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Favorite hand tool brands no longer available

12V71T

Plastic
Joined
Mar 20, 2022
Hello everyone, this is my first PM post, hope its not a rehash of a previous post. This is something of a continuation of rivett608's "Happy new year" post.
My question is what are some hand tool brands that were favorites of yours but are no longer available, at least in the form you once knew? Here are a few of mine.
Craftsman- When I first started my career(actually before) I needed tools and Craftsman was the most accessible and most affordable option. My father had always bought Craftsman tools so I already knew the name. Every week I would buy a few dollars worth of tools at our local Sears and before I even had my first full time job I had a pretty complete set of tools all the way from 1/4'' drive up to 3/4" drive, chrome and impact, deep and shallow, also wrenches, prybars and anything else I might need. I used those tools as a professional diesel mechanic for over ten years. The first to wear out were the 1/4" drive sockets and when I went to Sears to get them warranteed I knew it was the beginning of the end. Everythin was made in China. I decided that I would rather keep them as they were or throw them out than have Chinese garbage as a replacement. After that I slowly upgraded to Snap On for all my basic tools and the remaining Craftsman stuff went into my road boxes for working outside the shop at a customer location. I rarely broke any of my Craftsman stuff over the years and if I did lose something while doing a road job I wasn't out the cost of a Snap On tool. They were also great if you needed to modify a wrench for a special use because they were relatively inexpensive. I still have several specially modified Craftsman wrenches in my toolbox. One of my favorites was the stubby combination wrenches. They were perfect for tight spots or when you needed a delicate feel or whin something was too tight to get by hand but not tight enough for a wrench and a full size wrench would be too awkward, particularly on air and hydraulic lines and when trying to ease somethin together with slightly damaged threads. They gave you the feel needed to get past the bad spot and not cross thread the connection. And they went from 1/4 up to 1" which no one elses stubby wrenches did. They were the same as an equivalent full size wrench, just super short length. Towards the end their stubby wrenches were more like stamped sheet metal than a real wrench. You could literally bend it in half by hand. How many mechanics started their careers with Craftsman tools? Countless. I'm glad I did and I still have all of mine. What a sad end to a great name.
Petersen Manufacturing-better known as vise grips, the other "Man's Best Friend". They turned to crap when Irwin got ahold of them.
Crescent-makers of the best adjustable wrenches anywhere. The larger sizes with the tapered handle were great because you could put a pipe on the end for extra leverage. Now its all made in China junk.
KD Tools-special automotive tools that used to be available at independent auto part stores.Their large oil filter wrenches were the best.They got turned into Gearwrench and most of the KD line was dropped. Gearwrench is all Taiwan crap now.
Hanson taps and dies-I used to love them because they were readily available at the local hardware store, they held up pretty good and they were USA made. Most tapping I do is cleaning holes that are rusted, dirty or damaged so I consider taps and dies as consumables. Last time I went looking for a tap the package said "Hanson Irwin" and "Made in China". I put it back on the rack and found a NOS US made replacement on ebay. All my taps and dies come from either ebay or flea markets or swap meets now. Another example of Irwin turning everything they get their hands on to complete shit.
 

FamilyTradition

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 24, 2018
Location
Greenfield, Mass
Millers Falls. Hand tools and power tools...
My great-grandfather worked for Millers Falls back in the 1960's.

They were gone long before my time but I have a few screwdrivers kicking around from them. I carry one in my pocket pretty much everywhere I go - flat bladed screwdriver is useful in a lot of situations.

