Alloy Artifacts  

Craftsman Manufacturer's Codes

Table of Contents


This page will discuss Craftsman manufacturer's codes, the markings that serve to identify the maker of a specific Craftsman tool.

This article is one of a series covering the Sears Craftsman line of tools. Separate articles cover the Craftsman Early Tools from the pre-Craftsman era into the mid 1940s, the Craftsman "BE" and H-Circle Socket Tools from the 1930s and 1940s, and the Craftsman Modern Era that began around 1945.

The Origin of Manufacturer's Codes

One well-known but undocumented aspect of Craftsman tools is the presence of a manufacturer's code marking on most (although not all) tools. These codes have served as a source of heated debate and endless speculation, as people interested in Craftsman tool history attempt to determine which company made a particular tool.

In this section we'll present some reasoned arguments about why such manufacturer's codes came to exist, and then draw some general conclusions about the codes. Our explanation for the codes is very simple to state: the manufacturer's codes existed so that Sears could sort tools returned under warranty and send them back to the original maker for a merchandise credit.

Under this explanation the manufacturer's codes can be seen as a natural consequence of the lifetime warranty offered for Craftsman tools, plus the observation that as the Craftsman product line expanded, an increasing number of contract manufacturers were needed to produce the tools.

In observing the usage of manufacturer's codes, we've noted that most examples of the earliest Craftsman tools are not marked with a code. These examples would include the early "Chrome-Vanadium" open-end wrenches, "Vanadium Steel" open-end and tappet wrenches, and early pliers with checkered handle patterns. This raises the question as to when the manufacturer's codes first came into general use.

One of the first groups of tools with a manufacturer's code could have been the open-end wrenches with "CI" or "AF" codes. This style of wrench appears to have been offered as early as 1933, based on catalog illustrations, although some examples of this style have been found without manufacturer's codes. Another early group of tools with a code would be the "BE" series of socket tools, which were offered by the fall of 1935. Once again though there are a few examples of "BE"-style tools that are not marked with a code and which might represent early production.

Based on these considerations, it appears likely that the manufacturer's codes were first used sometime between 1934 and 1936, although not necessarily at the same time for different classes of tools. We will make use of this estimated beginning point in attempting to refine the manufacturing date estimates for some tools.

Another observation is that some types of tools were never marked with a manufacturer's code, even if they were produced long after the codes were in general use. A prime example of this is the Craftsman 8-In-1 Socket Wrench, a well-known tool sold from the mid 1950s through 1960s, and produced only by J.H. Williams.

A Hypothetical Scenario

To help understand how the manufacturer's codes might have arisen, imagine that you are the manager of a tool company in the 1930s, and that your company has recently signed a contract with Sears to produce tools for their new Craftsman brand. You've sent several shipments of tools to Sears, custom marked with the Craftsman brand as required by the contract, and your company has started to receive payments from Sears.

In checking the most recent payment though, you notice that an amount has been deducted with the explanation "Returned Goods", and a few days later a package arrives from Sears with some broken and damaged tools. So you hand the package to your Quality Control department and ask them to analyze the problems.

A few days later the head of QC reports back that they have examined the failures and have recommended some production changes, which hopefully will reduce the likelihood of future problems. Then he mentions, "Oh, by the way, we found a few tools in the shipment that weren't made here ... take a look at these." He hands you some tools that look at least similar to the ones you make, but with a few details that seem out of place.

With the pile of stray tools on your desk, you call your contact at Sears and explain that some other company's tools have been included in the return shipment. The Sears representative then asks, "How do you know that those tools weren't made by your company?"

At this point the conversation could take two different paths. If your company's tools already have some type of very specific marking, you explain to the Sears person that your tools always have a "WF" (or whatever) forged into the shank, and that Sears should use that marking for identification. The Sears representative then records your particular code on the chart used by the tool sorters, and agrees to true up your account in the next invoice.

But what if your company's tools are very similar to the other production and have no special identifying marks? If you have to explain to Sears that your wrenches are a bit longer than the others, or that the shank is slightly convex instead of flat, Sears would probably respond that these differences are too subtle for the sorting personnel, and that you will need to add some kind of marking to the tools. Perhaps Sears even asks if you have a particular marking you'd like to use, or if you want them to assign a unique code.

