What is the value of re-branded tools?

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Forum topic by MrRon posted 10-09-2015 06:58 PM 1103 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5203 posts in 3448 days

10-09-2015 06:58 PM

I’m talking about tools that were marketed by stores like Sears and Montgomery Ward. They all sold tools that were made by well known tool makers, like Stanley, Millers Falls and others with the Sears or MW name on them. In many cases, they were identical to the name brands, but may not have had the fine finish of the name brands. In operation, they would work just as well as the name brand. Is it just brand name snobbery that makes a brand name tool more valuable than a re-branded tool? I’m not talking about the modern day tools sold by Sears. I have tools sold by Sears and MW that look identical to the name brands and work as well. They just don’t have the brand name.
One example is a Craftsman dial indicator (DI), I bought 30 years ago. It cost about 1/3 of a Starrett DI and is just as accurate, at least for my purposes. I don’t know who actually made it. I still use it on my machining jobs. I have 3 other “name brand” DI’s, but this one is what I use mostly.

8 replies so far

View Johnny7's profile


399 posts in 1295 days

#1 posted 10-09-2015 08:26 PM

You have pretty much answered you own question—so I’ll just summarize and add to those points

In many cases, the fit and finish falls just short of that provided on the maker’s self-branded tools. In other cases, the manufacturer’s top of the line model is not available as a re-branded tool.

Snobbery explains some of it, but many collectors specialize—Let’s say they want one of each size of the type 11 Stanley Bailey handplane—that’s not something you can do using only re-branded planes.

Let’s be honest, the average user/hoarder/collector of these vintage tools does not have the skill level necessary to appreciate, or utilize any performance advantage of one tool over another—but when did that ever stop anyone from trying to acquire, what they perceived to be the best/most desirable?

View Kelly's profile


2134 posts in 3149 days

#2 posted 10-09-2015 09:23 PM

After being in woodwork a while and opting for higher quality power tools, I still bought Craftsman, but only if I could find the tool in my Porter Cable, Dewalt, Black and Decker (their commercial versions) other big name tool catalogs.

If I needed a set of brushes and ordered it through Sears, I had to go to the store, pay for the part, then wait two weeks for it to arrive – at the store. On the other hand, I could call Porter Cable, tell them what I wanted and it would arrive, C.O.D. in a couple days. Those businesses better understood businesses couldn’t afford to play the wait game and operated accordingly.

On the other hand, you couldn’t buy Milwaukee, Porter Cable and other quality tools locally back then, but you were only mail order away from the Sears version.

In the end, I was happy with every rebranded tools I had. In fact, I wish I hadn’t let some of them go with my first shop. I liked things like my drop foot circular saw from B&D’s commercial line, for example.

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2719 days

#3 posted 10-10-2015 11:15 AM

First off, can someone please block kukunyuk – whose only stated purpose is to somehow try to get woodworkers to go to a movie? Do we really need that here?

About the Sears rebranding – I have a couple of tales…

My Sears chain saw, which after a few months started cutting in curves, no matter how I sharpened the chain, or in one case, put on a new chain. Turns out the case that holds the two bar bolts was not the same metal as he original manufacturer. (I want to say Poulan.)
In any case, the Sears equivalent had a much softer aluminum specified for the Sears model by Sears, and the bolts were slowly pulling out, leaving the chain and bar at a slight angle which caused the curved cuts. I sold it at a great loss since a replacement case half was way too expensive. Also, no lifetime guarantee on gas powered, sharpened tools. It was a little over a year old.

My Sears tractor came with a Briggs and Stratton engine, which six weeks after the one year warranty expired, froze up. I decided that I would get the engine rebuilt by B&S, only to be laughed away from the counter of the local B&S dealer, who told me that the engine number I had provided was what they call a “throwaway” Sears motor. Would I care to spend $600+ on a new motor? Sold the like new body off at a loss, frozen motor and all.

My Sears 4X24 belt sander was just like another name brand, but less money. Nice until the front roller came off its axle, since there was no key. It was epoxied on and the heat of the sanding broke the epoxy bond, and the wheel flew off.
That was when I gave up on Sears and took it back for a refund. The guy had a STACK of return forms. I asked him why so many, and he calmly told me, “Because I use so many”.

Truth be told, many Sears tools are carefully engineered to be less quality than their name brand look-alikes. It is why I don’t buy Sears anything anymore. For years, now. Just is not worth the issues. Maybe back in the 70’s, and early 80’s they might have been OK, but when Sears collided with people like HD, Lowes, and Walmart, they fought back with cheaper versions – which did not work so well. And as far as their replacement guarantee? A tool is only good to me if I do not need to replace it…

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Don W's profile

Don W

19018 posts in 2772 days

#4 posted 10-10-2015 11:53 AM

In vintage, rebranding depends. For instance very early vintage Fulton’s were made by Sargent. Their value is relatively lower than Sargent’s, except the #2 size, which will slightly edge out most others.

A Winchester however, made by Sargent will sell much higher.

I suppose the rhythm or reason is in rarity rather than anything else. Trends do play a role.

If Swartz got on YouTube with a Wards Master 1920 #4 and said how good it was, we’d see a substantial spike in vintage Wards Master prices, and I’d be pissed for the ones I practically gave away.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3564 days

#5 posted 10-11-2015 03:08 AM

I agree with Don that rebranding depends. Yes, some of the Craftsman planes were made by Sargent, but when they stopped and switched to another supplier is unknown to me. The same with other brands. Retailers like Sears switched suppliers depending on who gave them the best price for the next contract period. Additionally, these tools were usually a “second tier” tool.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

View TheTurtleCarpenter's profile


1052 posts in 1271 days

#6 posted 10-11-2015 03:30 AM

I think they are Good Value myself. As for collection value, not so much unless they are grade A shape.

-- "Tying shoelaces was way harder than learning to Whistle"

View bandit571's profile


21795 posts in 2888 days

#7 posted 10-11-2015 03:31 AM

Lets see…I use a all metal Skil Home Shop 6” circular saw about as much as the all metal Sears Craftsman 7-1/4” one

I have a sears VINTAGE dual wheel 6” grinder, still going strong
I have two sears Crftsman bandsaws, both working good
A Sears Craftsman 13” Scrollsaw, paid $10 at a yard sale, still going good.

A Craftsman 22” miter box and saw are used. My late father would only buy Craftsman handtools. He retired as head of mechanics at the Oh Depatment of Transportation Garage, DIV 7

A few years back, notice Sears had come out with a new, all metal router. I bought the router kit, fixed and plunge base. Other then the Craftsman markings…same as a Bosch.

I do not buy any Sears drills, had too many die on me. Cordless were the worse.

Handplanes? Stanley made for Wards No. 3 (WWII era) and a No.78 Both work just fine.

Trying to sell my Craftsman 113.xxxx because of lack of shop space. Still runs great. Bought it new in the Sears store.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View MrRon's profile


5203 posts in 3448 days

#8 posted 10-11-2015 06:27 PM

I never had much luck with Craftsman stationary tools, but those tools sold by Monkey Ward seemed to be better quality than Sears. I have a metal cutting bandsaw sold by MW and probably made in the U.S. or Taiwan that I bought 30 years ago. It is still as accurate today as it was new. It will cut 1/16” slivers off an angle iron. I use it pretty much daily. I’m not a “collector” as such. I just get tools that work well regardless of brand.

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