When it comes to mechanics, industrial, and aerospace tools, such as wrenches, ratchets, sockets, and similar accessories, there is a broad spectrum of brands and products to choose from.
Casual – These tools are for the once-in-a-while DIYers, and include a lot of the inexpensive multi-functional and “innovative” seasonal tools that are typically given as gifts around Christmas time and Father’s Day.
Entry-Level – There are many options available for DIYers that don’t quite know what they might need and who want the greatest bang for the buck. Entry-level tools aren’t particularly good for heavy use or demanding applications, but they’re usable and can get the job done.
Mid-Level – Better brands, such as Craftsman Professional (at least with their previous USA-made lines), are not quite at the same level as other industrial brands, but offer tools that are stronger or better featured than less expensive entry-level ones. These tools are appealing to DIYers and weekend warriors with higher budgets, and a lot of professional users earn their livings with some or many mid-level tools.
Professional and Industrial – When you need more features, better strength, top-quality, and greater breadth of size and style selection, consider a professional or industrial brand. This is the category that the rest of this discussion is mainly about.
Super-Premium – When you need absolute uncompromised quality, as well as at-your-door service, tool truck brands such as Snap-on are at the highest rung of the quality and price ladder.
USA-Made Professional & Industrial Tool Brands
We are asked this question a lot, and often see it on enthusiast forums in various forms:
Which is a good mid-level mechanics tool brand? I’m looking to buy USA-made tools and cannot afford Snap-on.
The answer used to be that Craftsman Professional was the way to go, but in recent years they discontinued many if not all of their USA-made tools, replacing them with redesigns that are manufactured overseas. Craftsman Professional tools offered fantastic bang for the buck, and it was often believed that many Craftsman pro tools were relabeled Armstrong tools.
There really aren’t any mid-level USA-manufacturing mechanics tool brands around to fill the holes left by the departed Craftsman Professional line, but there are some great reasonably-affordable professional and industrial brands to consider.
Although I sometimes describe this category as simply being mechanics tools, the same tools are often used in aerospace and other industries. It’s a simplification to describe these tools as being mechanics tools, but one that usually works.
This is a question everyone must answer for themselves.
For me, USA-made typically means high quality tools, experienced engineering, and a history of excellence that instills a sense of trust and reliability. It typically also means easier warranty replacement or greater availability and quicker acquisition of new tools.
I should point out that, while I often prefer USA-made mechanics tools, quality and functionality are my top priorities. I recently purchased Wera tools that are made in the Czech Republic, and Facom tools that are made in Taiwan. The Wera and Facom tools are not quite challenged by any current USA-made offerings.
All but one of these brands are part of other larger corporations (more info about large tool corporations).
Armstrong – Part of the Apex Tool Group
Proto – Part of Stanley Black & Decker
SK Hand Tool – Now part of Ideal Industries
Williams – Part of Snap-on Industrial Group
Wright – An independent manufacturer
My experience with Armstrong is mostly limited to relabeled Craftsman Professional products, mainly wrenches, and a few Armstrong wrenches.
A contributor reviewed the Armstrong Maxx locking flex ratchet a while back, and really liked it.
Armstrong seems to be more aimed towards government, aerospace, and military users, but a lot of their tools are affordable and easy to find for mechanics and independent users. They’re solidly made and worth the investment.
Proto has become one of my favorite industrial tool brands. Their new spline ratcheting wrenches are great, their Duratek screwdrivers are awesome, and their ratchets are both consistently good and affordable.
They also make great accessories as well, such as the locking extensions that we reviewed, and ratchet adapters for your breaker bar.
I like to think that, if there’s something you need, Proto makes it. Not all of their tools are made in the USA, but most are. And if there’s something that you need that they don’t offer, you could probably find it under one of their sister brands that are also under the Stanley Black & Decker umbrella.
Although not quite Proto, Facom – one of the brand’s sister companies – makes some really great angled socket wrenches that are compact yet highly versatile. They also have advantages when faced with nuts on longer fasteners or threaded rod.
SK Hand Tool
Although I have very little experience with SK in the past, I have read numerous times that their quality has gone back up to former levels, following their bankruptcy and acquisition by Ideal Industries.
There are quite a few compelling innovative tool designs in SK’s lineup, and so it’s exciting to see that they’re back in action and looking to reclaim lost market share.
Our reviews of their bit driver sockets, thumbwheel ratchet, and a socket set left me reasonably impressed and with a taste for more.
Williams offers tools that are made in the USA, and ones that are made overseas, but it’s easy to differentiate the separate lines by looking through their catalog. A quick but not sure way to know if a Williams tool is made in the USA is to look at the part number. If it starts with letters instead of being all numbers, there’s a good chance it’s a USA-made tool.
There is a lot of debate whether Williams tools are simply relabeled Snap-on tools without the premium prices attached to tool truck distribution structure, but insiders have pointed out a few subtle changes, such as the level of attention given to finishing tools prior to chrome plating.
I recently purchased a few Williams tools, and am pretty pleased with the quality thus far. Their SuperCombo wrenches that we briefly reviewed are popular tools for users first buying into the Williams brand, as are their fabulous hard-handled screwdrivers.
My experience lies mainly in a small ratchet and 7pc set if WrightGrip wrenches that are beautifully finished with a satin polish.
Wright doesn’t produce anywhere near as many tools as the other brands, but there are a few gems in their offerings, such as their stellar wrenches.
Which to Buy?
There’s no one best brand. All of these are brands of tools that I own, and all are brands that I would recommend. Which one might be for you depends on what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend.
We have some test samples coming in, and also a large number of purchases inbound. In other words, we have plenty of reviews planned for the next few months to help you see the best of what each brand offers, and to help you determine which – if any – might be nice additions to your toolbox.
It wouldn’t be unwise to stick with just one brand, but personally I like to built my toolbox with a motley of brands that includes – but is not limited to – the 5 mentioned here.
Which mid-to-high level USA brands would you recommend for tools such as ratchets, sockets, wrenches, and other such tools?
