20 Great American Made Tools
It feels so satisfying when you find an authentic example of quality American craftsmanship. Just like pulling on a pair of indestructible boots or cutting with a professionally sharpened blade, putting an expertly made tool in your hand just feels right. Your immediately sense the durability in your grip.
And when that tool is American made? You get the double satisfaction of knowing you are supporting a local craftsman somewhere in the USA and continuing a centuries-long tradition of producing the highest quality work.
We wrote this post to celebrate all those feelings of satisfaction. Below are 20 durable tools that are made in America and used by mechanics, welders, technicians, woodworkers and thousands of other craftspeople across our country every day.
Rockford, Illinois’ Estwing has been making one-piece, solid-steel forgings since 1923. Here is what Outdoorlife.com writes about the Sportsman’s Axe:
“The attractive leather ring grip and one piece forging make this a great looking, long lasting hatchet, and it’s one of the cheapest on our list. The overall axe length is 14 inches, and the blade’s cutting edge is 3 ¼ inches.”
Hardcore Hammers is a fairly new company, having started just before the turn of the millennium. A few innovations to this ancient technology has set Hardcore Hammers apart from just about every other brand.
Gear Patrol sums up why nicely: “Hardcore’s unique recessed hardened steel strikeface delivers your power where it belongs and saves surfaces (and fingers) from looking like schnitzel. The innovation doesn’t end there either. The American-made 19-ounce head has twin magnetized nail slots, so one-handed hitters have options, as well as a straightened claw to get into tighter places and provide more leverage.”
Portland, Oregon, manufacturer Leatherman says its Wave is by far its most popular multi-tool. Tim Leatherman actually began prototyping his design back in 1975, but it took eight years of perfecting before he made his first sale. It was in 1983 that the company was established, and Leatherman has been a household name almost ever since: As of 2011, the most recent year we could find data, Leatherman was outselling all other multi-tools combined in the United States.
You don’t normally imagine startup companies getting into the shovel business. And you certainly wouldn’t imagine such a company would raise its first funding on Kickstarter. But that’s just what Bosse did when it sought to build a better shovel, and the company’s campaign was a success.
Bosse’s big change to the shovel was the introduction of that rotating center handle, which you can see in the photo. In the company’s words: “[T]hese shovels improve posture to reduce back strain, they relieve wrist pain by taking the wrist out of a pronated position, and they minimize shoulder injury by making sure lifting tasks are two-handed and in front of the body, which evenly distributes the loads across the shoulders and chest.”
Pre-orders are still underway, which means we haven’t had a chance to get our hands on one of these shovels yet. But Bosse makes our list for sheer creativity, for keeping its manufacturing here in the States, and because we are giving them the benefit of the doubt about the claims they make.
TheSweethome.com, one of the most reputable review sites around, called the 8WCB Wide Azz as the best adjustable wrench in June 2014. Meadville, Pennsylvania’s Channellock has been making top-notch tools for more than 125 years now, so it’s not a surprise really that engineers there were able to create a tool so beloved by many: They’ve had generations to perfect it.
Escanaba, Michigan’s Bark River Knives is a family-owned business that guarantees its knives against manufacturing defects for life. The Hudson Bay Camp Knife’s design dates back to the early-1700s, used by colonial traders and frontiersmen who wanted a heavy blade so that they wouldn’t need to carry around a cleaver.
Charleston, South Carolina’s American Workbench creates some awesome custom designs for its clients (and their client list includes Jimmy Buffett, as you’ll see on the company’s Facebook page). Each workbench is made to order, but all come with a 1 and 3/4″ rock-hard edge grain wood welded butcher block top. The company’s first design, The Big John workbench, is sturdy enough to support 1500 pounds.
Occidental’s skilled leather workers have been making tool belts and other products with raw American leather since 1980 at their workshop in Sonoma County, California. Said one customer, a home improvement contractor in North Carolina: “[T]he design of your product has increased my efficiency, and effectiveness. In the morning, no matter what the carpentry project of the day, I simply grab my Occidental setup and get to work.”
Wilde is a family-owned corporation that was originally established in Kansas City but later moved to its current home in Hiawatha, Kansas. Today, it is led by third- and fourth-generation family members. Pictured above is the company’s 7G.NP/CC 6-3/4″ knurled angle-nose plier.
Holland, Michigan’s Yost Vices began as Yost Manufacturing in Meadville, Pennsylvania, in 1908. Since then, the company has moved toward specializing in vices of all sizes and uses. Said one Amazon reviewer about the RIA-4:
“This is a nice little vise. It feels heavy. It doesn’t have that “Harbor Freight” feel – it is solid, finished, smoothed edges and smooth operating. The flat bit on top of the barrel (anvil?) is very well placed [aligned with jaws] and useful.”
The Sweethome named MegaPro’s as the best multi-bit screwdriver available in a 2013 review. “If you don’t lose it, this is probably the last screwdriver you’ll ever need to purchase,” reviewer Doug Marhney wrote.
Note: Despite the company having its headquarters in Canada, this particular screwdriver is made in the USA. Some of the company’s other tools are made north of the border.
Proto Tools got its start in LA in 1907 and later on spun its story into one of the best advertising lines ever: “Our first wrenches were made from Ford axles. Not long after, our wrenches made Fords.”
Their new line of ratcheting wrenches, introduced in 2012, offer an extra 13 degrees of swing thanks to an offset open end and an I-beam profile.
ToolGuyd.com picked Westling’s tool holders as their go-to socket organizers: “These high quality USA-made socket trays are top-notch. Not only do they work well, they look good, too.”
Klein makes a great pair of scissors. The company got its start in the early 1950s, when a team of five men working at the shop in western New York would turn out about 600 barber shears per week (that works out to 20 per day per person). Today, it is one of the leading scissors and shears manufacturers in the US. Pictured above is the 7” bent trimmer.
Park Tools has been making bike tools at its shop in Saint Paul, Minnesota, since 1963. Today, it is still family-owned, led by Eric Hawkins, son of co-founder Howard Hawkins. Pictured above is the I-Beam Mini Fold Up Hex Wrench / Screwdriver / Star Driver Set.
Best Made Co. is a relatively new company from New York, founded in 2009 after owner Peter Buchanan-Smith realized he needed a better axe than what he could easily buy in shops. From that first axe, the company has gone on to create camping gear, tools and other products that customers demand durability from.
In 1840, when most tradesmen in America were still relying on foreign tools because the country’s manufacturing industry was still playing catch-up to Europe, Henry Disston set out to one-up all other saw manufacturers, particularly the British ones. Through sheer will and creativity, he developed a better manufacturing system and introduced America’s first line of hand saws. Today, 174 years later, the company still produces some of the best saws, blades and drill bits around.
According to its Facebook page, Newark, New Jersey’s U.J. Ramelson Company, Inc., has been making hand-working tools since 1937, using all-wood handles and steel to craft some great, made-to-order woodworking tools for nearly 80 years.
These steel and stainless steel tables can support up to 500 pounds, yet when folded protrude less than 6” from the wall, optimizing your workspace both in terms of square footage and workload handling.
Maglite designed these tactical flashlights with input from police and security professionals, though they are also priced for civilian use.
ToolGuyd.com reviewed Maglite’s tactical LED flashlights when they were introduced in 2013. From the review: “The pricing seems fair [currently $65-$70 on Amazon], especially considering that the flashlight is manufactured in the USA. Based on communications I had with Magliite customer service in the past, the LED element is likely made offshore, with all other components made in the USA.”
Eric Gjerde / Flickr
All product images courtesy of manufacturers’ websites.