Pratt-Read is a very old American company, having been founded in 1798 and making screwdrivers since 1834.
Ideal Industries acquired Pratt-Read in 2010, around the same time they also acquired Western Forge and SK Hand Tool. It has been around 11 years since Ideal acquired those 3 USA tool brands and manufacturers.
Ideal closed Western Forge in 2020, shutting down the factory and laying off the workers that couldn’t be moved to other plants. Sears, likely their largest customer at the time, moved manufacturing contracts overseas several years ago and also sold the Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker. Western Forge ultimately could not make up for the massive loss in sales volume.
Following rumors earlier this year, it was recently announced that Ideal Industries would be selling their SK Hand Tools brand to GreatStar. Hangzhou GreatStar Industrial is based in China and has rescued quite a few American brands from bankruptcy.
GreatStar has issued an announcement about the acquisition, but at this time there is still no indication as to how SK Hand Tools will be operated moving forward. Meaning, will they continue to manufacture hand tools in the USA or not?
This all leads to a new question – What about Pratt-Read?
Western Forge, Pratt-Read, and SK Hand Tools were all acquired by Ideal back in 2010. Of those 3 tool brands and manufacturers, Pratt-Read is the only one left.
A reader recently wrote in about concerns for Pratt-Read’s operations.
The new shipments of Masterforce screwdrivers are made in China. I wrote Menards to ask why and they responded that the manufacturer had closed their US plant. The Masterforce screwdrivers appeared to be Pratt-Read. However, I can find nothing that says Pratt-Read is not producing in Sycamore, IL. Does anyone have any updates?
Back when Western Forge’s closure was announced, news reports said that Ideal Industries would consolidate manufacturing at its SK Professional Tools factory in Sycamore, Illinois.
But now SK Hand Tools has been sold. Does the plant remain in Ideal Industry’s possession, was it closed, or was it included in the sale?
There are concerns on enthusiast forums that Pratt-Read’s website has been taken down, but a basic informational page is still available at prattread.com.
Pratt-Read, like Western Forge, is mainly an OEM manufacturer. While you can buy Pratt-Read tools at specialty retailers, most of their tools are manufactured under other brands’ labels. This is in contrast to SK Hand Tool, which is its own tool brand.
It is unclear what’s happing to Pratt-Read right now, but it’s not a good sign that Menards have had to replace their USA-made screwdrivers – widely believe to have been manufactured by Pratt-Read – with imported screwdrivers.
There was always some overlap between Western Forge and Pratt-Read, but is there anything left to Pratt-Read now that Western Forge is closed and SK Hand Tools sold?
However, it is possible that Ideal’s growing business relationship with Lowe’s is at least partially responsible for Menards being unable to continue their USA-made screwdriver lines.
Earlier this year, we reported on the surge of Ideal hand tools and electrical tools at Lowe’s.
The screwdriver pegs at Lowe’s are now filled with USA-made screwdrivers.
These new Ideal screwdrivers at Lowe’s seem to have an iconic Pratt-Read cushion-grip design. It is possible that, assuming that Pratt-Read and Ideal manufactured Menards’ previous screwdrivers, the tool maker no longer has the output capacity to fulfill the needs of both Lowe’s and Menards.
Back when Sears stilled owned the Craftsman tool brand, they moved enormous volumes of screwdrivers and pliers, especially around the holiday shopping seasons when value-priced sets of USA-made tools flooded the sales floor. I don’t think anyone would assume Lowe’s intends to do the same with Ideal.
Is the Pratt-Read tool company in a good place right now? Has it been fully absorbed into Ideal Industries’ namesake electrical tool brand?
Looking at more of the history behind Pratt-Read’s acquisition, it turns out that Pratt-Read’s factories were closed in 2010, never having been operated by Ideal Industries. At the time, an Ideal spokesperson said that they were making Pratt-Read screwdrivers at their existing facilities.
So, at the end of the this story, there are still a couple of questions, but not about Pratt-Read.
If there is any remaining equipment, it’s not going to be at Pratt-Read facilities (which closed at least 11 years ago), Western Forge facilities (which closed last year), or SK Hand Tools (as the brand was recently sold).
If Pratt-Read-style screwdrivers are being made for Ideal at Ideal plants, and readers are reporting changes at other brands and retailers (namely Menards), does Pratt-Read even exist anymore?
Is the screwdriver brand at all indistinguishable from Ideal?
Does Pratt read make Klein’s screwdrivers? I’ve always wondered that.
Mike (the other one)
No. Klein makes their own individual screwdrivers. Some of the multi-bit drivers are made in Taiwan, and may use handles from A&L handles, which is a subsidiary of Pratt-Read.
