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captainmay

Hand Tools

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captainmay
What brand does anyone/everyone use for hand tools?  I ask because I used to be a pretty die-hard Craftsman fan.  They were good, quality tools made in America that you could go to the closest Sears and exchange when you broke them.  And there's nothing like walking into a tool section, browsing all those tools that you may or may not need, and handling the ones you think you do.  Even on the farm, most of the hand tools we use are Craftsman.  The only time I didn't want Craftsman tools was when I was in the military and deployed to parts of the world where there were no Sears around to exchange tools when you broke them.  In that case, we always took Snap-on.
Now, though, every Craftsman hand took I get feels cheap, like a Tonka toy, and its made overseas.  They are light to hold and you just know they are an inferior tool.  Some things that you bought with a lifetime guarantee are being replaced by folks at Sears with tools that do no not have lifetime guarantees (tape measure's for one).  Others, such as ratchets, are being rebuilt or they give you a rebuild kit for them.
I know there are many popular brands at the big hardware stores.  I've held them, felt them, inspected them.  They all seem like decent brands, but they are all made overseas.  I know its not as much in vogue anymore, but a lot of us still like to buy good quality products made in our home country.
I've found a company out of Illinois called S&K tools that seem to make quality tools, in America.  I only have a set of their long reach pliers, but they do feel like very good quality.  However, they do not have a storefront (I had to order them online) and they are much higher than Craftsman tools used to be.  While I think they are a good substitute for now, I'm still looking for that "new brand" I can latch onto.  Anyone else facing these issues?  And has anyone else found a solution?

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sorkyah
kobalt tools from lowes... most of their stuff is pretty inexpensive but heavy duty. Their stuff isnt made here in the US, but it doesnt feel half bad and it too has a lifetime warranty
 
ive always been a matco fan
but when they break and tool truck isnt due for a week, i head to lowes on the way home and grab what i need as a backup
 
Harbor freight is another choice as long as you keep to the hand tools
anything other than ratchets, sockets, wrenches, and screwdrivers... and its hit or miss
 

ATGATT... ATTATT, two acronyms I live by.
 

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snowdriftless
I think there are three levels of tool quality:
 
Pro-Grade: Snap-on, MAC Tools, etc...
These tools are expensive but will last a lifetime.
 
Home Grade: Sears, Lowes, Menards, Auto Zone, etc...
Generally good enough for the home mechanic. Kobalt and Craftsman are likely the best options from this price set. I just got this for Christmas and the quality looks top notch.
 
"POS" Grade: Harbor Freight and other associated "value" brands
These tools will do in a pinch but not suitable for long term use. I received a set from harbor freight as a wedding present and had ratchets break on me. 
 
 
 

P1: Vice? I have no vice, I'm as pure as the driven snow!
P2: Yeah but you've been drifting
 
All the gear all the time!

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captainmay
I agree with anyone mentioning snap on or matco or similar tools. However, the problem for me is that those trucks don't stop at my house. 
I've seen a lot and used a few of the Kobalt brand of tools. A buddy of mine has a Kobalt box full of Kobalt tools. They do seem to be good quality. I'm still just looking for an American manufacturer I guess, a good replacement for Craftsman

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cndnmax
The whole it's not good quality because it's made overseas is way overplayed, I'd have a hard time finding something in my house that wasn't made overseas.
Most of my tools are craftsman simply because I've gotten great deals on most of them, haven't really had any issues with them. I have a few kobalt stuff and they seems like decent quality. I've gotten harbor freight stuff if it's something that quality is not important (I got an impact socket for the fz's rear axle for $3 vs $10-17 at Sears)
 
I have no need nor the desire to purchase "professional" quality tools.

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sorkyah
You can order snap-on and matco tools online, home depot carries milwaukee brand tools which is a bit more expensive but old school craftsman quality
 
for warranty just ship it back to em matco and milwaukee will pay for warranty return shipping snapon is a pita to do so
 
Harbor freight has their pittsburgh"pro" line which although made in china are decent quality for the price
and take up half of my toolbox at work(auto tech)

ATGATT... ATTATT, two acronyms I live by.
 