I noticed while browsing around Menards, that many MasterForce tools are labeled ‘made in USA’. I found socket sets, screwdrivers, and other wrenches & hand tools labeled this way. I have no experience with this brand, are they of good quality?
Seeing as Masterforce is brand where you can purchase a American made Phillips #0000 screwdriver and some other neat items, I’ve had some really positive experiences with this brand. I’ve only used their American made screwdrivers though.
As for Craftsman Industrial in regards to Nicholas, I believe those USA made items are either made by the Danaher Corporation. I remember reading that Sears is moving away from industrial tools and as anyone can see American manufacturers as well.
I am personally a fan of both Wright and SK. All American products and none of that import garbage that is so common these days. I have several Wright wrenches, sockets, ratchets and other items, so I can honestly say even after some of the roughest work, these are built to last and are real tools.
Best of all, you can buy these for in my opinion, pennies on the dollar at Harry J Epstein as well. This is just me, but I only buy Wright items through Epstein’s and Epstein’s alone with Wright.
As for SK, I have such as profound respect for this company and the first box wrench I used was a SK wrench. That was some time ago and during a time you did work yourself, but since that fateful day, I’ve been a huge fan of SK.
Now I don’t dislike Proto themselves, having owned several American made items from them, but while I am sure this is a very unpopular opinion, I am not exactly thrilled by Black and Decker Stanley. This is a long story though.
Matco and MAC weren’t even mentioned in the article suppose they are even with snap-on. MAC was bought out by Stanley at one point. Menards Masterforce is Allen from the Apex tool group
Don’t forget Cornwell. They are the cheapest of those tool guys on slot of there stuff.
Snap-on, Matco, Craftsman (best price & warrantee)
As an employee of SBD, I feel your pain….. I use to be a huge fan of Craftsman, untill they went overseas. Then SBD bought them out 100% overseas. I still buy Craftsman,,,,,,, when I see them in a bucket or a cardboard box at the flea market, or swap meets.. Only if the say USA.. LOL
Same here – I fortunately still have many of my well kept made in the USA Craftsman tools, many that I’ve had for over 40 years! I refuse to buy anything Craftsman made anywhere but the good ole USA. Snap-On is great but except for the occasional rachet, they are a bit too expensive for my weekend mechanic work on my Harley. I like Proto but they are hard to find, not sure what I’ll use as I add items
Yes me 2, i was in my local Sears today, all china. I only buy USA made Craftsman 🔧🔧🔧🔧🔧
Keep in Mind that Craftsman was not really a tool maker just a marketing name, the maker of Craftsman ratchets and sockets was mostly EASTCO (RIP) you can buy the very similar looking tools branded as EASTCO and you can see that they are the same tool. EASTCO simply branded it’s own tools for SEARS as Craftsman but it was of course EASTCO.
The Masterforce USA tools at Menards are rebranded Allen tools. I’ve had good luck with both.
I use Masterforce sockets, impact sockets, and ratchets pretty much exclusively for my auto repairs. I have yet to have any issues. They are top notch IMO. Unfortunately, it looks like Menards may be phasing the wrenches out.
Yep…….Gearwrench has come to Menards and is taking over.
It was explained to me that ever 5 to 7 years they can opt to change the hand tools at the corporate level, and the store has no say.
Sure if you want knuckle busters
Masterforce are good tools.
No longer! Masterforce tools are now made in China and Taiwan.
Terrible news, i got a damn williams (thought they were all USA but now i know) and came with wrapper that said made in Taiwan, not only that but it was a flare wrench and the 11mm side was so fd up it was 1/8 off, wtf. that is unacceptable and i sent it back.
I’m not sure if it’s still valid, but at the time this post was published, if a Williams tool model number started with a letter, it was made in the USA, and if was all numbers, it was made overseas.
Craftsman tools are to..
If I was starting from scratch today, I’d be spending all my $ at Proto and SK for hardline tools.
I’ve worked in industrial maintenance for 16 years now and I’ve been such a fan of Armstrong and Proto at work, that my shop at home is well stocked with their offerings. Both brands can be bought for a song on eBay or Amazon. Fastball has decent pricing on Armstrong product from time to time too. Grainger usually runs promotions on Proto occasionally too.
I worked as a Maintenance Electrician at Niagara Power Project for 30 years & I agree with your assessment of Armstrong….The tools feel good in your hands & hold up
Fastenal not fastball lol stupid auto complete
Spell checkers do automated stuff that is stubborn.
There is still a craftsman industrial line of tools and tool boxes. I don’t know who sells them though.
Grainger does. One feature I like about their website is that they provide the country of origin information.
Sadly, sometimes the country of origin on Graigner isn’t 100% correct at times. For the most part they are correct though.
All Craftsman tools are available at your local Ace hardware stores.
Yes, but how many of those are made in the USA? Craftsman has reintroduced a limited selection of “industrial” branded tools for certain markets. You won’t find those at Ace Hardware or Sears stores.
Not all craftsman are made in the USA and I hear that all of craftsman tools are going to be made out of the UNITED States there are several of them now that isn’t so if you break one you’ll get one from China now that’s bull—- so it leaves us Proto and SK
Summit Racing sells Craftsman industrial tools 1-800-230-3030
They are all going to be made out of the UNITED States you can barely get them now you can get some but there is some of them you can’t even the salesman didn’t know until I started checking for my youngest son who just got into the MillWrites I was floored I couldn’t believe it I figured someone would buy them out beings Sear’s stores are closing that’s a real shame I think
that proto wrench is the most beautiful wrench i’ve ever seen!
Looks nice but is that “anti-slip desing” on the open end really functional? I would imagine it would work twice as good if it also had it on the lower jaw too facing the opposite direction.
Just popped to my head, why not add a couple of teeth to the open end jaws too…with replacebale teeth….whatever helps? lol
But regarding the looks alone, it looks well made.
Proto’s wrenches’ ASD open ends work pretty well. A lot of industrial and premium brands have similar features in their wrenches’ open ends.
Or maybe just go with six point. they would never slip….
