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Modular tool-storage systems have become more common in the past few years, and recently some companies have expanded this “modular” trend to the tools themselves, allowing customers to piece together large sets, all at once, with only the tools they need.

Many tool brands are trying out this marketing approach — Snap-on, Stanley, MAC, and Craftsman, to name a few — but they all seem to offer the same, pretty standard types of modules, sold individually so you’re only buying the tools you want.  Craftsman offers about 20 different modules like the ones pictured, including wrenches, sockets, impact sets, and brake kits, and they’re designed to fit into their portable tool boxes and stationary tool chests, making it easy to mix and match the sets as needed from job to job.

So is this new modular setup a faster, simpler, easier way to buy tools, or just another attempt to rope in the less intelligent consumer?  Let us know in comments.

Craftsman Modular Tool Sets [Sears]


25 Responses to Hot or Not? Modular Tool Sets

  1. Jacob says:

    I love small toolkits that are a specific set, but they need to be compact! The tighter you can pack those tools together the better, big trays like that are just annoying. I end up tossing the trays and trying to find smaller boxes to keep all the tools together.

  2. Andrew says:

    This is mostly a way to get you to buy more tools than you actually need and/or a way to get you to pay more for inferior tools.

    There are a few sets that make sense, like a set of combination wrenches, but not often.

  3. Kevin says:

    I like them for screwdrivers and mechanic sets, but they arent really useful for hammers,pliers,etc

  4. gearhead says:

    There are several reasons these companies sell these modules. The biggest reason is to take up more room in your tool box. Once your tool box is full, you will probably buy another one or trade it in for a bigger one. Tool storage is where the money’s at.

  5. Ken says:

    Just another way to rope in the unintelligent consumer.

  6. J H says:

    Is this really modularity or just variation?

  7. ToolGuyd says:

    This is nothing new – these are ordinary sets that are sold with a 25 cent tray rather than regular packaging.

    Tool sets often persuade people to buy more tools or different sizes than they really need. Still, when you buy sets like these, you often save a bundle over buying the tools individually.

    In light of the high tools-per-dollar ratio, tool sets are hot.

  8. Brau says:

    These are for: the generally unskilled who haven’t already amassed a slew of tools and think a nut driver kit with a 4oz hammer might represent everything they need, the gift giver who tells herself her mechanically inept accountant husband might actually use a Tap and Die set, and women who want a handy kit to keep near the kitchen.

    • Jim says:

      No they are for people who like to know at a glance if something is missing. Im guessing your toolbox is not very organized.

  9. ChrisW says:

    The complaints are valid, but I do see an advantage in the plastic trays with snap-in storage. Tools don’t fall out, and each tool has its place so you can tell one is missing before you put them away.

    I refuse to pay several hundreds or thousands of dollars for home tool storage.

  10. fred says:

    When I was a kid, I recall thinking that I’d buy one of theose 400 piece tool kits, advertised in the back of Mechanix Illustrated, once I had the money. Once I had the mone, I had the sense to realize that the kit had lots of fillers, cheap driil bits, bad hacksaw blades, even worse allen wrenches etc. to make up the tool count. I learned on the job – to buy what you need – and buy the best you could afford – because hand tools especially would last for many years.
    “Modular” sounds like a new buzz word to sell low-end stuff in a pretty package.

  11. PutnamEco says:

    I think a lot depends on what you mean by “modular” do you me tool sets like screw driver sets, socket sets, etc. or do you mean job specific sets like brake service sets or engine diagnostic sets?

    I will sit on the fence on this one, Some manufactures offer good well thought out sets,(Snap-on, Kent Moore) some seem to just throw a bunch of tools together seemingly at random, (Pep Boys, etc.)

    I do usually prefer to buy my tools on an as needed basis, but on occasion I’ve bought both job specific and general purpose tool sets. I usually prefer my own tool storage solutions.

  12. turbogeezer says:

    Although this comment isn’t specific to the “modular” question, I get a bad reaction from seeing all those ribbed, clear-plastic-handled drivers. I’ve always hated ’em. When I started buying my own tools, I was so happy to find things like Lee Valley’s drivers…


    … with a great rubberized triangular grip. Co-molded plastics technology has done wonderful things for both hand and power tools. Good pricing, and a pleasure to use when not using a power driver.

