I’ve been hearing rumors that SK Tools is up for sale by Ideal Industries, their current owner. If you don’t mind the earlier writing, I posted about Ideal’s acquisition of SK Tools 10+ years ago here.
If you recall, Ideal Industries shut down Western Forge, one of their USA-based hand tool brands, in early 2020. So, news that SK Tools might be sold off is a big deal, even if it’s unconfirmed.
Western Forge, USA Hand Tool Brand and Former Sears Craftsman Supplier, is Closing
Jori Sackin, from Harry Epstein Co, recently put up a video discussion these recent rumors.
They believe that it is highly credible that Ideal is looking to sell SK Tools, and that there are two potential buyers – Greatstar and possibly Bain Capital (Apex Tool Group).
A slightly less credible rumor, in their opinion, is that the brand has already been sold to Greatstar and that it only has not yet been announced.
Greatstar has acquired quite a few USA tool brands in recent years, such as Arrow, Goldblatt, Pony, Jorgensen, and most recently, Shop Vac.
In their video, Jori mentions that SK Tools has “already downsized” and “eliminated some of their manufacturing capabilities.” So, although everything is only rumor and hearsay now, an acquisition wouldn’t be out of the blue.
This is a developing story. If you have any information as to what’s going on here, please let us know!
I can’t see anyone buying SK to market overseas tools like those fellows in the video suggest. SK isn’t so well-known that consumers would be fooled by the name like that. SK is already a premium, somewhat niche tool company. My impression is that some of the attraction is specifically because it is US-made.
Maybe their catalogue could be bolstered by import tools? Proto is great stuff – but it’s not all USA production. SK could do something similar I suppose.
Those “fellows” are from Harry J Epstein Co.
Out of all the people on the internet I’d tend to believe it would be them.
They talk directly with Ideal reps.
They have been sold to greatstar and will be shutting down the Sycamore manufacturing facility in a little over 2 months.
I really like SK ratchets, sockets etc. Some of the best looking chrome in the industry.
Hopefully its all just “fake news” and everything stays as it was but thats probably wishful thinking.
Hate to have to add SK to the do not buy list. I refuse to do business with domestic companied purchased by Chinease Communist companies. Its a bait and switch tactic designed to leverage brand equity to sell crappy tools. The list is getting too long.
Maybe it will have a happy ending like Vice Grip. More wishful thinking 🙁
Chad M Wright
I LOVE all my SK, combination wrenches, X-Frame ratcheting wrenches, and Ratchets. IMHO, last GREAT USA manufactured hand tools. I’d also hate to add them to my do not buy list. Maybe Tekton, can fill the Vacuum, somewhat with their US manufacturing…
SK makes my favorite sockets and ratchets, and very nice full polish wrenches. I have a fair amount of SK stuff from through the years; if they go the Apex route and head overseas I’ll have bought my last SK tools. Sad to see another quality US brand die though, if that’s what’s happening. But as long as Proto, Klein, and the Germans hang in there I guess I’ll be okay…
Chad M Wright
Mike (the other one)
There’s also a rumor that Bain Capital is thinking about selling Apex Tool Group. I’m sure Great Star would love to get their hands on that.
I can’t say I’m surprised, SK for as long as I can remember has never been good at marketing their tools.
My thoughts exactly. I think the only place I’ve ever seen SK tools marketed was a mom-n-pop bolt and screw dealer I used to frequent before they got bought out by Fastenal. And all they had was a couple pieces of pegboard behind the counter with some tools hung up. Quality stuff, but certainly not well marketed in my experience.
Dave the tool
Agreed, marketing is everything as well as overall availability. Of all the hand tools I own, none bear the name SK. Have heard they are a premium tool company but I never acquired any because of lack of availability. I am on the West Coast and perhaps it is a different story in the Midwest or East Coast regarding access to their products?
I definitely agree that SK has not helped themselves with their distribution strategy for years. We have an SK tool truck around here, but no other sellers. It’s always been the odd tool truck and small independent seller. Obviously not the recipe for success, unfortunately. If they can keep US production it would be nice to see some more aggressive marketing efforts. I wonder if a bigger push into government sales would help, with US supplier requirements.
A month or two before they were saying that SK is doing great and Ideal is merely open to the idea of selling SK to someone that will put more money into it than Ideal has the budget for. Now they’re saying SK is downsizing. Meanwhile, SK/Ideal has said nothing.
Also, Adjustable Clamp/Pony/Jorgensen went overseas well before going under, and both prior to the purchase by Greatstar. Same situation with Shopvac.
Some retailers – especially smaller and more specialized ones – are more intimately connected and familiar with the brands they sell, Harry Epstein Co being one of them.
It seems the information has changed.
For any public expression of their concerns and thoughts about SK being sold, that to me gives strong weighting to whatever rumors they heard.
In other words, I don’t think they would risk their retail relationship with SK if they didn’t think the relationship has already changed or will be changing drastically.