In either case, by the end of the conversation you have agreed with Sears on a manufacturer's code to be used for your company's tools, and this will presumably resolve the problem with incorrect returns.

Further Discussion

Although the hypothetical scenario above may not capture all of the details of the manufacturer's code system, it's plausible that at least some parts of this dialogue could have occurred, and probably on multiple occasions. As the sales of Craftsman tools increased, even a small one percent failure rate would have resulted in thousands of returns. If some of these returns were then sent to the wrong manufacturer, that almost certainly would have resulted in complaints and arguments. It would have been in the best interest of both Sears and their contract suppliers to make the return process operate smoothly and with minimal exceptional cases requiring further discussion or negotiation.

In the remainder of this section we'll go though some typical questions related to manufacturer's codes, then offer a plausible answer based on the framework outlined above. If any readers have additional questions in this area, don't hesitate to ask via email.

Case Studies for Manufacturer's Codes

This section will include discussion and evidence showing how certain manufacturer's codes (or production characteristics) were attributed to a particular maker. The subsections are ordered alphabetically by the maker's name.

The attribution of Craftsman tools to a specific manufacturer has been a high priority here at Alloy Artifacts literally from the beginning, as one of our first three articles back in 2005 served to identify New Britain Machine as the maker of Craftsman "BE" and "H-Circle" tools.

Unfortunately though our early success with New Britain Machine gave us a false sense of confidence about tracking down the makers of Craftsman tools. Most of the later attributions required extensive research, as well as patience (and a bit of luck) in finding examples of rare tools. And the makers for a number of Craftsman manufacturer's codes are still unknown after years of searching.

Maker Billings

The Billings & Spencer Company was an early merchant drop-forge operator and became one of the giants of the tool industry.

In this section we will first present evidence to show that Billings supplied wrenches for the Craftsman brand using the "AF" and "CI" manufacturer's codes. Then we will extend the discussion to include tools made by Billings before the advent of the manufacturer's code system.

Patented Wrench Holder for Merit "AF" Wrenches

We recently (November 2015) found a missing link to identify Billings & Spencer as the maker associated with the "AF" manufacturer's code, in the form of the patented wrench holder shown in the next figure.

[Merit 6-Piece Open-End Wrench Set]
Fig. 1. Merit "AF" 6-Piece Open-End Wrench Set in Clip, with Inset for Top View, ca. 1934-1938.

Fig. 1 shows a set of six Merit open-end wrenches in a distinctive metal clip, each marked with an "AF" code and the Merit logo forged into the shank, with the industry-standard model number and fractional sizes forged into the back side.

The tool holder in the photograph turned out to match the illustration for patent #2,030,148, issued to J.H. Coyle in 1936, with assignment to Billings & Spencer!

The discovery of this patented metal clip means that this wrench set is the long-sought link to prove that Billings was the maker of the "AF" wrenches.

The interested reader can find more details about this set in our original presentation of the Merit "AF" 6-Piece Wrench Set.

In the remainder of this section we will provide additional evidence that Billings is the maker in question, as well as extend the identification to cover the "CI" tools.

Furthermore, after reviewing the catalog evidence and comparing Craftsman and Billings tools, we will also show that Billings was the maker of the earliest Craftsman "Chrome-Vanadium" open-end and tappet wrenches, as well as the transitional "Craftsman Vanadium Steel" open-end wrenches that preceded the "AF" and "CI" models.

Close Similarity of Craftsman "AF" and "CI" Examples

Our sections on Craftsman Open-End Wrenches, Craftsman Box-End Wrenches, and Craftsman Combination Wrenches provide numerous examples of wrenches with the same tool model in "AF" and "CI" variants.

In all cases the production characteristics are nearly identical, and the slight differences in markings are what might be expected if the tools were being manufactured at two different locations.

Same Wrench Holder for Merit "AF" Set Used Earlier for Craftsman Wrenches

The Sears 1933-1934 Fall-Winter catalog has an illustration on page 793 of Craftsman open-end wrenches in a wrench holder with concave edges, the same distinctive design as the patented holder with the Merit "AF" set linked above. The wrenches in the illustration have depressed panels with "Craftsman Vanadium" in the underline logo, matching the design of the Craftsman "CI" and "AF" wrenches. This establishes that Billings was providing Craftsman wrenches consistent with the "CI"/"AF" design in the 1933-1934 time frame.

