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Maintenance & Workshop Talk The central area for general maintenance, trouble-shooting and modifications ------------ (Other technical forums on the site are model specific)

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Old 12-05-2012, 02:10 PM   #31 (permalink)
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The switch of suppliers of Craftsman tools has been mentioned by me and others in this thread several times. Here's an example of the difference. Last year I accidentally left my 11mm Craftsman Pro wrench under the hood of my truck after doing some work and lost it. I went to the local Sears to replace it and as soon as I picked up the new tool I thought something felt 'odd' about it. I couldn't place it right off, but it just didn't feel right. It was still labeled as 'professional' and I didn't see any other options aside from the RP wrenches, so I thought it must just be in my head but still couldn't shake the feeling something was off. When I got it home I was able to compare it to my older tools and you can see the difference below. (I didn't have another 11mm to compare it to, but here you see it between a 10 and 12)





You can clearly see the difference in the thickness of the shank. The new tool is much narrower at .153" vs the older tool's .253". That may not sound like much, but it makes all the difference in the world in your hand. Though it's harder to see in the photos, they also differ in the casting between the heads and the shank with the older tool having more metal in this area and the new one having more abrupt transitions...i.e. the newer tool is more prone to flex or breakage. I can't say anything about the quality of the steel. The new tool is made by Danaher while the older one is made by SK. I believe the new tool was made in the USA (as was the SK) but they may now be outsourcing them. They also carry different part numbers (I believe) and the older SK wrench has a small 'K' cast into it just after the 'professional' logo on the shaft.

This is an example of how Craftsman has gone down-hill. Had I broken my wrench and taken it in for replacement, I wouldn't be able to get an exact replacement - only the newer, cheaper version. So not an exact replacement. Still nicer than the RP wrenches, but a long shot off of the earlier version. And it's not like they lowered the price when they lowered the quality.

So in short I do still shop at Sears for tools, but with reservations.
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Last edited by zelatore; 12-05-2012 at 02:31 PM.
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Old 12-05-2012, 07:54 PM   #32 (permalink)
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I've been buying Kobalt tools lately. I've heard that they are Snap-On's mass market line. Whether that's true or not, they have worked well for me...
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Old 12-05-2012, 10:25 PM   #33 (permalink)
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and you know that Waterloo makes the Craftsman boxes...
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Old 12-06-2012, 03:08 AM   #34 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by div2 View Post
I've been buying Kobalt tools lately. I've heard that they are Snap-On's mass market line. Whether that's true or not, they have worked well for me...
Cobalt was originally made by J.H. Williams who also made some Snap-On stuff here in the USA. Now they too are made in China and Taiwan by Danaher.

They do seem to be a little nicer than Husky and seem to have a little more selection, but neither can touch Sears in that department.

Blasphemy though it seems, if I were simply looking for cheap tools I would have to consider the Pittsburgh line from Harbor Freight. You can't beat the price and a few of there offerings are decent. You just have to look carefully to separate the decent from the truly crap.
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Old 12-08-2012, 05:54 AM   #35 (permalink)
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:01 AM   #36 (permalink)
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Last night I wandered into Sears Hardware and was shocked at the percentage of Craftsman hand tools that are made in China, and NOT made in USA.

It wasn't that long ago that most of the Craftsman hand tools were made in USA. Now you have to look closely at the package. As a rule the "black box" hand tools are still USA-made. The red and gray box tools are made elsewhere, usually China.

And that's pretty darn sad.
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Old 12-08-2012, 11:27 AM   #37 (permalink)
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It's hard to say what the Sears strategy is here. I've always understood that they provided basically two brands of tools; Companion (now rebranded as Evolv) for the DIY people, and Craftsman for more serious wrenchers and mechanics. Companion tools had no warranty and were always known to be of suspect origin and quality. Setting aside the economic argument about globalization and outsourcing, Sears could still produce a high quality tool if it wanted to. Chinese factories are capable of producing the same goods as US factories if they are required to by the product line. If Sears wanted to maintain the quality of Craftsman tools they could, by providing the proper specifications, supervision, and quality control in China as they do here in the US. The whole thing looks like a hoodwink.
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Old 12-08-2012, 12:41 PM   #38 (permalink)
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While I like the idea of 'made in america', I'm not one to bang the drum about it overly much. I'm willing to pay a premium for a product from my country for the obvious economic reasons, but only if it offers me something in return - i.e. it's a better product. I don't blindly 'buy american'.

I do think in the tool market in particular though, there is a high degree of patriotism if not outright jingoism. Regardless of political or personal belief, I would think Sears could easily make a business case for 'made in america' tools.