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captainmay
I didn't mean to imply any overplayed notion that everything made overseas is poor quality (after all, I do love motorcycles made by a certain foreign manufacturer). I'm just saying since Craftsman has started having their tools made overseas, the quality has certainly declined.
And I, too, own many things that were made overseas. However, I attempt to purchase items that were made in America if possible, hand tools being one of them.
 

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captainmay
I did not know Milwaukee made hand tools. I have a few of their power tools. I know they are having some of their manufacturing done overseas now, but they used to be entirely made in America and they are very good power tools. I am going to have to look into their hand tools

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grahamfz07
Its tough now to buy decent hand tools without going prograde., Im glad my Dad started buying me tools at an early age. All my craftsman stuff is 20 years old now, and never had any issues with them. I have milwaukee power tools which seem pretty decent quality, everytime im at home depot it seems like they have another hand tool or two on the shelf. I will probably give them a go when i need something else

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jake
I've been a mechanic for a long time and I have MAC SNAP-ON ect... but Craftsman is great IMO and I love Gearwrench. Snapon ratchets for the win though.

2015 FZ-07 2003 2014 GSXR 1000

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sorkyah
+1 for gearwrench.... forgot about them

ATGATT... ATTATT, two acronyms I live by.
 

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yamahaha
Most of my stuff is mastercraft (commonly known as mastercrap). Much the same as craftsman. Ratchets and sockets are no hell.
 
You can abuse it and break it. Take it back to the store and they hand you a new one. No receipt and no questions.
 
 

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ornery
I think everybody here is mostly in agreement. Snap-on is best, but ludicrously overpriced. J.H. Williams would be a smart alternative.  I've been buying Craftsman for over 40 years, mostly because I have a Sears within a mile to replace broken tools easily. Now, they even offer more professional grade stuff, that can be had with promotional pricing.  I picked up a sweet 1/4" Flex head, 72 tooth ratchet from Lowes for my son's growing tool collection.  I doubt even Snap-on is much better quality.  I'll add a link to it when their site is back up.  Gotta get one for myself someday!
[video src=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5woFINzQPc]
As I said in this video, my first goto tools for mechanical work is a 3/8" slim, flex head ratchet with deep well 6 point sockets.  For power tools, corded or cordless, Milwaulkee is first choice.

“The real cycle you're working on is a cycle called yourself.”
— Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values)

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garrim
I have all Craftsman tools minus my allen keys. My father has all craftsman tools except for some really random tools and some drill bits and specialty power tools, etc., has had them for decades. The great thing about Craftsman was always that you can walk into any Sears with your broken tool and walk back out with a brand new one. But now Lowe's has Kobalt, and Home Depot has Husky, both of which also have lifetime warranties. I think they on par with the quality of Craftsman stuff. But really, just pick one of the ones with lifetime warranty. It'll still do the job for however long before it breaks, and if/when it does, just go swap for a new one. If you are doing stuff all day every day where you need your tools, you're going to spend the money for Snap-On/Matco because your livelihood depends on not having downtime from tools breaking. But for just tooling on a bike occasionally, there's honestly no reason unless it fits your budget and/or you just simply want the higher quality tools.

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Cruizin
I use Kobalt for new stuff, it's ok.
 
But man, I go to Pawn shops and look thru all the bins and snag individual Snap-on Sockets and wrenches. Funny, if they have a complete Snap-on wrench or socket set, they charge thru the teeth. But, if you go thru their bins and find the individual sizes you need, it's like a buck per socket or couple bucks per wrench.
 
So I have some cool tool pouches for the road full of Snap on stuff.

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wickedtwister
My father and grandfather were both mechanics so I inherited a lot of nice snap on, matco, ect tools. 2 complete 6ft tall 70s era snap on tool boxes worth... The first thing I reach for is the snap on stuff. It's just a nicer tool which you pay a premium for.
 
I also have a large number of old school craftsman tools. They are fine until the break and are replaced with their new crap. A majority of my ratchets are craftsman. And I'll often go with 10 at a time to be replaced. They do have a lot of toy tools now. So I stick with sockets, wrenches, and ratchets.
 
