Tool Quality: Today vs. Yesterday
I'm looking to add to and also to replace a few hand tools in my tool box. Sockets/ratchets, wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, hammers, etc.
Many of the tool brands of my "youth" (1960's/'70's) seem to have deminished in quality..... And not just those tools who's company(s) now use China as their manifacturing source.
I was looking at a set of Craftsman combination wrenches at Sears the other day. The finish (of their regular, not the "Professional" line) is no where near the quality of 20, or even 10, years ago.
Nicholson wooden file handles (my preference for 30-years) are now made in China. The quality of the wood, wood grain, and finish.... SUCKS. Plus, the last handles that I bought 6-months ago had slightly loose metal ferrels that became completely loose and came completely off a couple of the handles after little use.
What tool manifacturer's do those of you out there think have the best quality for the buck? Best quality overall?
I'm talking mid-range prices here.... Not low end, but not in the high end Snap-On brand either.
File handles and other thoughts.
The best file handles I've used are the PB Baumann plastic file handles. However, they've changed the design, so I can't with certainty say that they are still the best. They have put hanging holes in them now, so maybe they are better. I also like that I can color code my files.
Also, I also think that Baumann makes the best screwdrivers.
Regarding wrenches and sockets, it is like hitting a moving target. Anything bought a few years ago might be made different than today. Sometimes they improve, sometimes they get worse.
Other brands I like:
Bondus (hex tools).... however, recently a PM topic brought them up and said they weren't as good as they used to be. I dunno?
I've always been happy quality wise with Armstrong, Snap-on, Proto, etc. However, they are expensive.
Urrea tools look interesting, but I've never tried them. Used to be a joint venture between Proto and Urrea. A Mexican Proto is what I've heard.
Many comments to follow about how thus and thus is junk....I'd say that anybody who has been in the tool industry for decades is going to make a good tool, on average. No one company makes the best in all categories (socketry, screwdrivers, etc.)
Last edited by Keith Krome; 02-12-2008 at 06:18 PM.
Originally Posted by Keith Krome
This is why I have my favorite brands for each type of tool. One particular brand for screwdrivers, one brand for pliers.... etc.
By "high end" brand, I was refering to the most expensive of the expensive.
People love to complain about quality being gone, but it is not. Instead today we have a wide vairety of tool qualities from which to choose. If you want top quality, you can get tools today that are often better than they were in the past, or at the very least equal quality.
And if you need a tool that may be used only once and then thrown in a dark corner of your tool box, then there are lower quality tools out there that will do the job. The fact that they will wear quickly does not amtter.
Additionally, we can choose from mid-priced (which are mid-quality) tools for using in various circumstances. My grandfather used to tell me how lucky were "today" (he has been dead for 13 years) becuase when he was ocming up no one could afford tools. For important applications, he believed in saving up and buying something that would last for a life time. I share that philosophy. He was also happy that he lived to see a time in America when even poor people could buy tools that would get them by and be a heck of a lot better than no tools at all.
The fact that we can buy cheap tools from China is great! They offer economical alternatives that may very well be the smart thing to buy. I have seen several small machine shops go under in the past decade. The reason it happened is because they were owned by awesome machinists who had no business knowledge. Many, many times it makes sense to buy a lower cost tool and replace it when it is (soemtiems quickly) worn out. Demanding and paying for only the best regardless of application is a good way to run a business in the ground. Just your basic Business 101.
Consider buying used tooling -- older tooling from historically good manufacturers. I would not buy a newly offered tool from Starrett, but I am always willing to buy a Starrett tool from the era you call "yesterday". It is a matter of personal prefence. Almost any cheap screwdriver can tighten a screw, sort of, but my own personal feeling is that I don't like to handle or use that sort of tool.
There was a topic a while back that was a fairly long discussion on sockets and wrenches, or maybe it was just sockets.
Edit: this thread might be the one I was thinking of. OT - Proto Hand Tools
Personally I'm with Marc's grandfather - a good tool, properly cared for, will be the cheapest economically speaking. Keep in mind I'm only 22, so some people may not agree. I had my 8 year old Craftsman sockets and end wrenches stolen about 9 months ago, and the replacement Craftsman ones don't make me very happy. I went out and bought a new set of SK inch size wrenches, SK ratchets, and I'm planning to replace the common metric wrenches soon. I buy SK at a local dealer and the price/performance/service is a good value for me. For singles and odd needs I often purchase from McMaster-Carr. All of the wrenches and sockets have been Armstrong or Proto and the price & delivery are very good given the quality of the tool.
Last edited by jdsmith; 02-12-2008 at 03:59 PM.
Reason: Added link
more links to previous discussions
OT: Snap-On, Facom tools
Don't let the title fool you, it is more than about snap-on and facom
and this one:
Are Snap On tools that good? 180 from HF
I'd be the first to say that Snap-On is definitely in the expensive category, but defining mid-range can be difficult.
Best Quality tools today
STARRETT US brand hand tools are still the best quality for the buck today imo, no question about it. Their squares and precision rules are the best hands down imo...PEC comes in second for rules
LUTZ FILE and TOOL CO. makes the best quality wood file handles available today imo...all USA made tools
VAUGHAN makes some of the best hammers and hatchets available today...and the best and most balanced ball pien hammers... all USA made tools
EKLIND makes great quality all USA made hex wrenches
I second the recommendation for Knipex pliers. German tooling generally can be really great quality, and very good value for the $
Calculate the cost of the tool over the life of the tool to find the best value. Invariably top quality tools like Starrett will almost always come out on top. If you think the cost is too dear, save up your $ and wait for sales and special offers to purchase top quality stuff...when you look back over the years you will find out it was the right decision. You can find good used at the auction sites sometimes, but a new tool comes with a reciept,warranty, original packaging and protective box, inspection certificate, and customer support...and you are helping to keep a quality USA tool manufacturer in business.