But the sad fact is Sears has been getting cheaper and cheaper with their tool offerings. Examples already pointed out are the 'evolv' brand which is outright junk and in my opinion drags down the image of all the Craftsman offerings just by being in the same store with them, and the changing of suppliers for many of the Craftsman branded products to companies like Danaher who produce cheaper (and yes, often Chinese) versions of products once better made right here in the US.

They've also come to rely more and more on 'gimmick' tools; things that look like an all-singing, all-dancing one-size-fits-all solution. These sort of things come out every year at this time aimed at the gift market. I'm sure every guy has gotten something like this for Christmas at some point, likely from a female (or at least non-tool-using) member of the family who thought 'gee, Don likes to work on things...I'll get him this'. Good intentions, but bad execution as those sort of "tools" are invariably junk that end up getting tossed.

For a long time, Sears and the Craftsman brand were quality tools that the hard-core home/farm users could count on. They made their name by offering a wider selection of good quality at the upper-middle price range and they brought them to the masses by virtue of their many stores and catalog options. They were the first commonly available brand to offer the lifetime warranty, and they stood behind it without question.

There have always been better tools available at a premium from people like Matco or Snap-On, but the average guy didn't have easy access to these professional brands, and likely didn't actually need that level of quality or want to pay that level of price.

And there have always been cheaper brands available from any old hardware store, but they were of dodgy quality and selections were poor.

With the rise of cheap brands offering 'lifetime warranties' (though seldom as well implemented as Craftsman even today) Sears has taken a huge hit, and not just with it's tools. (Didn't they file Chapter 11 a few years ago?) Instead of sticking to what made the Craftsman brand as revered as it is, they started trading on that name and cutting quality in an attempt to gain market share. Sadly that seems to be destroying one of the great american tool brands.

They still offer some good quality tools at reasonable prices, but they are harder and harder to find among the gimmicks and cost-cutting going on today.

Once a reputation is damaged, it's very hard to bring back. Right now I'd say the Craftsman name is at the tipping point of loosing it's reputation entirely. Serious tool users (both home and pro) know what's what and understand where Craftsman exists in the overall spectrum both in the past and today. They've largely turned away from the brand. The general public still has an image of Craftsman as a quality tool, but they are beginning to realize - as pointed out by discussions like this - that the brand isn't what it once was. Sears needs to act NOW if they want to save the brand, and even at that it will take years to bring the general image back up to the level of respect it had in our fathers' time. They can still do it, but I fear they won't as it represents a long-term investment to rebuild their reputation and most executives are more interested in just turning a profit next quarter. If they let too many more years go by of poorer and poorer tool offerings the Craftsman name will loose all it's value. At that point I don't think they'll ever revive it.
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Last edited by zelatore; 12-09-2012 at 01:10 AM.
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Old 12-08-2012, 12:56 PM   #39 (permalink)
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As a follow-up to my complaints about Sears and Craftsman above, here's what I'd like to see them do:

Ditch the gimmick tools. Ditch the junk brand 'evolv' line. Go back to your roots of offering the widest selection at the highest quality outside of the tool truck brands. Go ahead and charge a premium - don't try to compete with the likes of Harbor Frieght, Lowes, or Home Depot - position yourself as a premium product; good enough for the pro but available to the average user, and price accordingly.

Make the tools in the US and bang the drum about it! This is a market that DOES care about such things, and will pay for it, so use that to your advantage!

You can't have it both ways; you can't compete with the bargain brands on price and still try to maintain your reputation as a premium product. There is nobody else in the market who fills the Craftsman position, and I don't see anybody positioned to take that part of the market. You've spent decades getting where you are, so don't throw it away.

In short, keep Craftsman...Craftsman. Good quality, good selection, good availability at the high end of the recreational/home-owner market.

If you want to expand the range, I'd suggest going up instead of down. There may be fewer customers for a higher-end Craftsman ratchet than a cheaper one, but you'll find people who like higher quality products but don't have access to the tool trucks - those guys will buy from you because of access. I think the current line of Craftsman premium ratchets are a good example of this. And this sort of thing will only improve the brand's image, whereas offering cheapo products may turn a quick profit but can do nothing but damage over the long term.



Of course, it may be that I simply mis-judge the tool market on the whole. Maybe the do-it-yourselfer is simply going the way of the dodo, and the market will only support bargain basement junk for the guy who picks up a wrench once a year and very high grade stuff for pros who earn a living with their tools. I hope not - that's a pretty sad commentary about life in the US over-all.
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Old 12-08-2012, 01:13 PM   #40 (permalink)
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Of course, if there's more money in making crap tools in China, then you can't blame them for doing just that. Better to sell ten thousand cheap tools, than a thousand expensive ones....
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