You might wish to add Martin Tools to you list:
Over the years I had good experience with their service wrenches and spanners – but they make a pretty full product line – all in the USA
Martin wrenchs are some of the best in the world so arev Williams no wonder snap on using them for their industrial line!
I have very little brand loyalty, my tools are a total mish-mash of USA brands, nary a complete set of any to be found.
I will second the idea of tool purchases at Epsteins, I do most of my shopping on the discontinued side of their offerings. Bonny, Williams, SK, Armstrong, Martin all those and more can be found there. If you are not picky about matching sets, you can get some good tools at a good discount.
Folks talk about warrenty replacement, but honestly in 33 years of teaching shop and more than that on the farm, the broken tools I’ve replaced would fit in my pocket. Those kids were hard on things, and farm equipment can have some pretty tough wrenching, I wouldn’t worry about good quality discontinued tools.
The people that manage to break a lot of tools are using them wrong anyway.
Pardon my excitement sir, but THANK YOU.
I can’t tell you the amount of tools I see that are abused when in reality if the PROPER tool was used the first time, work would be much quicker and less tool breakage as well.
If you need to pry an object open, use a pry bar. Not a slotted screwdriver, knife or chisel.
I can assure you the list goes on and while I am understanding that work needs to be completed, might as well try to do this right the first time.
Although rare, it’s possible for tools tool fail due to manufacturing defects and quality issues that might not be obviously apparent.
Probably too late to the game but, in our shop we actually WEAR OUT sockets & ratchets on a regular basis. In the past we had exclusively used Craftsman and exchanged them at our local Sears. Now that both local Sears stores have closed I’m looking for a replacement brand that will be easy to work with on exchanges/replacements. Any suggestions from this list?
Have the snap on tool truck come straight to your shop
I only buy Snap on tools now, easy to replace, and they don’t really loose there value. It takes me long to acquire them because of price, but they will be passed down to my son, and so on.
Wright, wright, and more wright. I bought their wrenches, and was so impressed that I bought their ratchets. And then I was so impressed I started buying their sockets. I continue to be impressed. For those who haven’t used snap-on wrenches, I’ll say they’re not for everybody. The beams are thin and sharp as hell. Find somebody with wrights and just hold them. Prepare to get out your wallet.
I agree, wright hands down..
I am not sure why its said they dont have as many tools in their line up. The only tools that they dont really carry are auto specialty tools which most the brands mentioned dont either since they really are all industrial tool manufactures.. I guess they dont carry some of the gimmick tools others do if thats what Stuart was getting at..
I’ve wondered that myself. You can request a free catalog from their website, and my copy is 400 pages long and has most things. It even has some out-there stuff like crazy-ratio torque multipliers.
Proto is definitely my favorite. I used to buy craftsman pro, but since they decided to go overseas AND discontinue their pro line, i gave up on them. Considering all the pro line tools i have bought that i will no longer be able to replace with EQUAL quality replacements, I will not waste my time or money on them anymore.
Proto has become my new fav after using them in the plant i work in. Our shop is pretty well stocked with mostly Proto tools and toolboxes/chests , and the quality is outstanding. they really do have just about anything you will need. I have used and abused their handtools, and have yet to see one fail. They can be kinda pricey, but you get what you pay for.
We also have a few Williams wrenches thrown in the mix, and they seem to perform great as well.
You do not use a 12″ crescent wrench as a hammer, and expect it to remain a crescent wrench. My father taught me how to care for tools and how to properly use them. I have broke only one screwdriver in my entire life. Even the cheaper brand tools can hold up if cared for and used properly. Just my two cents…….
not a fan of Armstrong / Apex / Gearwrench — Their customer service, when it comes to warranty replacement, leaves a lot to be desired. “Lifetime” should mean “lifetime”.
Rodney D. Hays
I am 64 years old, and have been using hand and power tools since I was about 5 years old. My dad was a second generation Modelmaker Machinist for the Department of the Navy. I am a retired Engineer from the Department of the Navy. I have never made a living turning wrenches, but I started collecting Craftsman tools when I was just a kid, since my Grandma worked for Sears Roebuck & Company in Washington, D.C. and of course got a 10% discount. By the time I was 30 I owned every hand and power tool that Sears sold. THEN in 1982 I met a Snap-On tool man on the Navy Base where I worked. I was one of his best customers so he decided that he would just come to my house every Wednesday night and have supper with my family, after which we would head out to his “bread truck” where I spend an average of $200.00 a week (for years). I now own probably $30,000.00 worth of Snap-On tools, but they are in storage. Don’t want a start a Ford/Chevy war but the cold hard truth is that in 1997 I bought my first ever Ford truck (F-150 SuperCab with 8 foot box), which now has 306,000 all original miles on the clock and still going strong. Prior to buying that Ford, I had owned 14 BRAND NEW GM products and had to work on every one of them constantly. Since I bought the Ford, I no longer need tools. I would love to sell all my Snap-On stuff, since I still have a Roller Cabinet and Top Chest full of Craftsman tools, which is quite sufficient for happy homeowner duty. Anybody interested, email me or contact me on facebook. BTW, the coolest trick my Snap-On dealer ever played was the day he went on a MAC tool truck and asked the MAC man for a pair of diagonal cutters. My Snap-On man then took out his own Snap-On cutters and cut the end off the MAC cutters. The MAC man was seriously ticked off, not to mention embarrassed.
I am interested in some of the socket sets you may have. Either Craftsman, American made, or Snap-On tools. I am 60 yeats old and now own a older Porsche so 1/4″, 3/8″, 1/2″ and Metric as well as open and box end wrenches if you still have any.
i am in your american made tools
I Agree,SNAP-ON Tools are the Best,and most expensive!
Many Snap-on are now made overseas.
Here’s a good one: Danaher Corporation started as a Florida Real Estate company. They bought up the majority of American made tool companies and took them to China. They changed the Craftsman warranty to be: If the tool breaks, you will get another, but it may be a repaired one, or used, and was only good for one trade in. You should look up the company to see what all they own today. Best I can tell, there is no patriotism involved. Buy the company on the cheap, keep it a year, then sell it. I seriously doubt the two brothers of the jewish persuasion, know anything about using a wrench. Last I checked, that’s who Danaher is. Named for a river out west, that they went fishing on. I can provide links, if need be. I did the research a couple of years ago, things may have changed.
