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United States Build Technology

What's In a Tool? a Case For Made In the USA (hackaday.com) 329

szczys writes: You have the choice of buying a wrench made in the USA and one made in China. Which one should you buy? The question is not a straightforward one. Tools are judged by their ability to do the job repeatedly and without fail. To achieve this, only the best of design and manufacturing will do. But this is a high bar when you factor in price competition which often leads to outsourcing production. Gerrit Coetzee looks at this issue, comparing two instances of the same model of Crescent brand adjustable wrench; one a legacy manufactured in the USA, another outsourced for manufacture in China.
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What's In a Tool? a Case For Made In the USA

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  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:04PM (#51325177) Homepage Journal
    They were one of the most significant holdouts over the past decade or so, but they won't learn from their mistake. They could have learned from vise-grip, who could have learned from dremel, who could have learned from Stanley. Sears (Craftsman) could have learned from any or all of them, as could Husky and Kobalt.

    They'll all just go the same way, only to lose the race to the bottom to Harbor Freight.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:18PM (#51325263)

      One could easily see this lesson by taking a Craftsman wrench from the 1990s and comparing it with one made today.

      Now, one can just go to Harbor Freight, pick up hand tools which are just as good as the Craftsmans (because they likely come off the same forges and on the same boats), but a lot cheaper. For stuff that is infrequently used, this is fine. Same with HF's power tools. I've seen their stuff with a different color and a name brand... same cheap, Chinese construction... but 2-5 times the price. So, might as well skip the "badge engineering" and go there.

      Of course, if you want stuff that is worth anything, especially powered items, you will be paying more, but it actually will work.

      What is funny is there is room in the tool market. All it would take is for a tool company to make decent tools (not whatever the Chinese factories can make), but something designed in the US, and well made (the 1990s Craftsman tools are a good example.) Then, sell those at mom and pop shops or whatever stores don't mind carrying them. Now, people will have a choice between cheap Chinese junk, rebranded Chinese junk, and overpriced (but well made) US made tools. This is what Craftsman should be, but since Sears surrendered to K-Mart, it will need to be a specialty company.

      Maybe if Park Tool decides to get their head out of their ass, move tool making back to the US, and expand out of the bicycle market, that would be the ideal thing. Their stuff has been quite decent, but it would make them actually stand out if they went back to pre-millenium tool making.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:29PM (#51325361)

        It's problematic to do comparisons with older objects. The ones that lasted were the good ones. The ones with manufacturing defects have been replaced long ago.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:10PM (#51325663)

          Not tools. Good quality tools can be identified by heft and feel. The moving parts run smoothly and have no slop in them. Mating surfaces connect cleanly. The castings are high quality. The metal used is an alloy and working surfaces are heat treated or better.

          And then there's the guarantee. There were some old-line tool makers that carried unconditional, lifetime guarantees, which you don't do if you don't have confidence in your product. I'm talking guarantees that said 'if this tool fails for any reason, we will replace it for free'.

          I've seen some tools from India and China that actually seemed decent. Which stands out because those locations are usually known for price rather than quality.

          • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi AT smokingcube DOT be> on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @02:29AM (#51327445) Homepage

            The thing is that many Chinese tools from a stable brand also have trade in. Husky/Kobalt have a no questions asked trade in at their respective big box stores. I use it frequently as do professionals. I've tried trading in expensive tools from supposedly "good" brands and pay more in shipping than a new cheap tool will cost.

            These days the quality from China is the same as the quality from the US in a lot of cases. There are outliers but they are no longer the norm. And stuff is so cheap these days it makes no sense to buy the expensive crap. I bought an electric staple gun from harbor freight for $15 - 4000 staples later the spring came out of it's chamber - HB replaced it on the spot. But it's better than doing 20000 staples with the $100 gun and then having to bring it in 3 days for a $75 "consumable part" repair.

        • It's called survival bias, came up recently in that someone was complaining about catering to nut allergy people and said see what happens now there's a lot of people with nut allergies. I said, "Yea, it sure would have been better if they just died off as children." sarcastically.

      • You have a lot of good points there, it is too bad you posted AC - which leads to fewer people reading your post.