The A&L handles look very much similar to the Klein ones but they are completely different in hand. AFAIK, Klein make their screwdrivers in house.
And I for one am glad to support Klein with my tool purchases. As recently as last week.
Mike (the other one)
I also notice that True Value Master Mechanic screwdrivers are no longer Pratt-Read USA-made. The newest stock is made in China. The MM cushion grip drivers are made by Hangzhou Great Star, which is very telling.
I’ve also heard rumors that Pratt-Read screwdriver manufacturing has been taken over by Ideal directly (as in: moved to an Ideal plant), and they are getting out of the contract manufacturing business, making drivers only for their own brand. This seems consistent with the sale of Ideal drivers at Lowe’s, but it could just be a rumor.
So I’m thinking the Channellock acetate handled screwdrivers are on borrowed time. I believe the Tekton USA-made screwdrivers are also made by Pratt-Read – at least the blades. Someone else may make the handles, but I’m not sure. Great Neck may make them, though.
If all these rumors are true, I can’t say I have much respect for Ideal Industries, who managed to flush three great tool makers down the toilet.
According to news articles I dug up about the acquisition, Pratt-Read’s factories closed and production was moved to Ideal’s factories when they acquired the company’s assets.
Name a screwdriver manufacturer and I probably have a screwdriver that they make. I have one example of the Tekton hard handles and my god is that handle good.
Agreed, I don’t know exactly what it is, but those Tekton hard handled screwdrivers just feel/fit perfectly in my hand.
Everyone needs to do glass reinforced nylon handles from herein out.
Tekton is made by Wilde not Pratt Read.
As I understand it Ideal is a Family-owned business now into the 4th generation. That in and of itself is rather remarkable as it seems that many family-owned and run businesses struggle at the point of reaching generation #3. Their current chairman of the board (Meghan Juday is quoted as saying “we see things in generations not just quarters” – and that the company “will continue to invest in training and development innovation and acquisition.” If that’s so – then the sale of SK, closing of Western Forge, and whatever they’re doing with Pratt-Read may just be resets – recognizing the realities of the current market.
Seems more like
Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish.
Acquire, Drain, and Discard.
I was under the impression that A&L and PR stuff all went to Sycamore. They were making handles in the SK factory on some youtube video tour.
Somewhat related, I just saw a news article that SBD is buying the rest of MTD.
(also not sure how to send in tips)
You could always email me at https://toolguyd.com/contact-us/, via personal email (if I’ve responded to you before), or social media DMs. I have an email link in Instagram as well.
I’ve been a bit slow with email recently, but I do read and see everything.
I noticed that Menards is getting more and more tools from China. After Craftsman went overseas I got a bunch of Masferforce made in USA wrenches that not too long ago switched to China, now the screwdrivers. Husky has a line of USA made screwdrivers, which makes me wonder why Menards couldn’t do similar.
Everything in that section is Apex (the conglomerate, not the bit company it owns) except for the PR screwdrivers/nutdrivers and the Eklind. I believe Eklind came in when Allen was mothballed. I never really paid attention. Allen provided the US sockets, wrenches and bit sockets up until their closure and then Apex (or maybe it was still Dannahar at the time) provided those products from their asian factories. Maybe Apex is just taking over the rest of the section. Menards did drop Ideal (that or Ideal pulled out) everywhere else in the store (may still have some remaining electrical supplies)
…I’m sorry… I can’t stop laughing at this one… I see the pictures of the handles and I think something awful, that shouldn’t be said considering the sentiment in the thread… but I can’t help it…
…If you moved the plant North of the border, I’m sure we’d be happy to manufacture your screwdrivers for you… By replacing all the slotted and square heads with Robertson tips, thus ending the American resistance to our Screwdriver Superiority forever…
I’m sorry… Just… So… SO Sorry… I couldn’t get the joke out of my head, and I was giggling to myself too much… I had to put it somewhere…
Actually we’d probably would be using Robertson “south of the border” as you call the US – if he had just agreed with Henry Ford to license the patent.
My understanding was that Ford was using the drive style early on – but wanted more control over sourcing/availability and that Robertson refused to grant a license (perhaps Ford’s terms were not good). Anyway – when the Phillips drive came along and Cadillac and others started adopting it – the Robertson drive sort of went out of fashion. The cam out of the Phillips drive – one of the frustrations of using it – was actually a selling point for early carmakers because it prevented over-torquing in an age when torque-limiting drivers were not common.
All true. Robertson himself didn’t like the deal, as it would’ve forced him to share patent rights with Ford. Robertson wasn’t anywhere near as wealthy as Ford, and didn’t see how it was any different from just buying the fasteners and drivers like anyone else.
