Ah, where to start? I guess the first place is with the myth that
Sears ever did make quality tools (I know Sears didn't make them, but
for simplicity, let's just use the phrase). I have more than a little
experience with Crafstman tools, and I know what I'm talking about.
I grew up in a woodworking/DIY household and I remember many, many
trips to Sears and visiting the tool department (9, for those of you
who wonder how Sears numbers their departments). Compared to the sorry
pieces of 3rd hand junk my father was using in his shop, some of those
tools looked positively magnificent. Perspective jolt: this was in the
I remember well the Christmas my mother bought my father a set of
Craftsman power tools: saber saw (that's what we called a jig saw in
those days), drill, sheet sander. Admittedly, they had steel bodies,
but however robust they may have appeared, only one of them was still
in his shop when I cleaned it out after he died, and I'm not sure it
was working. I didn't even bother keeping it.
At one time my shop looked like a Sears catalog. Stupid? No. In the
'60s, '70s, and '80s there weren't the places to buy Delta,
Powermatic, and Porter-Cable tools like there are now. Makita and
Hitachi were still on the horizon. There was no internet. There were
precious few magaizines advertising them. Shoot, where I lived you
couldn't even buy hardwood. I never had a piece of real hardwood until
I was 30. (I can hear it now: you had softwood? We WISHED we had
softwood. We had to build bedroom suites out of cardboard and we were
I started out in 1972 with a Craftsman radial arm saw. Problems: well
documented lack of stability in alignment. Cheesy table to frame
attachment and fence clamp. My saw was one of the last with a solid
cast iron column; they subsequently built them with bolt-together
castings. It's waiting to be sold.
Around 1973 I bought a Craftsman drill press. It was okay. In fact it
had a couple of features that I really came to appreciate when it came
time to look for a replacement, as most Delta/PM/Jet didn't have them:
quill lock, light. That said, eventually some slop developed in the
quill--not axially; vertically. I tried and tried and tried to figure
out where it came from and how to fix it and couldn't I replaced it
with a Delta 17-925...with a quill lock. If I had to, I could lift the
Sears DP. The 17-925 is around 250 lbs.
Around 1974 I bought a Craftsman bandsaw. Problems: pain in the butt
one piece door that made blade changing tedious. Other than that this
was actually not too bad a tool. I replaced it after nearly 20 years
with a Delta 28-280. Same story as the one below about weight. It was
impossible for me to get the saw up on the stand by myself without a
block and tackle. And after a few times at the saw I could see there
was a world of difference between the saws.
A year later ('75) I bought a Craftsman jointer. I could adjust the
gibs on the infeed table perfectly square to the outfeed table OR I
could adjust the height of the table with the adjustment knob to
change the depth of cut. In years of trying to reengineer the thing,
and with a second table from Sears I was never able to make the thing
work like it was supposed to. I could edge joint boards reasonably
well, but forget about face jointing. If you think that Craftsman and
Delta are even remotely equivalent, I could lift the Sears jointer up
and down off its stand by myself with ease. I challenge you to try
that with a DJ15, much less a DJ20.
After initially building a lathe and never being satisfied with it, I
bought a Craftsman lathe. It's okay, but my Jet mini lathe (acquired
many years later) is twice the lathe, even at 1/3 the size. Also, in a
common theme with other Sears tools, all the attachments are an odd
size. Fortunately, that size is accommodated by most of the after
market manufacturers, unlike some of the other odd size selections in
Table saw. Here we get to the heart of the myth that Craftsman used to
be something. My saw, obviously acquired used, is vintage 1955 or
thereabouts. It is essentially the same saw with respect to table and
innards as the saws sold right up to Emerson's ouster in the late
'90s. The fence rail *looked*
better and I always thought had been a
long lamented victim of lowered specs to meet a price point until I
actually had it. What a piece of crap. I later added an aftermarket
fence which does a reasonable job.
The trunnions are some sort of non-cast iron metal. I don't think it's
quite pot metal, but then I'm not sure what that is anyway. They're
nowhere, no way near as substantial as even contractor saws by other
manufacturers, much less the redoubtable cabinet saws of
Delta/Powermatic/Jet. And any thought of robust construction is dashed
when you see and feel the sheet metal body that holds it all together.
Again, I can lift the saw up and down off the base by myself,
contrasted to the 400+ pounds of my Unisaw.
The miter slot anomaly of the Craftsman is legendary. They use a .750"
slot (with a .746" bar) where other manufacturers use a .750" bar in a
.755" slot. Sears advertises a "standard 3/8 x 3/4 miter slot", but
it's only standard in Sears' saws.
Belt sander. I can't remember when I bought this, but the tensioning
mechanism is a bastard set up if ever I saw one. I have to reengineer
the damn thing every time I change belts. Consequently, it doesn't see
much use. If I needed a belt sander any more than I do, I'd junk this
one and get a new P-C, Bosch, or Makita.
Jig saw. I fought and fought with this piece of crap for years. The
blades wouldn't stay straight and they wouldn't stay in place. Cuts
were a crap shoot every time. I thought it was the nature of the beast
(jig saw, not Craftsman) until I bought a Bosch. My god, what were
they (Sears) thinking?
Router. ARHA (Automatic Random Height Adjustment). Need I say more?
I've been bitten so many times by it that I'm ashamed to admit it.
When I started buying Bosch, P-C, Hitachi routers, I realized just how
all encompassing the Craftsman lie is.
Drill. Almost any other manufacturer's drills (except B&D) were more
compact, smoother running, and more powerful than any Sears drill I
ever had my hands on.
Circular saw. Bulky, underpowered. Compared to my P-C 347 and my P-C
SawBoss, Craftsman saws are a joke. Even my throw-away Skils were
Folks, they are not tools that any true professional that depends on
their tools for a living would tolerate for very long. They have
gimmicks like lights on drills, and rack and pinions on routers that
seem important to the uninitiated (they're not) but also mask other
shortcomings. Flash, not substance.
They are not good value, unless you consider them as one or two job
throw away tools. Sure you can make them last longer than that, but do
you want to? If you've never used Porter-Cable, or Makita, or Hitachi,
or Bosch tools, you may think the Sears are adequate. They are not.
No one can defend Sears tools by comparison to any of the
"professional" grade tools such as P-C, Makita, Hitachi, Bosch, Delta,
Powermatic, General, etc. If they try, it's because they've never used
any of them.
Now there will be some responders who will talk about their particular
Sears tool that they've had for years and can't kill. Fine. Even a
stopped clock is right twice a day. But if you want long term comfort,
power, reliability, precision, suitablilty for the task, etc., avoid
Division 9 at Sears like the plague.
Craftsman is not, and never has been, any better than the current
Black & Decker/Skil level of homeowner tools. The possible exception
(particularly because I value Charlie Self's opinion) is the new Sears
cabinet saw recently introduced. For me however, it's long been too
little and too late. I will never, EVER consider a Craftsman tool in
any way again.
And, yes, that includes hand tools. I've completely replaced all of my
Craftsman screwdrivers with Klein. What a difference. The Craftsman
chisels are gone; replaced by Sorby. The wrenches are slowly being
replaced by Husky which feel better and look better.
One day, I will be truly Craftsman free. And they earned it.
Master Woodbutcher and seasoned termite
Shamelessly whoring my website since 1999