I know the initial reactions to most Craftsman tools from serious wood workers are typically 1) they are overpriced (at least when not on sale) and 2) they really aren’t that great in terms of quality. Most of the time I would agree with those sentiments, but when I buy Craftsman I typically look for closeouts, clearance, or door-buster deals. If you keep an eye out, you can typically find some good deals on Craftsman tools, making them quite reasonable. I will readily concede that the quality of Craftsman tools is not up to the level of some other brands, but many of the Craftsman Professional tools are more than sufficient for my non-professional needs, even if they do need a little tweaking from time to time.
With that in mind, I picked up a “Craftsman Professional 13 planer that had been a floor model for about 1/3 of its original price. Knowing it was a floor model, and that there was a greater chance of it having some problems, I got the service agreement for quite a reasonable price, and brought it home. After testing it out on some scrap 2X4’s, I realized that the planer wasn’t quite right (a situation I had sort of expected—thus the reason I got the service plan). I called up the service center, dropped the planer off at my local Sears, and was told to expect it back in about 3 weeks. Granted, this was a little sad since I was enthusiastic about prepping some stock for a project I had been saving some rough-cut lumber for, but I figured that for the price, I could wait.
Fast forward two weeks: I got a call from the service center saying the cutter head was off and that the base was warped, probably from being mis-handled in the store before I purchased it, and that the replacement cost would be cheaper than fixing it. The shop immediately issued a replacement order, and I was given a brand new planer as a replacement for the floor model I originally purchased.
WOW! What a great follow-through with customer service! Since then, the planer has been working just fine, and I have been more than happy with its performance.
Last night I was cleaning up some pallet boards that I have been planning to use in boxes for Christmas presents (some nice walnut and cherry—I really lucked out with that haul), and I noticed that mid-way through planing, some boards started coming out with a crown. That was odd, but I hadn’t replaced the blades in a while, so I thought the blades just weren’t cutting right (plus, I had noticed a bit of tear out, so I figured it was time to bite the $30 bullet (which is quite a decent price IMHO) and drop a new set of blades in. When I pulled the blades, I noticed the gibs were slightly warped, which seemed to be the real cause of the uneven planer performance.
Today I called the service center asking about buying some replacement gibs. They are only about $9 each, so I figured it wouldn’t be too expensive of a fix, but I figured that I had paid for the service plan (that had already paid for itself!), so it wouldn’t hurt to ask if the gibs were covered under my warranty. After pulling up my service contract, the Sears representative said that they were, and that she would be happy to replace them for free. The representative then asked if there were any other problems with the planer, and I mentioned that the warping of the gibs caused some uneven wear on the blades. She immediately said they would be happy to replace the blades as well since the failure of the warrantied part resulted in damage to the blades.
The gibs and the blades would have cost more than I paid for the service contract, not even counting the initial replacement planer that it already got me. Couple that with the fact that it includes a yearly tune up and blade sharpening (in this case replacement) for the life of the service contract, it has turned out to be quite a deal. After I get Christmas presents done, I am planning on dropping the planer in for its one year service to get a new set of blades, a good cleaning, lubrication, and alignment of everything. Granted I could do all of that myself, but I will have a nice chunk of shop down-time, so why not let someone else do it?
I have heard more than a few horror stories about customer service from tool companies lately, so I figured it would be good to share a positive story. I know Craftsman may not be the pinnacle of quality, but from my experience with their customer service, they have tried to follow through to make sure that the tools I have bought from them continue to work right. Customer service matters, and my positive experiences with Sears will keep me buying Craftsman tools if the price is right and it fits my needs.
As a final note, this is the ONLY major problem I have ever had with any of my Craftsman tools, so hopefully that streak will continue in the future.
-- David from Indiana --