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Early Craftsman Series (generally pre-1946, some exceptions): BC = unknown U.S. manufacturer, ca. ? - ? BE = New Britain and some Hinsdale, ca. 1931 - 1947 BT = unknown U.S. manufacturer, ca. 1936 - 1938 Cxx = New Britain and probably Hinsdale and Fulton, ca. 1930 - 1936 CI = probably Fulton, ca. 1930 - 1945 CF = Herbrand, ca. 1930 - 1936 C8 = JP Danielson, ca. 1930 -1936 F-circle = possibly Lectrolite, Miller Falls, or KD, ca. 1949 - 1964 G-circle = possibly Lectrolite, ca. 1949 - 1959 perhaps as late as 1964 H-circle = New Britain and some Hinsdale, ca. 1931 - 1947 K-circle = SK, ca. 1935 - 1949 perhaps as late as 1984 N-square = unknown U.S. manu., ca ? - ? P-circle = Wilde, ca. 1945 - 1960 S-circle = Kastar, ca. 1960 - 2008, perhaps earlier V-circle = unknown U.S. manu., ca. ? - 1985 U-circle = Plomb, ca. 1944-1948 The following section details what we currently know about the modern series codes. Much of the information for this section was taken from the personal tool inventory of Mr. Gary Lauver, consisting of approximately 450 Craftsman tools which were purchased between 1960 and 2008. As you can see, there is still much that we do not currently know. Modern Craftsman Series (generally 1946 and later, some exceptions): BF = probably Daido, possibly Hozan, Japanese made, ca 1969 - 1987 C = unknown U.S. manu., ca. 1991 D = unknown Chinese manu., ca. 2002-2008 DJ = Mitutoyo, Japanese made, ca. 1968 E & EE = Stanley Works, some U.S. made, some Taiwanese made, ca. 1982 - 1991 F = Danaher, ca. ? - 2008 G = Danaher, ca. 1990 - 2008 G1 = Danaher, ca. 2000 G2 = Danaher, ca. ? - 2008 GD2 = Danaher, ca. 2008 - ? GK = Danaher/Kingsley Tools Division, ca. 2003 - 2008 GK-A = Danaher/Kingsley Tools Division, ca. 1999 - 2003 GK-F = Danaher/Kinsley Tools Division, ca. 2007 - 2008 GK-G = Danaher/Kingsley Tools Division, ca. 2007 - 2008 GK-X = Danaher/Kinsley Tools Division, ca. ? - 2008 H = Danaher/Holo-Krome Division, ca. 1994 - 2008 HZ = likely Danaher, ca. ? - 2008 I-circle = Parker Mfg Co, ca. 1985 - 1986 K = SK division of Facom, ca. 1985 - 2004, could still be NOS on the shelves K1W = Danaher, ca. 2007 K3V = Danaher, ca. ? - 2008 K3X = Danaher, ca. 2007 -2008 KR = Danaher, ca. ? - 2008 KU = Danaher, ca. ? - 2008 KV = Danaher, ca. ? - 2008 KW = Danaher, ca. 2002 - 2008, probably earlier KX = Danaher, ca. 2002 - 2008, probably earlier L1X = Danaher, ca. 2008 - ? M6W = Dahaher, ca. 2007 - 2008 P = Wilde, ca. ? - 2008 PR = Pratt Read, ca. 2002 - 2008 Q PR = Pratt Read, ca. ? S PR = Pratt Read, ca. 2007 - 2008 T PR = Pratt Read, ca. 2007 - 2008 U PR1-3 = Pratt Read, ca. 2008 V PR = Pratt Read, ca. 2007 - 2008 W PR = Pratt Read, ca 2007 - 2008 T1V = Danaher, ca. 2006 - 2007 T2W = Danaher, ca. 2008 T3W = Danaher, ca. 2008 T5V = Danaher, ca. 2008 T5W = Danaher, ca. 2008 T5X = Danaher, ca. 2008 V = Moore Drop Forge, ca. 1945 - 1968 perhaps earlier V (continued) = Easco, ca. 1969 - 1989, perhaps as late as 1991 VA = Armstrong division of Danaher, ca. 2002 - 2008, perhaps earlier VF = Danaher, ca. likely early 1990's VG = Danaher, ca. 1994 - 1995 VH = Danaher, ca. 1994 - 1997 VJ = Danaher, ca. 1994 - 2008 VK = Danaher, ca. 1996 - ? VL = Danaher, ca. ? - ? VM = Danaher, ca. ? - ? VN = Danaher, ca. 1999 - 2001 VP = Danaher, ca. ? - ? VQ = Danaher, ca. 2001 - 2004 VR = Danaher, ca. 2002 VS = Danaher, ca. 1995 - 2003 VT = Danaher, ca. 2006 VU = Danaher, ca. 2005 VV = Danaher, ca. 1990 - 2007, perhaps later VW = Danaher, ca. 2002 - 2008 V^(2nd V inverted) = Danaher, ca. 1992 - 2008 VVN = Danaher, ca. 2005 VVS = Danaher, ca. 2003 VVT = Danaher, ca. 2004 - 2005 VVV = Danaher, ca. 2008 VVW = Danaher, ca. 2008 VVX = Danaher, ca. 2002 - 2008, possibly earlier W = probably SK Hand tools, post-Facom , ca. 2005 - 2008 WF = Western Forge, ca. 1965 - 2008 WF ll = Western Forge, ca. 1969 WF K = Western Forge, ca. ? WF L = Western Forge, ca. ? WF R = Western Forge, ca. ? WF U = Western Forge, ca. 2008 WF V = Western Forge, ca. 2008 WF W = Western Forge, ca. 2002 - 2008 B WF = Western