We’ve posted about some of the new Craftsman tools that have started to appear at Lowes. The brand has been owned by Stanley Black & Decker for nearly a year and a half now.
We’ve seen new mechanics tool sets on Lowes.com, we followed upon with details about where they’re made, and I posted about new Craftsman tool storage products that are on the way.
SBD has pledged to bring some Craftsman tool production back to the USA, and are presumably still working on that.
Ben came across Craftsman wrench sets at Lowes, and wasn’t impressed with what he saw. He described the wrenches as poorly finished, and conveyed that he’d absolutely buy different wrenches over these.
Lowes.com has a 360° view of the packaging, where we can see that these newly listed wrench sets are made in China.
Oddly, the product description describes the wrench sets as “polished chrome,” but they look like imported versions of traditional Craftsman raised-panel wrenches.
I’m fond of the Craftsman raised panel wrenches that I own. Years ago, I bought my 9pc set for $20. The pricing was right, and the tools were made in the USA.
During holiday seasons, 8pc sets, packaged in boxes instead of reusable holders, sold for $10.
Back in 2012, we shared a comparison of Craftsman raised panel ratchets. I don’t think we ever posted about a raised panel wrench comparison, but there are plenty online. The imported versions were often described as having “lobster claws,” giving rise to the belief that the open ends were beefed up with extra mass to make up for lower strength forging or heat treatment.
These new Craftsman raised panel wrenches, at least from the photos, don’t look to have the “lobster claw” dimensions.
Craftsman’s raised panel wrenches have always had somewhat of a rough appearance to them, as if they were pulled off the forge, lightly finished and plated, and then sent to the store. And that was okay, because the price made them good values.
I feel compelled to check these out myself, and will try to get to a Lowes store this weekend. The nearest one is about 30 minutes away, and it’s not one of my favorite ones. Meanwhile, there are 3 excellent Home Depot locations all within 15 minutes. Sorry, I digress.
$20 was a great price for a 9pc USA-made Craftsman raised panel combination wrench set. For an imported set? There are many other options out there, some of them more compelling.
From how Ben described the wrench set he encountered to me, I’d sooner spend the same amount of money on fewer wrenches (Kobalt has 7pc full-polish sets for $20), or a little more for a different brand (Tekton has a couple of sets not far off from this price).
I’m trying to reserve judgement until I see these wrenches in person, but I am getting a little impatient. Where are the new USA-made Craftsman tools we are expecting?
The lobster-claw version has come and gone. They was ugly.
The current raised panels look to me like the wrenches of old, but I don’t know how they compare. I had to replace one (lost) wrench from my 30+ year old set with a newer Made-in-USA one just a few years ago before the moved offshore, and it’s noticeably shorter than the wrenches of sizes above and below it.
More Chinese stuff.. I was hoping SBD would go with a strong “Made in USA” campaign for the Lowes launch
My local Lowes has had some Craftsman tool chests on display. They are USA made (with global materials).
It is really odd to see them without griplatch drawers though.
I thought so too, they have some weird friction latch, it’s hard to describe and I didn’t like it
I cringed when i read about the SBD takeove of beloved Craftsman. Its looking worse and worse.
These guys just got too much going on.
For what its worth i still like PROTO.
I still would buy MAC .
I can not understand making Craftsman offshore. Whats next Levi’s ?
Sears already made it offshore.
There hasn’t been a pair of Levi’s made in the US in probably a few decades.
Naw. More recently then that. South Texas along the border.
Maybe part of the Made-in-China thing is the price point that Lowes was willing to accept coupled with the profit margin that SBD expected. Retooling an existing SBD production facility (like Proto) and then producing a run of these in the US – might have just been too costly. SBD is also not likely to contract out with a third party US wrench manufacturer to source these wrenches like Sears once did – when they contracted with Easco. I’m not sure that the Easco – acquired by Danaher and then merged into the Apex Tool Group – wrench plant even exists anymore. I know that Apex closed down the Easco North Carolina socket wrench plant in 2010.
Seems to me that if SB&D intends to reinvigorate the Craftsman brand and intends to produce more in the USA they should not have continued to allow this stuff to be sold. I for one would rather see a one year absence from the market with a return to good quality USA made hand tools to spark a renewed interest in the brand rather than a continual degradation of a once proud nameplate. I get that there two sides and you might miss out during the hiatus on those entering into the hand tool market but I believe in the long run it would have proved to be a more successful strategy. Brand quality (perceived) and brand loyalty are funny things to judge and predict and right now they are losing on both fronts.