        One thing you didn't mention that I have observed though is that some brands are guilty of making several lines of tools under their names and selling them differently accordingly. Milwaukee is a great example of this, you can get low-end Milwaukee power tools at Home Depot / Lowe's for not a lot of money, and they perform only marginally better than HF tools. Or you can go to high end tool
    • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:24PM (#51325327)
      As a tool user, I'll admit to buying from Harbor Freight for the things that are intended to be used up. You can't beat their deals on "rotating tool (compare with Dremel!)" heads which are designed to get used up anyway. But their tools that are supposed to last? The hammers loosen after the first few hits. Your options then are to take them in for the lifetime warranty replacement, or hammer another shim in the top. Their other "lasting" tools aren't that great either. Although they do have the biggest adjustable wrench I've ever seen (at over four feet long), I'm sure if you need something like that regularly, there are better ones online that cost more but are worth it not to break while you're turning whatever giant bolts you're turning.
      • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:15PM (#51325691) Homepage Journal

        Some HF tools are fantastic, though they are few. Some are total garbage; surprisingly, they are few. Some require modification before use, which supposedly notably includes their machine tools which have rough edges and the like. No self-respecting machinist would let anything like that out the door, but no self-respecting machinist was involved in their manufacture.

        What actually is great, though, are most of their hand tools. The wrenches, socket wrenches and so on are every bit as good as Craftman ever was, if not better — I am a vintage tool aficionado, so I do actually have basis for comparison. Their torque wrenches are not pleasant to the hand, but they are consistent and durable and practically free compared to the big names, which aren't actually any more precise.

        The stuff that gets used up, like drill bits and grinding stones, are actually better purchased somewhere else, because those actually are crap.

        The only hammers I've bought at HF have been rubber mallet and plastic dead blow, which have been of very high quality for their price. All my other hammers are vintage, acquired at yard sales and the like. I live in rusty crusty old boy country, so there's lots of tools around. I only have to buy stuff online if I need something metric.

        • by jgotts ( 2785 ) <jgotts.gmail@com> on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:42PM (#51325889)

          I would agree that the three standard Harbor Freight torque wrenches compare favorably with the 1990's era Craftsman torque wrench that I paid $90 for. I tested the $10 Harbor Freight tool side by side on my vehicle with the Craftsman tool and they are close enough that it would be hard for me to justify paying 10x times the price. I can also leave the $10 Harbor Fright torque wrench in my vehicle and not have to worry about it getting lost, permanently borrowed, or stolen.

          My recommendation is to own one set of quality tools made in the United States. Keep this set where you use tools the most. Also buy a set of cheap backup tools. Keep these tools where you wouldn't commonly use them, but they still might come in handy. For example, at your employer or at your significant other's place.

          And every time you shop at Harbor Freight, make sure to get your free flashlight and use your 20% discount coupon. I always carry around a stack of Harbor Freight coupons.

    • by adolf ( 21054 )

      Agreed, completely

      I was a sound believer in buying Crescent hand tools whenever it made sense to do so because they were all made in the US.

      I don't want a cheaper Chinese copy of a Crescent product, I want the real thing. And I was perfectly willing to pay for it. But they lost my loyalty in them when they gave up their loyalty to my country, so I won't be buying their American-made tools anymore either.

      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        This also means that I won't be buying any of the following brands, as they're under the same umbrella (Apex Tool Group) as Crescent:

        Sata, Wiss, Campbell, Gearwrench, Nicholson, Armstrong, Jacobs (that's going to be tough), HKP, Jobox, K&F, Belzer, Allen, Plumb, Mayle, or Delta.

        Bummer, since some of those names are synonymous with a certain type of tool. Sheet metal shears come from Wiss, files are from Nicholson, Jacobs is so famous for making drill chucks that all similar 3-jaw chucks are called a Ja

    • Mock Harbor Freight all you want, but the wrenches at least actually aren't that bad. I have no idea about the sockets and ratchets or power tools though.