Craftsman Offset Box Wrenches Show Certain Billings Production Characteristics

Craftsman "CI" offset box wrenches have a construction style in which the shank meets the box end at the top of the box, giving it a "flat-top" appearance. This same construction style is seen in the Billings Vitalloy offset box wrenches. Although not unique in the industry, many other toolmakers produced offset box wrenches with the shank joining the box end near the center.

The above points establish a strong case for recognizing Billings as the maker of the "AF" and "CI" variants of Craftsman wrenches. We will now offer additional evidence to show that Billings was also the maker of the earliest Craftsman wrenches with "Chrome-Vanadium" forged-in markings, as well as the subsequent "Craftsman Vanadium Steel" wrenches.

Billings Early 300x Tappet Wrenches Match Earliest Craftsman Tappet Wrenches

In the late 1920s Billings & Spencer offered a 300x series of tappet wrenches with a unique design having equal 22.5 degree offsets. The first Craftsman tappet wrenches matched the unusual design of the Billings wrenches and had the same model numbers (with a "C" prefix) as the Billings version.

An example of the Craftsman version can be seen as the Craftsman C-3006 Tappet Wrench, with the corresponding Billings tool as the Billings 3006 Tappet Wrench. The matching design and markings provide positive identification of Billings as the maker of the first Craftsman tappet wrenches.

These earliest Craftsman tappet wrenches were marked with "Craftsman" and "Chrome-Vanadium" forged into the shank, the same markings found on the earliest Craftsman open-end wrenches. Although the open-end wrenches do not have any unique design characteristics, the matching forged-in markings, the matching "C" prefix to the model numbers, and the fact that both open-end and tappet wrenches were offered at the same time all provide strong evidence for Billings as the maker of the open-end wrenches as well.

Billings Early C-Series Wrenches Very Similar to "Craftsman Vanadium Steel" Wrenches

Our article on Billings & Spencer has a section on early alloy C-Series Open-End Wrenches, the name for which is based on the "C" model number prefix. These Billings wrenches are very similar to the "Craftsman Vanadium Steel" Wrenches shown our Craftsman article.

For the cases in which we have both a Craftsman and Billings example, the wrenches are nearly identical in shape, dimensions, and even model number markings, with small differences that one might expect based on production in different factories or at different times.

Matching Wrench Holder Illustrations for Billings Wrenches and "Craftsman Vanadium Steel" Wrenches

The Sears 1931 Spring-Summer catalog lists a set of six Billings open-end wrenches on page 866, with an illustration showing the set in a wrench holder with a distinctive wire loop closure. The same page offers "Craftsman Vanadium Steel" open-end wrenches in a holder with the same wire loop closure, providing good evidence that Billings was also the supplier for the Craftsman wrenches.

In summary, the above points provide conclusive evidence that Billings was the maker of Craftsman wrenches, beginning with the earliest "Chrome-Vanadium" open-end and tappet wrenches in 1930 and extending through the later "AF" and "CI" open-end, tappet, box-end, and combination wrenches.

Maker Champion DeArment

In this section we will present evidence that Champion DeArment (now Channellock Incorporated) was the maker of Craftsman pliers marked with the "C-Circle" code. We have gathered several types of evidence that collectively make a strong case for Champion DeArment being the maker in question.

Prior to the 1930s Champion DeArment was well known as a maker of blacksmith's and farrier's tools, and its major products included hammers, tongs, pincers, and nippers, as well as wrenches and other drop-forged tools. The company's direction (and fortunes) changed dramatically in 1932 with the invention of tongue-and-groove pliers described by the Manning patent 1,950,362, a revolutionary advancement in the art of plier making.

Background Information for the "C-Circle" Pliers

Pliers marked with the "C-Circle" code began appearing during the "Craftsman Vanadium" era of the mid 1930s and represent the second major supplier of Craftsman pliers, with Kraeuter & Company being the dominant supplier up to that point.

The known "C-Circle" tools covered many of the styles offered by Sears, including diagonal cutters, needlenose pliers, electrician's pliers, and lineman's pliers, with notable exceptions being the Button's pliers and angle-nose pliers. In addition, at least two styles, end nippers and "assembly" pliers, are known only in the "C-Circle" version in this early era.