What does their religion have to do with anything? Jewish people don’t use wrenches?
What does the origins of the name of the company have to do with anything that’s happening now?
Danaher no longer owns much in the tool industry – most of the brands were spun off as part of Apex Tool Group, which was a partnership with Cooper. It was after that spin-off that a lot more outsourcing happened. There were imported tools before, but the Craftsman change over, and now the demise of Armstrong tools, this all happened after Apex Tool Group was purchased by an investment firm.
Ur full of bs I never touch my Chevy its. get half a million miles on it
Snap-on tools are ridiculously over-priced and now a days made “overseas” ….often “made in the usa” will NOT be found on many Snapon tools (huh, oh yeah) BUT they still charge 3-4x’s the price of many truely made in the usa tool manufacturers ….(that gripes me axx bigtime) So, keep your Snappys and your Ford pickups and I’ll keep my Wrights and Chevys ….enuff said imho…..
The ratchets do not say us a because the internals are from overseas, the handle itself, body or whatever you want to call it is still made in Wisconsin. Go Pack Go!
What happened to Craftman tools? To me they are the best ever.
The Country of Origin on most recent Craftsman hardline tools (sockets and wrenches) is China. There are exceptions, some of the pliers for example.
The Craftsman Professional line went away, but the new “Professional Use” “Industrial” line has replaced them, and is nothing more than the old US made Craftsman, at much higher prices.
Rodney D. Hays
For anyone that has access to the Sears Outlet Centers, many of which are inside K-Mart stores, you can still find many Craftsman tools made in the U.S.A.
I don’t know how you’ll feel about this, but I believe Matco is a name that I would say is worth mentioning, I’m currently working as a diesel tech for Caterpillar, 90% of my tools consist of Matco tools, and I am satisfied with their quality. The other 10% is Cornwell tools, which are great too and for a great price as well as compared to Snap On.
Now….for the REST of the story 😉
Tell us how much you owe the Matco guy.
For anyone doubting USA made tool quality, I did a brake job a few years back. Needed a breaker bar and extension. I uses a cheap Chinese made extension with a craftsman breaker bar and sk socket. I actually caused the extension to corkscrew. I finally got my socket off, got my craftsman extension out of the toolbox and got the bolt off no problem. I just wish I would have kept that old extension as an example for people that say it doesn’t matter where they are made.
One hand tool line I’ve not seen mentioned is Lowes “Kobalt” hand tools. I had heard one time that these were made by Snap-On though I’ve not been able to verify that. I have to admit I’ve picked up some stubby SAE & Metric wrenches from Northern Tool. I do got to Harbor Freight as well. I am very selective there, but I wouldn’t think twice about there tool boxes, (roller Type). I bought their Red 5 drawer tool cart for about 165.00 out the door. It is a beast.
Lowes’ Kobalt mechanics tools are currently made overseas.
I believe they used to be made by Williams, a Snap-on brand, and then they were made by Danaher, but quality was only so-so in the later years, and now most if not all are made overseas. They’re decent tools, but you have to know what you’re getting. Some are designed for DIY/consumer use, and this is reflected in the price point, others seem to be capable of holding up to heavier use.
Lowe’s Kobalt tools are made in either China or Tiawan. It’s right on the paperwork the tool comes with. Wouldn’t own a Kobalt tool!
ANY thing like husky tools 432 set of tool cost 400 dollars made in China or spend 530 a set of tools for 10 thousand dollars SK ,, AND SNAP ON TOOLS put it this way buying cheap price like lowes & home depot including harbour fright u get cheap but not bad price 400 $$ compare to 10th thousands of dollars plus if they break bring it back for refund and yes i prefer Snap-ons but way over price 50 times more
I always find this line of thought silly. Buy tools/things in general that are hit your quality and price points, and avoid buying junk. Country of origin, in and of itself, is a silly measuring stick. There are both great and crappy things manufactured in overseas. “Buy cheap, buy twice,” sure. But “buy from Asia, buy twice,”…not so much. Or at least not necessarily.
Case in point: SawStop, to the best of my knowledge, is made in Taiwan (and I think partially assembled in the US). As are lots of your Jet/Powermatic/Grizzly tools. Ever wonder why, say, all the jointers made by those companies look the same? They’re made in the same factory. In Taiwan. Which is in Asia. Which is “overseas”. And their quality has NEVER been the problem.
I have a 3\8 shallow set of old cobalt and they are identical to my snap on one’s at work. But yes, now they are made overseas.
They were made by Williams. A division of Snop-On
Oh also I’ve picked up a great deal of Mac, Snap-On tools from pawn shops. I actually picked up a Craftsman 1/2″ ratchet that looked brand new. In fact it looked so good that I didn’t even try it. I stopped at a light on the way home, picked it up to check it. It was locked up tighter than a bank on Sunday. I drove right to Sears & picked up a new one free. Bonus day!
You could of fixed the USA made Craftsman ratchet in less then 5 minutes with WD40. So you traded it in for a Made in China Craftsman ratchet.
Sears Hardware near where I live has repair kits for ratchets. I was surprised to hear this because Sears no longer repairs ratchets and you end up replacing your USA ratchet for Chinese. But Sears Hardware, now an independent company, will still repair ratchets with their repair kits. I took one of my Craftsman USA made ratchets in for repair and they repaired it. Good as new!
Let’s see, nearly all Made In USA; Armstrong, MAC, MATCO, Proto, SK, Old Craftsman, and new Craftsman Industrial sockets and wrenches are made by Danaher. Different designs but same manufacturer.
Well I was extremely disappointed when I went to Sears Hardware and found the Craftsmen 155 pc tool set, the exact one my husband bought USA made 2 yrs ago is now CHINA made. So I told the salesman I no longer was interested even though he tried to sell the ” It still comes with a Life-Time Guarantee . I Went to Menards and bought my 26 Yr old son the 155 pc set for Christmas. I sure HOPE it’s USA made stamp holds true to our standard of quality.