      I have a set of Pittsburgh wrenches that goes up to 1 1/2" that saw hard daily use ( for the first 3-4 years in a weld / fab shop environment) that I bought in 2006-2007, and still occasionally use today. They were holding back rusted nuts while the bolts were being impacted out, used as make shift hammers and pry-bars, and just generally abused due to b

      • by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @10:13PM (#51326641) Homepage Journal
        There is nothing wrong with HF as long as you know what you're buying: cheap stuff that will cut it for light work. It's like my approach to kitchen equipment: if I think I might want something, I buy the $30 version at Walmart. If it works, great. If I use it twice and it spends ten years in a drawer, I haven't lost much. And if I wear it out, I now have a list of things that I wish it did, so when I buy a decent one, I know what to look for.
  • Judgement (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:11PM (#51325223)
    "Tools are judged by their ability to do the job repeatedly and without fail" Not necessarily. I might just need it once, or for very light use. It is often true that you get what you pay for, but this doesn't mean you should pay for more than what you need.
    • I enjoyed the little side bar re:"The addition of gimmick features" /. readers will be familiar with this in software too.
      • strange the one he pointed out saying it had no use I thought sounded quite useful. I often have trouble getting to a nut or bolt well with an adjustable wrench because there isn't enough swing room or visibility. It would be nice to look at the wrench and say, Ahh I need a 3/8ths box end or socket to do this much easier.

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      That's good because a tool from harbor freight is expected to do exactly that last for only one use.

  • I wish the same were possible in the techology industry.. Buy a Samsung Galaxy made in China or one made in USA. I'd pay more for the USA one, personally. As long as the phone was like for like in specs and usability.
    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      I believe if we were to make one in the USA at this point in time it would be about $2,000 instead of $700.

      • Not necessarily.

        Apple makes their Mac Pros in the US, and yes it'll cost $3500 for a base model instead of $2000 (or so) that the old base model PowerMacs used to cost. That said, the base model Mac Pros are far beefier (even on a relative scale) than the old PowerMacs were (example: you get two high-end GPU cards now instead of the one mid-grade one that came with the base model PowerMac), so once all of that is factored out, the cost really isn't that much higher.

        • still not sure its worth the markup
        • Made or assembled? For instance, where did the display panels come from? I'm not sure any LED/OLED or whatever panels are made in the US. Spinning hard drives could very well be manufactured in Thailand. Keyboards? Who knows. The same thing goes for cars and trucks. Notice the tag on new vehicles will indicate something like North American content with a percentage. Mexico is a North American country and many such vehicles get their engines from there.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 )

        I believe if we were to make one in the USA at this point in time it would be about $2,000 instead of $700.

        Toyota and Honda don't charge a price differential for cars made in the US versus those made in Japan. Why would Samsung?

        • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

          I was unaware you could buy a car direct from Toyota or Honda.
          I don't have any good technology examples as for instance there are no fully us made televisons.

          Remember a few years ago when a tariff was placed on imported tires and the prices shot out of sight because American tire manufacturers where given near exclusive control of the market?

          This is the United States price fixing is much more common than competition.

          It actually does cost more to make stuff here in the states even if you make it with the sam

          • In a modern factory, which is highly automated, it is hard to understand why it should cost more to manufacture in the US than in China. Many modern factories have a handful of staff. Yes, there is shipping and receiving costs, but then you have to figure in the costs of unloading a container ship, too.

            As for Toyota and Honda, they both have manufacturing plants in the US. On the West Coast, many vehicles arrive via ship, but for most of the country, they get them made here. Either way, foreign or domesti

  • Informative Article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slasher999 ( 513533 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:16PM (#51325243)

    Unlike others I found this article well written and with a unique perspective. Defining requirements and tolerances is very important but far too often we overlook these steps and rush right into a project - get the PMO involved, assign a PM, purchase some widget we "need" and run setup. Project complete. Of course it doesn't meet the requirements of the user or customer, but we can't worry about that. We have more projects to "complete".

    • Agreed - it did something rare: It outlined the difference between a widget built only for the sake of it being built, and that same widget built to be best-of-breed.

      Put some love into the potential product, and as long as you're competent at it, quality is certain to be higher.

