You’ve heard the saying ‘you get what you pay for’? Manufacturers, advertisers and retailers use this slogan to persuade you that the more you pay for something, the better quality it will be. Sometimes it’s true and a brand name product really is superior to another. And sometimes, you’re just paying for a name.
Over the last 30 years or so, since my husband first began to fool around with tools and cars, and into his career in industrial, automotive and home maintenance, he has used just about every different kind and brand of hand tool. So he knows from experience as well as his research, just what tools have the best performance and which are worth the cost.
We have come up with a list of tool manufacturers. Our rubric for rating manufacturers is based upon quality of materials, performance, design, durability, customer service from dealers and cost.
Essentially we have found that tools made in the USA by unionized workers will, across the board, be a better purchase. These brand names include Craftsman, SK, Mac, Snap-on, Proto and Matco.
This is not just rhetoric; the tools are better designed, by stricter standards and created by trained professionals. Union workers have better training, more experience and safer conditions. It stands to reason that they will produce a better product.
American , Union-made tools are steel forged with highest quality alloys (blends of metals). Because they are made from sturdier materials following stringent standards, they do not break in general use, like the cheaper tools. This makes them obviously safer to use.
My husband injured his arm when a cheap socket wrench cracked. He was using the tool exactly as it was meant to be used. He was working safely. He just had a shoddy tool, provided for him by an employer seeking to ‘cut costs’. This injury occurred 5 years ago and still bothers him and makes some tasks very difficult to perform.
The union made tools are designed with tighter ‘tolerances’ meaning that, mathematically, the tools are made to fit more precise measurements. More precision means tools that hold, grip or manipulate a fitting with less ‘slop’ and more accuracy. This causes less slipping, sliding and shifting while in use. When a hand tool has better grip and less resistance, it is safer to use and works more effectively.
Because Craftsman and SK are made better, the companies are willing to stand behind their product and offer customer support. Sears which is the licensed Craftsman dealer, takes back any Craftsman tool and replaces it, no questions asked. They have a lifetime guarantee. This doesn’t just cover initial defects with the tool, but also protects against problems may encounter years down the road.
Snap-On and Mac will send a trained service representative out to the workplace to assist, advise and correct any problems that a worker may have with a tool. This is a huge advantage to an employer.
If you can replace a tool and get good customer service, you are saving time, money and labor costs. You’ve made an investment that pays off, both in the use you get, but also in the dependability of the product and your ability to replace it if need be. You actually have a form of insurance on the tool.
Basically if tools come from India or China you might as well avoid them, even as a gift. They are made rapidly under lax restrictions, with poor quality material, by untrained workers who work in dangerous conditions.
Ironically, the manufacturers are generally American companies; their policy is referred to as ‘lean manufacturing’. This translates to ‘lower costs for materials and labor’. They seek out the cheapest methods, material and manpower. They claim to ‘pass the savings on to you’. Not true; cheap tools are not that inexpensive. You don’t save much. And if they break, don’t work as well, can’t be returned and are unsafe to use, where is your savings? Overall, they cost you more to use, in down time, wasted time, replacements, and most of all injuries and damage.
Our recommendation is that for home or personal use, Craftsman tools which are less expensive than the other brands listed, is the best investment for your money. You have the guarantee and Craftsman tools last a long time and provide good service.
If you are buying for your employer or you are an employer, you might want to choose the Snap-on or Mac. Having access to an on-call service representative could potentially save thousands of dollars, improve productivity, quality of work, and certainly promote safety. How much more American can we be than to support our countrymen and buy our own products?