Pliers with the "C-Circle" code almost always have the "Nested Diamonds" gripping pattern on the handles, a relatively simple geometric design that became the standard handle pattern for Craftsman pliers.

Distinctive Forge Mark Found on Both Craftsman and Champion DeArment Pliers

Our investigation began with the recent (2024) observation that a number of our Craftsman "C-Circle" pliers had a forged-in "0" mark on the handles. We recalled seeing a similar mark on some pliers from Champion DeArment, and after a review of the available Craftsman and Champion DeArment tools, we found that the "0" mark appeared fairly consistently, though it depended on the type of the tool.

In some cases the mark was present on a tool but wasn't visible in our original photograph of the tool, so we went back and replaced the photographs as needed.

Here's a list of Craftsman examples with the "0" forge mark:

Here's a list of Champion DeArment examples with the "0" forge mark:

The reader can review these examples and see that the "0" forge mark is unlikely to have been accidental.

In addition to the above examples from the Alloy Artifacts collection, we were able to observe some additional photographs online, which confirmed that Channellock assembly pliers and end nippers sometimes have a "0" forge mark.

If a "0" forge mark was present, note that it generally appears either on the underside of the handles near the pivot, or on an unfinished area of the handles on the top or bottom. These locations would indicate whether the forge mark was incised in a primary or secondary die.

Finely finished pliers of the kind sold by Sears generally require two forging steps with different dies. The primary dies shape the two halves of the pliers from billets of steel, and the secondary dies shape the handles and impart the gripping pattern, and in addition remove most traces of the trimming operation from the primary step.

The fact that the "0" forge mark can appear in locations that could be forged in either step implies that both primary and secondary dies were incised with the "0" mark. Whether the "0" mark survived to the finished product then depended on what machining and grinding operations were needed to finish the pliers. Note that for one of our examples, the Craftsman Vanadium "C-Circle" 7 Inch Lineman's Pliers, the "0" forge mark has been partially removed by the serrations for crimping splices.

Since we have examples with the "0" forge mark from both brands, it would be helpful to make direct comparisons of the tools, but currently the only directly comparable examples in the lists are the 6 inch and 7.5 inch needlenose pliers. We will present a detailed comparison of the 7.5 inch pliers in the next section.

Our conclusion from the study of the "0" forge mark is that it's highly likely that the Craftsman and Channellock tools came from the same forge shop, and that the "0" mark was probably part of the internal quality control process.

Nearly Identical Design and Construction for 7.5 Inch Needlenose Pliers

In the previous section we noted that we have examples of 7.5 inch needlenose pliers in both Craftsman and Channellock brands. These needlenose pliers have a less common design with "fashioned" handles instead of the more common bow-shaped handles, and this makes them especially suitable for a direct comparison.

[Comparison of Craftsman and Channellock 7.5 Inch Needlenose Pliers]
Fig. 1B. Comparison of Craftsman and Channellock 7.5 Inch Needlenose Pliers, with Inset for Top View.

Fig. 1B shows a stacked comparison of Craftsman and Channellock 7.5 inch needlenose pliers, with the Craftsman "C-Circle" Pliers on the top and the Channellock No. 3017½ Pliers on the bottom.

From this photograph we can see that the two models are nearly identical in design and dimensions, and this provides strong evidence for Champion DeArment as the producer of both.

Rounded-Head Lineman's Pliers Match Craftsman "Electrician's" Pliers

The Craftsman catalogs typically offered two styles of side-cutting pliers, with one referred to as lineman's pliers and generally illustrated as the well known Klein Pattern pliers, and a lighter version called "electrician's" pliers.

Champion DeArment offered lineman's side-cutting pliers in two styles, a beveled-nose version matching the Klein Pattern in models 3046, 3047, and 3048½, and a rounded-nose version (sometimes called "New England" style) in models 346, 347, and 348½.

The 1938 Craftsman catalog illustrated the electrician's pliers with a rounded nose, and our example of Craftsman Vanadium "C-Circle" 6 Inch Electrician's Pliers have a rounded nose similar to the illustration.

Not all companies offered rounded-nose side-cutting pliers, so this example offers further evidence for Champion DeArment as the maker.

