I put the batteries into the holder for each lock and the locks started an initialization routine. The lower cabinet lock took a lot longer to finish the routine though.
I paired the app with each of the locks, which involves naming the cabinet and entering in a serial number for each lock. After I got both locks entered in, I tried locking the lower unit. The actuator started spinning in the lock direction, but wouldn’t stop. It kept going before stopping suddenly, and it twisted the lock to where the outside lost alignment with the inside, making it impossible to insert the key.
I used a large screwdriver to turn the lock back into alignment so that I could insert a key to unlock the drawer, but as soon as I did the motor inside started turning in the lock direction again. I could insert a key, but couldn’t turn it, as the motor was spinning in the opposite direction.
I left the key in so the lock wouldn’t rotate out of alignment again. When the batteries died, the key had become trapped in the lock. I couldn’t turn the lock back into neutral position without applying enough pressure to break the key (or so I thought). I couldn’t get into any of the drawers in the lower cabinet!
Stuart and I had a long conference call with the Craftsman engineering team. They were very concerned about all the issues we brought to their attention. The product manager went as far to say that this product was their “baby” and they wanted to make any problems right. Not just for us, but for any customer.
After I described the locked cabinet problem to them, they told me to just force the key, it shouldn’t break. While I was on the call I was able to muscle the key back into the neutral position and remove it, but I didn’t have enough strength to turn the key to unlock the cabinet. So after asking if it was okay, I grabbed the key in a pair of Vise-Grips and was able to force the lock open – but not without bending the key pretty good.
They thought the malfunction of my Bluetooth lock and the drawers not staying locked was due to the misalignment of the locking mechanism. It was also very possible that the cabinets not aligning to one another could be a sign that the cabinet was racked and the locking mechanism was out of line. They said that absolutely when the GripLatch was engaged the drawers should lock.
The malfunction could be due to the fact that the Bluetooth locks were initially designed to continue trying to turn the lock until the locking bar dropped 100%, where as in reality the bar might not drop completely until you try to open a drawer or shake the cabinet. Newer firmware has changed this behavior.
The PM assured us that they are working on better packaging and that they would follow up immediately with the factory on the rest of the Q/A issues.
After the call, I updated the firmware for both locks using the application on an iOS device, rather than my phone, since the app for Android version doesn’t have that capability yet. As of now, the Android app is lacking quite a few features that the iOS app has, such as configuring the proximity locking feature.
Prior to the firmware update, the cabinet lock would engage unintentionally sometimes, even when I was standing right next to it.
I have to say that this experience has soured me on electronic locks in general. I had been thinking of upgrading our entry locks with some connected locks. The convenience of not having to fumble for keys and being able to grant and revoke access to the house was appealing. I had never thought about how wrong things could go. I’ll be sticking with keyed locks for now.
Which is to say that I’ll gladly test out the Bluetooth locks on the second replacement combo, but when it comes time to store my tools for long term testing, the batteries are coming out of the locks, even if they are working perfectly. The meager benefits are not worth the risks of not being able to access my tools when they are needed.
Here are the answers to a few questions Stuart had in his first post:
Where are the side handles? On the conference call we learned that it was decided that “Pro” grade cabinets don’t get lifted or moved around very much. In fact, the upper cabinet is designed to be bolted to the lower cabinet with four bolts.
Since side handles are rarely used, they thought the look of the streamlined sides would be more appealing to users.
Do the units have to be connected to an AC power source to maintain proximity lock controls? The locks are entirely powered by 4 AA batteries (8 batteries total for the combo). You also get keys as a backup.
Again, I do like overall concept and design of the cabinet. It is decently constructed, and taller with deeper drawers for more efficient use of space. But until Craftsman deals with the quality control issues, there’s no way I could recommend that anybody buy this combo.
This isn’t the last say on this cabinet. I have another replacement coming that should hopefully include some new quality control procedures the Craftsman team said they would implement.
Cabinet Price: $1220 list, $820 on sale
Chest Price: $730 list, $480 on sale
Craftsman was only able to provide one test sample, and so we decided that Ben should tackle the review. With all these issues, and the hassle of multiple freight deliveries and pickups, I don’t regret that joint decision. Then again, all that effort and hassle translates to climbing costs on my end, and opportunity costs for Ben. Our patience is wearing thin, but we’re trying to be understandable.
When I finally found these Pro Series Smart-Lock tool storage combos at the local Sears, I noticed several things. First, they are really tall. I had a hard time reaching the top lid to close it. I’m under 6′ tall, but not short by any means. A drop-down handle assist would have been nice.