Originally Posted by John Madarasz
Funny you should mention Vaughn Ball Pein Hammers.
I was going to buy a couple of Vaughn ball pein's next week.... 4, 8 and 16oz weight heads.
The last hammer I bought was around 20-years ago. All of my hammers have wood handles.
What type handle is most preferable in a vaughn ball pein? The standard hickory? Or, the fiberglass handle with the grip?
Lutz still makes a high quality, made in USA file wooden file handle. I have two or three around here. I have just prefer the shape, feel and grip of the Nicholson wooden file handles
I have a 6 hammer set (4-32 oz) of the Vaughn ball piens...all have wood handles. I like the wood because you can customize the handles to fit your hand...rasp, file and sand if necessary. I need much more control with those wood handle ball piens because I do a lot of solid shank round head hand rivetting...
I have a couple solid steel Vaughn 16 and 20 oz straight claw ripping hammers , but I much prefer my 16oz. Fiberglass handle rip hammer to those fwiw.
Vaughan also makes some awesome soft face hammers, a great copper/rawhide face hammer for using at the machine tools, and the best shingle hatchet made too
I personally like the fiberglass.
Originally Posted by alg4884
Hang out at Flea Markets and Tag Sales rather than the Mall or the Home Despot.
Example 1: I just bought a very large Kennedy brand hip-roof toolbox with an assortment of junk and about a half-dozen "keeper" tools for $15. One of the tools is an Elkind folding hex key set, slightly rusty. At that price, do I care? The only problem with the box is that it is so big that it is easy to load it so heavily that I cannot lift it out of the trunk.
Example 2: Another "flea" yielded up some Billings & Spencer open-end wrenches between 1" and 2" for a buck each. Yes, they are painted rather than plated. How necessary is shiney plating vs. a renewable coat of Krylon?
What SBM34 said... I hit the flea markets almost every weekend. Although I have more tools than I will ever use, I still cannot resist a bargain. Sunday, I bought 4 new OTC pocket magnets and 2 new EZ-Outs , all for a quarter each. A new (old stock) large GoldenRod pump oiler with a long flex spout, for a dollar. For just a few dollars, I can usually find a handful of nice tools. Even things I do not need are worth buying, for packrats like me...
I have been a professional mechanic for the past 17 years .I have had the tool trucks coming here for years .I will not buy another snapon tool for as long as I live . They are insanely over priced .I have 2 of their fine tooth ratchets that break the direction shift pawl every time I break a stuck bolt free .They were over $100.00 each I have a $39.00 proto from MSC that is indestructable. Bill
Great tools I would say they have actually improved just abit over the years. I worked as a mechanic for a number of years and I wore out alot of Chraftsman stuff, technically Craftsman will not warranty tool used in proffessional applications.... but they don't really follow that rule much. MAC and SNAP-ON are great tools but because of thier distribution pirces get WAY out of hand. Now I will say our local MAC guy is excellent, he has everything you would ever need in his truck and is great to deal with. Even then I can't say any tools in general are a better value than S-K. You get a proffessional tool, you don't have to get it form a guy in a truck, and the price isn't set buy the guy in the truck.
For most people Craftsman are more than adaquate, and they are a decent tool for the most part.
One more thing: S-K ownes FACOM (or facom owens S-K), which I believe is a Brittish or French company. I have a couple of thier ratchets and they are possibly the best I have ever had, blows a sealed head SNAP-ON out of the water.
Now power tools like drills, grinders, saws, etc. have really taken a dive. I looked at smoe new bench grinders and decided buying a used one might give me a better deal and a longer lasting tool. I bought a used Craftsman 6" Mabey from 1980. It has a motor that draws 5 amps, and is labeled 1/2 HP. Some new grinders claimed 3/4 HP but the motor was rated at 2.5 amp..... hmmmmm another "peak" rating. volts * amps = watts and 746 watts = 1HP so you do the math which one is closer?
Its that kind of thing going on with just about all consumer goods that pisses me off. I am an engineer now and if I miss rated my designs that same way, I'd be in court.
Anyway that is my 2 cents
I always thought that a modern tool would be of better quality since the scientific and manufacturing knowledge has improved markedly over the last few generations.
For instance drills and taps of 60 years ago would likely be high carbon steel. Now-a-days I would expect Chrome alloyed or high speed steel products which should outperform the older products.
What I didn't expect was if not aware of the difference, you might be ordering high carbon taps etc from firms like Travers when you were expecting highspeed steel. A lot of tool manufacturers are marketing lower quality household, or handyman quality tools and higher tradesman quality tool lines. Many exploit there brand names known for quality over many years and are now supplying cheap Chinese imports under that brand name. A very short-sighted practice to gain a momentary financial advantage.
alg4884, Armstrong gear wrenches with the box end on the opposite end. Use these in tandem whith combination wrenches for quick work. I wouldn't buy any gear wrenches with an open end on the opposite end. My Wiha L-hex wrenches with the silver colored finish have held up great. Bahco ratchets are the most comfortable I have come across. The next set of sockets I buy will have the size lazered in red or blue for quick identification.
Always glad to help someone from LA.
Facom used to own S-K ,Stanley bought Facom and sold off S-K in the last year or so.Bill
Close, but not quite. Facom sold S-K Tool to S-K's managers in what I presume was a "leveraged buyout" a couple of weeks before Stanley took control of Facom.