I also have a MF bench grinder my brother picked up cheap at a tag sale. Sat on my back porch for a year and got rained and snowed on, but it started right up when I plugged it in and still runs nice and quiet.
 

dcsipo

Titanium
Joined
Oct 13, 2014
Location
Baldwin, MD/USA
Most of the precision stuff from Lufkin, Scherr- Tumico, Union,

Taft-Peirce. I will think more, but those are on the top of my memory.​

 

Joe Michaels

Diamond
Joined
Apr 3, 2004
Location
Shandaken, NY, USA
Utica Tool (pliers, wrenches, forged in Utica, NY); Stanley/Atha (blacksmith tools, hammers, splitting mauls); Collins (when they were in Connecticut, axes);
J.H. Williams (wrenches, adjustable wrenches, lathe, shaper & planer tool holders, boring bars, lathe dogs, setup hardware and more); Billings (Wrenches)
Herbrand Tool (wrenches); Proto (when they were US made and before being absorbed into some conglomerate). H.K. Porter (bolt cutters, US made)

I miss not only the real Craftsman mechanics' hand tools, but the whole Sear, Roebuck stores. It was not so long ago that the Sears store in Kingston, NY closed. I used to walk into that Sear store and buy individual sockets to replace ones I had lost, or exchange broken wrenches and the like under the unlimited warranty.
I grew up with Sears, Roebuck. It was the one 'fun store' I enjoyed going to with my parents. Usually, Mom wanted to go to Macy's or some other stores for clothes shopping. Sears had a tool department and a plumbing department where an interested little guy could browse and pass the time. I have one of the last of the thick printed Sears catalogs we received. As a little guy, the Sears catalog was a real 'dream book', tools and (the unmentionable brands) of lathes, automotive parts, and farm supplies. Sear and their catalogs were a real part of our USA. Now, Sears, if it exists, is a pale ghost of what it once was. I see the new versions of Craftsman hand tools for sale in 'big box stores' and chain hardware stores, and those tools are Chinese crap.

I outfitted my son and one nephew with hand boxes of basic mechanics' tools. I did not stoop to buying the new Crapsman stuff. Instead, I hunted for good used US made original Craftsman, or NOS Craftsman/US made on ebay. I added used J.H. Williams US made adjustable wrenches, Mayhew cold chisel and punch sets and pry bars, and other old-line US made tools. Genuine Peterson vise-grips in various sizes along with genuine Channelocks and Klein lineman's, needlenose, and diagonal cutting pliers. My son got a vintage hip-roof Craftsman toolbox ( 2 bucks at the local surplus store, needed a handle- which I made from steel and Micarta- and some fresh paint). My one nephew got a vintage Kennedy hand box. That nephew works on his own motorcycle, so I added a US made impact driver. Both my son and my nephew each got a US made ball pein hammer with their initials branded on the wood handles by me. My son is a freshly graduated lawyer, cramming for the bar exams as I write this, and my one nephew is a freshly graduated physical therapist who is also cramming for his board exams. Another nephew is a CNC machinist apprentice and also the expediter/scheduler in a large machine shop. I have outfitted him with two chests (one "Star" wood chest and one steel Kennedy) and a basic set of machinist's tools (Starrett for the most part, some old Brown and Sharpe, some Mitutoyo). These young men know good tools, and the nephew who is the P/T remarked when he first held a 1/2" Craftsman breaker bar, that it 'felt right'. When he handled the Williams adjustable wrenches, he remarked that he realized what kind of imported shit tools he'd been buying at the local big box stores previously. My son uses his tools for occasional jobs on his car, around his apartment, and even did an emergency plumbing repair when house-sitting for friends. My son is also learning to maintain his own 1978 BMW R 100/7 motorcycle (father and son on matching BMW motorcycles). Giving young people real tools and acquainting them with not only the tools and their use, but the tradition and sense of it all is something I really enjoy. It's sad that Sear and the real Craftsman tools are gone, and sad that nearly all of the old-line US tool manufacturers are also gone. The names are affixed to very poor substitutes in the form of the imported crap. I suppose at some point, I will get my son and nephew at the forge to forge some drift punches and maybe a cold chisel or two for their tool boxes. My son knows how to fire a coal forge and swing a hammer, but it's been too many years since he was at the forge with me. He's hoping to spend some time with us after the bar exam, riding motorcycles with me and catching up. My nephew in the machine shop has some dial indicator hardware or fixturing made by me in his chest at the shop.
 

