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Many of my current hand tools date to the 'sixties. The oldest, to my recollection, is a Craftsman beam-bar 1/2-inch torque wrench that I bought in 1965—for $7.39 out of the Sears catalog! My most recent acquisition is a deep set, Pittsburgh axle nut set from Harbor Freight, intended for occasional use.


Tools have various functions and purposes, and their price and quality can range accordingly. When I first worked professionally as a light- and medium-duty truck mechanic, Proto tools were popular. By today's standards, that would be Craftsman or S&K quality. 


I ran a motorcycle repair shop at Carson City in the early 'seventies and discovered Snap-On and Mac Tools. Craftsman tools at the time offered an extraordinary lifetime warranty, and I have Craftsman sockets, ratchets and extensions still in my boxes to this day. I did, however, migrate to Snap-On for box ended wrenches, screwdrivers and a 3/8" tilting head ratchet.   


A Champion spark plug offset handle, swivel head ratchet wrench carries forth from the late 'sixties, pre-dating the Snap-On tools. The Champion 3/8" spark plug ratchet was a private label tool, likely built by Proto. It has weathered extremes of use and, in hindsight, abuse from excessive torque application on some occasions. Yet it survives.


When picking tools, the quality and warranty are important. So is the "feel" of a tool if you're working with it professionally, day in and day out. Cost aside, my best ratchets have been Craftsman, not Snap-On. The reverse levers on the Craftsman tools fit my fingers and hands much better than the ratchets I bought from Snap-On years ago. In fairness, Snap-On may have improved this design, or your hands may be happier with one design over the other.


Some hand tools are simply better quality. I mentioned Snap-On screwdrivers, their tips are exceptional and long lasting, handles feel right, and they prove superior. That said, however, the newer Craftsman "Professional" line of hand tools have come a long way for both fit and durability.


Tool boxes are another story altogether. Boxes often get purchased on the basis of brand names that carry cache. When I worked at a GMC truck dealership as a line mechanic, Snap-On tools, and especially its boxes, stood for a true professional investment. Since I believe a mechanic's worth is his or her work quality, boxes are not the end all for me.


I like Craftsman professional series boxes and have a shop full of them. Weight being a factor, if you want "big", you'll pay by the load capacity. Even the Harbor Freight U.S. General big boxes have a high load capacity and unloaded weight.


On that note, don't dismiss Harbor Freight—just be selective and know the "line" names. I've done very well with the black, six-point Pittsburgh impact sockets and knockoff tools like the ball-joint removal and installation kits. Pittsburgh brand often means something. For torque wrenches, however, I opt for contemporary high-end electronic types and quality, known brands like Mac, MATCO, Snap-On and such. 


It just depends on your intent and plans for the tools. If day in and out use is the plan, buy better. When it's a one-shot or rare project and everything appears acceptable with the tool, consider an inexpensive item. Harbor Freight's heavy steel products tend to be the best buy on this side of the ocean, especially at the price, though these products all come from the other side of the big water!


I'd be happy to elaborate on any aspect of tools, welding equipment or automotive testing/diagnostic equipment. I've been at this professionally for forty-six years and can cast a broad light. When time permits, I'm planning a tool box walk-through for the magazine's HD Video Network. The tour will cover all of my hand tools, air and impact tools, specialty tools and pullers, welding tools and diagnostic equipment.


I'll watch for your posts and reply! Ask away...



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  • 3 weeks later...

Moses, i agree with all of what you said about the tools you choose, but would also like to add some info about another line i have used in the past, and that is Campbell-Hausfeld. Most people already know they make air compressors, and air tools, but they also make an assorted line of heavy impact, mainly 1/2 inch drive sockets, in standard and deep-well lengths, metric and standard sizes, which are mainly sold at walmart.


I was skeptical about buying them, but one night about 2 in the morning, i broke a 19MM impact socket trying to change a flat in a walmart parking lot about 200 miles from home, and basically had no choice. That was almost 4 years ago, and i have yet to break one, and i use them quite extensively with both my Craftsman and Snap-On cordless impacts, and my air impact. As far as i know, you can only buy them in sets, but most sets are less than $25, which is why i was leery about them in the first place.


Another line of tools i have found to be better than advertised are the line of Duralast tools that Autozone sells. Again, another time where i was away from home and needed a tool for something, and they were the closest place. That was a couple years ago, and i broke one of the sockets i bought not to long ago, and i didn't have a hassle exchanging it at Autozone. Both Duralast and the Campbell-Hausfeld sockets have a lifetime warranty.

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Interesting about Campbell-Hausfeld, that Walmart carries these tools.  Some speak highly of the Kobalt line of tools from Lowe's as well...


I would like to add that a recent purchase of a Chicago-Pneumatic CP7748 air impact gun was wise...For the heavily trafficked article at the magazine on rebuilding an 11.5" AAM axle (my Dodge Ram re-gear job), I purchased this 1/2" gun for around $200 from NAPA on sale (included a nice nylon tote bag, too!)...This is the most powerful 1/2" gun I've owned, and that's over a long time.  (My CP734 has been in the drawer since the early '70s!)  Here's a description at Illus. #98 of that article.  I'm not in the habit of providing this kind of "free" publicity for non-advertisers' products, but C-P earned this one!


I'm starting a topic on air compressors as a follow-up to the CP7748 comments...



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