Earlier this afternoon I stopped by Craftsman’s super secret new product preview in NYC. They rented out a studio space in Chelsea, and set up several product stations to show off their latest and greatest tools that will soon be hitting the market.
The preview session was supposed to last about a half hour, but I was there for a full three hours. And to think that I was worried about stretching the half hour to one hour in order to fit in some photography!
In case you’re wondering, I didn’t snap even a single photo. My camera didn’t even come out of its bag! Not that I have any regrets. I can (and plan to) photograph test samples in my workshop, or even at the local Sears store. The opportunity to chat with Craftsman product managers was definitely a worthwhile tradeoff.
While I am normally very chatty and tend to ask a lot of detailed product questions, it seemed like I couldn’t hold my tongue during the previews. Maybe that’s because the stitches I had in my top and bottom lips for eight days (long story) finally came out yesterday and I subconsciously felt I had to make up for the period of relative quietness.
Then again, Craftsman is one of my favorite brands, and I naturally come up with questions about their products, plans, and strategies quite regularly.
I apologize for being vague, but most of the products I previewed are under embargo, meaning I cannot share details about them yet.
I saw some logical additions to the hand tools lineup, mostly expansions of Craftsman’s current mechanics tool lines. The products I previewed look good and made perfect sense to me, and I anticipate that they will be strong sellers. Some were already launched ahead of Father’s Day.
This was the first session I visited, and I planned to circle back once I saw everything else, but I ran out of time. As a result, I’m still left with quite a few questions about what’s going on with the higher-end products of the hand tools segment.
The good news is that there are some nice expansions and products coming out soon. Homeowners and casual DIYers seem to be the target audience, but some of the products will draw the interest of sophisticated hobbyists and DIYers, as well as pro users.
Cordless and Portable Power Tools
Without giving away specifics, all I can say is that I liked what I saw. I don’t think every one of the new products will be definite high-demand winners, but it looks like they have reasonably good chances.
Outdoor, Lawn & Garden
Craftsman 40V. Sounds heavy, right? Well it’s not.
I think the new lawn and garden tools offer a very nice balance between size, weight, features, and power. Obviously I couldn’t test the tools out very well, but they seemed sturdily built.
There were also two already-launched storage sheds on display, one was a walk-in, the other more suitably sized for large refuse bins, bicycles, or possibly a ridable mower. My father (who serves as my homeowner/casual DIYer and lawn and garden expert), was not a fan of the larger shed, and wondered if it would blow away in hurricane-strength winds. As for the smaller one, he cautioned that I shouldn’t tell my mother about it, which I took to mean that he thought it was an appealing size and design.
Tool Storage & Garage
If there’s one thing I am very critical and judgemental about, it’s tool storage. My upgrade path was from one Craftsman tool chest after another, and it has been interesting to follow Craftsman’s product trends these past few years.
I might not use all of my tools every day, but I certainly use my tool storage products on a daily basis. My purchases were made very carefully and with more scrutiny and in-store drawer-pulling than I will ever admit to. Although I won’t be buying a new unit anytime soon, I continue to keep a close eye on Craftsman storage products, half out of personal interest, and half to keep my recommended products list up to date.
Craftsman’s Harley-Davidson products looked really, really good in person. The price is a little higher than for comparable products, but the premium will definitely be worth it for Harley fans.
I had a chance to test out the new DynaGlide drawer slides featured in the Harley tool storage combo and in upcoming products, and they felt amazingly smooth. Testing the drawers of empty prototype and pre-production tool chests and cabinets isn’t really conclusive, but my first impression was quite positive.
I was practically drooling over one of the new higher-end storage combos. They were just marvelous.
There were other highly appealing products in the garage section, but I can’t talk about them yet.
Woodworking and Benchtop Tools
The topics of discussion here were Craftsman’s new made-in-Germany premium woodworking saw blades, general construction blades, aluminum router tables, and quick-lift gravity stand.
Craftsman’s product manager for the segment seemed confident that the new premium blades can take on any other blades on the market. They did look appealing, with fully polished carbide teeth and what felt to be a low-friction blade coating. There weren’t as many anti-vibration channels as other brands’ blades, but I saw nothing to indicate that these weren’t in fact high quality blades at very appealing prices.
Going back at least a decade, my father bought a Craftsman circular saw for under $50 and then a 5-pack of blades for less than $20. Craftsman still managed to price the new construction blades 5-pack at $20.
We talked a bit about the new aluminum router tables, which are ground flat to ensure proper corner-to-corner flatness, and I like the two designs quite a bit. It’s not just about the products themselves, but how it became obvious how much thought went into the designs. The product manager was especially knowledgeable about the design choices that led to the final product, and that gave me a strong sense that it was designed and developed with users in mind. Users, as opposed to walking and talking dollar signs.
The quick-lift gravity miter saw stand seemed especially well constructed as well. I hesitated a bit in lifting it from its upright to its working position, but could still get a feel for how fluid the motion was. The quality of the materials and construction caught me by surprise, but was good to see.
It looks like Craftsman’s benchtop tool roadmap is populated with a number of in-progress products, which was also good to hear. A lot of DIYers lack the space or budgets for full-size stationary tools, but it can be challenging to find decent benchtop or portable options. I will be following these developments with keen interest.
Speaking as a consumer and Craftsman fan, I heard and saw a lot that strengthened my faith in the brand. That does not always happen when I speak with product managers, but I’m always happy when it does.
There is a wave of great new products on the way, and even more beyond that. Not all of the new products piqued my interest, but I will share details about them later on all the same.
I still have worries about the direction some of the product segments are headed in, but there are so many more reasons for me to be optimistic about the brand and their product catalog as a whole right now.
Overall, color me delighted.
(Yes, I know it’s frustrating that I’m talking about new products without sharing too many details about the new products, but I wanted to get my feelings and impressions written down and posted while they’re still fresh.)