If Craftsman is able to spare another test sample, I’d try to wire the thing up with a bigger battery pack and then connect some type of motor or linear actuator to help close the lid.
Still, that top compartment wouldn’t be very useful to me. I can’t easily reach anything in the back area. The same with the top drawer – I would have some difficulty accessing smaller tools from anywhere but the front of the drawer.
Sears has been comparing these new Pro Series tool boxes to Snap-on tool storage products.
Craftsman Pro Series Tool Storage is 1/3 of the price of comparable Snap on Heritage Plus Series Tool Storage. Guaranteed!
I find it easy to believe that the Craftsman team designed the product to compare with Snap on at a fraction of the price.
They are proud of their design, and from our phone call it was clear that they care about it.
My thoughts are that the design is good. There are things I might not like, but those are preferential. Care went into all aspects, and hearing that the app and tool cabinet firmware will be updated on an ongoing basis is optimistic.
They said that there’s contact info through the app. Send an email through the app, and it goes directly to the team. They want to hear suggestions for future features or improvements.
This isn’t a gimmicky product, it’s an innovation that they worked hard on, and one that stands a reasonable chance at becoming very popular.
I asked a tough question – why change how the drawers are attached to the slides? On my couple years-old Craftsman units, the slides are removable without the use of any tools. On this unit, the slides are removable for potential replacement if needed, but there are also rivets that would need to be drilled out. Why? Because it helps prevent side-to-side play, contributing to a more rigid drawer.
It was a good answer, but also showed me that the Craftsman team knew their products. That is not always the case with private label brands.
That all said, there are failures, and some serious ones.
The Pro Series tool cabinets are Assembled in America with Global Parts. I don’t quite know what that means. Which are the global parts? The drawer slides? The chassis and drawers?
Regardless, some of the problems Ben encountered are not isolated to the test sample.
This is the misalignment that I mentioned seeing at the local Sears’ demo unit.
For a top chest to be bolted to a bottom cabinet like that… it’s just unacceptable. Ben’s unit had minor misalignment in comparison.
Ben’s unit seems to have a lockbar assembly or installation issue. It’s hard to tell. As the Craftsman team pointed out, a misalignment in one part of an assembly can snowball and compound, affecting other aspects.
My instinct is that the production was rushed a little bit, to get these storage products in stores and fulfillment warehouses in time for the 2016 winter holiday shopping season.
They hit the sales floor right at or before the first week of November, because that’s when I saw a demo model, and an associate said he just put it together the other day.
It’s hard to say “we do NOT recommend that anyone buys this at this time,” but that is indeed how we both feel.
The problems plaguing this product are not expected or acceptable on a $1,000+ tool storage combo.
The good news is that the design seems strong, and the Craftsman team is by now fully aware of the issues Ben has experienced. I’m guessing that they might have also heard from early adopters who encountered similar or other issues.
With thought and care going into the product’s design, the hope is that the Craftsman team can sort things out with the factory.
In my opinion, and keep in mind I have 0 experience regarding factory and production setups, this is what needs to be done:
- Complete inspection of manufacturing and assembly processes to isolate the source of quality issues
- Improved quality control and assurance
- Improved packaging for shipping
- Recall of all unsold products for inspection
As you might know, Craftsman is not a manufacturer. They work with OEMs to produce all of their products, some being unique and others being Craftsman exclusives.
I have not been able to determine the likely OEM for these products. Waterloo? Edsal? Viper? Which other tool storage brand with USA-based facilities could be the OEM partner here?
I hope that we can give you an update in 1 month. If Ben or I receive another test unit for evaluation and review, we’re insistent that it comes from the production line, as opposed to being cherry-picked or specially inspected.
If you’re in the market for a $1,000+ tool storage combo, don’t rule out Craftsman’s Pro Series product family, at least not yet.
Product launches don’t always go as planned. Keeping in mind that there are some aspects of the design that I don’t think would work well for me – but maybe I’d get used to or grow to favor them – it’s best to withhold judgement for now.
Ben and I are in complete agreement – we can NOT recommend this at all right now. I perhaps would not be so open to adding the “right now” bit if it were me having to deal with multiple issues and sample shipments.
I believe that Craftsman and their OEM partner can get things right. Now, we just have to wait and see what happens.
Update: See the Review Follow-Up Here
Thank you to Craftsman and Sears for providing the review sample unconditionally.