Hopefully no one will buy craftsman made in China…either make them in the USA or discontinue the line
I don’t know why they don’t discontinue the name. I’d never even considering buying them unless 1) made in America and 2) full quality product.
show them coming off the proto line but finished cheaply or comeing out of wherever the MAC is made again finished cheaply and I’ll take notice.
Otherwise – just go away. I can buy similar better wrenches from Autozone.
or Wal-Mart for their Stanley line of tools.
no because the last time I looked the stuff at autozone was made in Taiwan – which I would take over made in china. But that does change occasionally.
I bought full ratcheting metric and sae wrench sets from Autozone, made in Taiwan. The full polish finish is excellent and I’ve used them pretty frequently. Now, they were bought a couple years ago so the manufacturer might have changed since then, but I’d put mine up with many mid-range brands.
These are identical to the ones currently sold at Sears – same production line, no doubt. Tooling up US manufacturing will take a while for any sort of volume, hence the current Chinese made ones.
They have improved since introduction, but they’re still not up to the standard of USA made wrenches like I currently own. And made in China does not necessarily mean poor quality – it only generally does, and there are some good ones out there. Hopefully soon we’ll see something more than two sets that are not basic Sears recycling coming in. I’d love if the Western Forge screwdrivers came back, for instance.
The Western Forge idea is good but probably a non-starter unless Stanley buys Western Forge from Ideal. I would think that SBD will either want to use their own domestic production facilities or outsource to OEM’s in Asia. Who knows, maybe whoever Wiha moved production to from Germany to Vietnam might be a source for Craftsman pliers and screwdrivers.
Ugh! Can’t stand their raised panel wrenches or ratchets (quick release ratchets just scream “cheap!” to me). Ugly with the ergonomics of a jagged rock. The main reason I never invested much in Craftsman is these wrenches and their sockets that can’t seem to stay on the rails (at least one was always in the driveway somewhere). Gearwrench, Carlyle, Proto, Sunex, and even some Tekton stuff are better choices than Craftsman.
Yeah, I know. I’m a tool snob.
Maybe Sunex has gotten better. We bought some Sunex crowfoot wrenches that would not stay put on an extension bars – always just dropped off. When we examined them there was no little divot to catch the ball detent. The chrome plating looked nice.
Tool Of The Trade
I think that we all set our expectations for craftsman a little bit higher than what sbd are capable of or willing to do. How many of our politicians pledge to do something & never follow through with what they pledged to us? I think that is how you have to look at this situation. If you didn’t take what sbd said with a grain of salt then that’s your fault. Yes, they have the means to bring production back to the US, but are they really going to invest the time and money to do it knowing that 99% of their production is done overseas? Highly unlikely. Perception is reality and sbd has done very little to change that for the better. I still think that sbd bought the brand just so nobody else could have it. Same thing with Lenox and Irwin. Look at it this way, how many of their brands are they really investing their all into? Or much of anything for that matter? They own brands that were once very prominent and well known for their quality and absolutely destroyed the reputation of these brands in both the power tools and hand tools industry. Other than Dewalt, who was a radial arm saw company, they haven’t done much of anything with the brands that they own other than strides in the wrong direction. I think it’s safe to say that craftsman will suffer the same fate as other brands that I’m sure sbd pledged to do right by. Which should ponder the question of why do they buy brands just so they can ruin their reputation? I’m not saying that they do this with all of their brands, but brands that were once prominent. Like I said, it appears that they are just buying these brands just so no one else can have them. They should have just let craftsman burn out and fade away with the company that started craftsman.
Didn’t SBD specifically say they want to bring production to the US, but the first releases would be from the existing (Made in China) line?
I still don’t get why though. It’s not like there are so many Craftsman die-hards out there that have been waiting to buy the utmost basic sets (since they probably already have them) but with a China COO. Meanwhile even the Chinese Kobalt sockets/wrenches/ratchets/etc. are pretty decent, Lowes branding is strong compared to Sears and how they left Craftsman, etc… doesn’t seem a whole lot of reason to rush to get the same old crappy sets out there on the market if Made in USA or at least high-quality foreign at a great price point was on its way.