      This is why Apple has been raking in megabucks on their laptops and phones for how many years now? Their products hold up under heavy punishment and hardly degrade over time, if at all. A 10-year-old MacBook or 6-year-old iPhone is s

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        The last Mac I owned was the first Intel MacBook. It was junk. The trim peeled off, the ethernet port wouldn't connect reliably unless you held the cable just right, the keyboard had keys that behaved funky and then the CD drive stopped working.

        Worse, was taking it into Apple under warranty and finding out it'd be gone a 1-2 weeks to be fixed. Are you kidding me? 2 weeks for that? I *might* give you 24 hours if you really needed it but I would expect that kind of parts swap could be done in 2 hours or

        • You bought an Apple that broke. Welcome to the club, but surely you wouldn't expect your local Acer (or whatever) shop, assuming there is one, to replace a shell, mainboard, keyboard and optical drive with a two hour turnaround.
          • You bought an Apple that broke. Welcome to the club, but surely you wouldn't expect your local Acer (or whatever) shop, assuming there is one, to replace a shell, mainboard, keyboard and optical drive with a two hour turnaround.

            No. If that much was wrong with it, I would expect them to put my HDD in a new unit and send that original one back to the manufacturer.

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        Pretty much any newer Mac is designed to be cute and small. This leads to products that are less reliable, less maintainable, and more prone to becoming quickly obsolete. Some variants burn themselves out quickly. Others end up with faults that can't be addressed with a simple internal end user fix that one might apply to a normal PC.

        I stopped using Apple kit as soon as my first one burned itself out on me. Similar PCs have been much more durable because even the low profile ones aren't constrained by Appl

  • Who cares where it is produced? Price/performance ratio is important.
  • knows the answer to the question.
    The stuff from China is cheap powdered metal with a surface coating to disguise the crap.

    • My favorite is the "Made in the USA" bottle opener that bends a little bit every time you use it to open a beer bottle.

      I think crap can be made anywhere...

      I have also seen good quality Chinese tools. I did some computer work for an Amazon shop that only sells Chinese-made tools. A lot of it was junk, sure, but there were some tools I got from there which I continue to use regularly.

  • by ickleberry ( 864871 ) <web@pineapple.vg> on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:18PM (#51325271) Homepage
    Swapping out products for an almost identical-looking Chinese copy made to order by some outsourcing factory. They think they'll be able to super-size their profit margins and people will keep buying their stuff. What they don't realise is that any old fool can order generic tools from China for pennies and their hollowed-out "design"-only office-based tool manufacturing company won't serve a purpose any longer.
    • I imagine those meetings go something like this:

      "We can save $10M by manufacturing in China."
      "Great! Let's do that!"
      "But we have to spend $1M to ensure a smooth transition."
      "No thanks. I want all the savings and none of the spending. Next meeting."

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      Reminds me of my old dialup isp several years back $19.95/mo then they stopped hosting their own dial up servers.

      I found another isp using the same dialup number for $4.95/mo

      Bet that saved them a lot of money.

    • The issue comes in the cost cutting, not China being the source.

      I work for a major company doing quality control, and I can tell you our most consistent and problem free suppliers are from China. Factories where workers work on dirt floors on their hands and knees, yet still producing finer quality work than our domestic suppliers.

      Its mostly an issue with the American companies not caring much about their products. For most aspects, it isn't hard to improve the quality immensely. A view from the consumer is

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        Outsourcing is seen as a way to save money so corporations treat it that way. It doesn't matter if it's software or a wrench. The entire rationale for shipping work to China is going to make the end result suspect from the start.

        Like the article bluntly stated... this isn't about Chinese factories being bad but American management being bad.

    • by FrozenGeek ( 1219968 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:27PM (#51325773)
      Some years ago, the president of the company I worked for wrote a book on his management philosophy. In it, he noted that you should always be using your current job to leverage yourself into a better job and that if you were in the same position for more than 2 or 3 years, your career was stagnating. If that's a typical attitude for upper management (and I suspect it is), these folks are not making foolish mistakes. They are maximizing profit to leverage themselves into a better job somewhere else. If, after they move on, their former company craters, it's simply proof of how good they were.
  • Fallacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KeensMustard ( 655606 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:19PM (#51325279)
    This is bit of a false dilemma fallacy. Firstly, Chinese manufacturers will make tools to spec - if you pay them less, get a lower quality product. Secondly, I don't see why I would go to Bunnings or Gasweld and only have the choice of two brands - there's many brands out there, Sidchrome, Stanley, Kincrome are all very good (and all AFAIK made in Taiwan these days) - just buy the tool at whatever price level makes sense.Not a lot of point shelling out big bucks for a tool you only pick up once a year.