Don’t let anyone fool you, Matco tools are danaher tools made overseas. Danaher also manufactures the Kobalt and gear wrench stuff all of which are manufactured overseas as well. Danaher is a owned by Bain capital, and Bain is an organization built solely around corporate profits driven by cost cutting and outsourcing. Not really the mark of quality and pride I want in my tool box. Just my two cents…
Incorrect. Incorrect. Incorrect. Partially correct. At best, your comment is out of date by at least three years.
It’s inaccurate to categorize Matco tools as manufactured overseas. Many, if not most, core Matco hand tools are made in the USA, and have been since they split with MAC tools like 40 years ago.
Kobalt tools have been contracted to many, many OEM’s. BTW, no Kobalt tools were ever actually re-branded Snap-On. Once upon a time Williams OEM’d some Kobalt stuff, but Snap-On and Williams(or Bahco or Blue Point) tools are not as interchangeable as popular perceptions indicate. Snap-On did buy the Williams company, and there is SOME overlap, but Snap-On is and remains a distinct brand, as far as core hand tools go. It’s very easy to get confused, since they will slap their logo on a can of soda(or a pair of chopsticks/LED light/headband/nail polish/toilet plunger) if the money is right.
Danaher sold (it’s share of)Apex tools to Bain. (Apex owned)Gearwrench is made overseas of course, but their sister brand Armstrong still makes most of their tools in the USA.
Similarly, Ideal imports many tools from Asia, but their S-K branded tools are typically USA sourced.
Stanley/B &D produce many DeWALT and Blackhawk tools in Asia, but MAC and Proto hand tools are (mainly) USA made still.
My humble opinion is that sears shot themselves in the foot with this one. In the past they were practically giving away Craftman tools. I never understood that now they are going to have a hared time just giving away the trash Craftsman has become
I dont go to Sears anymore to look for tools. Since Craftsman is made in China, I go to Lowes/Kobalt now. For better tools Im looking at Proto.
I agree that most Craftsman is now trash, but Kobalt is even worse.
The irony of your statement is that Lowes/Kobalt are also made in China.
The bean counters always assume sales levels will remain constant when they outsource things, but unfortunately for sears the public is not so stupid
Mac and Proto are part of Stanley and are Not made by Danaher.
Always makes me chuckle when I read “craftsman is was made by Danaher” or that any brand was made by Danaher for that matter. Even funnier when people argue that the old craftsman pro line “wasn’t made by armstrong, it was made by danaher” really show howuch people actually learn about their tools rather that just repeat what some other know nothing said or wrote.
Danaher DOESN’T MAKE ANYTHING. They are a holding company plain and simple. NOT a production facility. One very simple trip to their website tell you this and lists all the brands they own.
All “danaher made tools” EXCEPT MATCO… (ues, Matco is owned by danaher, again, simply going to their website tells you this) were made by companies that were part of (and still are) the “apex tool group” which until 2010 was a joint venture between cooper tools and danaher holdings… (note “holdings” NOT products, industries, manufacturing etc…) in 2010 danaher sod their stake to cooper to which now owns 100% of the said apex tool group.
Again this can all be confirmed by going to any one of these companies websites and just reading all the info that is given in plain English. Hasnt any ever noticed that any of the so called danaher tools have NEVER ONCE been stamped or otherwise labeled as Danaher? Hrm…tipoff?
The last US made cman stuff was either Allen (which also produced the masterforce line which is also now Chinese ) or Armstrong depending on whether it was the industrial lineup of cman professional or regular sears stores stuff. The last really good “pro” 84 tooth ratchets were armstongs. Another confirmation of that is that you can pull the 36 tooth guts from ANY sears branch rp ratchet, the fancy pull polished ones they use to offer, any older armstrong (and some current ones” old KD tools, allens, etc and put them in any of the other ratchets of those names…
Modern chinese cman is made by stanley. Cofirm this with the last gen cman rouND head thumb wheel ratchets that were the same as the huskies and the ones stamped stanley.
And last but not least Danaher OR snap on DID NOT make lowes brand kobalt tools…the 1st generation of kobalt tools were made by JH Williams BEFORE williams was bought out by snap on. The second and current gen (taiwan , now china produced) are produced by the defunct KD tools lineup that was moved to taiwan and turned into gearwrench then moved again to china (Ever notice how all gearwrench tool part numbers start with KD?) KD/GW is a company owned by apex tool group.
All anyone needs to do is read. Stop just repeating what you hear or worse yet just assuming you know. I’ve NEVER heard one person say “Danaher makes the world’s best electrical test meters” , but take a wild guess which holding company owns Fluke. I’ll give you a hint, they don’t make anything.
In the late 90s I got a tour of Danaher Tools in Arkansas. That day they were producing Craftsman , and Matco hand tools. Yes, Made in USA.
EMILIO E GONZALEZ
Buy the best that you can afford.
I have and buy all good brands just to try and use. Snap on, Proto, Williams, wright, Geodore, Hazet, Craftsman, etc…
I have and love them all. Just not a fan of cheap tools. They just frustrate me.
Hi this is shaheel from fiji islands and l would like to know which spanner is the top brands of spanners in the world
EMILIO E GONZALEZ
The best spanners? I think there are a many good lines. Snap on, Geodore, Stahlwile, wright USA, are just a few that come to mind. If I had to pick one, and call it the best, it would be Snap on 6 point long wrenches. Very expensive.
I use SK 6 point long pattern combo wrenches and Craftsman USA. Never cracked either.
Craftsman might have been relabeled Armstrong, but never the other way around. Masterforce is definitely the same as the allens I bought twenty years ago for industrial maintenance and they’re still going strong.
may be true what Track back said Taiwan tools is better quality has USA no idea but need of tools but kinda blame it on USA allowed it moved to China and Taiwan because of the wages what Americans making for cash if all business moved overseas we all have no money to by there overseas junk …. SO ? how can we all AMERICANS buy any thing if all the jobs is overseas ?