Forge, ca. ? C WF = Western Forge, ca. ? D WF = Western Forge, ca. 1993 - 2000 E WF = Western Forge, ca. ? F WF = Western Forge, ca. 2003 J WF = Western Forge, ca. 1995 K WF = Western Forge, ca. 1995 L WF = Western Forge, ca. ? M WF = Western Forge, ca. ? N WF = Western Forge, ca. ? Q WF = Western Forge, ca. 1990 - 1995 T WF = Western Forge, ca. 2002 - 2008 V WF = Western Forge, ca. 2002 - 2008 W WF = Western Forge, ca. 2002 - 2008 X WF = Western Forge, ca. 1965 - 2008 + WF = Western Forge, ca. 1965 - ? * WF = Western Forge, ca. 1965 - ? ∆ WF = Western Forge, ca. 1966 - ? □ WF = Western Forge, ca. 1965 - ? X = probably SK Hand tools, post-Facom , ca. 2008 - ? Z = Mayhew, ca. 1966 - 2008 3 = Kastar, ca. 1991 4 = Kastar, ca. 1992 [ = Kastar, ca. 2002 - 2008 possibly earlier .(Dot) = SK, ca. 2008 " " (Tools with no series code) = multiple U.S. manufacturer's including Allied Tool, American Tool, Danaher, Greenfield, Jore Corp, JS Technology, Kastar, KD, Lisle, Mayhew Steel, Midwest Snips, Milbar, Stanley Works, Stride Tool, Sturtevant Richmond, Ullman Devices, Vermont American, Western Forge, and Facom and other unknown foreign manufacturer's, ca. 1986 - 2008 Feel free to review, comment, and provide evidence of series codes, manufacturers, and/or dates not shown above. Post away! * Note-- items in red are recent updates. □ ∆ + __________________ Compiled by Gary Lauver
The title says it all: what's your preferred Big Box tool source? Admittedly, my "hobby" these days is combing through Lowe's and Home Depot stores, sometimes as far as 100 miles away from home. You never know what kind of deal may be found, and it gives me an excuse to get out of the apartment and take the dog for a nice ride down highways and byways (I rarely hit the interstate unless traveling longer distances). So, out of sheer boredom, I figured I'd compare the Orange and Blue stores from a variety of standpoints. Years ago Sears would have been a factor, but they have gone the way of the dodo in this area. Tool Selection: Both stores have every basic tool a homeowner or general construction worker would need. Some smaller stores may not have some specialty tools, and niche trades will likely find a supply house a better choice. For this reason, I'd say that the two are tied were it not for one reason...Home Depot's rental centers at many stores. Those larger tools that aren't sold may be rented instead, providing an alternative to larger tool rental companies in a familiar atmosphere. Tool Brands: This is where things get subjective. I used to prefer Lowe's, especially when they had domestically produced brands on clearance. Naturally, once those clearance deals were gone and the offshore tools ruled the shelves, I started going to Home Depot more often. Lowe's currently sells Bosch and DeWalt power tools (some stores carry/carried Metabo as well), with a handful of arguably "lesser" brands (Kobalt, Hitachi, Porter Cable, Black & Decker, Rockwell). Home Depot sells Milwaukee, DeWalt, and Makita, along with brands like Ridgid, Ryobi, and B&D (and some Bosch saws). For overall brand representation and in-store availability, Home Depot wins the power tool category. Similarly, I'd say that Home Depot has the better selection of tool brands. Ridgid, HK Porter, Milwaukee, Wiss, DeWalt, Estwing, Empire, Klein, and a multitude of other brands are available. At Lowe's you essentially have Stanley/Black & Decker (SBD) and Irwin brands available, along with a few outliers like Vaughan. For some reason, though, I've always preferred Kobalt to Husky for hand tools. Special Buys: Both stores have occasional offers that are pretty hard to pass up. When it comes to Home Depot, the modular boxes (Ridgid or DeWalt) are unbeatable when they go on sale (like the DeWalt is now) and the simple availability of comparatively "better" or at least more diverse brands like Milwaukee, Ridgid, Ryobi, and Makita as well as DeWalt usually make the Orange store's deals more tempting. When it comes to special buys on accessories, Lowe's is destroyed by Home Depot, in my