    Nothing against US made stuff but you pay extra because of the cost of shipping it half way around the world, and generally the exchange rate makes importing those goods expensive because the of the high US dollar.

    • Re:Fallacy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ibpooks ( 127372 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:32PM (#51325383) Homepage

      Chinese manufacturers will make tools to spec - if you pay them less, get a lower quality product.

      I believe really that they will make tools to whatever spec the customer aggressively tracks, monitors and enforces every little detail of; and as soon as there is a hint of flexibility or laxity in the oversight, will slip through lower quality where ever they think they can get away with. This includes things like "crimes of omission", where they will actively seek to work around the spec and poke holes where the inspectors may not be looking or may not have even thought to look. It is taking an approach of delivery of the least possible quality, rather than a good faith effort to meet or exceed the intent of the customer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tomhath ( 637240 )

        as soon as there is a hint of flexibility or laxity in the oversight, will slip through lower quality where ever they think they can get away with

        That's my understanding. It's an East versus West thing - Eastern mindset is "if you don't catch me cheating I'm a clever businessman"

        • Re:Fallacy (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:28PM (#51325783)

          as soon as there is a hint of flexibility or laxity in the oversight, will slip through lower quality where ever they think they can get away with

          That's my understanding. It's an East versus West thing - Eastern mindset is "if you don't catch me cheating I'm a clever businessman"

          I think Wall Street thinks that too.

          • Which is all well and good (sort of, not really) when all you're doing is fiddling with numbers in a bank account. Cutting metal though...that's where things become somewhat less reversible and somewhat more consequential.
          • as soon as there is a hint of flexibility or laxity in the oversight, will slip through lower quality where ever they think they can get away with

            That's my understanding. It's an East versus West thing - Eastern mindset is "if you don't catch me cheating I'm a clever businessman"

            I think Wall Street thinks that too.

            Wall Street thinks, "If you don't catch me cheating I am clever, I make bonus. If you catch me cheating, you are a danger to the society, FBI will take care of you, I make bonus". In fact all scenarios lead to "I make bonus".

        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          as soon as there is a hint of flexibility or laxity in the oversight, will slip through lower quality where ever they think they can get away with

          That's my understanding. It's an East versus West thing - Eastern mindset is "if you don't catch me cheating I'm a clever businessman"

          What makes you think that mindset isn't prevalent in the west?

          If anything, western "businessmen" will be more likely to cheat you if they think they can get away with it.

      • I agree with this to a point (i.e. that still happens but it's getting a little better).

        What really matters is the relationship. My company has an Chinese executive who spends weeks a year renewing relationships and trust. It's expensive and hard to do outsourcing right, but when it's done well it is transparent to the consumer and adds wealth to both countries.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        I believe really that they will make tools to whatever spec the customer aggressively tracks, monitors and enforces every little detail of; and as soon as there is a hint of flexibility or laxity in the oversight, will slip through lower quality where ever they think they can get away with. This includes things like "crimes of omission", where they will actively seek to work around the spec and poke holes where the inspectors may not be looking or may not have even thought to look. It is taking an approach

      • This isn't a Western concept only. Check out the regulatory environment, shipping via trucks, car dealerships, mechanics, home financing, insurance, police tickets, futures trading, NASCAR, casinos, credit cards, etc. Tell me they aren't trying to wiggle through loopholes. All in the US.

        There is no reason this day and age that the US can't make a quality measuring test for stuff like hammers, chainsaws, and screwdrivers. At this point we should have even outsourced that and just be properly auditing it.

    • Nothing against US made stuff but you pay extra because of the cost of shipping it half way around the world, and generally the exchange rate makes importing those goods expensive because the of the high US dollar.

      If you live in Europe, substitute "made in Germany" instead of "made in the USA" for the purpose of this article.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Some Chinese companies make really high quality tools, as good as the best western ones. They noticed that a lot of western brands were downgrading and realised that they could offer a slightly more expensive but much better quality product.

