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Comparison of Craftsman and New Britain Tools

In this section we'll look at a number of Craftsman "BE" and H-Circle tools alongside their New Britain et al counterparts.

New Britain, None Better, Husky, and Craftsman 1/2-Drive Ratchets

Let's begin the comparison with 1/2-drive ratchets.

[1/2-Drive Ratchets]
Fig. 3. Four 1/2-Drive Ratchets, from Bottom: NS40, S40, H4725, H-Circle.

Fig. 3 shows (from bottom to top) the New Britain NS40, the None Better S40, the Husky H4725, and finally the Craftsman H-Circle model ratchets.

As the photograph illustrates, these ratchets are virtually identical, showing only the minor differences that might result from production runs at different times. (Note that the New Britain NS-40 model has a damaged shift lever.)

All of the ratchets are stamped with a "Pat. Pend." notation on the cover plate, along with their model number (if applicable) and brand.

[Back Side of 1/2-Drive Ratchets]
Fig. 4. Back Side of 1/2-Drive Ratchets, from Bottom: NS-40, S40, H4725, H-Circle.

Fig. 4 shows the back side of the same group of ratchets, from bottom to top the New Britain NS40, None Better S40, Husky H4725, and Craftsman H-Circle model.

The patent pending status for these ratchets indicates that the company had applied for and expected to receive a patent. Assuming that the subsequent patent number can be determined, the pending mark can provide valuable information on the date of manufacture, since it would be applied only between the filing and issue of the patent.

At the time this article was first written, the patent had not yet been found, but subsequently was found to be patent #2,206,943, filed by W.F. Costello in 1937 and issued in 1940. However, the stamped markings on the ratchets were not updated with the patent date or number after issue, so the pending marking doesn't provide the expected clue to the manufacturing date.

1/2-Drive Female Ratchets

[Craftsman and None Better 1/2-Drive Female Ratchets]
Fig. 5. 1/2-Inch Female-Drive Ratchets, from Bottom: S45, "BE", H-Circle.

Fig. 5 shows several examples of another style of ratchet, the 1/2-inch female-drive ratchets.

From bottom to top we see a None Better S45, the Craftsman "BE", and Craftsman H-Circle. (The None Better logo was on the opposite cover plate, so the handle says "Forged" instead of "Made in U.S.A.".)

3/8-Drive Ratchets

Now let's compare the Craftsman and New Britain 3/8-drive ratchets.

[Craftsman and None Better 3/8-Drive Ratchets]
Fig. 6. Three 3/8-Drive Ratchets, from Bottom: B40, "BE", H-Circle.

Fig. 6 shows three 3/8-drive ratchets, this time with just a single New Britain model, the None Better B40 (bottom), along with both Craftsman "BE" (middle) and H-Circle (top) models.

As before, the photographs show that these tools have nearly identical details and dimensions. Note in particular the distinctive shifter with curled-up ends, which can be actuated with the thumb or forefinger.

[Back Side of 3/8-Drive Ratchets]
Fig. 7. Back Side of 3/8-Drive Ratchets, from Bottom: B40, "BE", H-Circle.

Fig. 7 shows the back side of the same three ratchets.

Although the 1/2-drive ratchets were known to be available in both male and female drive styles, the 3/8-drive ratchets are (thus far) known only with male drive.

1/4-Drive Ratchets

Craftsman 1/4-drive ratchets were sold in two distinctly different styles, one closely resembling the 3/8-drive ratchets shown above, the other with an open gear and a riveted body.

[Craftsman 1/4-Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 8. Craftsman "BE" 1/4-Inch Female-Drive Ratchet.

Fig. 8 shows a Craftsman "BE" 1/4-drive ratchet with a forged body, and Fig. 9 provides a Husky model H5126 for comparison. Both ratchets have female drive broachings.

[Husky H5126 1/4-Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 9. Husky H5126 1/4-Inch Female-Drive Ratchet, with Inset Showing Back Side.

Both models are structurally very similar to the 3/8-drive ratchets. The Craftsman "BE" model has a slightly different body forging, with a somewhat narrower head apparently specifically adapted for 1/4-drive.

The Husky model appears to be built using the same forging as the 3/8-drive models, but with the drive gear broached for 1/4-drive. The inset shows the expected "Made in U.S.A." from the back side.

