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I bought a large set of Kobalt tools from Lowe's when they first came out and were still being made by JH Williams(a division of Snap-On). I've been quite happy with that set of tools.

Today I wanted to get some "trail' tools for the FJ so headed over to Sears to see what they had. Sears didn't open until 10am, so I headed to Lowe's. Lowe's has most of the Kobalt mechanics tools on clearance, so grabbed a few for the tool bag, knowing they would not be as good as quality as what I was use too.

Here is a few pics of a 19mm wrench. The larger one is the one made by Williams. I believe Danaher makes the Kobalt brand now along with Craftsman, NAPA, Allen, and Gear Wrench. Although the Kobalt brand made by JH Williams was not the same quality as a real Snap-On tool, it was more than adequate for a shadetree mechanic like myself.

Another "tool" you use to be able to get at Lowes that I miss is Record vices. I bought two Record vices back then too. You can't find that quality in a local store any more. I heard Irwin bought Record and that was the end of them. :(


 

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Not to many tools with "USA" stamped on them these days. If you had gone into Sears you would have been disapointed also. I was in a Sears the other day looking at some impact wrenches and bought floorjack that was on sale. Tools just don't seem to be like what they used too. I'm glad I have a lot that have been passed to me by my dad that are 30-40 years old. I was in a line of ten people at one point and heard a man arguing with a salesperson trying to return a broken tool. He was told that not all craftsman tools have the lifetime warranty anymore. What haapened to the days when you would just walk in with a broken Craftsman and walk out with a new one? I have a throwdown set of Kobalts from Lowes and have not had any issues yet. I think they have a limited lifetime warranty. They are good enough to carry in the truck and will do the job.
 

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Don't remember what forum I found this quote on a year or two ago. Don't know how accurate it still is, but though I would post it before I lost it. :)

[edit] Looks like I found it on the yotatech forum. (2008)
Kobalt vs Craftsman tools - Page 2 - YotaTech Forums

Hi all,

There seems to be a lot of confusion out there in the hand tool world about who makes who and the relationships between various tool companies. I just thought I would chime in with my 2 cents, and set the record straight a bit. I hope that by understanding the real relationships between various tool brands, that it will be easier to compare tool brands on a more apples to apples basis, and to understand why certain brands might seem rather similar.

There are really 3 major players out there in the USA tool market right now. I won't try to go through every brand made by each as they might make and market tools under a multitude of names. I will try to touch on the major brands made by each, which I see in this discussion. I will also mention 3 or 4 smaller players that are worth consideration also.

MAJOR MANUFACTURERS

1) STANLEY
a) MAC Tools (Top End)
b) Proto Tools (High Quality Industrial)
c) Black Hawk (High Quality but mostly made in Taiwan)
d) Husky (Home Depot store brand)
e) Stanley (Wal-Mart and Discounters)

2) DANAHER
a) Matco Tools (Top End)
b) Armstrong Tools (High Quality Industrial)
c) Silver Eagle (High Quality but mostly made in Taiwan)
d) Grey Pneumatic (Industrial quality but mostly made in Taiwan)
e) Kobalt (Lowes Store Brand)
f) Craftsman (Sears Store Brand)
g) NAPA (Napa Store Brand)
h) Allen
i) Gear Wrench
j) K-D Tools

3) Snap-On
a) Snap-On Tools (Top End)
b) JH Williams Tools (High Quality Industrial)
c) Blue Point (High Quality but mostly made in Taiwan)
d) Branded hand tools for New Holland and others - mostly Taiwan
e) Bahco
f) Sioux Tools
g) ATI Tools

MINOR PLAYERS BUT STILL LARGE
4) S-K (once part of Facom - now independent. Starting to see S-K tool trucks competing with Snap-On / Mac / Matco / Cornwell)
5) Cornwell (Image similar to Mac / Matco / Snap-on. Claims quality of comparable levels - however your mileage may vary)
6) Wright tools. (Can compete easily at the Matco / Mac / Proto / Armstrong levels of quality)
7) Lisle tools (much smaller - but many almost unique tools)

EUROPEAN (just for good measure - major players)
1) Stahlwille - The Snap-on of Europe. Best of the best - king of the hill.
2) Facom - Literally a truck brand there like Matco / Mac / Snap-on here.
3) Hazet - Very nice in most cases
4) Gedore - Quality industrial grade

I have not touched on specialty makers such as pliers (Vise-Grip / Channel-Lock USA - or Knipex in Europe - or similar such companies)

Now all this being said.....

I think it is now possible to understand why for example Craftsman and Kobalt are often of similar designs and similar quality. They are both store branded tools made by Danaher - and often in the same manufacturing facilities on the same production lines and by the same people. There might be slight differences in fit and finish or individual features of course. Or look at the new Craftsman Professional brand wrenches. You can sit them beside a full out Matco and they will compare quite well. Most of the Craftsman Professional line can be compared to either Matco or Armstrong products. Can you guess why? Look up on the internet - and you will see Danaher is selling craftsman professional tools to Industrial customers.