If I'm doing something that may potentially or intentionally break a tool ill usually go to harbor freight just because they are disposable. All in all I probably have 6 or 7 complete sets of sockets and wrenches in both standard and metric.
 

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Beemer
Some tools I'm more particular with than others, depends on the tool. I like shooting over to Harbor Freight once in awhile with some fun money and buying a bunch of cheap stuff I don't have but may need at some point. I bought a nice Milwaukee electric impact wrench there awhile back for $40 bucks and it worked like a champ, is heavy duty. Six rusted on truck bed bolts were no more afterwards. I love that store!

Beemer

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bmwpowere36m3
Craftsman have always been a decent balance between performance and value... though I always hated their ratchets. Almost all their stuff is made overseas now, besides screwdrivers and pliers (IIRC). Its priced between tool-truck and HF, but made overseas. I have some old CMan socket and ratchets... and their new stuff is not the same.
 
I have a mix of tools, as I "inherent" things once in a while from my father (mechanic, mostly SO and Blue-Point)... a mix of SO, CMAN, SKF, Irwin and HF.
 
The SO dual-80 ratchets are the bees-knees... if you've used them, you know what I'm talking about. What surprised me, is that HF makes clones of those ratchets. Quality-wise, not quite like the SO... but nearly 1/5 of the price and THEY WORK just as well. My father was equally impressed. I remember when a LOT of stuff at HF was total crap, but they've really stepped up their game recently with some of their tools. Hell, I bought a framing gun and floor nailer... that lasted me my whole home remodel and still work. Bosch would have set me back $600+, whereas I only spend maybe $250.
 
Sockets: Mostly SK (made in US), very nice quality (I'd say rival SO) and reasonably priced (not cheap) for full-sets (1/4, 3/8 & 1/2 standard and deep).
 
Ratchets: A couple SO from my father (older 36 tooth), a couple Cman I bought and a few HF Pittsburg fine-tooth (SO clones).
 
Torque Wrenches: SO 3/8" and 1/2"
Wrenches: SO and CMan
 
Screwdrivers: CMan Pro and regular-line. I got some HF screwdrivers are well (just for around the house stuff, electrical, etc...) and they're actually really nice.
 
Pliers/Adjustable: CMan
I've also read very good reviews of Gearwrench and their 120XP ratchets.  I bought all my SK (S&K as you wrote) socket sets on Amazon... received promptly and very pleased.

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captainmay
My father and grandfather were both mechanics so I inherited a lot of nice snap on, matco, ect tools. 2 complete 6ft tall 70s era snap on tool boxes worth... The first thing I reach for is the snap on stuff. It's just a nicer tool which you pay a premium for.  
I also have a large number of old school craftsman tools. They are fine until the break and are replaced with their new crap. A majority of my ratchets are craftsman. And I'll often go with 10 at a time to be replaced. They do have a lot of toy tools now. So I stick with sockets, wrenches, and ratchets.
 
If I'm doing something that may potentially or intentionally break a tool ill usually go to harbor freight just because they are disposable. All in all I probably have 6 or 7 complete sets of sockets and wrenches in both standard and metric.

This is exactly what I'm talking about.  I have a lot of tools, and probably 95% or more are craftsman. The problem is when they break, they replace them with a much less quality tool that says craftsman. And when I go to buy new tools now, I can't find anything decent and still made in America.  I've seen the Kobalt stuff and the Husky stuff and Gearwrench stuff and all the other good ones listed and I'm not knocking it or saying its even poor quality. And whoever said nothing beats a snap on ratchet is quite correct.  If you've got the money and want to buy a tool that will be passed to your grandkids' grandkids, a snap on ratchet is what you want to buy
 
So far I'm very happy to learn Milwaukee is making hand tools now and I'm anxious to see and feel them in person. 
 

