If you recall from the previous ToolGuyd entry, I mentioned that I was a bit hesitant to try out Irwin’s soft-gripped Vise-Grips. You see, I like knowing where a tool is made, but that’s pretty hard to do when half the tool is covered up. Well, it seems like soft-gripped Vise-Grips are slow sellers because I was able to find [relatively] older “Made in USA” stock at local home improvement stores!
To start off, take a look at the following example. What you see here, are the bottom handles of two 11″ Vise-Grip locking C-clamps – both were purchased about one and a half years ago, and both clamshell packages were labeled “Made in USA” (yes, I remember things like that). One of the tools clearly says “Made in USA,” while the other is noticeably devoid of any origin designation.
It is already difficult to find Vise-Grips in “Made in USA” packaging, let alone ones with the designation on the tools themselves. Taking a look at my Vise-Grip assortment, I noticed that many more of the soft-gripped versions had their USA origins physically imprinted on their handles.
I have had relatively good (and a few bad) experiences with Vise-Grips of both USA and “USA with Global Components” origins. Still, as with all the tools I purchase, I like knowing where the tool came from. As you saw, bare-handled Vise-Grips are easy to check. If the package says “Made in USA,” I usually trust it, but if there is a tool on the rack/peg that says it as well, that’s the one I take home.
I would not advise you to do this in-store, but once you get the tool home, you can peel back the grip of soft-handled Vise-Grips to check for USA labeling. Yes I know it’s simple, but here’s how to do it: simply pry the “stop tab” up and over the indicated pin, and slide the grip off of the lever-side of the tool. See, I told you it was simple.
Bingo… “Made in USA.” Now, I’m not saying that “Made in USA with Global Components” Vise-Grips are bad – it’s just that I am just not as comfortable with vaguely labeled packaging or tools with omitted country-of-origin info as I am with clearly labeled tools.
Vise-Grips are still the best locking pliers in their price range, but the guaranteed USA versions will always be of greater value, especially since their entire production is soon to be outsourced!!
If you cannot find any USA-made Vise-Grips locally, your next best bet would be to buy a low-demand/slow-sale set such as this one.
Update: Please refer to an updated ToolGuyd post which describes a simpler method of checking soft-handled Vise-Grips’ country-of-origin.