opinion. Brands like Diablo will often have BOGO deals on saw blades and grinding/sanding accessories. Lowe's will occasionally offer a good deal on accessories, but they simply do not stand out like they do in the other store. This could be due to store layout as well, though. Most Home Depot stores have a wider front aisle with plenty of room to place brightly colored Special Buy displays, while Lowe's often has less floor space and shares the color blue with one of the brands that usually offer such deals, Irwin. Lowe's does win with the more common Special Buys, though. They use a green sign that contrasts nicely with the shelf space, while Home Depot uses signs that blend in. For an example, browse the tool aisles and you may notice the current Ridgid and Diablo promotions do not stand out quite like a neon green sign does. Lowe's also has the discount applied automatically, something which Home Depot may have finally started (I know they were still having to scan the on-screen coupon for BOGOs a year ago). Home Depot also has another drawback, explained below in Discounts. Customer Service: I rarely interact with the customer service desk, but the few returns I've done have been fairly decent overall. Both stores vary in terms of knowledgeable staff and the number of associates available at any given time. Since I've literally memorized where almost everything is, and each company uses only two or three layouts in most stores, I usually avoid interacting with the associates unless I need something that is locked up. Locations: There are plenty of stores in the greater Columbus, GA area, with Atlanta (a little over 100 miles away) naturally having some of the nicer Home Depot stores in the vicinity of its corporate headquarters. Across Georgia, though, I found that Lowe's often had locations in smaller towns such as Hinesville, Vidalia, Waycross, or Statesboro, while Home Depot stuck to larger cities like Savannah and Brunswick. In the immediate vicinity, there is one Lowe's and two Home Depots, with another one of each about 30 minutes away in Opelika, AL. For most people, either store would meet their home improvement needs and there would be no need to drive a half-hour to another store (as was the case in Hinesville, GA). For tool aficionados such as me, though, it's worth the extra drive just to pick up the brand I want (e.g. Klein instead of settling with Southwire). Discounts: I use a military discount for nearly all of my purchases, and am a big fan of saving the extra 10%. As mentioned above, Home Depot has a drawback compared to its competitor: the discount does not apply to Special Buys. While I don't hem and haw about not getting a discount, it is nice to know that even with a BOGO offer I'll save 10%. It seems that Lowe's offers the discount on nearly any purchase; the only time I was denied it was when a manager gave me a good price on a non-stock item. Regardless, it is great to have this privilege at either store, and while the discount sweetens the deal it is not a deal-breaker. Left-Over Stock (LOS) Deals: I consider left-over stock to be former promotional merchandise that went unsold and wasn't pulled from the shelves. This can result in pretty decent deals a lot of the time. When I recently bought two Ridgid cordless fans with a free starter pack, I knew I'd need another battery so I grabbed a 4.0Ah from the shelf, regretting not waiting until the holiday season. Lo and behold, a final walk around the tool section resulted in me finding a BOGO 4.0Ah pack left over from some previous offer. A few other stores I visited yesterday had two or three of these as well, so if you're in the market for Ridgid batteries, keep an eye out. Another LOS deal was the Milwaukee Rocket light with 5.0Ah starter kit. A current promotion tosses in a 5.0Ah battery with the bare tool purchase, effectively including a 2-pack of batteries and a charger with the purchase. You'll also find LOS turning into clearance merchandise, such as the Milwaukee 9.0Ah starter kit with free Sawzall or circular saw currently