Who Makes the Best Tools?

There’s a conversation that’s been going on for centuries about who makes the best tools. Obviously times change, and so do the players. Theoretically, the top guns of the 80’s could have been edged out by new technology, new companies, new ideas, and so on.

Some time ago I mentioned in the blog that I had an upcoming story about tools, and this is it. This is a test that should have been videotaped and put on Discovery Channel with Mike Rowe as narrator. It’s an epic story, and I hope I can do it justice.

Last year, Larry and I teamed up on the roof of an aircraft hangar. It was built in the 80’s, and used what seemed to have been a few good ideas back then. One of those ideas ended up being a huge source of frustration in 2014.

The great idea was a design for screw heads that amounted to a plastic headed “security” screw, meaning you’d need a special bit to install and remove it, so somebody with a typical screw gun couldn’t break into the building. It was a cool concept, and I could see where people would have bought into it. The problem was (and is) that the designer screw head was made of plastic, and a certain symmetrical shape so you’d need to have the right screw bit to do anything at all. Any attempt to use pliers or something similar would be fruitless.

Fast forward 30 years: Now these plastic screw heads have been on the roof, facing the damaging rays of the sun every day like it or not. They’re rotted, brittle, and just plain useless. The steel screw underneath is round with vee notches that can’t be removed with anything “normal.” I made a special screw bit to fit the plastic heads, because the manufacturer no longer exists. Because of the “sun rot,” it was only capable of removing maybe one out of ten screws without stripping or breaking the heads.

So we embark on this journey, armed with nothing but Vise Grips and Channel Locks. Keep in mind that Larry and I have a huge combined collection of hand tools manufactured by practically anybody you can think of. There’s Craftsman, Snap-On, Harbor Freight, and everything in between. We ended up pulling all the stops to find the right tool for this job. Did I mention we replaced 8,000 screws over two weeks in the hot sun?

It turns out, the people that make the best specialized tools are the ones that have always made them. Craftsman sucks. Snap-On sucks. Harbor Frieght sucks. We fought and fought and fought (well, Larry more than me), only to discover that if you want good Vise Grips, go get the good Vise Grip brand ones. And let me tell you, there’s nothing like a new pair of channel lock pliers made by….uh…Channel Lock. The teeth are so sharp they bite into those screws and almost eliminate the need for Vise Grips! Oh ya, and who makes the best crescent wrench? Crescent, of course!

By the way, Vise Grips come in a million different styles now. You won’t find them at Home Depot. You should visit a regular hardware store and look around. You’d be amazed at the cool things you’ll find in there.

The thing is, sometimes a good American company with a good tradition of innovation and strong footing on “the basics” beats all of the pretenders. That’s where we strive to be at Amerivet Services. Focus on the basics, improve on them where it makes sense, and consistently bring good solutions to the table.

For me, part of that process is finding other companies that focus on providing good basic solutions, and using them as part of my toolkit for solving customers’ problems.

OK, I have another long-term promise I’m going to make, but hopefully I’ll follow up on it fairly soon. I’d like to expand on my equipment maintenance management training and experience, and hopefully relate it to the “real world.” I’ll probably link to the website of a man who created his own PhD in Maintenance Management, because his ideas make so much sense and yet very few MBA’s understand them enough to save their companies money. I think it will be good to give my own perspective, and good for the rest of the world too!

Remember, if you have a problem (or several), let us help you solve it. We have ideas, resources, and brain power to make things happen for you!