Credit sold to Chinese investors.
I have been a snapon customer for a long time, the only “cheap tools” that caught my attention in quality and strength was Performance Tools, or Wilmar brand. I’ve had a few snapon sockets fail and the PT would be my backup and get the job done.
One instance working on a cab-off 2010 F550 engine job, dismantling the turbo and exhaust setup. My snapon sockets would split, I would then use the Performance Tool to remove bolts, on bolts that got rounded, the Metrinch would finish the job.
Snap-On should aquire both Performance Tool and Metrinch to bolster their portfolio as Performance Tool seems to be a strong contender and big bang for the buck.
I love the Performance Tool ratchet/socket set (3/4″ driver with extensions, 16-point sockets) I use on my tractors. It is the very definition of “heavy duty.” Very nice, precise ratcheting action, great fit and finish. I got it for around $175. Can’t imagine what a comparable Snap-on set would cost. Maybe $1,175. I’d feel like a damned fool paying that.
I have all Snap On sockets and ratchets. Screwdrivers I have Mac and Snap On. Snap On angle wrenches. General wrenches are Craftsman. I’ve easily bent Mac screwdrivers. I haven’t been a professional mechanic in quite a few years, but I do a lot of work on my own vehicles, and those of friends and acquaintances, and have for many years. Although many of my tools are older than twenty years some of them have stood the test of time.
I cannot speak for others but this is my experience with some of the tools mentioned: I only have a few SK tools, like a half-inch ratchet and sockets. These are older tools, but I’ve never had any problems with them and have been generally satisfied.
I started my mechanical career with all Craftsman tools because I didn’t know any better. At that time Craftsman was just not up to the rigueurs of hard daily use. Unless Craftsman has changed their wrenches over the years I wouldn’t buy them again. Nearly all of my Craftsman wrenches have stretched considerably over time, even before they were very old. Rounding bolt heads off because of loose-fitting wrenches is never fun. As for my Craftsman sockets I had to replace them all within six months of purchase because of stretch and fracturing. I have a Craftsman 3/8″ ratchet that has worked well for years, although I did have to have the inerds replaced at one point.
My Snap Ons stuff are as good as the day I bought them, and the chrome finish has never worn away. If I were wrenching today I would be hard-pressed to buy anything but Snap On for the simple reason that tools are expensive, especially if you have to replace them more than once. With Snap On and their lifetime warranty you only have to buy them once, and you know they’ll last you the rest of your career.
I have some Mac screwdrivers and they’re not bad, but I’ve never considered them great either.
At the risk of sounding like a Snap On salesman, which I’m not, I have no vested interest of relationship with Snap On, I just prefer their tools all the way around. I’m sure there are other great tools around, I’m just not one to experiment when it comes to spending money, so I tend to just go with what I know.
I have been buy Craftsman tools since 1950. They no longer honor life time guarantees. I took in some broken box end wrenches about 10 or 11 inches long, they replaced them with stubby short 6 inch wrenches. Evidently the quality is so bad they can not honor the true guarantees any longer. So I will no longer buy Craftsman Tools until they are made in the USA again!! What a shame!
God Bless the USA!!! Richard M.
Craftsman is circling the drain, no better than regular Stanley tools now.
I just purchase a small set from Armstrong and it seems perfect. Thanks for your article.
The worse thing I ever did was buy a complete set from Sears. I purchased the largest and most expensive one. They Sears or Craftsmen people are either stupid or playing marketing tricks to make you buy more of they’re over priced junk but they leave essential socket and wrench sizes out of the largest sets intentionally. Anyway after they put together a set of sets that nobody can use I decided to sell mine never to repeat that mistake ever again. You really don’t need that much if your not a professional mechanic. Just put together your own little strip 7mm to 22mm with no gaps 1/8″ to 3/4″ with no gaps a few extenders a wrench ratchet with no gaps three spark plug sockets and that it. It will all fit into a small canvas bag and the breaker bars you can get at Harbour Freight. People alway are trying to peddle off and sell you junk you don’t need stuffing your living space with they’re nonsense. They want you to walk there ignorant with money in your pocket. Don’t do it “less is more”.
Best bang for the buck, in my book, has to be Harbor Freight’s Pittsburgh (Pro?) V jaw combination wrenches. Hooked a 1″ wrench on the open end of a 9/16″ (because a socket wouldn’t fit WITHOUT the breaker) and JUMPED UP AND DOWN on it to break a bolt loose. The 9/16″ open end still fits perfectly – no spreading at all.
Not sure if they’re still using the same supplier or spec almost 20 years later – probably not – but the new ones don’t feel any different in-store.
It’s easy to say less is more, but time and time again I’ve saved hundreds of dollars because I had the specific tool I needed to complete a job.
Sometimes it was a job I’d never done before but because I had the tools, it was that much less effort to buy some in addition to learning how to do a job, putting it under the threshold of whether to DIY or pay someone.
Tiny amount of tools in a canvas bag? Whatever makes you happy!
SK tools are my go-to now. I had 2, 1/2″ drive Craftsman ratchets break on me within 15 minutes, both were relatively unused before that point. SK just opened a new manufacturing plant a few years ago in northern IL. Bring those jobs back!
I like my Armstrong wrenches, but Armstrong is discontinued as of last month. Ebay has some decent deals on them at times. I really like my USA made Proto stuff. I want to try out Wright and SK sockets.
I’ve had some Proto tools since the 1980’s and they still function perfectly today! I even have a socket set made by Fleet Tools, the predecessor to Proto! Have had good luck with most of the brands listed here!
