- All Photos, text & errors by: Chris Breeden

Craftsman Tools Gets a New Chance.

After last years purchase, the Craftsmen line begins expanding its retail footprint.

1,000+ cool points to anyone that has used a dwell meter or knows what a set of points are.

1,000+ cool points to anyone that has used a dwell meter or knows what a set of points are.

Looking at the Ancient Tool Past:

Like many people, I have a number of Craftsman tools in my garage. Most of them came from my grandfather who worked at a Sears repair facility. Undoubtedly, he was able to take advantage of some employee discount the company had. He was a full-time Sears repairman and a part time Television & Radio repairman. I know it's hard to believe that at one time people would own a T.V. long enough and that they were expensive enough to justify repairing one. What's even more outrageous is the thought that people not only listened to a radio someplace other than a elevator and that they did it with enough frequency that a part in the radio could wear out. Also ludicrous is the notion that radios were so expensive that repairing them was a justifiable option. As hard as those things are to believe they are all true! All of my grandfather's tools are from the '50's to the '80's and are in as good of shape as they were when new. Years of use hasn't worn them out, but has shown them to be built properly and able to withstand 50+ years of use when handled as intended.

The number of times this 1/2 inch drive ratchet has been inserted into a floor jack handle in order to break a rusted bolt or nut loose is unbelievable. Yes, that's probably tool abuse.

The number of times this 1/2 inch drive ratchet has been inserted into a floor jack handle in order to break a rusted bolt or nut loose is unbelievable. Yes, that's probably tool abuse.

On Fat Cats:

In January of 2017 New Britain, Connecticut based Stanley Black & Decker purchased the Craftsman brand for $900 million. At the time, the company said the brand should make them $100 million a year in sales. That's $1 billion over the next 10 years. I don't know about you but I find the idea of holding a 900 million dollar note, for 9 years, a little unsettling, to say the least. Of course, that's just one more reason, in a long list of reasons, why I'm not a corporate fat cat. Anyway, Stanley Black & Decker seem to be perfectly fine with the idea and they will probably come out good in the end. Probably... Time will tell.

I strongly suspect that the reason this torque wrench has lasted so long, is because it may have never been used. Inch-pounds torque wrench? That's some pretty precision stuff.

I strongly suspect that the reason this torque wrench has lasted so long, is because it may have never been used. Inch-pounds torque wrench? That's some pretty precision stuff.

Nope... No Monopolies here, now move along.

The fact that hundreds of millions of dollars are being passed around isn't really the amazing thing in all of this (although it probably should be). No, the amazing thing is that one company now owns Stanley Tools, Black & Decker and Craftsman. I can name, and you probably can to, about 25 other major tool manufacturers just off the top of our heads, so this purchase probably isn't a case for the rise of the monocle wearing class. It does place three very well known brands (or eggs) into one company (or basket). I'm pretty sure I've heard something about that being a bad thing before.

I thought about doing a picture with the article you are reading pictured in the picture here. In trying to figure out how to do that, I gave myself a headache & gave up.

I thought about doing a picture with the article you are reading pictured in the picture here. In trying to figure out how to do that, I gave myself a headache & gave up.

The Rise of Mass Consumerism.

Now it may be "brand loyalty" speaking here, but I do not equate the quality of tool that Craftsman produces with that of Stanley and Black & Decker. This is mainly due to the fact that in the 1990's both companies (Stanley & Black & Decker) struggled to produce good quality products. The reason for that has to do with both being tempted by big box retailers into volume sales. In order to meet the low price points required for big box retail sales the quality of the tools started to slip. In contrast, Craftsman was always a product that was sold in, what at the time was, a large box retailer: Sears. I'm just not certain that Craftsman quality ever reached the low levels of the other two.

Haven't the foggiest idea what Kromedge is, but it's some durable stuff. This tap & die set works as well as a new one. Even has metric sizes in it.

Haven't the foggiest idea what Kromedge is, but it's some durable stuff. This tap & die set works as well as a new one. Even has metric sizes in it.

Job #1: Quality or Quantity?

So there's the question: Will the quality of Craftsman tools start to suffer now that they are owned by a company that has historically let its quality slip in exchange for quick box store cash? A week or so ago I was in a big box retailer and I had to do a double take at what I was seeing. I was at a Lowe's Home Improvement Store and spread out before me was a whole end cap full of Craftsman tools. In disbelief I got closer to see the prices. They were low, but the quality of the product was better than anything else the store was trying to sell. I ended up purchasing a brand new 52 inch Craftsman 18 drawer tool box. The quality was exactly what I have come to expect from Craftsmen products. The quality was, but the price wasn't!

Maybe this tool box will help with putting these two cars back together again? Sounds good anyway.

