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Who Makes What Tools

Last update: December 17, 2004


ęBy: John T. Blair (WA4OHZ)
1133 Chatmoss Dr., Va. Beach, Va. 23464; (757) 495-8229
The following excerpts were posted on one of the mailing list I subscribe to. I though the information was worth sharing.

I've tried to contact the original authors to get their permission, but did not get any replies to my emails. Since this information is available via one of several archives, I feel that I can present it here. However, the authors names have been removed from the discussions. (If they would like credit - please contact me.)


Someone wrote [in part]:

... but I never could figure out who makes the [Craftsman] hand tools.

To which someone else replied:

I'm not the final word on tools by any means, but since I work in the business, I've learned a little bit about it. Okay, here's more than you ever wanted to know.

Lowes now (as of earlier this year) is selling a line of Mechanics Tools called Kobalt which is made by Snap-On. They are good tools.

Home Depot's Husky brand is made by Stanley Mechanics Tools, a division of the Stanley Works. Husky are also good tools and have a good lifetime warranty (they'll even replace your broken Craftsman with an equivalent Husky).

Until 1994 or so, Stanley also made Sears Craftsman tools. Sears Craftsman is now made by Danaher Tools. They beat out Stanley on the contract over price. Danaher also manufactures MatCo Tools, the third largest player in the Mobile Automotive industry (behind MAC and Snap-On). Odds are, if you own any Craftsman tools that are older than about five years ago, they were made by Stanley in plants in Dallas, Texas, Witchita Falls, Texas, and Sabina, Ohio.

Stanley also owns MAC Tools and manufactures MAC tools in the same plants. Now here's the kicker: MAC Tools, Proto Tools (a very expensive industrial brand), Husky Tools, and, (prior to five or so years ago) Craftsman Tools are all made from the same forgings in the same plants. Proto is unique because it goes through addtional testing and certification because it is used by NASA, the military, and industrial customers (including General Motors).

There are three MAJOR players in the USA mechanics tool business: Stanley, Danaher, and Snap-On. Stanley and Danaher (almost identical in sales revenue at about $28 billion each) are the biggest followed by Snap-On. Each of these three manufacture and sell tools under a variety of brands (there are many other brands that Stanley makes that I haven't even named). The quality between these three manufacturers is roughly the same. I know its a bit of a let-down to hear that, but its a simple fact.

There are a hand full of other minor players (Vermont American, etc) and an endless list of Taiwanese import tool companies (some of which Stanley own as well as Danaher to serve the lower end consumer import brands at WalMart, etc). How do I know all of this? I work for Stanley Mechanics Tools, specifically with the Proto Industrial brand. I personally do not think that MAC, MatCo, or Snap-On branded tools are worth the extra markup since they use the same forgings and manufacturing processes that make Husky and Kobalt and pre-1994 Craftsman. Where you need to pay attention are things like ratchets and torque wrenches. There are different specifications of ratchets and you do pay for the difference. Some mechanics require a finer, more precise ratcheting mechanism than guys like me who just bang around in the garage on the weekends.

By the way, Metwrench is basically considered a "gimick" infomercial tool brand that is not considered as a serious competitor to Danaher, Snap-On, or Stanley. Then again, IBM once didn't see Microsoft as a serious force in the personal computer business. Hmmmm....


Then there was this discourse on FACOM brand tools:

> FACOM has been around forever. French company, says "American" in the name
> though I forget the whole acronym.

FACOM is Franco-Americaine de Construction d'Outillage Mecanique. French for "French-American Mechanical Tool Manufacturing". Got points in my french class for that.

> It's now one of the largest tool conglomerates in Europe.
>
> SK, I think, is an American company that recently has had a large part of
> its stock purchased by FACOM.

FACOM owns S-K outright. You'll notice (if you look through the catalogs from preceeding years) that the tools are becoming more and more alike. The S-K "pro" screwdrivers are now FACOM ergotwist screwdrivers. The "tuff1" ratchets are S-K pro ratchet handles avec FACOM innards. FACOM's ratcheting flare wrench now has S-K stamped on the side of it. I don't like it because we could get FACOM tools from S-K dealers for over 10 years, but now they're getting more and more reluctant to give us FACOM stuff, they'd rather sell S-K stuff. Which is why you get S-K catalogs instead of FACOM. If you specifically request (demand) a FACOM catalog, you get their _american_ catalog, which is abbreviated, along with a note to contact Griot's Garage. I've asked a French friend to get me a French market FACOM catalog, as they have all the good stuff that hasn't yet been absorbed into the S-K line. Ultimate Garage is a FACOM dealer as well as Griots, and I've been told (by richard?) they've got a catalog, dunno if it's FACOM's, but I'll order something and find out.

I was also wondering what the deal was with the S-K foundry? Presumably they still make some stuff stateside? No? I know there are others not mentioned, Cornwell has a foundry in Ohio, I think?

I'd kinda doubt that Williams uses the _exact_ same dies for Koalt and Snap-On. I compared the Kobalt combo wrench to one of my Snap-Ons, and they aren't the same. The Kobalt handle is pretty much rectangular in cross-section, and really does hurt your hand when you pull hard. The Snap-On is more rounded. As well, the Kobalt is visibly looser on the fastener. Maybe these are Snap-On rejects? Can't explain the handle differences, though. The breaker bars seem to share the same grip, though, it just seems the kobalt doesn't have those nifty machined indentations at the base.

I know Stanley owns Mac and Blackhawk (didn't know about Husky), but the Blackhawk stuff doesn't seem similar to the Mac stuff. These look awfully different to be from the same dies, shape wise. So the price difference is different steel in the better tools? Surely they can't be charging Mac prices for better plated Blackhawk stuff?

> FACOM also owns (large parts of) USAG (Italian?) and Beissbarth...

didn't know this. I'd like to find some USAG tools, just to try them.

 

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