It’s a simple question really, but I’ve been hung up on a question I was asked on social media: How do you feel about Craftsman [tools] for DIY stuff? Should I go some other route?
I fired off a quick answer: Neutral? Not a lot of competitive options at their current price point.
I’ve reviewed some Craftsman tools, tested others, and am in the process of testing more.
When talking about Craftsman tools, there are lots of different product categories to consider.
I reviewed a purchased copy of Craftsman’s most entry-level cordless drill back in November 2018, and my overall sentiment was that the kit was cheap but capable. It’s an entry-level cordless drill, but workable, and Craftsman also has other cordless drill models for those willing to spend more.
Other Craftsman cordless power tools have proved to be competent performers, on-par with other brands’ competitive DIYer-targeted offerings.
I haven’t tried Craftsman’s air tools, but I’d bet they’re decent. They have a pancake-style air compressor that is heavily advertised around holiday shopping seasons, and Craftsman is now the fourth brand to come out with a cordless air compressor.
The brand has been expanding, although I haven’t seen as rapid a push in cordless power tool or hand tool segments as I’d like. I’m waiting for Craftsman’s USA-made hand tools, which they keep saying is on the way.
When someone asks about Craftsman tools, I generally hone in on their hand tools. Sure, Craftsman now has lawn and garden equipment, cordless power tools, workshop equipment, storage products, and all kinds of other tools in their broad selection, but that’s not what I visualize.
I own a fair amount of Sears-era Craftsman hand tools – pliers, wrenches, ratchets, sockets, wire strippers, chisels, prying bars, hammers, mallets, screwdrivers, specialty tools, and then some, with nearly all of these tools being made in the USA.
So when “Craftsman tools” hits my brain, that’s what I think of, the Craftsman tools in my kit.
Do the Craftsman tools available today, developed and launched by Stanley Black & Decker after acquiring the brand, match up to the Craftsman tools from a few years ago, before Sears and their suppliers started shifting production overseas?
I answer this question by thinking of another question. Would I trade any of my existing Craftsman hand tools for any of the new ones? The answer to that is no, and so by extension and in my opinion, Stanley Black & Decker’s Craftsman hand tools are NOT as good as older Sears-era Craftsman hand tools.
Would I choose today’s Craftsman hand tools over the last generation of Sears Craftsman hand tools? Absolutely.
What I’m looking forward to are Craftsman’s hand tools of tomorrow. Stanley Black & Decker can very easily launch/relaunch a Craftsman Professional tool brand. They certainly have the know-how, and perhaps they can model the differentiation similar to what they did with Stanley and Stanley FatMax brands.
Maybe there won’t be a better tier of Craftsman hand tools, but there’s certainly plenty of room, with respect to quality, market space, and pricing, between Craftsman and Stanley Black & Decker’s Proto and Mac professional tool brands.
Are there better options for DIYers today? Well, yes. At the same entry to mid level price points? That’s trickier. Lowe’s Kobalt tools selection is not what it once was, Home Depot’s Husky tools are decent but limited in breadth beyond core mechanics tools.
Harbor Freight is possibly Craftsman’s biggest competitor right now, with their new higher-priced and more premium-focused Icon tools, plus all the cheaper tools already on shelves.
Gearwrench tools are priced higher than Craftsman tools, and so I’d consider them an upgrade rather than being competitive.
Maybe Tekton? But while they’ve been strengthening parts of their product offerings, Tekton tool quality can very widely. For instance, I’d absolutely use their screwdrivers, but their pliers and cutters are more basic and of lower quality than the USA-made Craftsman versions I have in my kit. Maybe they’d be on-par with Craftsman’s current tool selection?
It used to be so easy. If someone were looking for DIY hand tools, Craftsman!! was a good answer. Kobalt was a decent alternative. Now? I think Craftsman is getting there. I purchased some more hand tools a couple of months ago, for review and comparison purposes, and their quality was decent. By decent, I mean better than acceptable. while not quite being as good as the older Craftsman tools I enjoy using regularly.
Stanley Black & Decker would likely describe me as a sophisticated hobbyist, a term their marketing execs have used in the past. Right now, I think that they’ve been reasonably successful in meeting the needs of homeowners, beginner DIYers, budget shoppers, and other such users.
What about tools for “sophisticated hobbyists,” pro users, or those more inclined to purchase higher-quality or pro-grade tools?
I’m hoping that Craftsman’s mid-grade tools are coming, but that remains to be seen.
But for now, I think my original sentiment holds. How do I feel about Craftsman tools? I’m neutral, with the general opinion that there aren’t a lot of competitive options at their current price point. You can find good and even better alternatives if you shop around, but a lot of entry-level users don’t tend to shop around.
The COVID-19 pandemic likely disrupted Craftsman’s timetable, but I’m still very much interested in seeing what they’ll be launching this year and next.