Anyone on the Forum my age (66) or older will recognize my description of the tool business 50 years or so back. About the early to mid 60's Japan's post-war economy shifted from cottage type industry to full scale competitive industrial production of tooling. I worked at a Western Auto franchise store in downtown Newport News, Va which had a very large hand tool department. When ships docked at the coal docks or Newport News Shipbuilding, the crews would come into our store and purchase hand tools. Most couldn't speak English, only Spanish. When looking at tools they would point at the ''made in USA'' on the tool and say ''USA''. Show them a Japanese made tool and it was no no no...USA USA. At the time Japanese tools equated to the worst of the mainland China stuff now being sold. The mid 70's came, I had returned to civilian life, the Japanese tools had gotten pretty good. Now the bottom-line tool production had moved to Taiwan. (Formosa to you older guys). Fast forward 15 more years to 1990 or so, the Japanese ship only the best (and charge for it), the Taiwanese hand tools have come of age and mainland China has cranked up production of the cheap stuff. Present day: Japanese, expensive,excellent. Taiwanese, Mid-priced, excellent, most USA producers have shifted there. China is coming on strong, their quality improving monthly. I predict India and Vietnam will join the big game soon. Our open-trade policies, meant to enable these countries to expand their economies without resorting to more war to gain a share of the world pie have worked. It has cost our economy dearly, but maybe our grandkids can deal with the problems and not be lost to armed bickering. A personal observation for the busted knuckle crowd....
Interesting thread Gary-----I buy most of my tools from garage sales so there is a large differance of quality. I am often modifying a tool so I pick one that will not mater to bend or weld into a shape to do a job.
Its interesting to pick up an Arm Strong tool for a few dollars when you know it cost over a hundred. I have a file drawer full of different pullers constantly modified for different jobs. I agree that many tools not made in the USA are of high quality-----To bad most of the young I know can not fix any thing much less work on a T without pushing buttons on a computer. The gadget tools are my term for the ones often seen at sales.
Sometimes when you are young and you don't have a "pot to P*** in or a window to throw it out of" it can be very hard to justify spending what seems like "gobs" of money for a tool you will use only once or twice. Yard/Garage/Tag sales are good to find these tools inexpensively if you have the time to wait. When I was 17 I met an older guy who had a lot of quality tools and he would loan me tools I needed for a job for which I would pay him back in labor. Usually it would be something like cleaning out his garage or hauling some garden waste to the mulch pile and "stirring it up" for his wife. I got the better end of the deal! Now I am the older guy with a lot of quality tools and there are a couple of younger guys in the neighborhood to whom I loan tools and advice on how to do a job and of course they help me out when needed. Works for me!
Very interesting Gary. I also remember the rise of quality in Japanese tool making and products in general. My recent post about tap and die sets was a result of destroying another piece of rod stock with a poorly made die made in China.
I have several old miss matched taps and dies that I have purchased at flea markets. When I have the right one for the job ... they cut like a hot knife though butter. The difference between these old tools and my newer Chinese set is remarkable. I am not a machinist and can't afford to spend $400 for the ne plus ultra.
About 1988, I was working for an Indian company. I worked closely with a young guy from India. I commented on the low quality of tools they supplied, he said " don't you suppose the people that made these had real tools"? He was right, I never thought about it before. Dave in Bellingham, WA
That's what I do G.R. I remember when my tool box was an ammunition box-----soon learned who keeps the trade fair, some don't!
Well, I am not quite as old (53) but, the best advice my father ever gave me was about 1977. He would take me to garage sales and warehouse sales. We came out of a warehouse and a guy had a table setup with tools. My father asked him if any of them were made in Taiwan? The man said, yes, all of it was. My father said, it's all junk! Then told me, never buy anything made in Taiwan, it's junk! So, I buy stuff made in the USA, usually Snap On. As a heavy equipment mechanic I need to depend on the tool time and time again. I am not retired and do not have the free time or desire to go to garage sales hoping to find something of quality.
Just my take on this,
Please allow me to share...
In 1990 I had to put my tools in storage. The Sat. before the Sun. I was going to pick them up, someone broke in to the storage unit and stole them.
Now that is how I made my living. ($165,000 worth of 25 years of buying and saving) So with not a screwdriver or pair of pliers to my name, (and not a lot of money) , I found myself at Harbor Freight spending money. And what I thought was the smart thing to do, I bought 2 sets of wrenches,sockets, pliers..ect.. That way when one breaks I will have a back up.
I still have most of them today, and I used them hard. Now some were junk.. but the hand tools were really good and surprised me. And they were a lot cheaper than the major tool players were.
Chinese products are junk because American companies beat them to death on price. They are as capable of manufacturing high-quality products as we or any other industrialized nation. The Wal-Marts and other big-box stores get the products that they are willing to pay for, and whose customers are willing to settle for.
The bad thing about that John, is that after a while, you can't buy a good quality item even if you were willing to spend the money. All it takes is for one manufacturer to go overseas to cut his costs. He passes some minute amount of his savings on to his customers and none of his competitors can make a profit, so they in turn go overseas. It's vicious and the consumer is the one who ultimately gets screwed.
A little OT but. Like many of us, I have bought Craftsman tools for the "break it and we replace it" sales pitch, for years. Well Sears is no more around here. So I was at my local Ace (They now have Craftsman signs and tools all over the store)I ask. "If I break a Craftsman tool can I bring it here for a replacement?" Well we do not want to do that was the answer. So much for the Craftsman sales pitch. What do I do now? Dan
John is on target. If tools from some other country are junk, it's because a lot of people are willing to settle for junk, and American companies have become willing to sell junk to make it cheap. There would be no junk tools if people didn't buy them.
One of my pet peeves is taps and dies with the sizes painted on so they soon disappear. My older Vermont American taps and dies have the sizes stamped into the metal. The last time I looked, the VA taps & dies now have the numbers painted on. So I'll shop around and look for the stamped ones and buy them no matter where they're made.
I can remember when the good stuff didn't say "Made in USA". They simply had the city or state forged or embossed into the tool. The best tools came from "Cleveland", "Penn", "Conn", "Detroit" and "Minneapolis". Most kids today probably think those are locations in China.
My Model T has MADE IN USA on the front. I always try to buy old tools from yard sales, flea markets and estates sale
I retired after near 40 years as a mechanic and painter and bodyman. I have tons of Craftsman tools, Mac, Matco and Snap-On tools. Around here any USA tools, regardless of condition are priced higher than new.
The part that gets on my goat is when a reputable company gets on the cheap bandwaggon and goes off-shore. Sidchrome, Australia's trusted brand has gone this route. I understand from local stores, Crescent and Proto have done the same.
I buy/sell used hand tools as part of my swap meet stocks. I will only buy good stuff, and price it accordingly. Those who know their stuff will pay a reasonable price for quality tools. Those who complain at the price get directed to a box of Chinese rubbish under the table.
Allan from down under.
I have an adjustable spanner....started at .5 inch, will now fit a .511811 (13 mm), working towards .5511 (14 mm).
Go to your friendly new car dealer and ask the mechanics when the Mac/Cornwell/SnapOn guy comes around. Be there then and buy from him.