Then again, Ford himself sided with the Nazi party during World War 2, and a little into the early 1930s. It’s not surprising that he wanted more control, leading to bad decisions that would hurt everyone else.
In the mean time… Robertson’s patents stayed valid, and we’re still making them up here, and around the world. Those companies that refuse to pay the tiny licensing fee to make Robertson, tend to make “Square Drive” screwdrivers. 100% compatible with Robertson, but without the slight slope to the sides of the driver side, that both guide, and lock, the fastener in place. Also missing the rounded tip face that allows for the fastener to heat up, without permanently bonding it to the driver, as the bottom surface isn’t completely flat and willing to become stuck to the shape change of the fastener head.
“Square Drive” is literally none of these things. It’s a screwdriver with a literal cube machined on the end. Nothing wrong with this, of course. It just lacks all those advanced fitment features the Robertson patent had to make it special. It is sad that Ford ruined the comfort and efficiency for construction workers and automotive techs alike for the next century or so.
That said… An awful lot of American companies still make Robertson head screws and drivers. I think even Stuart’s new sponsor partner, Gearwrench, even makes the Robertson head. This far on, Robertson did win that debate. More companies outside Ford were happy to go Robertson, especially in the woodworking applications. The standard “Wood Screw” now, is a Robertson, not a Square Drive or Philips. Hell, Leatherman’s flat bits are Robertson, rather than Square. They are all marked, properly, R1, R2, or, indeed, R3.
Truth be told, fred… I just couldn’t get that joke out of my head… this thread was entirely inappropriate for me to use it, and I’m sorry… I know this is a serious topic that concerns a lot of people, and it’s a totally cruel joke to make. I’m sorry I did, but at the same time, at least I’ve stopped giggling at it in my head.
Other drive styles were once patented or at least trademarked too. You’ll see “T-Star” bits supplied by folks who don’t want to pay to use the “Torx” name (owned by Acument) . I believe that Phillips, Pozidriv, Torq-Set, Tri-Wing and Mortorq are also trademarked names (Owned by Phillips Screw Co.) – as is Frearson ( owned by Reed&Prince Mfg. Co.) and Supadriv (owned by European Industries Services)
In a not so strange twist of fate – Robertson Whitehouse is now making a combined cruciform/square drive that they have trademarked “Recex”
so the IDEAL brand as an electrical based tool and parts company does make electrical based tools with screwdrivers being a big part and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pratt-Reed side of their family is making those and will stick around to make other tools for the IDEAL electrical branding.
Commercial – who knows.
The thing is, it looks like the Pratt Read part of the company has been absorbed into Ideal and is now indistinguishable. According to older news articles, the Pratt Read facilities were closed just prior to Ideal’s acquisition and weren’t included in the sale.
If Pratt-Read operates at Ideal facilities, and they only make screwdrivers for Ideal (seeing as how Menards and other OEM customers no longer have Pratt-Read-styled offerings), is it still its own brand anymore?
Again China wins, and the US manufactories and retailers are not getting themself together! I don’t know whom to blame! I know most consumers are pro US-made, but I can’t find out what the issue is.
Is having a boycott method the only way to get tools back to be “US-made” ?!
Many consumers are pro-USA-made in theory, but then they go shopping and they want everything as cheap as possible.
Words of support don’t speak as loudly as actions or how consumers vote with their wallets.
I didn’t realize this post on Menards and PR existed because I posted some questions in this very subject on another forum. Nice work summing up the back story on this.
Anyway, everyone is pro-‘Merica until they see the pricing. You’ll always have the Pro’s and DIY’ers that understand the differences with domestic and offshore brands and will buy the best products regardless of cost because it better helps get the job done. But for everyone else who just needs a tool for a specific task, they’ll never spend 40-50% more on a domestic alternative when they’re not using the tool regularly.
Furthermore, there’s the issue of consignment offering by these companies making products off shore. They take up floor space in the most visible places and flood box stores with their products w/o payment until sold and leave most of the domestic offerings in aisles furthest away where they can’t be seen. So even if someone would be willing to spend extra for domestic, they’ll never see it.
And then there are the margins. There’s money to be made in manufacturing products domestically, but it’s not as great as the total income generated when a corporation like decides to contract production offshore at a fraction of the cost, import, and sell at a lower price point making more money on volume sales.
And finally, as of recent, out right buy out of domestic businesses from Asian corporations supported in part by government ownership and capital that don’t care as much about earnings. They have a long game strategy to buy businesses, some struggling and some maybe not struggling but under performing, at a premium and shut them down as a way to slowly stifle and close down the industry only to have consumers be fully reliant to offshore production in the future.