General Capabilities

Champion DeArment (Channellock) is known today as a specialist in pliers, but in the mid 1930s the company was still new at making pliers, at least in the finely finished style that would have been expected by Sears customers. After the invention of tongue-and-groove pliers in 1932, the company began transforming itself into a pliers specialist, and this would have required developing expertise in designing and finishing new models of pliers.

As part of the research for this article, we scoured catalogs and advertisements to document the company's progress at developing its line of pliers. We found that by 1936 it was offering just five models of Channellock pliers and only two models of fixed-pivot pliers, the No. 307 battery pliers and No. 437 diagonal cutters.

This means that when the "C-Circle" line of pliers became available around 1936, Sears' customers would have been the first to ever see the company's lineman's pliers, needlenose pliers, and end nippers.

Since Sears usually offered products made by industry leaders, the relative inexperience of Champion DeArment might seem a bit surprising, but Sears may have considered this as an advantage. In order to offer its products at aggressive prices, Sears had to negotiate price concessions from the manufacturers, and a new company in a highly competitive field would have had less leverage in price negotiations.

Despite their relative inexperience in making pliers, Champion DeArment had a long history of making drop-forged tools, and their ability to develop the revolutionary Channellock pliers was an impressive achievement. On this basis the company would have been well qualified for a production contract from Sears.

From Sears' standpoint a contract with Champion DeArment would have been a low-risk proposition. If the pliers didn't sell well or had quality problems, Sears still had Kraeuter as the primary producer, and if the pliers sold well Sears would enjoy higher margins on products sourced from the new vendor.

Our research has uncovered another issue that may have provided a strong rationale for Sears to do business with Champion DeArment, despite their relative inexperience. In the 1930s the "Craftsman Vanadium" marking was an important marketing theme for Sears, but there was a delay in being able to use the marking for Craftsman pliers, probably because Kraeuter didn't want to switch to chrome vanadium steel. (See our section on Craftsman Vanadium Pliers for more discussion.)

In early discussions with Champion DeArment, Sears probably asked if the company could produce pliers from chrome vanadium steel, and since the company was new to the pliers market and had little existing business to be disrupted, this would have been seen as a reasonable request. In this way the resulting contract, possibly with a stipulation to use chrome vanadium steel, would have provided Sears with a source for the vanadium pliers sought by their marketing department.

Selection of Manufacturer's Code

Sears first started using manufacturer's codes in the mid 1930s, as by this time it needed an increasing number of vendors to supply the growing Craftsman business. With the prospect of adding a new vendor of pliers, Sears would have needed a way to distinguish the otherwise similar products in the event of a warranty return, and so would have requested that the new vendor mark their products with a unique vendor code.

If given a choice, some companies would prefer to use an initial or a similar mnemonic as a marking, and at this early time most alphabetic letters were available. The selection of a "C-Circle" code doesn't prove anything, but it would have been a good choice for a company named "Champion DeArment" with "Channellock" in its future.

Summary of Evidence

We can summarize our discussion with the points in the list below, roughly ordered by decreasing importance.

  1. A significant number of Craftsman "C-Circle" and Champion DeArment pliers have a "0" forge mark.
  2. The Craftsman "C-Circle" and Channellock 7.5 inch needlenose pliers are nearly identical in construction.
  3. Champion DeArment produced rounded-nose lineman's pliers, also known in a Craftsman example.
  4. Champion DeArment was well qualified to be a Sears vendor, despite being new to the pliers market.
  5. The "C-Circle" code would be a good choice for a company named "Champion DeArment".

The first two points in the list are based on observations of manufactured tools and should be given much higher weight than the remaining items, and these two provide strong evidence for Champion DeArment as the maker of "C-Circle" tools. The last three list items are more in the area of the general qualifications of the company, and serve to support the identification.

We think that the evidence presented has made a strong case to identify "C-Circle" as the manufacturer's code for Champion DeArment, and hope that our readers will agree with this conclusion.

After gathering the evidence presented above, we found some further information that both confirms and expands our understanding of Champion DeArment's production for Sears. In 1986 Channellock published a centennial history of the company called The First 100 Years, which can be viewed [External Link] at the ITCL.

Page 10 of that publication has a discussion of an unusual problem the company faced in the early post-war years: its major customer had become too dominant. Here's what it says:

"Private label pliers and hammers for a national retail giant— a boon when the company was getting started in the plier business— now accounted for more than 65% of the company's total sales."