Comatose

Titanium
Joined
Feb 25, 2005
Location
Akron, OH
I miss Porter Cable. Yes, there is still something being sold under the same name, but like Grandpa's second wife, just not the same.

The old Porter Cable was always making something innovative, whether it turned out to be useful or not. I mean hell, they bought a product line from our esteemed leader here back in the day.

Obviously now it is just Dewalt's cheapo brand, or Black and Decker with cheap lipstick, however you want to look at that.
 

true temper

Stainless
Joined
Jun 19, 2006
Location
Kansas
You can still buy USA made Cresent brand wrenches, I was at Harry Epstein in Kansas City last fall. They bought all of the last remaining USA made Cresent wrenches. I forget how many thousands they had for sale, but it was a bunch.

 
Joined
Apr 19, 2006
Location
Manchester, England
“ Ridgid “ for pipe fitters tools. Our own UK “;Record “ brand weren’t bad but “ Ridgid “ were the best. I had a few adjustable spanners of theirs but I suspect maybe” Cresent “ made them.

Regards Tyrone.
 

Joe Michaels

Diamond
Joined
Apr 3, 2004
Location
Shandaken, NY, USA
Tyrone:

I am in agreement about Ridgid pipe fitters tools. I have some Ridgid pipe wrenches (which is what we call 'em over on this side of the pond) that date to my father, and I suspect he got them from his brother-in-law sometime just after WWII. Petrified pipe dope on some of them, and if they ever were painted red, it's long gone. I also have some Reed pipe wrenches, as well as a Jarecki pipe die stock and a "Toledo Beaver" pipe die stock. Another vanished maker of pipe fitters tools was Nye, and I have a pipe cutter and 'three way' diestock made by them. Jarecki started out making steam engine governors in Erie, PA, and got to making pipe die stocks and pipe threading machines. Long gone, but good tools. Problem now is finding new die chasers for these old diestocks.

Back in 2012, I was installing a coal fired heating boiler in series with the existing oil fired boiler (hot water or 'hydronic' heating system). When I priced copper 1 1/2" and 1 1/4" pipe, it was a young fortune. Instead, I opted to run screwed black steel pipe with black malleable iron fittings. My bro loaned me a Ridgid diestock that had been his father's. It was the type that had 'collapsible chasers'. It was a very well made diestock, and I threaded something over 40 pieces of 1 1/2" black steel pipe with it for the various joints (the boilers are piped in series, with bypasses to cut either boiler out of the heating loop, and an 'interboiler' circulating loop). I have a Ridgid 'tristand' with pipe vise, so was all set. Better workout than going to a gym, and definitely more productive. I reamed the ends of the cut pipe with a cone shaped pipe reamer turned in a hand brace (both from my father's tools).

My bros and I joke about the fact that our fathers taught us to use tools for repairs and improvements around our homes, and gave us the tools. We remark that we took this sort of thing for granted, as our father's generation had and used tools of necessity. No one would pay a contractor to come into their houses and do work unless it was something major. Tools got passed from fathers to sons, and it seemed as natural to us as the sun coming up each morning. The fact the tools were good tools that lasted over several lifetimes was also something we took for granted. Things like original Stanley carpenter's tools and Ridgid pipe fitters tools were a given, as were Disston hand saws (there's another vanished marque). We all have hand saws that our fathers before us used, and they may well have been given them by older guys along the way. We are of a generation that refers to any hand-held circular saw (aka 'cutoff saw') as a "Skilsaw". Skil was a prolific maker of the first hand-held circular saws, and any manufacturer's saw of this type is still referred to as a "Skilsaw" by guys of my generation. My Dad's first such saw was made by a firm named Mall. Dad found the saw in the ruins of a burned-out building. He salvaged the housings, guard, arbor and gearing. Dad was taking some night school course in Manhattan, and Mall had a parts depot near there. So, Dad ordered the parts to rebuild the saw. We did it together when I was maybe 6, watching him and learning. Dad cut a LOT of framing lumber for alterations in our house with that saw, and I would likely still be using it. Unfortunately, a thief got into our shop and cleaned us out of power tools when I was a kid. Dad never found a new cutoff saw that stood up to the work that old Mall saw did.