This isn’t just a concern of job loss, there’s also national security concerns no one is mentioning. From tooling to chip production to PPE, we need to rethink how we approach this concern of limited or non existent domestic production with maybe some ideas that may not be all too popular but are necessary.
When foreign companies acquire failed USA companies that would otherwise fully shut down, it’s not about “increasing our reliance on offshore production” but about making money.
Love my older Pratt and Read cushion handle screw drivers. Yep, they look like Klein but handle nicer and superior to the heads on WF sets packaged as Craftsman brand a few years ago. Found a older torx set of PR too on ebay from the pre Ideal days. Great products for the price. When Ideal closed the PR plant its the loss of institutional knowledge in making the product that cannot be replaced. New plants can always be built but replacing an experienced work force with a lifetime of skill is not replaceable.
Epstein’s still has a few eight-piece sets of the Pratt-Read contractor’s (cushion grip) screwdrivers in stock, in addition to a decent selection of individual drivers. I would concur that they are superior to Klein (particularly the tips), having used them for about twenty years in the electrical trades.
The pre-2009 Craftsman cushion grip handled screwdrivers were manufactured by Pratt-Read as well, and are identical in quality. The post-2009 drivers were manufactured by WF, and the quality isn’t as good. The “triangular” shape of the handle doesn’t do it for me. Epstein’s has the 3/16 x 4″ sized Craftsman in stock (Pratt-Read manufactured). I stocked up on these and the PR drivers over the past several months, as soon they will be extinct.
The new Ideal Industries blue acetate/cushion grip handle set appears to be manufactured with the same tooling or process as the old Pratt-Read drivers, but I haven’t tried them yet. Menards sells a “Masterforce” line of cushion grip screwdrivers manufactured by Pratt Read/Ideal Industries that are being phased out. Soon, these too will be extinct. Their shafts are zinc-coated, rather than nickel like the Craftsman. Still, they are quite nice.
For those who like the cushion grip style, now is the time to stock up. The remaining surplus will dwindle away fast. With the closing of the PR facility in 2010, and the closing of WF more recently, the future is uncertain in terms of US manufacturing.
While Ideal is making the line of high-end screwdrivers for Lowes, it looks to be a pretty limited offering. Lowes doesn’t even seem to be selling them in the main tool section. Only in the electrician’s section. I imagine sales volume will be pretty low compared to what was being sold at Menards and True Value stores. My guess is Ideal absorbed what was left of Pratt and Read and will only make a limited selection of screw drivers now under their own name. If I am not mistaken, this means there are no more USA made screw drivers targeted toward non-professionals. At least not in retail stores.
I just went on a wild goose chase looking through webpages trying to figure out what’s going on. I noticed a company called A&L Handles in Pennsylvania was a subsidiary of Pratt Read, apparently they made all the screwdriver handles. Their webpage was down as of a couple months ago. The more searching I did, I found a listing for an auction in November selling the assets of A&L Handles. Not a good sign.
So if A&L handles is gone, the question is how many other companies depended on them? We know store brands and Channellock were made by Pratt and Read. There are rumors that at least part of Wright’s screw drivers were made by P&R. Did A&L Handles make handles for other brands? Klein’s handles look nearly identical. Some of the tool trucks contract manufacture their screw drivers to someone. Does Ideal even make their own handles anymore?
This closure could wipe out nearly all of the USA made screw drivers.
Ideal closed the A&L Pottstown factory in late September, and the assets are to be auctioned off November 2nd of tbis year, The A&L tooling was used to manufacture handles for all Ideal/Pratt-Read made screwdrivers. Among those that Ideal/Pratt-Read served as an OEM for included; Channellock, Ideal, Pratt-Read, Menard’s Masterforce, True Value’s Master Mechanic, Armstrong, Allen, KD Tools, Craftsman (pre-2009) and Wright Tool.
Klein screwdrivers were originally manufactured by Bridgeport under the original Bridgeport cushion-grip patent (US Patent 2871899). After Bridgeport was bought by Niagara Crescent, Klein began manufacturing their own screwdriver blades and handles, and continue to do so.
Wright screwdrivers were manufactured by Ideal/Pratt-Read up until September. Those are now manufactured by Mayhew.
The “new” (blue) Ideal screwdrivers are made on the same P-R tooling that they’ve always been. Ideal no longer serves as an OEM manufacturer for other private labels, but the tooling remains the same. The handles are also made by Ideal.
As of now, Wilde (makes Tekton), Great Neck (makes Kobalt for Lowes), Mayhew (makes Wright) and Enderes continue to manufacture screwdriver blades and handles in the US.