Although the name of the "national retail giant" is not mentioned, it's obvious that this could only be Sears Roebuck. The history goes on to identify the sales concentration risk as a ticking "time bomb", and then discusses how Champion DeArment built a national sales network to defuse their dependence on one customer.

The history adds a postscript that when the "national retail giant" finally canceled its contract in 1983, its sales accounted for only about 4% of the company's total.

Further Explorations

Now that we have established Champion DeArment as the maker in question, we want to explore some related questions, such as when the "C-Circle" series was first offered, the origin of the "Nested Diamonds" gripping pattern, and the connection to the Craftsman Vanadium sub-brand.

[Craftsman Vanadium 6 Inch End Nippers]
Fig. 1C. Craftsman Vanadium 6 Inch End Nippers, with Insets for Back Side, Side View, and Marking Detail, ca. 1936.

Somewhat curiously, all of these questions seem connected to one unusual example, a presumably early pair of nippers with unfinished handles.

Fig. 1C shows an early pair of Craftsman Vanadium "C-Circle" 6 inch end nippers with plain handles, stamped with the Craftsman underline logo and "Vanadium" on the face.

The top inset shows a side view of the pliers to illustrate the rough handles, with the trimming marks from the forging operation clearly visible.

These are the only "C-Circle" pliers we've seen without the "Nested Diamonds" gripping pattern on the handles. Our assumption is that the nippers are probably an early prototype, possibly from when Sears was first evaluating Champion DeArment as a possible supplier.

On this assumption, we think that when Sears evaluated these nippers they would have been impressed by the overall construction, but would have insisted that the handles be finished with some kind of gripping pattern. At this point Sears might have provided the "Nested Diamonds" pattern as a suitable example, or possibly left it up to Champion DeArment to decide. It would have taken some time to prepare the dies for the handle pattern, but presumably the next iteration of pliers would have looked very much like the documented examples of the "Nested Diamonds" pattern.

Now let's consider the question of when Champion DeArment started supplying Craftsman pliers. We know that in 1936 the company was offering only two models of fixed-pivot pliers, so it's hard to imagine the company approaching Sears much before this time. We also know that one of the observed "C-Circle" tools, the 5 inch diagonal cutters, were discontinued by 1938. These factors suggest 1936-1937 as the likely time frame.

If we then work backwards from delivering finished pliers by 1937, this suggests that the prototype nippers above were probably made in 1936.

The last point to discuss is the "Craftsman Vanadium" sub-brand, which was an important marketing theme for Sears in the 1930s. (Vanadium was like a magic elixir for tool sales in this period.) Craftsman wrenches had carried this marking since 1933, but the "Craftsman Vanadium" marking for pliers had been delayed, possibly because Kraeuter didn't want to change to using chrome vanadium steel. (See our section on Craftsman Vanadium Pliers for more information.)

The delay in the "Vanadium" marking for pliers was probably a source of irritation for the Sears marketing department, so the fact that the nippers in the above figure are marked "Craftsman Vanadium" was probably highly significant for Sears. At last they had a vendor who could deliver the vanadium!

We think it's likely that the nippers above were among the first pliers to bear the "Craftsman Vanadium" marking, and will use 1936 as the likely starting date for the marking on pliers.

From our discussion we can draw the following conclusions with reasonable confidence:

Maker Daido

In this section we will present evidence for the Daido Corporation as the maker (or technically, the distributor) of tools marked with the "BF" code.

The "BF" manufacturer's code is unusual in several ways. It was used for a rather disparate variety of tools, including wrenches, adjustable wrenches, pipe wrenches, specialty tools such as distributor wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, claw hammers, and vises. It was also marked on multiple Sears brands spanning a range of price-points, from Craftsman at the high end to Companion and the Sears brand at the low end.

In addition, the "BF" marking was almost always paired with "JAPAN", at a time when most tools sold by Sears were made in the United States. (The use of "almost" here is important, and we'll come back to that shortly.)

The combination of the wide variety of products and sourcing from Japan means that there is really only one plausible candidate for maker "BF", which is the Daido Corporation. Daido was established in the early 1950s as the US subsidiary of a major Japanese import-export distribution and marketing company, and it worked with a wide variety of Japanese manufacturers who wanted access to export markets. Daido even offered its own line of tools under the "Truecraft" brand, which in many ways was like a mini-Craftsman, with high-quality tools sourced from multiple manufacturers and offered at attractive prices. Truecraft operated from the early 1960s until around 2000.