I agree with you on that logic, but that doesn’t mean that it necessarily applies. Coincidentally, I know I’ve repeated misinformation about Ideal and SK to former owners in the past and I was taken on my word. In recent years I’ve gotten all sorts of misinformation about Festool from vendors as well as people they pay bills to. Major change type stuff that was all bs. Humans are humans. If Ideal sells SK, it will be made public. Until then, it’s all rumours.
My understanding is that Ideal Industries have changed direction with their recent CEO and the company is struggling hard at the moment. I speak as someone who loves Ideal Industries tools and what they do for the electrical trade.
The company was once family-owned – and made their recent reputation supplying wire nuts and other small bits for the electrical trade. I’m not sure what year they branched out into instruments and tools (possibly to add some competition to Klein, Greenlee, GB et. al.).
After we acquired our fabrication business (it was also on the ropes) and put it back into profitability , one of my partners thought that expanding it into consumer-oriented manufacturing and/or taking it public might be a good idea. We collectively decided against it. That probably dashed our hopes of becoming billionaires – but may have prevented the business going bust. I say this – because when you are a supplier (like Ideal) to folks like Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, Walmart, etc. – you can easily lose some control over your destiny as their buyers press you to lower unit pricing.
“ because when you are a supplier (like Ideal) to folks like Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, Walmart, etc. – you can easily lose some control over your destiny as their buyers press you to lower unit pricing.”
No truer statement has ever been made.
I wasn’t aware that Ideal had gone public. Is this confirmed anywhere?
I see they definitely have stocks on the market. Was this always or recent? I thought they were hardcore about keeping it in the family.
I had to recheck my not thorough check and that was indeed totally unrelated stocks that happened to be on some Bloomberg page about them.
Anyway, last I heard was WF, P+R and the handles company were all brought into or being brought into the SK plant, making that centralised SK plant quite important for supplying Ideal tools to…currently Lowes…and etcetera. I also recall something like half of SK’s square footage was dedicated to supplying the us government . Unless they were to only sell the SK name and keep the operations and brand it as Ideal, I never got the impression they were moving away from their investments. I do get the impression that garagejournal, HJE and YouTube wrenches are not Ideal’s big priority with SK.
WF was a bleeding ghost factory. That was inevitable. But everything else was brought into Sycamore with brand new equipment (or new old equipment).
I did not mean to imply that they went public. I actually thought that they were still privately held – maybe just not by one family.
Ideal Industries tools is not publicly traded.
To check search “nasdaq company name”.
Still a private family-owned business
SK was almost dead before Ideal bought them. Was so happy that they saved a quality tool co. Hopefully if true whoever buys it will maintain the quality of tools.
I always thought that they were a bit of an odd fit for ownership by Ideal. But there checkered past had several odd owners once Symington-Wayne had acquired them – and then they were gobbled up by Dresser industries when they acquired Symington-Wayne. Maybe the most recent deal that seemed to make sense was when they were purchased by Facom – but that didn’t last. After their bankruptcy – and acquisition by Ideal – I don’t recall them making any great comeback marketing moves. But in a crowded market segment – its probably hard to compete against Asian production when you have older factories in Illinois and Colorado .
From what I can intuit, Hangzhou Great Star seems to like to buy US companies that are either down for the count or at least on the ropes.
Colorado got closed down. Everything in Illinois was/is brand new. All they got from the SK purchase was a name and a large dumpster bill. They’ve been consolidating production to the new facilities in Sycamore pretty much since day one.
The Facom ownership did seem to be perfect on paper and the American and French consumers got the best of both companies for a while through that. But, apparently, it was Facom’s own top brass that tanked SK really hard. SBD is supposed to be the devil but I really like what they’ve done with Facom and USAG, for the most part. I’m not sure what they would have done with SK if there hadn’t been a management buyout option.
I’d hate to see SK sold to a Chinese parent company. If that’s the case, I’ll never buy another SK product again. Regardless if they still keep making certain tools in the US.
What I would like to see, is a company buy it that already has a partnership with Lowe’s or Home Depot, so I could easily buy or warranty out tools locally.
Let’s see, if S-K ends US production, who does that leave turning iron into tools? Snap On, Stanley/Proto, Wright, Cornwell? I think Wilde is still kicking along with smaller specialist toolmakers like Starret, Eklind, Mayhew and their ilk. Those companies have very little retail presence. Most everything you buy at a big box store or Amazon is imported by companies that actually don’t own the production facilities their products come from. If we want USA made products, we have to actually buy them and resist the urge to save a nickel buying the imported stuff, especially from countries that treat their workers/citizens with contempt (although some may claim that could easily apply to the USA). It’s hard to do especially when the imported products are usable, readily available and often less expensive than the N.American alternatives. The Covid crisis has shown some of the hidden costs and risks associated with foreign production. Asking a customer to consider the national economy, supply chain security and such when they need a hammer and nails to fix the fence is probably too much to ask. However, back to S-K, Ideal has probably decided they can better employ their capital other than trying to profitably grow S-K. The history of tool companies in the USA is filled with sales, mergers and failures. It is but an ongoing trait of capitalism that hopefully doesn’t hurt too many S-K workers.
