Sunday, August 18, 2013

Screwdrivers: Buy American

You are walking through a Home Improvement store, and you see a full set of impressive looking
screwdrivers on sale for only 5 dollars! You can't pass that up, right? I mean, they are on sale! While the pliers on sale right next to them might be passable for the average homeowner, I would put the cheap screwdrivers back!

Craftsman Screwdrivers
Craftsman Screwdrivers: Product Link
Normally I recommend buying a product just on its own merits. I still do, it's just that there's really no reason even to be looking at Chinese screwdrivers until something changes. I own lots of Chinese made metal type stuff: knives, carabiners, tweezers, etc. However, the same limitations in manufacturing technology which are acceptable for other products make for pretty much useless screwdrivers.

1. Steel

It's all in the steel, baby. There's nothing inherently wrong with Chinese steel, it's just too soft to make a good screwdriver. It's pretty much OK for other types of tools which don't require a harder steel, like knives, pliers, hammers, etc.

Craftsman Screwdrivers - Closeup of Flathead

2. Heat Treatment

USA made steel has better heat treatment than most other steels, and better uniformity in its application. Which means that other steels such as Chinese steels, even though they are softer, are usually more brittle. Some factories are getting much better about their heat treatments, but for the average person, there is no easy way to tell.

3. Precision Machining

Here is where other countries are gaining the most ground, but the USA still leads in the precision machining needed to make the perfect screwdriver. Slight imperfections or irregularities can render a screwdriver near useless, and you are playing the lottery with Chinese screwdrivers when it comes to machining.

Craftsman Screwdrivers - Closeup of Philips


Craftsman Screwdrivers - Closeup of Handle
There are a few tools like screwdrivers and sockets I will only buy USA made. But these days it's difficult to even know which tools are made where. And US companies that have been around for ages are playing a shell game where you the consumer end up paying premium prices for certain high-margin cheap tools.

What I do is look on the packaging. If it doesn't say it's made in the USA, I don't buy it. I usually buy Craftsman screwdrivers, but these days I don't think all their lines are made here. So I still pay close attention to the packaging. Never assume that an American company like Husky or Kobalt makes all their tools in the USA.

For some tools that I will keep cheaper versions of, I make sure the place it was made is reflected in the price. I recently bought some Craftsman combination wrenches that were made in China. The store had them prominently displayed at a premium price next to all the other made in the USA tools, but I got this set for half off, so it was a good deal.

Craftsman Screwdrivers - Another Closeup of Handle


  1. I have read your article post. there are many tools in this site. thank's for sharing & tips. This is a informative post.

  2. I'm waiting for your second part. Write many more tools. Waiting.....

  3. I really enjoyed your article, thank you for the useful content.