Examples of the 1/4-drive open-style ratchet design can be seen as the Craftsman "BE" 1/4-Drive Open-Style Ratchet and Craftsman H-Circle 1/4-Drive Open-Style Ratchet. The open-style ratchet is not known to have been offered under the other New Britain Machine brands, although it's possible that one will turn up someday.

Other Drive Tools

The next set of figures show additional examples of drive tools, in particular flex-head handles and drive extensions.

None Better S52 and Craftsman 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handles

[Craftsman and None Better 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handles]
Fig. 10. 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handles, from Bottom: None Better, "BE", H-Circle.

Fig. 10 shows three 1/2-drive flex-head handles, from bottom to top, the None Better S52, Craftsman "BE", and Craftsman H-Circle. The None Better tool is a shorter model, but still serves to show the similarity of design and details.

The overall lengths are 14.8 inches for the Craftsman "BE" and H-Circle models, and 12.0 inches for the None Better model.

The insets beneath each tool provide a close-up of the logos. The None Better logo shows a small NB-Circle mark to the right; this (registered) trademark was sometimes used as the only identification mark on a tool.

Husky H3721 and Craftsman "BE" 3/8-Drive 10 Inch Flex-Head Handles

[Craftsman and Husky 3/8-Drive Flex-Head Handles]
Fig. 11. Craftsman and Husky 3/8-Drive Flex-Head Handles, from Bottom: Husky H3721, Craftsman BE.

Fig. 11 provides a comparison of two 3/8-drive flex-head handles, the Husky h3271 on the bottom and the Craftsman "BE" on top.

Both tools have an overall length of 9.9 inches.

New Britain and Craftsman 1/4-Drive Flex-Head Handles

[Comparison of Three 1/4-Drive Flex-Head Handles]
Fig. 12. Comparison of Three 1/4-Drive Flex-Head Handles, from Bottom: NB-Circle, "BE", H-Circle.

In Fig. 12 we see three 1/4-drive flex-head handles, from bottom to top, the New Britain NB-Circle model, the Craftsman "BE", and the Craftsman H-Circle.

The NB-Circle model has a coppery color where the thin chrome plating has worn through to show the copper plating below.

None Better S24 and Craftsman 1/2-Drive 5 Inch Extensions

[1/2-Drive Extensions]
Fig. 13. Two 1/2-Drive Extensions, from Bottom: S24, H-Circle.

Fig. 13 shows two 1/2-drive 5 inch extensions, the None Better S24 and the Craftsman H-Circle. The Craftsman extension has the underline logo (not visible in the photograph.)

The overall lengths are 4.9 inches.

None Better and Craftsman "BE" 1/2-Drive Standard Sockets

[None Better and Craftsman BE Sockets]
Fig. 14. Early 1/2-Drive Sockets, from Left: None Better (NB-Circle) "Chrome", Craftsman "BE". (Click to Enlarge)

Fig. 14 shows a pair of 1/2-drive shallow sockets, a None Better (NB-Circle) 1-1/4 "Chrome" model on the left, and a Craftsman 1 inch "BE" model on the right. The None Better model is quite early, as it has only a size marking but no model number. (Most New Britain tools have a model number marked.)

Both sockets have a shoulder below the broaching to maintain strength for the bored recess below the broached area; this was the typical construction for early cold-broached sockets, as will be discussed in a later section.

The finish for both sockets is polished chrome.

1/2-Drive Deep Sockets

[New Britain and Craftsman H-Circle Sockets]
Fig. 15. Two 1/2-Drive Deep Sockets, from Bottom: H-Circle, NTD1224.

In Fig. 15 we see a pair of 1/2-drive deep sockets, a Craftsman H-Circle 11/16 at the bottom and a New Britain NTD1224 3/4 at the top.

The sizes are slightly different (these were the closest ones available) but still suffice to show the similarity.

[Closeup of 1/2-Drive Deep Sockets]
Fig. 16. Closeup of 1/2-Drive Deep Sockets, from Left: NTD1224, H-Circle.

Fig. 16 shows a close-up of the same two sockets, illustrating the fine cross-hatching of the knurled band at the base.

With these socket photographs we conclude the section on tool comparisons.

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