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captainmay
Craftsman have always been a decent balance between performance and value... though I always hated their ratchets. Almost all their stuff is made overseas now, besides screwdrivers and pliers (IIRC). Its priced between tool-truck and HF, but made overseas. I have some old CMan socket and ratchets... and their new stuff is not the same. 
I have a mix of tools, as I "inherent" things once in a while from my father (mechanic, mostly SO and Blue-Point)... a mix of SO, CMAN, SKF, Irwin and HF.
 
The SO dual-80 ratchets are the bees-knees... if you've used them, you know what I'm talking about. What surprised me, is that HF makes clones of those ratchets. Quality-wise, not quite like the SO... but nearly 1/5 of the price and THEY WORK just as well. My father was equally impressed. I remember when a LOT of stuff at HF was total crap, but they've really stepped up their game recently with some of their tools. Hell, I bought a framing gun and floor nailer... that lasted me my whole home remodel and still work. Bosch would have set me back $600+, whereas I only spend maybe $250.
 
Sockets: Mostly SK (made in US), very nice quality (I'd say rival SO) and reasonably priced (not cheap) for full-sets (1/4, 3/8 & 1/2 standard and deep).
 
Ratchets: A couple SO from my father (older 36 tooth), a couple Cman I bought and a few HF Pittsburg fine-tooth (SO clones).
 
Torque Wrenches: SO 3/8" and 1/2"
Wrenches: SO and CMan
 
Screwdrivers: CMan Pro and regular-line. I got some HF screwdrivers are well (just for around the house stuff, electrical, etc...) and they're actually really nice.
 
Pliers/Adjustable: CMan
I've also read very good reviews of Gearwrench and their 120XP ratchets.  I bought all my SK (S&K as you wrote) socket sets on Amazon... received promptly and very pleased.
Interesting post.  Seems like we have a similar way of thinking.  I got my SK tools through Amazon as well and I had a similarly pleasant experience.  And I guess I always thought the little dot between the "S" and "K" was an "&" sign.  Thanks for clearing that up and making me look closer haha 

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bmwpowere36m3
Don't get so stuck on made in US. Like I said, my father, myself and others were thoroughly impressed with the HF Snap-On dual-80 clone ratchets (made in Taiwain IIRC)... so much so, I wouldn't buy a SO ratchet.  I'd like to try out the Gearwrench XP120 as well.  There are some really nice tools made overseas... its not where it made, its quality-control and price-points.
More money saved = more tools.
SO/MAC/Matco are really nice, no doubt, but for mechanics/professionals its also the "service" you get. Tool truck guy stops by, fixes damaged tools, check torque wrench cals, buy some tools, sometimes free stuff, etc... its a relationship. And they come to you, you don't have to waste time looking/replacing tools.
 
However, some things its worth the premium... but sometimes you find gems.

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wickedtwister
When i was a tech at ford our snap on guy either quit or sold everything, he stopped coming to collect debts owed on tools, boxes, ect. a lot of techs got a lot of "free" tools due to it. some guys owed him thousands but when i left he'd never came back. granted that was 10 years ago and im sure they have evolved to automatic cc payments by now. I keep my broken snap on or matco stuff in my car if i see a truck stopped somewhere ill pull in and get replacements.

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bmwpowere36m3
I thought I was a "tool snob" because all my father worked with was SO tools and I spent a lot of time wrenching with him... However I don't do it for a living and don't make MONEY on my tools. So maybe one day... I'll have a full rolling chest of SO tools. Dream I can.

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pineappleunderthesea
I buy the cheap kits at Sam's club. After 5 years some of it can start rusting a bit depending how well you store/maintaim them, but I'm 10 years with my last kit and everything still holds up. I'm just an occasional wrencher, though.

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avanti
I inherited all my father's Snap-On (two, two-chest Snap-On roller boxes full). Added these to the many assorted I'd bought over my decades of wrenchin'. I did break an old Craftsman--for the first time a few months ago (torquing a exhaust band-clamp)--and pitched it... putting a Snap-On from the tool-box on the peg-board in its place.
 
Btw, long ago my father gave me a Snap-on branded break-over handle that Snap-On could no longer identify; the bottom one in the pic below.
 
 
 
 

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