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TexasDude's avatar

What is a good, quality hand tool company?

Asked by TexasDude (25229 points ) January 21st, 2011

I’m done with Chinese made hand tools, including newer Craftsman stuff, because of a huge array of problems I have had with quality (everything from shitty metallurgy to inconsistent sizing of parts).

I do a lot of work that requires an array of hand tools, from woodworking and gunsmithing to home repairs and DIY stuff, and most of the tools I have just aren’t doing the job anymore and I want to replace them with high quality replacements. I’m thinking about buying up a supply of high-quality (with prices to match) American and European-made tools from the early to mid 20th century, to cover my basics, but before I do that, I’d like to know what modern brands aren’t shit-tacular quality these days. Can any of my handyman (or woman) Flutherbuddies give me some suggestions?

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45 Answers

WasCy's avatar

Good question. Great question. I’ll be watching the answers to this, myself.

I do know that if I were ever going to get a table saw, though, I’d get the SawStop. If you haven’t seen these video demonstrations of how it works, it’s an awesome machine.

funkdaddy's avatar

I was always suspicious of the Snap-On guy, because he comes to you in a bread truck bearing shiny gifts. It seemed to be marketed as high priced impulse buys. I only started buying their tools after several people recommended them and have always been happy with what I got.

They’re expensive though so I only get basics from them that I’ll get a ton of use out of.

I’m not sure about their woodworking tools, but their automotive/handyman stuff is built like you’d expect a tool to be built and seem to last forever.

TexasDude's avatar

@WasCy, I’m not really in the market for a table saw at the moment, but I’m going to keep SawStop in mind for the future, because I’ll probably inevitably have to get one anyway. Thanks!

@funkdaddy so SnapOn is good to go? I had never heard of them before, but I like what I see on their website. Thank you!

mammal's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard SnapOn are top quality, and i think the ratchets come with a lifetime guarantee, but that may be an urban myth, sounds too good to be true. European tools are good, German tools particularly, Swiss i imagine and American. Obviously bear in mind Metric or Imperial.

TexasDude's avatar

@mammal, awesome… another vote for SnapOn is convincing enough for me to give them a good look. SnapOn’s website (at least their UK site) confirms that they do have a lifetime warranty. I know that Craftsman still has a lifetime guarantee, but that doesn’t mean much to me if the quality just isn’t that great anymore in the first place… I do have my eye on a few very nice 50’s German punches, saws, and wrenches at a local antique store. They look really solid… and pretty to boot.

Thanks for your input!

crisw's avatar

Japanese hand saws, which cut on the pull stroke, are usually of very good quality.

I’ve had good luck with most tools Rockler sells.

TexasDude's avatar

@crisw, never heard of Rockler… I’ll check them out. Thank you!

shego's avatar

Snap-on is where you want to get your tools. They are great!! I know a girl who knows her tools. You’ll regret getting your tools from anybody else. The lifetime warranty is excellent. My dad has never had a issue with any if the tools he’s gotten from them. Plus their lightweight and extremely sturdy.
I fully back my belief in the Snap-On products I am Shego and I approve this message

funkdaddy's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard – yeah, after breaking too many Craftsman ratchets I went ahead and bought a 3/8” and ½” from SnapOn, no trouble since and it’s just a better tool. Like the first time you use a set of good chisels, it just seems right.

Their screwdrivers are great as well and if you need a specific allen/torx/whatever tool often enough, theirs are top notch. I just can’t always justify the costs if I’m not using something often.

Arbornaut's avatar

Silky saws are fantastic, japanese.
Also Bahco gear from sweden is shit hot.
I use both these brands professionally and have never been let down.

jerv's avatar

I am not a brand loyalist since different companies do different things well. The machine shop I work in has the same attitude; the reason for the mixed brands is not based on who was on sale at the time of purchase.

A bit also depends on your budget. So, could you please detail what sort of tools you are looking for? Are we talking wrenches, saws, drivers, all of the above, and/or something else here? And how much are you willing to pay?