So the bottom line is this. Know WHO actually MAKES your tools. Find out WHERE they are made if possible - which manufacturing plant. You will often find more similarities than difference between brands that are marketed against each other. Now I am not saying that - say - Kobalt - is of the same quality as a Matco. They are not. They use different grades of steel - different castings - and obviously the Matco is made to a much higher level of overall fit, finish and quality. Just like GM has a Cadillac - and a Chevrolet - so Danaher has a Matco - and a Kobalt. Thats just good business. But just like a comparison between say a Pontiac and an Oldsmobile used to be rather difficult - a comparison between a Kobalt / Craftsman / Napa might have the same difficulties. The models are going to look very similar - and have very similar features. Slight differences in fit and finish - and of course price - will be the major separating factors.

I hope maybe this will be of help to someone out there. Have a great day - and keep turning those wrenches!
 

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^^^very interesting. I've always been a craftsman man. I'm sure a snap-on would feel awesome, but I'm not spending that much on a wrench.
 

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If I remember right, ten or more years ago you could get Master Mechanic tools from True Value that were made in the USA. I used to buy them for the company I worked for.

Craftsman is still my go-to brand. They do a fine job but without paying for the name like Snap-On. I've used Snap-On tools on occasion that belonged to friends that are aircraft mechanics and diesel mechanics. While they are fine tools, I never got addicted to them and don't really see that they would make a mechanic any more efficient and therefore make the tools pay for themselves.

The best place to buy Snap-Ons is on Craigslist when a woman gets rid of her old man's tools for pennies on the dollar. :(
 

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If I remember right, ten or more years ago you could get Master Mechanic tools from True Value that were made in the USA. I used to buy them for the company I worked for.

Craftsman is still my go-to brand. They do a fine job but without paying for the name like Snap-On. I've used Snap-On tools on occasion that belonged to friends that are aircraft mechanics and diesel mechanics. While they are fine tools, I never got addicted to them and don't really see that they would make a mechanic any more efficient and therefore make the tools pay for themselves.

The best place to buy Snap-Ons is on Craigslist when a woman gets rid of her old man's tools for pennies on the dollar. :(

I couldn't agree more with this post. I have a few generic hand tools that I've had for years, still working good and getting the job done. Of that top of my head the only generic hand tools that I've destroyed were socket wrenches. Blew out there insides more than once. Plus I've sheered some generic socket extensions in half a couple of times. But on the whole, if it gets the job done, I'm not complaining.
 

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Just watched a bit on Stacey David's Gearz about Cornwell Tools. I like family owned and operated, will have to check out their product.
 

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I've been wrenching for years and I have yet to find myself in a situation that my craftsman tools have not been able to handle.

Snap on, matco etc, have some good tools, but way overpriced IMHO.
 

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If I remember right, ten or more years ago you could get Master Mechanic tools from True Value that were made in the USA. I used to buy them for the company I worked for.

Craftsman is still my go-to brand. They do a fine job but without paying for the name like Snap-On. I've used Snap-On tools on occasion that belonged to friends that are aircraft mechanics and diesel mechanics. While they are fine tools, I never got addicted to them and don't really see that they would make a mechanic any more efficient and therefore make the tools pay for themselves.

The best place to buy Snap-Ons is on Craigslist when a woman gets rid of her old man's tools for pennies on the dollar. :(
Speaking from an aircraft mechanics view point. I have several brands of tools, Snapon , Mac, S&K, Craftsman, ect, ect. They each have thier standout from the crowd hand tool. As a paid for my job mechanic, The best tool for the job is a very positive statement. I have 3 complete sets of tools, the ones I use for work, the ones in my rollaway at home & the ones in my motorhome for just in case I need to repair something away from home. Different quality for all 3 sets. If you aren't making your living from using your tools, why pay for the top of the line. But remember that if the off brand or lower quality hand tool breaks, you will have to go get another tool from some type of tool store. Rarely do I break the top quality tools, My job & my customers schedules depend on me to have the right tool for the job.
 

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I also use a mix. Craftsman is the bulk of my tool boxes (in the shop for Metal-tech and on the trail). I am by no means a professional mechanic and do my best to not be. (lots of good mechanics out there and happily send lots of work their way) My focus is fabrication (these brands are Miller, Haas etc.) However when it comes to a specialty tool, pitmen arm puller, brake line flaring equipment etc. they are Snap On since we are using it where we need it to work everyday if needed. I was gifted a Snap On floppy head 3/8" drive ratchet 4+ yrs ago and it by far my favorite ratchet. If I lost it, I would happily pay the $ for it. I understand why the big $$ brands are there. There is a time and a place for them for sure.

Mark
 

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You bring up a good point, Mark. There are many specialty items like you mentioned that are worth going to Snap-On for.

Another note regarding Kobalt, I bought a big set of their pliers, slip joints, linesmen, needlenose, etc a couple of years ago. The pliers and slip joints are garbage. They do not have a clue on how to make those joints to keep them moving on you.
 

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Lowe's just re stocked their tools with their new line. Guess what? TAIWAN!!! Couldn't believe it. Still a lifetime guarantee and some pretty good looking tools. I would doubt the quality of the steel and durability of the tools until shown otherwise. Another one bites the dust.
 