I took a peek too when I saw them. The boxes are the same low-quality Waterloo USA that you’d expect. The wrenches looked meh – not that I’m a raised panel fan as it is.
Yeah, these are just Apex-sourced stuff for use as store filler while the USA production facilities are being built.
I don’t think Stanley had a way to suddenly start up a USA production line for wrenches or any other Craftsman tools since all the tooling and facilites have been gone for years, ever since the wrenches and sockets were made in China.
As for the wrenches themselves, yeah, the raised-panel China made stuff got rid of the lobster claw, but they are still pretty rough compared to the USA-made versions. I have the last of the USA production in the raised panels and they aren’t perfect but they are decent for what they are.
I have the older 8-pc raised panel sets too, and they are even smoother and more comfortable to hold.
The USA-made ones are definitely worth seeking out and getting if you like the length and style of wrench.
I expect SBD will eventually bring these back in the USA-made version, along with a lot of other classic Craftsman stuff, but really I hope they don’t and instead go for all-new designs for everything from the ground up. It’d be an unusual move since so much of the brand’s value is the recognizability and identity of the tools, but I think it’d be better overall for the future of Craftsman tools rather than just making more of the same old same old in new places with a new owner.
My question is how does this play out? The big box stores aren’t keen on reserving shelf space for products that don’t sell. I dont envision this brand will sell well at all in Lowes.
Well I guess its better than the supermarket model where companies have to pay “slotting fees” to get their products on the shelves
I was under the impression that big box hardware stores (and even small tool stores) do indeed do rent their shelf space.
Hopefully they can get them “Made in the USA” without having to add “With Global Materials”. Heck, Menards “Masterforce” brand sockets, ratchets, and such are US made, and are cheaper price wise than the chinese built Craftsman ones, by almost half. My local Sears Hometown and ACE stores sell individual sockets for $4.50 – $6.00 depending on the socket, where Menards has Masterforce for $3-$4.
I don’t know how anything about their quality though, the nearest Menards (or Lowes, or Home Depot) is at least 100 miles away, so I really don’t have any of their house brand products
i take it you have not been to a menards lately. apex made the masterforce and anything you see is old stock. my local stores are replacing it with crescent and gearwrench as it goes.
same with allen branded apex tools at fleet farm and other places. they supposedly sent all of it back and it has been replaced with dewalt.
I was at one on the south side of Grand Rapids, MI about 2 weeks ago. They didnt have much for gearwrench stuff, though there was some. Thats where I noticed the Masterforce stuff was US made. Never noticed that before, but there was a couple year gap between my being in a Menards
Masterforce is gone as of January 2018. Bain Capital owners of Apex Tools closed down US production of Masterforce, Armstrong and Allen. I suspect Armstrong and Allen will or have already returned as made in China. Rich get richer. 300 plus employees at the Apex S. Carolina plant out of work.
Another Hedge Fund sponsored move to de-factory (is that a word?) America.
So thanks Mitt for your continued kind and thoughtful “service”…
Mitt Romney left Bain Capital 19 years ago, but I guess we can blame him anyway.
A lot of Bain’s money comes from private equity funds, including pension funds. Many of those factory worker’s retirements are funded by companies like Bain.
Why bother duplicating the old just imagine a long pattern raised panel wrench set made in USA! Then they can bring back the semi deep socket sets. Are you listening SBD?
After a year and a half, they should be USA made by now. There is no excuse for this. I have been a Craftsman fan for a long time, but have recently switched to Milwaulkee. Yes, they are made overseas, but they are owned by an overseas company. They still have a great reputation and have tools for every need. I want a brand that I can trust. Not a brand that just blows smoke up my ass.
Tool Of The Trade
I fully understand that it takes time to get the ball rolling on opening a plant for forging, manufacturing, and shipping. But they’ve had plenty of time to go prospect manufacturing plants that were forced to shut down due to the overseas sellout. There’s plenty of them that are for sale with the machinery still inside the building. But why the Chinese filler? Whether it’s sourced through apex or whoever, it shouldn’t be on the shelves anywhere unless it’s made in the USA. And they shouldn’t have partnered with anyone until they are ready to follow through with their pledge. It’s not like kobalt tools are flying off the shelves, which is why they agreed to selling the new craftsman line to begin with.
The buildings where the wrenches were previously made weren’t for sale, and the machines and tooling were sent overseas to China years ago.
Stanley is starting from scratch and building their own production facilities in the USA, and getting new tooling and machinery. That’s what’s taking so long.