TexasDude's avatar

@shego and @funkdaddy I think I’m going to go with SnapOn for screwdrivers, at least, because all of Fluther seems to like their stuff. I do a lot of work that requires sort of offbeat types of screwdrivers, and

@jerv, specifically, I’m interested in mallets (both rubber and brass), roll pin punches, wood chisels and rasps, planes, screwdrivers, hand saws, and maybe even pry bars (I broke a Pittsburgh brand pry bar once). Price isn’t that much of a factor for me. That said, I’m not going to pay $100 for a single screwdriver, or anything ridiculous like that. I’m willing to pay for quality, though. Also, I’m not opposed to buying mixed brands. I’m just tired of the cheapo crap I’ve had for a while.

@Arbornaut, cool, thanks for the recommendations. I’ve heard good things about Bahco before.

mammal's avatar

ah yes, Japanese tools, how could i forget, they are almost an art form.

TexasDude's avatar

Oh, also, @jerv, I need good vice grips and C-clamps too.

jerv's avatar

Broke a pry bar? that takes talent.

Okay, thanks for that detail. The woodworking stuff is out of my expertise as I work primarily with metal. We use a number of Bondhus drivers and I have yet to fuck any of those up. Beyond that, I am drawing a blank right now as it is after midnight here and my brain just oozed out of my ear :p

TexasDude's avatar

@jerv, yep… long story… sortof, lol. And no worries. I appreciate the link… I like their hex key sets.

woodcutter's avatar

I have good luck with “Klein” tools. I have a side cutter that has taken a lot of abuse for 14 years at least. “Channel lock” are good plier type tools. “Allen” is another. “Mac” brand tools are probably close to “Snap On” . Places that cater to plumbers, electricians, and heat and air mechanics sell the top shelf stuff. There are different grades of Chinese made tools. There’s the utra-shit no name crap that the price gives away the quality (cough-harbor freight-cough) and there’s some of the stuff at Lowes that is fine: Stanley, Cobalt,etc. It can be tough to find tools not made in China but they all aren’t bad. Tools are one of those things where the price is a pretty good indicator of quality. Sometimes you can target a specific duty for a tool meaning if you know it will be seldom used you might be able to get a cheaper version of it and still be OK. The oposite goes if you know you plan to hammer the hell out of it, go for the top of the line.
In my trade where I furnish all my equipment I always have to buy smart, meaning sometimes a mediocre tool will do fine for what I’m getting it for. I won’t cheese out on my circular saw because I usually fan the crap out of it so it can’t be a “Skill” or “Black and Decker” or anything sold at Walmart. It will be a “Milwaukee”. Most DIY’ers would be wasting money getting one. Money they could use elsewhere as a Walmart saw will last them forever.

TexasDude's avatar

@woodcutter I was actually going to ask about Stanley… (I kind of want a FUBAR… even if I don’t really have a specific or immediate use in mind for it).

I thought Harbor Freight was the shit when I first heard about them, and I bought a bunch of their “Pittsburgh” brand, China-made stuff because I was naive and intoxicated by the cheapness. Needless to say, I broke most of those tools.

I’ll be sure and check out those brands you listed. I’m open to all suggestions, and I appreciate your input.

Kayak8's avatar

Once you get the brands figured out, my favorite place to go is the pawn shop. Many contractors and others get decent tools and then need to sell until more work comes along. I got a terrific chop saw at the pawn shop. For hand tools, I like estate sales particularly farm sales.

wilma's avatar

I would agree with @woodcutter about Klein Tools, they specialize in electrical tools, but they have a lot of other tools as well. I have never had any trouble with any of them. They also feel great in my hands.

thorninmud's avatar

For woodworking tools, pretty much anything Veritas makes will be very well designed and finished. Not cheap, but good value. I’ve never been disappointed with anything. All their stuff is available through Lee Valley Tools.

Japanese edge tools can be magnificent, but you pay a hefty “mystique” premium when you buy Japanese. I understand the tool-porn thrill that surrounds them, and I’m not entirely immune myself (I own one very nice japanese chisel that I really couldn’t afford), but on a truly practical level they’re hard to justify. As for saws, though, there really is no good substitute for japanese. Invest in a good one, and only use it when a cheaper saw won’t do the job.

Speaking of tool-porn, Garrett Wade really knows what makes a tool junky salivate. Pricey stuff, but gorgeous.

TexasDude's avatar

@Kayak8, good point… I had never actually considered pawn shops before, though I have bought an old hammer or two at estate sales before.