I am a food equipment, refrigeration and HVAC mechanic. I use all USA or German made tools. I have some Snap On stuff. A 1/4 inch drive socket set with extensions, universal joint and ratchet USA made. I have 1/4 drive deep sockets 1/4 inch up to 9/16. The 5/16 and 9/16 are Proto and I have a Proto ratchet also. The rest are USA Craftsman. I had proto 1/4 inch drive set stolen from me that I used all the time. The original ratchet for that set started to slip on me, so I took it into Grainger and they
gave me a brand new standard Proto ratchet under warranty no questions. It’s the one I still have. It didn’t fit in the old set. I bought a snap on T72 ratchet at a pawn shop that fit in the case. I replaced that set with all snap on set off ebay. I have a Proto USA 3/8 drive standard 6 point socket set 1/4 to 1″. I have bunch of 3/8 drive ratchets all USA made(Blackhawk, Proto, Craftsman, S-K and Snap On) and a Blackhawk USA 12 point SAE 3/8 to 13/16 deep and shallow set that I’ve been using a good 10 years. These are all very good tools. The Proto sockets are badass. I think every bit as good as snap on if not better. I have a mix of stuff. Proto pliers, Klein pliers and strippers, Knipex side cutters, Channel lock pliers. Knipex alligator (awesome pliers), Vaco magnetic nut drivers, Blackhawk ratcheting combination wrenches (made in Taiwan actually) 10 years never had a problem. Good wrenches. I hate crappy tools. If anyone decides to go with all Proto stuff. You are making a wise choice. USA made and lifetime warranty. You would have to be doing something pretty stupid to break one of these tools. Even then, I don’t see it happening.
Interesting about tools.
I´m from Sweden (not switzerland) and here we can buy snap on as a premium tool brand. Personally I can´t justify the cost for my hobby use when you can get tools with life time warranty for half the cost or less.
Swedish air engine manufacturer Volvo Flygmotor use Snap on and Kamasa Tools.
I use Kamasa as a (very) good alternative to very expensive premium tools.
Hi, I needed a 3/8 ratchet. I wanted a craftsman so I went to the sears store and found one. The sales man said I could buy the whole set in a plastic case for the same price. The difference was that the ratchet was made in USA and the set was China made. I bought the set even though I did not need the sockets. The sockets would not stay on the ratchet so I took it back and traded it for the single ratchet made in the USA and now am happy.
I’m going to give a little different perspective. I’m not a professional mechanic or millwright. I do not have a farm or similar activity with a fleet of heavy farming, earth moving or freight handling and hauling equipment. My use of tools has been primarily for automotive, plumbing, electrical and major appliance home maintenance tasks, including more involved and heavier tasks requiring more than the kitchen drawer and tool board in the laundry room with some screw drivers, adjustable wrenches and pliers. Been doing much of my own heavier automotive work for over 45 years when the time required apart from my day job permitted. That includes engine and manual transmission rebuilds, albeit in the distant past. I’ve also done idler arms, ball joints, wheel bearings and other suspension work. Replaced a complete rear differential in my driveway over a weekend once. The more recent automotive mechanical work has been complete brake work as I’ve not encountered heavy maintenance requirements on my vehicles for some time. Over the years I accumulated quite a few S-K tools, mostly 3/8″ and 1/2″ drive. The bulk of them are 40 years old. Throw in a smattering of Thorsen that are about 35 years years old, and add a few Proto. I’ve got a couple Snap-On. Most notably, one is a 1/2″ drive torque wrench, the old school Torqometer dial type, bought about 35 years ago. If I were to buy it today, it would cost $352. Even taking into account inflation, I didn’t pay nearly the equivalent of that 35 years ago from a dealer. Great wrench, but can’t get into tight or confined fasteners. The head is big. The 3/8″ torque wrench is a 30 year old USA made Craftsman click style. Great wrench and still works extremely well. Found a proper case for it to protect it in storage, something Sears quit providing with them eons ago. Some of the tools I inherited from my father are USA era Craftsman, a few of them dating to some time in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He was from Oak Park and firmly believed in supporting Chicago and Illinois companies (along with the one he worked for, G.E.).
Given I don’t wrench for a living or to routinely maintain large/heavy machinery directly used to make a living, I must consider what’s cost effective. A 1/2″ drive torque wrench might get used once or twice a year at most, more likely every two years. Just did a major brake job on my car replacing everything (pads, rotors, calipers and brackets), not wanting to pay the Chevy dealership $1200 which was way overpriced. I could replace everything on all four wheels for about $400, maybe a tad more. Needed more heft from a torque wrench than the 3/8″ which topped out at 75 ft-lb. The Snap-On head size made it completely unsuited for the task. Even if I could have gotten it in somehow to the bolt heads, the dial would have been facing away from me necessitating positioning a mirror to see it. Great tool but not the proper one for the job. A nice Snap-On basic micrometer adjust click type torque wrench would cost $390, nearly as much as all the new brake parts (no rebuilt or reman here). The equivalent in a few other well-known brands of high quality tools:
Matco: $362 from their catalog.
Sturtevant Richmont: $327 from a deep discount supplier.
MAC: $330 from their catalog.
S-K: $310 (on sale; normally $345).
CDI: $227 from a presumably deep discount supplier.
Proto: $207 from a presumably deep discount supplier.
Given how much I would use a 1/2″ drive micrometer adjust click style torque wrench, I cannot rationally justify even the cost of the Proto. I had seen a Harbor Freight Pittsburgh Pro a while back and would not have one. The Kobalt for about $80 was tempting. Bought a Tekton for about $53 on Amazon. Disassembled the head to ensure it was lubed, and it worked quite well. Has a very nice click across its 25-250 ft-lb range and the ratchet is reasonably tight without too much lash. There is a wee bit of lash in the handle when tightened to a setting, but that’s OK. It’s not changing the setting. The bottom line: the Tekton is cost effective for how often I might use a 1/2″ drive torque wrench between now and when I slip my mortal coil and join the choir invisible. The high priced “Made in USA” high end torque wrenches might be nice to hold, a marvel of precision manufacturing and assembly verging on works of art, but I don’t need a work of art. I need a torque wrench that works within about 5-7% accuracy that might get a little slimed and grimed and some surface finish fine line scuffing in use, the same kind of wear my (now decades old) S-K ratchets and sockets show, and that show on any tools that have been used inside the garage or out on the driveway. I’ve gotten a few Gearwrench and a couple Lowe’s Kobalt hand tools for some specialty tasks that aren’t covered by the standard tools I’ve had for decades. Both are decent for the weekend warrior and cannot imagine any of these more recent acquisitions made in Taiwan failing under normal use.