Maybe this tool box will help with putting these two cars back together again? Sounds good anyway.

The Price was Right!

The set cost me $698 before taxes. Harbor Freight is the store in my area that is the closest competitor to Lowe's. They do not sale a 52 inch tool box, in fact, the closest thing they do have is a 44 inch U.S. General brand tool box that costs $769. This smaller and more expensive option, does have more drawers, but that just means the drawers are smaller. The problem with the Harbor Freight chest is that it's construction isn't nearly as good as the Craftsman brand.

See that drill on the left? I'm willing to bet that it & power tools like it are the reason OSHA exists.

See that drill on the left? I'm willing to bet that it & power tools like it are the reason OSHA exists.

Just a Gimmick.

I'm sure this "NEW LOWER PRICE" bit might just be a gimmick to get fans of the brand name to start purchasing from Lowe's. Even if that is the case, I'm glad that I was able to take advantage of it. I'm pretty sure my grandfather would approve of that frugality & appreciate a brand new Craftsman tool box.

A 1 and 1/8 inch combo wrench. Never have I encountered a 1 1/8 inch nut or bolt, so I assume this wrench was made for the sole reason of using for leverage on another wrench. True mechanics know what I'm talking about.

A 1 and 1/8 inch combo wrench. Never have I encountered a 1 1/8 inch nut or bolt, so I assume this wrench was made for the sole reason of using for leverage on another wrench. True mechanics know what I'm talking about.

Let's Add it Up.

So what does Craftsman have going for it, what are its keys to success? The first one is, by divorcing itself from Sears, the brand can leave behind the stigma of being part of a company that might fail at any moment. Secondly, it cost its new parent company a lot of money, money that the company will have to earn back. In other words, the company has a vested interest in making sure it succeeds. They will be watching their newly acquired asset very closely. Ideally that will mean watching to see if something is starting to go wrong, like quality, and then fixing the problem before it became systemic. Lastly, Craftsman tools, while being owned by a completely inept company, was able to make it through the financial crap show that has been the last decade solely on name recognition. That's a monumental achievement, in and of itself. I say that because no one expected Sears to be around to honor that lifetime warranty that came with the higher price their tools cost. Those are the three things that Craftsman has going for it, as it arrives to its new home, and they might be more important than the history behind its name.

As useful as these wrenches are, you will NEVER put one of them on the right way up, with the first try!

As useful as these wrenches are, you will NEVER put one of them on the right way up, with the first try!

Final Thoughts.

Whether or not Craftsman fails or flourishes depends on its owners ability to market it correctly and their ability to keep quality at or above average standard. The first step they have taken is to get the tool line into one of the two largest home improvement stores in the country. Marketing seems to be doing good job. The products that were sent to those stores seem to be of a good quality and that indicates quality control is doing a good job. So far, so good...

This is definitely a different topic from normal, but don't worry! I still have a ton of Custom & Hot Rod stories to tell. Sometimes you have to pull the car into the garage and fix a few things. Keep on Cruisin'!

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Comments (25)

  • Yeah I was surprised to see them pop up at Lowes. Here's hoping it doesn't turn into just a brand name with mediocre products.

    Shared to the D_TRB USA facebook page Chris!

      1 year ago
  • I was very surprised seeing a Craftsman toolbox in a naval hospital delivery room. It made me feel at home... while my wife was in labor.

      1 year ago
    • About 20 years ago I was at the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego and all they had was Stanly tools. Good to see they've gotten a bigger budget!

        1 year ago
    • LOL. It was the old Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, about 36 years ago.

        1 year ago
  • Craftsman quality hasn’t been up to its historic levels for about 20 years. I noticed about 10 years ago that if one of my craftsman tools broke, it was the newest ones or the replacements i got under the lifetime warranty. More recently, I’ve been looking at hand tools for my kids as a starter set, and I can’t say I’ve been impressed with any of them. But more importantly for me is that with all the Sears stores closing, the closest store to me with a tool department that can honour the warranties is 70 miles away. Hard to make that trip worth it for a $10 tool.

      1 year ago
  • This Christmas was my 22nd anniversary of my craftsmen set of 1/2, 3/8, and 1/4 ratchet and socket set. (I was 9) The 1/4 ratchet broke internally and I took it to get it exchanged They warrantied it no problem. But you can tell just by holding them that the quality isn’t the same. Ya it’s still way better than most other rubbish that stores sell, but those ones of your grandpas will still be working fine when today’s new ones are shot.

      1 year ago
    • True! It's just so weird to think that consumers allow businesses to get away with making a worse product when they should be making a better one. Of course, they have to make money somehow!

        1 year ago
  • I don't mess around when it comes to hand tools, so I'm hoping Craftsman stays at the high end.

      1 year ago
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