@wilma, sounds good dear, I’ll keep that in mind!

@thorninmud, wow, Garret Wade does make some sexy stuff. I’ll be sure and keep Veritas in mind. So you and others keep talking about Japanese saws… does this mean saws like hacksaws? Because that is more along the lines of what I’ll need.

woodcutter's avatar

Careful with the pawn shops. In many cases they are too proud of their merchandise and for a few dollars more you can own brand new with warranty. That and there’s no way to tell if there has been misuse.
On another note avoid Craftsman cordless tools if you plan on fanning them. I have gone through so many of them its not funny. With me it was the switches that went tits up. They are attractively priced but are not suitable for commercial use at all. The garage shop piddler will enjoy theirs for years with no trouble.

jerv's avatar

@woodcutter I was under the impression that Craftsman was largely consumer-grade these days anyways, as opposed to the professional quality that they used to be. It’s almost like they are coasting on their past reputation.

incendiary_dan's avatar

I’m so happy this was asked. It probably won’t change my habits much, because I usually just buy whatever happens to be at the local discount store, which has been surprisingly successful. Occasionally something breaks, but not often enough for me to care. Most of the time the label is just printed wrong or slightly cut.

jerv's avatar

I find that pliers are the easiest to tell the good from the crap. For vise-grips, I find that The Original™ Irwins are hard to beat. The discount store stuff I generally save for those times when I need a tool now and the discount place is far closer than someplace with real tools. Even then I am reluctant to spend more than a dollar on it since I know it won’t last much past the current job. I’ve bent and snapped many screwdrivers and one time cracked a bench vise.
@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard After remembering that vise, maybe I shouldn’t make fun of you for the pry bar :D

crisw's avatar

@jerv

“I find that pliers are the easiest to tell the good from the crap.”

I think adjustable wrenches are really good for that too.

thorninmud's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard No, the japanese saws are for precision wood joinery.

Jewelers use some sweet metal working tools, often very high quality european-made. Contenti is a good source.

Scooby's avatar

I use ‘Snap-on tools’ because they’re simply so reliable. They’re held in such high regard by most though that I no longer take them to work, as they often get , well, borrowed permanently :-/

For work I use ( hand tools ) Draper & Bahco, Stanley..
Bosch, Dewalt, Makita ( Power tools )

Some of my stanley tools are older than me, some I collected & others I was left by my uncle.

TexasDude's avatar

Wow, you guys are awesome. Thanks for all the great suggestions. I can’t wait to go tool shopping now!

woodcutter's avatar

TOOL WOODY !!!

TexasDude's avatar

I have one of those often…

crisw's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard

So do I- and I am female! I have been lusting over a truly good table saw, but what really gets me is a Felder. Drool!

TexasDude's avatar

@crisw, you sound like my kinda woman!

Arbornaut's avatar

Man, all this talk of tools and wood is giving me the urge to go and ‘snap one off’ or ‘pry one out’

TexasDude's avatar

I see what you did there.

Arbornaut's avatar

Couldn’t help myself, it was just wide open.

TexasDude's avatar

That’s what he said!

crisw's avatar

You guys all need to sneak off to a private place and read this book. Wash your hands afterward. The real test, if you’re male is to watch this video -do you keep your eyes on the women or the tools?

Nullo's avatar

I like to visit junk stores and see if they have any old tools. A lot are too old to work with, but a lot are still in pretty good shape.

TexasDude's avatar

@crisw, as if I needed any more stimulation.

@Nullo, yeah, I enjoy doing that as well. That was one of my plans.

incendiary_dan's avatar

I can’t believe it took me this long to see a “that’s what s/he said” on this site.

TexasDude's avatar

@incendiary_dan, really? I think I might have seen one or two before…

incendiary_dan's avatar

Well, I have only been here for like, five months at most. Maybe six? Now I’m curious.

WasCy's avatar

@incendiary_dan

Find a rubber mallet from one of the catalogs above, and knock yourself out.

(You’ll get a better search if you search for “that’s what she said”, but the apostrophe really screws up the link. You’ll see what I mean when you hit the link. There was a time here when ‘search’ used to be laughable. Now it’s pretty darn good.)

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