I’ve only had two hand tools fail in over 45 years. Both were non-impact chrome sockets. Both were being or had been abused. One was on an electric impact wrench that had no business being used on one, and the other was a 3/8″ drive 13mm 6-point on the end of a two foot 1/2″ drive breaker bar that had nearly all my weight on it. Shouldn’t be too surprised it didn’t survive over 350+ ft-lbs of torque. It’s been my experience that hand tool failure for other than the dirt cheapest no-name Chinese junk is nearly always due to misuse and abuse.
“There’s no best tool”
Anyone can look up torque tests on youtube and find the OBJECTIVE best tool which is the most resistant to stress. This wishy washy attitude is why there’s such a big market for trash.
I’ve seen some “objective” tests by YouTubers who didn’t know know what they were talking about. Flawed testing methods, insufficient sampling, inappropriate conclusions.
Let’s say you have two wrenches that both exceed ANSI standards. If one fails at higher torque than the other, does that mean it’s better? Even if the testing is objective and truly unbiased, does that still make the “stronger” wrench better?
What good is a 10% stronger wrench if there’s sloppy tolerances? Or excessive material bulked up around the open end and box ends?
There’s a big market for trash because a lot of people care more about lowest pricing than quality.
JAPAN has a town called USA so it can put that name on their tools
This seems to be a fictional fact.
This is true
Wright tool high priced and pure junk trust me i worked for the place
IMO there’s a hole in market for ratchet style box wrenches. As one reviewer stated on the Sears site, a serious home mechanic needs high quality ratchet box wrenches with the box on both sides. This because most people already have a standard box wrench set and I would not want to put huge stresses on a ratchet style anyhow. Also home users don’t have unlimited storage and open end wrenches are almost useless for automotive . Sears shows a few random 2 sided ratchet box wrenches on their website but they must be discontinuing them (not counting the ones made from sandwiched sheet metal, not sure how good those are).
Also I would like to see universal joints that have a spring action to stay in the straight position. I had 2 bolts on a recent repair job where the floppy uni joints were impossible to get on because no room for my hand but a straight extension would partially go on but slip when torquing because of slight angle. Usually you only need 5-10 degrees of angle. Again they have socket sets that do this but I don’t want to buy a whole duplicate set of sockets. I’m aware of the electrical tape trick but I could not get that to work. There is one with a spring from Tien? but not sure of the quality.
Finally another pet peeve I have is getting mixed up with torque wrenches on the N-m vs inch or ft lbs. The Craftsman dial type torque wrenches seem durable but the way they did the 2 scales can cause confusion for me. Luckily I have not pulled any bolts out of aluminum yet but I have come close because of scale mix up.
I would advise not to buy the Craftsman torque wrench with the window scale, I just threw away one of those after only occasional use because it failed. Also don’t buy any electronic torque wrench other than Snap on – I’m very tempted to buy the snap on TechWrench – i f it saves me from ruining one aluminum thread it’s worth it.
I’m just an occasional DIY homeowner who never works on cars if I can help it. Wrenches are a dime a dozen; as long as they don’t bust my knuckles they stay around for decades. When the racheting box ends came out I thought they were great – then discovered I seldom used them because of fit or angle or something. There was a second-tier Sears brand box-open wrench set on sale, Companion branded I think, so I bought SAE and MM sets. That was twenty years ago and they are still like new. Same with a deep socket set from Popular Mechanics. I have a 1/2″ drive set, a chinee cheepee, that does the job once a year on some riding mower bolts. My point is that if you stay away from the cheapest Harbor Freight junk, a brand name bolt-removal hand tool will serve in minor use for a very long time, and one need not bother with a “forever” warrantee, just buy a new one. Rachets are different – get one with tight rachet mechanism, small increments, and dual side rachet innerds for more strength – you really *can* bust a cheap rachet without much effort, the innerds are just a gear, easily stripped if the fit is loose or poor steel is used.
My biggest grip is anything made with cheap chinee steel. I had a small compressor that quit working, and when I open it up discovered the 3/4″ drive shaft had twisted itself in two, like twisting off a section of a Tootsie Roll. It’s not so much the manufacturing that makes bad tools as the materials used.
I worked at snap on 15 years they are reworked to death and if the size is to big they put heavy plate on them to make them the right size and when you use them the player will come off on the open end then you will no longer have the right size. And that’s just the beginning of the things they do !!!
I wanted a wrench set and looked up proto. A 20 piece black chrome reversible combination ratcheting set was $780.00. SEVEN HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLARS!!! WTF. WHAT HAPPENED? Most construction jobs I worked on the company paid for the tools and they get a deal, but to turn a few nuts and bolts, it is ridiculous.
First of all, if you’re talking about Proto JSCV-20S ($780 at this time via Amazon and elsewhere), that set is NOT made in the USA, at least as far as I am aware. Their chrome set with spline box end is.
Second, you need to take into consideration the sizes you get with this set – it includes 7/32″ thru 1-1/2″. The 1-1/2″ wrench retails for around $105 by itself.
If you don’t need those very pricey larger wrench sizes, they also have smaller sets. Proto’s 9pc set (JSCV-9S) is $166 via Amazon as of the time of this posting.
Great article. I completely agree that American-made tools are generally of superior quality and design when made with American steel. Unfortunately, as of October 2021, one of my favorite American tool companies on your list – SK Tools – has gone over to the dark side, having been acquired by a company named – Hangzhou Greatstar Industrial – In China. Another one bites the dust and the list. And the list gets shorter.
save your money and buy Matco
Scott J Berube
I am a person that really trys to buy USA ONLY but its getting really hard i dont like buying foriegn made shit im looking for a set of metric curved ratchet wrenches made in USA with no luck i looked at gear wrench but its made in taiwan is there any American companys that would make this wrench?
Perhaps Proto “obstruction wrench?” I have not verified the COO, but believe that to be your best bet. Other brands call them “half moon” wrenches.