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I bought a Kobalt coping saw the other day... took a few strokes and ripped the plastic handle off. Not good.
Yes, but you're a beast Mike. :rofl:

I've got a mixture of some Proto and SK tools that are 30+ years old and they have been good tools. I've broken a couple of sockets that were replaced with no problems. I also have a pretty big set of Craftsman that are 20+ years old that are the same way and I've only had to replace a couple of sockets.

The really special tools I have are a cheap, off brand, in the bargain bin at (name your place.....Kmart, Walmart, etc.) little metric socket set with a rachet, short and long extension, spark plug socket, and about a dozen sockets in a little plastic box. I bought it almost 35+ years ago for working on my motorcycle. The set has been through 3 motorcycles, 2 VW's, 2 Fords, and 3 Toyotas of my own and several other bikes and vehicles of friends. They've been used, abused, beaten on, used with a cheater, and you name it, I haven't broken any part of the set yet (knock on wood). I paid less than $10.00 for the set. Not to bad of an investment.
 

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Lowe's just re stocked their tools with their new line. Guess what? TAIWAN!!! Couldn't believe it. Still a lifetime guarantee and some pretty good looking tools. I would doubt the quality of the steel and durability of the tools until shown otherwise. Another one bites the dust.
Taiwan is a definite step up from most Chinese products.
 

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I guess I got the good stuff from the lowes pics. Seven years ago I moved to Ohio and invested around $1000 on tools and have never had an issue with them. I don't use them everyday but every week. Individual long Allen wrenches would be something I would invest some money in I'm tired of cutting the tips off the ones I have currently.
 

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All my home tools are Snap-on, Craftsmen, Matco, and a few odd and ends... Wont take my good stuff out to the races... to many sticky fingers. God made Harbor Freight for that purpose. Lol. Still amazed on what "grows legs and walks away" out in the desert.
 

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I have always been a Craftsman guy be cause their tools were reasonably priced, US Made, and while not being Snap-on, Matco, or MAC quality, they were good enough for the serious hobbyist. Also they had the advantage of being easily replaced by going to Sears, as opposed to having to deal with a tool truck guy.
Sadly Craftsman appears to be going down the same road as Kobalt. While at Sears this weekend noticed that their latest ratchets are all made in Taiwan. All of the wrenches I looked at with the exception of their standard combo wrenches, and the Professional combo wrenches were made in China or Taiwan. I noticed that the Standard Crossforce wrenches were US made and the Metrics were China or Taiwan. Probably old stock Standards. Sockets, extensions and screwdrivers in their standard line are still US made. Evolv and Universal lines are all import.

There is a pronounced difference in the quality of US vs Taiwan ratchets. Which brings me to the question of the value of the Craftsman Warranty. I would be a seriously upset customer, if I brought in a broken US made Craftsman tool and was handed a Chinese inferior quality tool as a replacement.
This applies to all of you who have quality, older Husky and Kobalt tools as well. If you break those they are absolutely going to be replaced with Chinese/Taiwanese crap. Any thoughts?

I realize this post focuses a lot on country of origin, but in our current economic state I think that supporting US manufacturing is extremely important. And I do think US made tools are of superior quality to those made in elsewhere.
All of this is pushing me to look at reasonably priced, Industrial and Professional brands as an alternative. Armstrong and SK are both pretty readily available on the internet, not too expensive and excellent quality US made tools.
 

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For the price of a really good professional set, I could easily buy 3-5x regular set. I hear the issue with tools breaking, but in this day and age of lifetime warranties, buying 2x sets, breaking one part or set, reverting to using the 2nd set and repairing the first when I have time is still cheaper and arguably less downtime than breaking a part of a single pro-set.

Still using the walmart $10 socket from 12 years ago, and have the 2x costco 200 pc crescent tool sets when they were on clearance for $60.
 

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currently I still have Snap-On, Mac, Craftsman, Husky, and Kobalt. wrenches and sockets.
Our local Lowes really BLowes. They didn`t have squat as far as wrenches or individual sockets. Up until this Christmas season after being open for at least 5 years did they decide to get creative and start stocking individual wrenches and sockets. but they still lack in 6 point and other various common tools.
Unfortunately I still shop craftsman at Sears bc they have a huge selection and most likely have what I need. I also have other brands of specialty tools and Lisle is a decent company as is OTC etc.

I recently went to **** depot for a 3/8 inpact gun as I did like the husky line, they have the gun but absolutely no 3/8 drive impact sockects, so I asked the floor person and they didn`t have an answer, so off I went to BLowes and bought the Kobalt 3/8 impact gun along with a set of 3/8 metric impact sockets and so far I`m pleased with this little gun...

My air tools consist of Ingersol Rand, Mac, Craftsman, and some cheaper MPP and CH air ratchets and whizzers.

I`m not a big fan of the junk sold at HBF. but I think I bought a 1/2 drive Deep impact sockets in metric that are very good...

my first sockets sets when I was a kid were Husky and that was almost 40 years ago.:lol:
 
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