Filling the toolbox...

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Forum topic by ajw1978 posted 07-19-2014 07:59 AM 1298 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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165 posts in 2344 days

07-19-2014 07:59 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

While not trying to sound like a broken record, I’m going to start this post by refreshing you fine, talented folks on where I’m coming from: First of all, I’m a mid-30s guy who rents and is just starting to get into the hobby. That said, I’m starting to build up a nice tool collection, including some bigger-ticket items (miter saw, router, drill, driver, circular, reciprocating, etc, etc, etc).

So far, I’ve developed a bit of a “loyalty” to Craftsman. It didn’t hurt than when I first started my “collection,” my roommate at the time was a Sears manager. Discounts, my friends, trump brand loyalty. That said, now that I’ve got the “fancy toys,” I find I need to round out my collection of hand tools and I’m kind of at a bit of a crossroads.

Most of what I have came out of a Stanely homeowner’s kit I picked up on clearance from Target back in my college days. Nothing fancy: hammer, screwdriver set, a monkey wrench … basics. I realize I’m in need of wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers … you name it, I have a need.

But … I’m curious: it seems like everybody and their brother has some sort of “lifetime warranty” on their basic hand tools, so is there a tangible difference between Craftsman, Kobalt, HDX, Husky, and so on and so forth? I’ll confess, I’ve made more than one trip to Harbor Freight, too, in the last few weeks when there’s something I need right that minute and only for about 15 minutes. But to be honest, snooping around the store, their basic wrenches don’t seem much different than what I see in Sears, HD, Menards, etc. Everything is made in China now anyway so, getting to the crux of my argument … is there any point in breaking the bank now, while I’m still learning how everything works as opposed to just getting an inexpensive kit now?

A goofy question and I know personal preference/comfort/finances play a big role, but just curious where you fellas sit on this fence.

First time caller, long time listener, I’ll hang up and listen.

-- May the good Lord help me if I ever actually have a shop, garage or basement.

7 replies so far

View Crank50's profile


173 posts in 2499 days

#1 posted 07-19-2014 01:33 PM

Okay, I’ll bite.
First, on the warranty question. I own a few “Popular Mechanics” brand tools that all have an unconditional lifetime warranty. Those were nice Japanese manufactured tools that were purchased at Walmart back in the mid 1980s. Now, if I broke one of those sockets or wrenches what do you suppose is the chance I could walk into a Walmart today and get a free replacement? So how much do you think that “lifetime warranty” is worth? I can tell you that if you walk into any Sears with a broken Craftsman wrench and ask for a replacement they will hand you a new one because I have done this. The same is true of Snap-On tools and any Snap-On dealer. And Snap-On is not made in China, by the way; they are made here in the USA. Basically, what I’m saying is warranties are worth no more than the ethics of the company offering them.

While I like the Craftsman mechanical hand tools, I can’t say I have a similar opinion of Craftsman power tools. They are often just re-branded tools that are sold by other manufacturers. But since the majority of all the worlds tools are now made in Chinese factories, with varying degrees of quality control, it’s just a crap shoot what you get.

I have worked at a plant that made products for Sears along with products for other brands. The Sears products were often a slightly cheaper design made from lower quality materials but there were some products they had unique designs for that were a little better than the competitors. But this was 40 years ago and the manufacturing business has changed drastically. Mostly due to out-sourcing and global manufacturing.

Today, if you want good hand tools there are two ways to go. Buy old tools made before WWII like Stanley, Disston, Miller Falls, etc. and refurbish them, or buy new high end boutique tools from companies like Lie Nielsen, Veritas, Bad Axe Toolworks, or similar.

And, of course, there are a few jewels out there in Harbor Freight, Home Depot and Lowes, etc.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16289 posts in 5141 days

#2 posted 07-19-2014 01:48 PM

I pretty much agree with everything Crank50 said, having worked in the hardware department at Sears back in the 70’s.

Since your question seems pretty much focused on hand tools like wrenches, pliers, sockets, etc., I would say you can’t go wrong with Craftsman. Some of the other brands you mentioned might be just as good in terms of quality, but what good is a lifetime warranty if you have to jump through all kinds of hoops to get your wrench replaced? Snap-On is better quality with a great warranty as well, but also more expensive. Might be worth it for a professional mechanic, but no so much for the average DIY type.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3790 days

#3 posted 07-19-2014 02:00 PM

I will say that I like Craftsman mechanics hand tools as well as their better quality tool boxes. However, I’m not saying that they are the best. They are good enough to do a decent job compared to their price. Furthermore, you can get them on sale very often. Unless you are totally impatient you can always buy craftsman tools on sale. I recently bought a nice set of mechanics tools from Sears for $200.00 which was half price. They were delivered to my door and the freight didn’t cost me anything. I also bought several good quality tool cabinets at half price.

I don’t particularly like their woodworking tools or their power tools.

You can still get a lot of good quality tools that are not made in China but the price is high for good quality tools. I try to buy good quality tools but I have been buying tools for over 40 years so spreading it out like that hasn’t broken the bank.

I have also bought a lot of nice user tools from Ebay over time and am very happy about what I paid for them.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View mudflap4869's profile


2100 posts in 2382 days

#4 posted 07-19-2014 03:21 PM

I have been using Craftsman hand tools for several decades and have never had a problem with replacing broken ones. Their power tools were good for many years but today the quality just isn’t there, and finding replacement parts for older ones is extremely difficult. I seems as if sears simply does not aknowledge that they at one time sold those tools and are not willing to assist in replacing worn out parts. I have tossed several older craftsman power tools because there was not a source of replacement parts.

-- Still trying to master kindling making

View AnonymousRequest's profile


861 posts in 2472 days

#5 posted 07-19-2014 03:55 PM

Snap-On was mentioned above. They are pricey, but they back their tools for a lifetime. My Dad was a mechanic and bought only Snap-On. He died in ‘84 and I inherited his 6’ tall chest full of tools. Over the years some of the tools wore because of use. The screwdriver handles started to deteriorate and the ratchet innards started to fail. My Son who is 21 has a fine collection of Snap-On tools. He has bought a huge tool box and has steadily worked on filling it, spending 3k or so. He grabbed about 20 of my tools and took them to the Snap-On guy. He replaced all 14 screwdrivers, 3 ratchets and a few sockets, no questions asked. He back my Dad’s warranty from the tools he bought in the 70’s and early 80’s.

View ajw1978's profile


165 posts in 2344 days

#6 posted 07-20-2014 08:27 PM

Snap-On and Milwaukee are definitely on my wish-list.

I like the point about the worth of warranty. I’ll be honest, that’s one of the reasons I’ve leaned toward Craftsman. I can’t say I’m in love with the Craftsman power tools in my collection, but I’m glad my father talked me out of the Harbor Freight miter saw and equally glad I returned the Ryobi slider.

Looks like I’ll stick with Sears for the time-being (though their website is just an abomination). I do like knowing the store and the brand – the drop-off in quality not withstanding – have been around 100 years and will likely continue on in some capacity. Also, as somebody mentioned, the sales are usually pretty good. I bought a similar mechanics set for $50 after 50% sale, coupons and whatever else.

-- May the good Lord help me if I ever actually have a shop, garage or basement.

View TheFridge's profile


10861 posts in 2409 days

#7 posted 07-20-2014 08:43 PM

Craftsman wrenches, ratchets, and sockets are moe than sufficient for most jobs.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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