In the meantime, they are just buying and re-selling the same Craftsman stuff from Apex as Sears, to fill space in retailers and test the markets to see what sells and what doesn’t. I suspect they will have a plan what to do with their Stanley brand stuff and what Lowe’s will do with certain Kobalt products once the Craftsman offerings start becomeing more prevalent in Lowe’s stores.
John T McDougald
I walked into my Lowes yesterday morning while they were setting up all the Craftsman tools and accessories along the main entrance row. Everything there, made in China.
Along with wrenches, they were assembling workbenches, tool boxes, and setting up a lot of different displays for their new line.
I wonder if their planning some kind of Memorial Day kick off for their new line.
This is not left over stock from Sears/Apex that Lowes is distributing. I doubt SBD has plans to locate manufacturing close to their customer base in the US. They already have manufacturing footprint in the USA via associated brands: Dewalt, Mac Tools, Proto that can make good working class value wrenches if called upon. Apex still operates a US plant in South Carolina. SBD chose not to produce domestically for simple reason. They can make more money exploiting cheap Chinese labor and near non existent safety and environmental regulations. Who needs to breath clean air? Or be held accountable for death of a worker due to unsafe working conditions? Not SBD. That is why its likely SBD Craftsman tools will be made in China. Next up for Fathers Day, screwdrivers and pliers from I wager: Apex tool plant in China not Western Forge Colorado.
Stuart–You say you purchased a 9 piece set of USA made Craftsman wrenches “years ago.” If you can remember when, can you tell us the present value of that purchase today. For example, $20 in 1999 is equivalent to $30 today. A $30 nine piece USA wrench set today would be a good deal. A nine piece SK set 1/4 to 3/4 is listed at $103 at HJE.
And that comparison (based on GNP deflator or CPI ?) is only because recent years have been relatively free of inflation in the US. Imagine living in Venezuela – where the inflation rate is something like 6.4% per day – so a $10 (converted from bolivars) tool you bought a week ago might cost $15 today – if you could even afford to buy it.
I used a CPI calculator and the recent flat inflation rate has kept the prices down. I was looking at some late 80s/early 90s Craftsman catalogs the other day and for some tuff like pliers and screwdrivers, the unadjusted prices then were nearly the same as today’s prices. People remember being inexpensive, but until more recently, they were a mid-price product. Of course the middle is shrinking across retail segments.
Pretty sad… They’re just finishing what lampert started. The killing off of Craftsman. I had so much hope that their intent was truly to give it life again. Craftsman was built on Made In USA. Made in China or anywhere else just doesn’t work for this particular brand. A USA sticker on their current sub par line of tool boxes won’t move the needle much either. The boxes themselves had gone downhill and I’m not seeing at all where they have even been improved. I honestly don’t even think this ‘re-introduction’ at Lowe’s will even get off the ground once people see the same overseas stuff Sears tried to peddle.
Not sure why the made in usa excitement is so important. Just to throw a wrench into the discussion, I bought a craftsman set back in 1970. As I was just becoming a pro mechanic it didn’t take me long to see that they wouldn’t do. I could litterally see the open ends actually expand as I was trying to loosen bolts. Anyway I started buying so and mac tools and never looked back. So if you want stuff for light work, craftsman is fine, usa or china. But if you need serious tools then get serious tools. Just getting tired of all the crying about craftsman as if they were the greatest thing back in the day when made in the usa. They were not.
i disagree. you are throwing the brand under the bus because you had some wrenches you did not like back in 1970. let me run the numbers ……..yup i can round that up to almost 50 years ago. craftsman professional wrenches and other items, pry bars. off corner engagement in sockets . many items that were the same or equal of truck brand. even some of the imported items in the lineup were damn good
matter of fact, some of the last us made wrenches were the best ones ever, milled edges, off corner engagement on the box ends and good steel. i have some and even though they are not the flashiest i would put them up against most any brand. not that long ago craftsman was damn good and way better than average. yes the standard ratchets sucked but they had better stuff in the lineup.
and yes i do own truck brand stuff. i have snap-on, mac, matco and cornwell in my collection. there is no magical powers in them either.
I stopped by the local Lowes today stunned to see the Craftsman brand there. I knew SBD was going to distribute the stuff more but didn’t realize this was going to be at Lowes. Either way though I’m not at all impressed.