selling for as much as $75 below its original price. Lowe's does not seem to have anywhere near the same amount of LOS deals as it seems that most of their Special Buys are not packaged differently from normal items (a BOGO battery deal would require two individual batteries instead of two packaged together with Special Buy labeling). Clearance Deals: Both stores can be pretty decent with clearance deals, though it seems that Lowe's is much more sporadic. Clearance tools at Lowe's often requires a venture down the tool aisles, looking for yellow labels that are not usually extremely discounted. Some stores will have a designated section as well, while others will occasionally put out a table with used/missing parts/etc tools (an especially good way to score bare tools). I haven't seen a Home Depot that sells obviously used tools outside of the rental center. That said, it is possible to find some good deals at Lowe's, such as the Fatmax levels that were recently priced as much as 75% off. Home Depot seems more methodical (in an erratic way, if that makes sense). Pricing seems to start at either $.06 or $.00, with the former dropping down to $.02 before being pulled from shelves (though savvy bargain hunters can score literal penny deals, I've gotten exactly two on items that originally sold for under $10). The latter ($.00) pricing seems to drop more slowly and may not drop any more. It seems that Lowe's is more apt to clearance out a tool due to it being discontinued or no longer carried, and the best deals are when they switch brands (leading me to outstanding scores on Wiss, Ideal, and Fatmax in the past). Meanwhile, Home Depot will have more variance store to store, with some stores selling items on clearance at half price while other nearby stores still have that item at normal pricing. "What Are They Doing?" Deals: Finally, these are the items that you find on clearance at significantly discounted prices and buy because you are sure they will no longer be stocked. Home Depot has done it with items such as the DeWalt DCV517 vacuum and the Fuel 2763 impact. Lowe's has done it with the Jawhorse and very probably other items. Each time I'd find a yellow clearance sticker reflecting a price 25-50% lower than original, only to find the shelves full of that same item a month or so later. Perhaps it is due to some vendor agreement or a need to move unsold inventory to make room for new products, but it makes little business sense to me that I should be able to pay $150 for two Jawhorses that the store is obviously desperate to get rid of, only to find five more in their place the following month for $150 apiece. Anyway, I was bored, but think I'll close for now. What is your favorite big box tool store, and why? Mine used to be Lowe's for the clearance deals as I started going regularly when they were getting rid of Ideal low voltage tools and Wiss metalworking tools. Unfortunately, I missed the year prior when they were selling Knipex and Channellock electrical tools at super discounted prices. Nowadays, however, it would have to be Home Depot for not only clearance deals but also for Special Buys and brand availability. Another boring weekend or two and I might complete my TTI trifecta by buying into the Ryobi One+ system. While DeWalt is by far my favorite power tool brand, my Milwaukee Fuel tools and Ridgid fans are great! It was even better waking up to the dog barking this morning due to a power outage, turning on a Ridgid fan for air circulation, using the Rocket light to find a battery for the ToughSystem radio, and finally using the radio to charge my phone and stream SiriusXM using 4G. Cordless, it's truly the way to go... Until my batteries start dying in the years to come, and the manufacturers move on to the next big advance in technology.
Not Really an article, but here's a 1931 Craftsman Power Tool Catalog for your enjoyment. The Craftsman name itself was first used by Sears in 1927 and the first power tools were offered in 1929 making this the 3rd Power Tool production year. craftsman1931.pdf