Made in the USA – Now just a myth?

Posted by on April 6, 2006

I received an email on 3/22/2006 that I’ll post below as a nice introduction, then get into the bulk of my post below that.

Brian Mark,

I read your posting about not liking the Craftsman truck series commercial about bowling (no, I didn’t watch it as I am sure it was not very good).

To write “you’re going to need to buy quality hand tools that aren’t from Craftsman. I’ll make the recommendation for Stanley Tools“. Come on now. I am not a Craftsmanite by any stretch of the imagination. Infact I do not own one Craftsman socket or ratchet. I am more of a Made in the USA man than any one brand loyal. But to say the nearly exclusively made in China Stanley tools are better in any way than any tool made in the USA is crazy. You do know Stanley made a majority of the hand tools for Craftsman in the 90′s and prior don’t you?

I don’t need to go into who owns who in the tool buisness or anything beyond that. Just wanted to say Buy American when you can!

Best Wishes,
Vince Bellantonio Jr.

Thanks for your comments, Vince. I’d agree that we need to watch to a point what we buy. If everything is created overseas, we could end up with a huge unemployment rate stateside. However, “Made in the USA” in the tool business is getting to be a myth. We carry Irwin tools if you really want to stay with US built, but the point of the article you were referencing was that their commercial was sending the wrong message, not that I wanted to send more money overseas.

Made in the USA Hand Tools

Hand tools are a bit different than power tools (the usual focus of this blog), but it warrants comment. Most of the metals used in creating hand tools are now imported, much from Japan and Europe. So even a “Made in the USA” tool is supporting overseas markets. A look at the Iron and Steel Statistics Bureau data shows the following data:

The largest steel exporting countries in 2004 were Japan (34.8 million tonnes), the EU15 (31.8), Russia (30.4), Ukraine (28.2) and, entering the top 5 for the first time, China (20.0).

Conversely, the largest steel importing countries in 2004 were China (33.2 million tonnes), USA (32.8), the EU15 (30.4) and South Korea (17.7)

How many hand tools are made from steel? I’d say a large percentage. What about plastics? Well, that’s very similar as well. Materials come from overseas, so that US made tool is still foreign materials in most cases.

Made in the USA Power Tools

This question comes up on a regular basis: What power tools are the largest percentage US built? We all know that DeWALT is a US based company and Makita is based in Japan, but where are the tools built? Surprisingly, the typical answer to the question of who builds the most tools in the US is Makita. We’ve asked reps from many companies, and that’s usually the answer. There are a lot of Mexican built tools on the market today, quite a few German built, Korean and Japanese aren’t uncommon either. Additionally, most of these companies have a US division. So what’s that really mean?

Regardless where the tool is made there is always going to be some of the money staying home. Most people don’t buy their Makita drill from Japan, they go to their local store or buy it from us online. Sure, some of the money ends up back in Japan. But it’s a global economy now more than ever, and part of the money stays with the seller, some stays with the rep, some stays with the local warehousing facilities, some stays with the shippers, some stays with the manufacturer, some stays with their material suppliers, and some goes back into advertising via local media outlets. Regardless where the item is built, money gets spread all around both locally and abroad.

One Response to Made in the USA – Now just a myth?

  1. Rick Hart

    The thirty year old 4½” grinder I own recently went to that great grinding field in the sky, and was sent off with lots of flame. I have since been looking for a replacement. To my shagrin I have been unable to locate one that is not built in China. This alone does not make them bad but with millions of fellow Americans out of work I want to keep my money in the United States. My first choice was another Milwaukee Tool … but, I have been unable to locate one made in the United States. As a mater of fact, I have been unable to locate one that is made in the US. Do you know where I can find a US made grinder?