The tool boxes, storage, and work benches have a cheap feeling to me. I think they’d be ok for light duty use in a garage but you would not want to do anything beyond that with them. So nothing has changed from what Sears was selling.
I’m not at all impressed either with the hand tool sets. They basically took the same junk that Sears was hawking and have colorfully repackaged it. Now it says “We Build Pride”. What a load of crap honestly. To me that would be appropriate if they had US employees in US plants using US Steel making lifetime quality tools etc. This is definitely not the case and they certainly are not going to change my mind from buying Wright hand tools primarily anytime soon.
Unless it changes I see SBD just milking the hell out of the name and occasionally throwing us tool heads a bone.
Ok, I got to go out to our Lowe’s today to buy a few things and check out the Craftsman display. It was honestly not bad for a small start. There was probably 10 toolboxes front and center when you walk into the entrance with a big sign welcoming fixer’s and doer’s or something like that. I assume their desire is to really grab peoples attention and the display does that.
Positives – they had VersaTrack which we’re going back this weekend to buy. I love this and so does my wife. I’m also most likely going to buy the new Craftsman pressure washer. It’s fantastic for a small unit with a great Honda engine. There was also a 72 inch (I think) Craftsman metal workbench with a wood top I’m really interested in.
Negatives – obviously the tools which we’ve all discussed to no end. I actually thought the boxes looked nice in person. Maybe it’s just been awhile since I’ve seen a red Craftsman box and I miss it. They did have soft closing drawers which I liked. They seemed ok for sturdiness but not as solid as the Menard’s boxes across the road. However, they were quite a bit cheaper… The one thing they need to fix and fix fast is the Craftsman sticker. You have this beautiful box and then there’s this huge sticker when the lid is opened. Most boxes have the name either painted on the lid inside or laser cut or stamped into a metal plate. Well, on every Craftsman box they have a Big sticker. And every sticker is full of bubbles, partially peeling off And crooked! They obviously don’t use a template but instead just eyeball it and hope it sticks on straight. Literally, they’re all crooked. And if you tried to just peel it all off, I’d be worried some of the red paint is coming off with it. So your stuck looking at crooked Craftsman with the lid open. It literally ruins the toolboxes.
Not much else to say as that’s all they have so far.
I really don’t care to know anything concerning Craftsman tools. Not until their back in the U.S.A. 100%. Until then, the tool brand is dead to me!
I purchased the new 81-piece gunmetal mechanics set from Lowe’s, and I can say that the quality of this set is greatly and obviously improved over the Sears sets. This particular set is labeled as Made in Taiwan, and looks like an all-new development for the Craftsman brand under SBD.
The other sets at Lowe’s look like carry-overs from the old Sears inventory, and are still labeled as Made in China.
So it looks like they are in some kind of transition period where they are offering some all-new stuff as well as some of the old. Just be aware of which is which.
The Taiwan sockets in Craftsman and others ,have a much better fit, finish and chrome treatment. I believe Craftsman EAsy Read Laser sockets with “S” stamp are made in Taiwan. So are other 6 point sockets Many of black impact sockets, Craftsman, Harbor Freight, Tractor Supply and several others are made in Taiwan.c
Craftsman 12 points are mainland China in 230 piece sets but the 165? All six point socket set has the Stamp. Have 84teeth American, Taiwan and Main land 84T ratchet that came in different sets. I only use Mainland since I do not want a higher quality ratchet replaced with a New mainland ratchet or a rebuilt one from lArger Sears stores. Smaller stores usually don’t carry many rebuilds.
Craftsman impacts sockets along with H.F. Tactor supply and others are made in Taiwan. They have good metallurgy almost equal to us. I believe 6 point Craftsman chromed sockets stamped “S” are made their as well. These are in 165 ,6 point only mechanics sets not 230 or larger 12 point sets.
The Easy Read Laser all have 6 points and the same heft and finish. And have the same stamp.
I have been buying Craftsman since young kid in 1975 . I hAve many thumb wheel ratchets not the “triwings” and American Taiwan and mainland 84T ratchets. In only use Mainland since I don’t want a New mainland for a replacement inasmuch better ratchet. The small Sears don’t have many rebuilds in their top draw so at least you get a new
Carleton D Adams
Just bought a T45 from Lowes and it broke looking at it it was made in Taiwan, junk have to go with SK for a good T45, made in the good old USA..