  13. Manny says:

    Sockets with socket wrench and regular wrench sets are the only things I’ve ever bought this way. Anyting else should be bought one by one. I feel different brands make diifferent specific tools more ergonomically correct than others. For example my main hand tool arenal consists of many different brands cause of the way each brand designs the tool. Of course value does play a small role in deciding but not worth it to go as far as buying these lame ass modular sets I see out there. So for the most part, my answer is NOT.

  14. Old Donn says:

    Not a bad idea, IF you’ve got the room, IF you always put your stuff away after each use, and IF the trays hold up to constant use. Too many ifs equal NOT.

  15. Ken says:

    Properly used, most tools will last a lot longer than any of us. even the cheap made-in-china tools everybody moans and groans about will last a good long time if you aren’t abusing your tools- don’t use the wrong size wrenches, drill the correct size of pilot hole to avoid stripping the heads off your screws, etc. even cheap paint, properly applied, will last several years longer than excellent paint poorly applied.

    that said, you’ve got to know what it is you’re trying to do and how it’s meant to be done, and what tools are supposed to be used. So it seems like these tool sets fail on two counts: regular tool users, the ones who could use these tools and make them last, won’t need them, and all the hobbyists will abuse them, intentionally or otherwise, and keep them from lasting.

    the one thing these tools are good for is mobility- when I moved across the pacific I had to leave all my tools behind, and so tool sets like these have in many ways been a real life saver. especially since I can get them so cheap here.

  16. Gough says:

    I’ve got to agree with Manny on this one: only for sockets and wrenches. When I look at my collection of tools after 40+ years, there’s no way I could have gone modular. Jay Baldwin had an article in CoEvolution Quarterly years ago about his “highly evolved toolbox” and I think that this applies to the tools that many of us have accumulated over time. Not only have the tools changed, but so have our views on what we want in a particular tool.

    This may not apply if you’re in a very specific field, like automotive engine repair, but I think most of us tend to work on a wide range of projects and have a variety of tools to go with them.

  17. Harry says:

    I think the modular sets would work better if Sears followed Facom and Hazet’s lead in a couple of areas. First, tailor the modules to fit a standard Craftsman 26.5 inch wide rollaway instead of a specially designed plastic box. Secondly, make the module versitile containing popular sizes and tools but, also make it compact. Have the wrenches sit on their edges instead of laying flat like SK does, alternate screwdriver handles, etc. to save space. Granted, if you already have a large collection of tools, modules probably aren’t for you. However, for a student, or a new tech, they could be a wise investment and a excellent way to keep your tools organized, prevent loss, and build your set block by block.

  18. MeasureOnceCutTwice says:

    I agree with Manny – the socket sets are a great value, but I wouldn’t buy much else that way. And sometimes the original packaging is pretty good for storage – The Craftsman deep socket set I bought came in a sturdy tray just big enough for the sockets and a 2″ tab at the top for hanging. I trimmed the tab off, removed the extra clip that locks them in, and they fit perfectly in a tool drawer.
    I have to disagree with Ken – many cheap tools won’t last like good ones. Cheap sockets especially. I too relocated across the Pacific (to China from New Jersey) and started with the cheap sets. I’ve ended up hand carrying many tools from the US because I was sick of the poor quality I had bought here. (And I’m anal about tools – I hate tool abuse!)

  19. melvin says:

    turbogeezer I prefer the hard plastic screwdriver handles and dislike those with rubbery coating or inserts because the hard plastic are easy to clean and don’t absorb any kind of solvent or muck. Those Lee Valley handles even have a grease holding hang hole in them for twice the grease holding power.

  20. russ says:

    The Craftsman screwdrivers stink. I mean they really smell bad after a little while. I wonder if anyone else had the same problem.

    Modular, All-In-One, etc. Marketing can make it sound good until you come to Toolmonger.

  21. JRuiz says:

    I agree with others, sets of tools are more useful as “starter” kits. If you already have a good size collection of tools, you are better off buying just what you need and not whole sets.

  22. MeasureOnceCutTwice says:

    Russ – I know just what you mean – but that smell takes me right back to childhood! That’s a major part of toolbox smell for me (and also Christmas present smell).

  23. kyle says:

    I have noticed before that craftsman screwdrivers smell funny but it doesnt bother me.

  24. Larry says:

    I recommended to my live-apart girlfriend and my mother that they buy a couple of these with “everything” in them. Now, whenever I get elected to repair something at either household, if it’s not too big a deal, these tools kits will save me a trip to the truck tool box to dig out whatever tool I might need. Also saves me having to gather up and return my tools to the truck (the girls are happy enough over the rapairs usually that they don’t mind cleaning up the mess including putting away the tools).

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