  • by dfn5 ( 524972 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:24PM (#51325335) Journal

    There are lots of Chinese tools that are the best in the world.

    I’ve worked as an engineer in industry. The one common thread between a quality product and a bad product has always been this, ”Is the person who designed the product involved in making the product?”

    This is not an argument for "Made in the USA". This is an argument for the design and manufacture should be in the same place. Therefore, this also makes the case for "Don't just export the manufacturing phase. Also export the designing phase."

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Things need to be designed where the users are. That's why Japanese companies have design officers in the counties they sell into, who are and to localise and customise products extensively.

    • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:15PM (#51325689)

      That's part of it. However, I think the author of the article missed (unless I missed reading it) turning your company over to MBAs who do not understand engineering or manufacturing. Having no product experience, or worse, desiring none, they will make a mess of a product regardless of where it is manufactured.

  • by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:29PM (#51325355)

    Tools are judged by their ability to do the job repeatedly and without fail.

    That's not how anything is judged -- they are judged by expected TCO. And that TCO includes initial cost, minus expected performance but plus the expected value of failures multiplied by the cost of each failure. All of these vary by the job that the tool is being asked to do.

    To give an example, if the wrench is going onto a deep-sea oil platform where replacement will be very costly and will cause very expensive delays, the last factor is very high and so reliability will be at a premium.

    On the other hand, the local auto mechanic probably has a dozen wrenches and a parts truck that comes around every other day that can bring a new one in for nearly zero overhead. So she might be willing to accept a higher failure rate.

    On yet another (third?) hand, someone working in aerospace or other sensitive area will likely need a wrench that can accurately deliver a set amount of torque. In this case, the accuracy of the tool will be the most important concern, since failure of the product (satellite, jet engine, space shuttle booster rocket clamp attachment) will be far more costly than failure of the tool.

    So there you have it, three examples of how making general statements about how we judge things is complete bollocks. The "right tool for the right job" might be cliché but the lesson is less about picking the right tool and more about thinking about the properties that are priorities for the job.

    • Tools are judged by their ability to do the job repeatedly and without fail.

      That's not how anything is judged -- they are judged by expected TCO. And that TCO includes initial cost, minus expected performance but plus the expected value of failures multiplied by the cost of each failure. All of these vary by the job that the tool is being asked to do.

      Depends which side you are looking at too; ultimately tools are judged by their ability to generate value for shareholders! :P

  • Ok so I am British and I do have some "Made in USA" tools, a Metrinch socket set and spanners, but frankly I prefer quality German tools. You pay a bit more but you get reliable quality.

    • I'd have second thoughts about that quality and reliability. I remember this one time they couldn't even take over a single island!

    • Re:Neither (Score:5, Funny)

      by RDW ( 41497 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:02PM (#51325627)

      Once upon a time you might have written you prefer quality British-made tools, but they must be pretty thin on the ground now. I have an excellent Norbar torque wrench (Norbar apparently dates back to World War 2, when they made tools for the Merlin aero engine). A bit of Googling suggests that the wonderfully named 'King Dick Tools' are still making stuff here. I now have to go out and buy one of their products, partly to support British industry, but mainly so I can brandish a tool with 'King Dick' written on it.

  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:41PM (#51325485) Homepage Journal

    I spent a number of years working in the plumbing industry. There were a lot of imports (more Korean in those days than Chinese, but the same principles apply) , and a lot of domestic production, and lots of opportunity to compare.

    And the import stuff was all over the place in quality. The good stuff was every bit as good as the US made stuff. The cheap stuff was crap. The difference was in what the importer (the US company, that is) ordered. The difference in manufacturing is that the Korean factories had a lower level of quality they were willing to produce than their US counterparts, so they had a lower price. The importers, as often as not, had no clue what the difference was between a $1 pipe fitting and a $10 pipe fitting, so they ordered the cheap one. But if you ordered the good stuff, it was top quality. And top price, because it took just as many man hours to make in Korea as it did in the US. The man hours were cheaper, sure, but then you had to pay to ship it here, so it evened out. The top quality was about the same price, no matter where it was made.