I had an old aluminum-case Black and Decker saw, a yard sale find, and used it until cutting pressure treated lumber burned out the old windings. I replaced it with a Milwaukee cutoff saw, US made, back in 1985 and have been using that ever since. Tools used to made to last a few lifetimes, or so it seemed. I am old enough to find myself thinking that stylized molded plastic housing on power tools just does not look right to my eye.

Years ago, Black and Decker was the name in electric drills and cutoff saws. Heavy aluminum housings, and plenty of beef to the tools. Contractors used them hard and those old Black and Decker tools stood up to it. At one point, Black and Decker was said to have been the largest manufacturer of electric drills in the world. Now, about all that carries the Black and Decker name is stuff like Chinese-made toaster-ovens and coffee makers.

Another pet peeve of mine concerns the handles on many tools, particularly ratchet wrenches. Why the manufacturers think everyone needs soft molded handles is pretty obvious. Either the newer generations have softer hands, or it is just cheaper to imbed a plain steel handle in soft foam/plastic than to produce a knurled steel handle. Similarly, I like the old pliers which had forged designs in the handles for grip rather than being dunked in plastic.

Another pet peeve concerns hammer handles. Nowadays, instead of fitting and wedging in wood handles, hammers have the handles 'potted' with resin, or have molded fiberglass handles. Another skill my father taught me was to 'hang' a handle in a hammer or axe or hatchet. Shape the handle with a 'spokeshave' and rasp (my father's, which I still use), drive the wedges and all set. A hardwood hammer handle feels and looks right to my eye. A molded handle or a handle set in the head using resin looks wrong to me. Just a dinosaur, I guess.

At the risk of being hung off the proverbial yardarm, I will say that there are times when a real pipe wrench or Vise Grips is the only way to grab onto a chewed-up bolt head or nut, or onto a bent and corroded studbolt that defies a 'stud driver' (either cam or wedge type). When all else fails, sometimes there is no recourse but to put a pipe wrench onto things other than plumbing or piping.
 

reggie_obe

Titanium
Joined
Jul 11, 2004
Location
Reddington, N.J., U.S.A.
Almost any wrench brand made in the USA but Crapsman.
I don't need a wrench with a free replacement guarantee. I need a wrench that doesn't easily break, forcing me to own two of every common size wrench and socket.
 

Salem Straub

Cast Iron
Joined
May 22, 2012
Location
WA, USA
My great-grandfather worked for Millers Falls back in the 1960's.

They were gone long before my time but I have a few screwdrivers kicking around from them. I carry one in my pocket pretty much everywhere I go - flat bladed screwdriver is useful in a lot of situations.

I also have a MF bench grinder my brother picked up cheap at a tag sale. Sat on my back porch for a year and got rained and snowed on, but it started right up when I plugged it in and still runs nice and quiet.
Millers Falls made quite a wide range of tools, it seems. I have a really nice little set of MF hand carving chisels that my uncle gave me a few years ago, some of which I use pretty frequently. I have a 9" MF angle grinder... found it second hand, beastly and still runs well! Heavy thing with all metal frame. I've seen MF carpenter's hammers and other items over the years. Generally speaking, I buy MF brand stuff if I see it second hand.
 

John Garner

Titanium
Joined
Sep 1, 2004
Location
south SF Bay area, California
I'm a huge fan of several long-gone tools:

1. J H Williams Crescent-type adjustable wrenches with the D-shaped jaw guide. For some reason, I particularly favor the ones William's branded for Armstrong, Boker, and Channellock.

