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In part one of this editorial, I discussed the international nature of large tool companies, and I laid out my basic opinion: that the “Made in…” stamp doesn’t provide enough information to determine a tool’s quality. In part two, I discussed the manufacturing process. Read on as I endeavor to explain what all this means to you as a tool consumer.

If you’re thoroughly confused by now, you’re not alone. This is why I contend that a “made in…” label simply doesn’t provide enough information to offer any indication of tool quality.

And I’ll go ahead and address something else we hear a lot of on Toolmonger, too. You also can’t realistically guess quality based on any of the following, either:

“I heard this company owns that company…”

First of all, this is likely total hearsay. You wouldn’t believe the bogus goings-round we’ve heard along these lines — even from friends in the know. Yes, some tool companies own multiple brands. They often trade these brands around like playing cards in a game of go fish. But here’s the real skinny: Regardless of who owns whom, it’s common for tool manufactures to apply entirely different manufacturing processes to each tool line — regardless of what name they stamp on it or the color of the housing. Consider each tool individually, regardless of brand.

“My dad had a whatsit from that company 30 years ago and it was great!”

And guess what? The manufacturing process they used 30 years ago probably has as much to do with the current manufacturing process as I do with Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno. The brand may even have changed hands (possibly more than once) during those intervening decades, for better or worse. Again, you’re not buying a 30-year-old product. You’re buying current offerings, so research accordingly.

“It’s made in the same plant with [insert expensive tool here].”

If it’s made by a wholly different process, does the roof it’s under make any difference at all? (Hint: No.) Of course, this gets even more complex when, say, the only difference between one brand and the other is a few skipped QC steps. In that case, you might get a tool that’s every bit as good as its more expensive equivalent. Or you might get the one with flawed casting that the high-buck QC would’ve rejected. You’re rolling the dice. Even worse, you’ll probably never really know what the difference is — they’ll just look identical, which will spur lots and lots of “they’re really just re-branded with a bigger price tag!” rumors.

“So-and-so manufacturer makes those for [insert pricey/popular brand here].”

This may be true. Manufacturers often make such deals, leading to all sorts of tailgate rumors. (My favorites, by the way, revolve around the companies that build hand tools for Craftsman. Danaher is the most commonly mentioned candidate, and Danaher produces tools under a number of brands including Allen, Armstrong, GearWrench, K-D, and Matco. So there’s no difference between a Matco, Armstrong, or Craftsman wrench, right? Wrong! Seriously, folks.)

To be continued! Check back tomorrow for part four in this editorial where we make some recommendations as to how you can actually select tools.


10 Responses to Editorial: Made In… Part 3

  1. brian says:

    To prove how right you are about the owner of the company and the quality of other tools made in the same plant, check out this list below:

    TTI (Techtronic Industries) owns and manufactures for Milwaulkee, AEG, Ryobi, Stilleto and Homelite.

    Danher Corporation: FLUKE, Matco, Gearwrench, also manufactures for Craftsman (owned by KCD IP)

    Emerson Electric: Ridgid, Knaack

    Black&Decker: Dewalt, Porter Cable, Delta (collaboratively manufactured by Hitachi Koki)

    I know there may be some errors in this list, but it just goes to show you that all tools are not made equal….even on the same tool line in the same plant.

  2. steve says:

    The only true way to know is to use the stuff yourself.

    A $10 Workforce wrench set may last one guy a lifetime, doing everything they ask of it.

    While some other guy may break his Snap On tools within a month. (I’ve seen guys use cheater bars on rachets, honestly. They’ll spend $100 on a rachet and treat it like that instead of using a breaker bar).

  3. Harry says:

    Once you remove all of the emotional and economic issues, what’s important is how the tool performs the tasks you want it to do, not where it’s made.
    I do feel that most of the Professional Automotive Mobile Tool Brands are removing country of origin from many of their hardline products as a preconditioning to moving (moved) production out of the country.

  4. Brau says:

    What bothers me today is when makers simply add a longer (lifetime) warranty and different appearances (“Pro” grips, logos, etc) to cheaper products claiming the warranty is what makes the difference. Sears does this with their “Pro” line.

    Also, too many of the smaller quality makers and their unique specialties are being gobbled up by corporations so they can market lesser tools under their logo. Similar to appliances like Whirlpool, Maytag, JenAir, KitchenAid; in the past they were all different, with unique features and mechanics, but today they all have the same basic mechanicals because they’ve all been bought out by WhirlPool. I’m seeing the same homogenization in tools today.

  5. shopmonger says:

    First of all, Chuck C. in a skin tight skating suit……….Damn dude i just had dinner…haa haa haa haaaaaaaaa

    Again there is the only one way to buy a tool….just buy THE TOOL not the brand, not the manufacture, not the country of origin, THE TOOL….. does it have the effectiveness you want. Does it have the qualities of a good tool, does it have the recommendation of Toolmonger, Toolmonger is a great resource……nothing like true hands on work to get a good review, either from the boys at Toolmonger or the other guys and girls in here.


  6. Bob says:

    Irwin moved the manufacturing of Vise-Grips out of the USA to Taiwan but did not lower the selling price.

  7. fred says:


    Irwin is owned by Newell-Rubbermaid – who has gobbled up a variety of brands like English Plane maker “Record” and Chisel Maker “Marples” I’m guessing that production under those brands are now done in China or Taiwan too.

  8. ShopMonger says:

    Yes, Marples are currently made in china, but the reviews of those chisels are still great, i know several wood workeres who have the “new” marples and are still just as impressed as they used to be.


  9. George says:

    Vise Grips are now made in China.

    Snap-on on its web site gives the country of origin of almost all its tools. I wish the other tool truck brands would do the same.

  10. Derek says:

    “Black&Decker: Dewalt, Porter Cable, Delta (collaboratively manufactured by Hitachi Koki)”

    This statement is incorrect. Black & Decker and Hitachi do not have any affiliation or manufacturing arrangements with each other.

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