    The failure wasn't a disconnect between the designers and the factory, the failure was between US management and the real world.

  • by slick7 ( 1703596 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:53PM (#51325583)
    If you are adjusting packing glands on pumps or valves, it's fine. If, on the other hand you need torque, use the proper wrench. I have seen too much damage to bolts and nuts due to " adjustable wrenches ". The proper tool for the proper job. If you are too cheap or too lazy to use the proper tool, you get what you pay for.
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:08PM (#51325651)

    Tools are judged by their ability to do the job repeatedly and without fail. To achieve this, only the best of design and manufacturing will do

    Utter rubbish - it sounds like "reassuringly expensive" - an amusing phrase when applied to lager (beer), but trite in the real world. Tools are judged on their ability to get the job done. Most normal people are origin-blind. They don't, nor should, care where a tool, device, object was made or sold from. Just so long as it's fit for purpose and cost-effective.

    As for buy .... <name of country> this is little more than subsidising inefficient or lazy production and fooling yourself that you're a "patriot". Great if you a re a politician - who's main job is to fool the gullible and ill-informed. But for most people it's irrelevant. There are factors that come into play: support, warranty and spares. However, buying from a local producer is no guarantee that you'll get any of those and the internet makes everywhere as accessible as they choose to be, Buying from a known and trusted brand should be sufficient but since so much of the population just looks at the price, even brand recognition counts for little - and supplies the same - in these days of disposability.

  • If we import Chinese tools en masse because these can be cheaper, then these will be cheaper. Making tools is highly automated. A minimum investment in a better factory line, and you get better quality.

    Many tools by European or us companies are made in China with the same quality as in Europe or US. There is no incentive of the "Made in China" no name tool makers to invest to make better tools, since buying European or western brands, but made in China with good quality is ok for the Chinese.

    I remember su

  • by jgotts ( 2785 ) <jgotts.gmail@com> on Monday January 18, 2016 @08:27PM (#51326137)

    I rarely post two responses to the same Slashdot article, but I've read everybody else's responses and nobody has yet mentioned the value of his or her time.

    When buying the cheapest product, too many people do not factor in the value of their time.

    Let's say that I buy a $10 tool instead of a $50 tool. If the $10 tool breaks, then I will probably waste a minimum of an hour of my time replacing it, not to mention wear and tear on my vehicle. To me an hour of my time is worth more than $40. Saving anything less than $50 on a tool that has the possibility of malfunctioning is a losing proposition.

    Get yourself the best tool, and save yourself the grief of wasting your valuable time.

    Additionally, nobody has mentioned the value of his or her physical or mental health. When a tool malfunctions, it takes a toll on you. Maybe the tool will only injure you slightly, but was it worth it? Stress hormones in your brain shorten your lifespan, so why make it hard on yourself by making your work more stressful due to malfunctioning tools? We are not machines with replaceable parts. We are fragile humans, physically and mentally.

  • by Mr.CRC ( 2330444 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @11:47PM (#51327003)

    I recently bought some very expensive Armstrong (made in USA) ignition wrenches, hoping I'd get some very precisely formed tools. They were crap. Now days, Tekton tools are better quality than most consumer-grade tools.

    I go through quite an ordeal to find quality tools for reasonable prices. For screwdrivers, its German made Wiha. For wrenches, sockets, and some other things, Tekton has taken the limelight.

    For a .0005in resolution dial test indicator, I tried a Chinese one. It was crap. So I bought a second B&S BesTest on Ebay and got a good one.

    Electronic pliers: Tronex (the very best there is), Erem, Xuron. Even the German brands have become crap now: CK and Xcelite. Larger wire cutting pliers by Swanstrom are very nice.

    I just opted to not buy another set of cheap needle files, and instead bought a $70 set of Grobet/Teborg ones. Very worth it!

    I tried an economy model Mitutoyo caliper to have a 2nd pair in addition to my good Mitutoyo calipers. It was crap. Now iGaging makes calipers for $40-$60 that are as repeatable and solid as good Mitutoyo. Maybe I won't trust them when .0005-.001 accuracy really matters, but for routine measures, they are great.

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