2. The Proto heavy duty (Ridgid pattern) pipe wrenches, which had forged steel handles instead of the ductile iron handles used by Ridgid.

3. Schick forged aluminum pipe wrenches, which were made by Schick Aluminum in Belmont, California. The Schick wrenches have aluminum handles, jaws, and adjusting nuts, with hardened steel inserts to gnaw the pipe. The Schick aluminum pipe wrenches were half the weight of Ridgid's aluminum wrenches.

I also miss open-head ratchets such as those made by Duro Metal Products (Duro-Chrome and Indestro brands), Pendleton Tool (P&C, Proto, and Challenger brands), and Thorsen (Action and Thorsen brands). The latter two makers used knurled cylindrical grips, Duro used a less-desirable flat-panel grip.

Finally, I'll argue that the current Craftsman oval-head ratchet that's made in Taiwan is both a better design and better manufactured than any of the U S manufactured Craftsman ratchets that Danaher made after the discontinuance of the fine-tooth, round-head model in the mid 1980s or thereabouts).
 

Doozer

Titanium
Joined
Jul 23, 2001
Location
Buffalo NY
I miss Porter Cable. Yes, there is still something being sold under the same name, but like Grandpa's second wife, just not the same.

The old Porter Cable was always making something innovative, whether it turned out to be useful or not. I mean hell, they bought a product line from our esteemed leader here back in the day.

Obviously now it is just Dewalt's cheapo brand, or Black and Decker with cheap lipstick, however you want to look at that.
I have an 8" Porter Cable belt sander, made by the Syracuse Sander Company.
Probably from the 1940s. Porter Cable made their Production lathe, and the
very cool Carbo-Lathe, designed for form tooling and carbide tooling.
Rigid like a big turret lathe, as not to chatter from form cutter tooling.
It had a vertical dovetail on the bed, front and rear. Kind of like a Rivett
8 or 608, but on the front and rear. Super innovative lathe for the time.
I want to build one some day, out of 12"x12"x3/4" box steel tubing and
use linear guide rails on the bed, instead of dovetails. Mine will have
a carriage on the front and one on the rear, set up to be controlled
independently, both from the front. Probably manual and not CNC.
Because that's how I roll.

--Doozer
 

FamilyTradition

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 24, 2018
Location
Greenfield, Mass
Millers Falls made quite a wide range of tools, it seems. I have a really nice little set of MF hand carving chisels that my uncle gave me a few years ago, some of which I use pretty frequently. I have a 9" MF angle grinder... found it second hand, beastly and still runs well! Heavy thing with all metal frame. I've seen MF carpenter's hammers and other items over the years. Generally speaking, I buy MF brand stuff if I see it second hand.
They made pretty much everything under the sun at one point in time, I would say. In the late 19th-early 20th century they absorbed a lot of smaller firms that made different tools. I've read up a lot on Millers Falls history here: https://oldtoolheaven.com/millers-falls/mf.html

I picked up a set of Millers Falls micrometers the other day from Craigslist.

I really like the style of those old metal power tools. My generation missed the age of really nice, stylish, American-made tools.
 

Scottl

Diamond
Joined
Nov 3, 2013
Location
Eastern Massachusetts, USA
Basically it has come down to if you want those quality old tools you have to either buy used or the occasional NOS on ebay.

Life in post industrial America I guess. We still make things but a lot less than we used to.
 

Salem Straub

Cast Iron
Joined
May 22, 2012
Location
WA, USA
They made pretty much everything under the sun at one point in time, I would say. In the late 19th-early 20th century they absorbed a lot of smaller firms that made different tools. I've read up a lot on Millers Falls history here: https://oldtoolheaven.com/millers-falls/mf.html

I picked up a set of Millers Falls micrometers the other day from Craigslist.

I really like the style of those old metal power tools. My generation missed the age of really nice, stylish, American-made tools.
Fascinating reading on the company history there. Thanks for the link!
 
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