Add Martin to your list of still USA made:
We had mostly this style from them:
Half joking – they aren’t US made yet. But it’s coming. That’s a big-box retail option going the other direction though.
Craftsman was never really a manufacturing company in the Sears era. They were more a brand – like Kobalt is to Lowes, Husky (once an actual tool company – now just a brand) is to Home Depot. Masterforce to Menards, Westward is to Grainger. In the recent past much of the Craftsman wrench and socket line was made by Easco – then a Danaher company. The advantage for the brand owners is that they can pick, choose and switch OEMs and COO as they feel the need to do so.
SBD – the current owners of the Craftsman brand do indeed have manufacturing capability in the US – some of which they might devote to Craftsman tool production. Alternatively they could certainly entertain opening a new facility. I haven’t been following news/rumors enough to have a clue about what’s planned – but either route seems plausible.
I always hated their ratchets but love their sockets, adjustable wrenches, screwdrivers and pliers. Their combo wrenches including the x-frames are great but wished they came out with longer models with better leverage. I loved the US made with US Steel ideology.
I only have one SK ratchet – but I think its great.
Kind of niche though. It’s the round head 3/8″ drive in a 1/4″ ratchet handle. Super compact, low profile head for a 3/8ths.
My old man had SK ratchets & sockets, I used them growing up. Until I got my own ratchets with a lever for changing direction, I didn’t realize how much I hated the top mounted rotating switch. What a pain in the butt. I know, most every other manufacturer had that too.
Any Battery Operated Cardboard Box fasteners (Staplers) yet? Also called Carton closing Stapler. Bostitch has made before, but can not buy one! Another one (battery operated) is made in Europe, but over $ 1,200.
If Ryobi made one, they would sell to all “Mom and Pop” businesses operating at home and in small factories. And the Ryobi batteries would also fit.
If you are Ryobi, just think of it, no compressor needed———no electric cord needed……………They would sell a ton of these staplers……and other tools as well.
Thanks for listening………Ryobi, if you wait too long someone will make these carton closers in China!
Just think–no air lines—no electric cords——just charge the batteries. All UPS stores, all FED-X stores and small Mom and Pop small businesses will buy these.
A propos of nothing.
SK does have a marketing issue always did. Really I think their only great product line was the sockets ,and wrenches. it took them years to catch back up to ratchet standards. I mean in the 80’s their 40 tooth orginal was a gold standard as I recall – not even copied until the other companies jumped to 60. But more importantly than tooth count was the lack of play.
Their wrenches are also some of my favorites but they never really got into a ratcheting wrench that was sellable. the X frame is nice – but I actually prefer an offset and reversible or the dollars spent.
While I loved my LP90 ratchet had it come out with some better marketing and say 8 years earlier to compete with the Mac 84 and the snap on 88 (I might have that backwards) but of that caliber it would have had something. but you see nearly no SK in the auto shops, or hangars which they could have competed in.
Their polish and chrome makes their wrenches wonderful to hold – I still say they make the best flare nut wrench I’ve ever used. such positive engagement.
Hope they don’t go but if they do SBD needs to really get their craftman tease into gear. Supposed to be some US made craftsman tools – where are they.
Those X-frame ratchet wrenches look awesome – but I agree, they need to be reversible.
I’m not spending that kind of money for wrenches that aren’t offset. Too often my fingers are in the way using wrenches like that.
I would have bought a couple to try otherwise.
Wednesday June 30th – Great Star is taking ownership of SK Hand Tool. Before the end of 2021, Great Star will move SK out of Illinois. This is a done deal.
Anything to back that up, or where the rest of us can get more info?
By now I’m sure everyone knows the sale of SK is official as it is on the Ideal website. My question concerns Menards. 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?
Nothing has been announced regarding Pratt-Read yet. Maybe they were made by Western Forge, which Ideal closed last year?
Interestingly, I thought the same. Mendards sells two types of Masterforce screwdrivers. The cushion grip screwdrivers have a better tip. I wondered if those might have been made by Western Forge as they remind me of the cushion grip Craftsman screwdrivers Sears offered before self-destructing. However, the standard grip Masterforce screwdrivers are twins of the standard Pratt-Reed branded screwdrivers (at least in the photos). In fact, the Made in the USA stamp is exact and in the same location. The only difference is color as the fact that they say Masterforce rather than Pratt-Read. A hate to think this is the end of reasonably priced USA made screwdrivers. Just in case, I did go to Menards this weekend and purchase any Masterforce screwdrivers I thought I would like to have while they still have some USA made product on the shelves.
Talked to several long time Ideal employees over the weekend, they told me they’ll be shutting down the plane in DeKalb in about a year. They also told me they’re changing their name to SK Tools USA before the sale is finalized. I assume that’s so when the Chinese takes production to China the tools will still say USA on them.
If you talk to those same Ideal employees again, ask them if anything is going on with Pratt-Read? See my comments about Masterforce screwdrivers at Menards.
I’ve been a long time buyer of their products, I recently visited their online catalog and found huge holes of products no longer available.