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.