The key to understanding why Daido fits well as maker "BF" is that it could source products from a wide variety of Japanese manufacturing partners. If the customer wanted high-quality forged alloy steel wrenches with raised panels and a polished chrome finish, Daido knew who could make them. And if the customer needed decent quality forged wrenches to meet a much lower price-point, Daido knew who could make those as well.

So far we've seen reasons why Daido is a plausible and possibly unique candidate as maker "BF", but that's not quite at the level of proof. One additional case will help make the argument more convincing.

Maker "BF" is known to have supplied screwdrivers to Sears, for both the "Sears" and "Craftsman" brands. We observed a number of photographs of these tools, and all of them had an unusual feature — they were not marked for Japan. Sears was generally careful about marking tools of foreign origin, so we can assume that the omission of the Japan marking was intentional.

Although Daido was primarily a distributor, if we check the history of the company's operations, it turns out that it did have some manufacturing of its own. Daido's first US factory was a facility in New Jersey purchased in 1976 from Vari-Plex, with the intention of manufacturing screwdrivers. We think it's likely that this factory was the source of the "BF" screwdrivers supplied to Sears.

With the addition of the likely sourcing for screwdrivers, we think that the accumulated evidence makes a convincing case for Daido as maker (or supplier) "BF". Note though that since Daido represented many Japanese manufacturers, further narrowing the source of a tool to a specific manufacturer may be difficult.

Some examples of tools sourced from "BF" can be seen in the list below.

Timeline for Distribution of "BF" Tools

Now that we have established Daido as the source of the "BF" tools, in this section we'll explore the timeline for the development of the "BF" series.

Thus far we have not observed any "Dunlap" brand tools marked with the "BF" code, so this provides a hint that production of "BF" tools commenced in 1964 or later, after the "Dunlap" brand had been discontinued.

Another clue is that the 1964 Craftsman catalog offered a number of items from Japan, but the Craftsman catalogs for 1959 and 1960 did not include any references to Japan. (The earlier catalogs did offer some imports from West Germany.)

To estimate when various types of tools may have been sourced from "BF", we did a quick review of the Craftsman catalogs to see what tools were stated as being made in Japan. (In 1978 and later the catalogs just state that the tool was imported, without giving the country of origin.)

The following list shows the earliest available year for tools of possible "BF" origin, i.e. sourced from Japan or at least imported.

Using the above list, we went to the website of a well known online marketplace and searched for the model numbers with a "BF" marking. The checkmarks at the end of the line show which items were verified as being offered in the "BF" series, under the Craftsman brand if noted, but otherwise under the "Sears" or "Companion" brands.

Based on this catalog review, it's highly likely that the first "BF" tools were available in 1964, and would have included the listed pliers and adjustable wrenches.

First Imported Craftsman "BF" Tools

The catalog review indicates that the first imported Craftsman tools were distributor wrenches in 1973, followed by vises in 1975, heavy-duty (Ridgid-pattern) pipe wrenches in 1978, fence pliers in 1978, bolt cutters in 1982, mini-pliers in 1985, compound-leverage wire cutters in 1985, and mini-plier end nippers in 1988. (Note that not all of these would necessarily be in the "BF" series.)

These eight types of tools were the only Craftsman tools noted as being imported in the catalogs (within our selection criteria), but in our experience we've seen a much wider variety of Craftsman "BF" tools than this import review would suggest.

To resolve this discrepancy, we did a second review of the online marketplace by searching for Craftsman tools with "BF" and "JAPAN" markings. The list below is a snapshot of what happened to be for sale at this time (May 2024).

We then went back and searched the Craftsman catalogs for the model numbers found online, and the year at the end of the line shows the earliest catalog listing found for that model. In all cases the catalogs made no mention of the tools being imported.

The above list shows a substantially wider selection of Craftsman "BF" tools than the search for catalog imports found, and in addition confirms that many "BF" tools were sold without being noted as imported, at least within the catalogs available to us. (We're using the ITCL as the source for Craftsman catalogs.)

Take for example the Nos. 4736 and 4740 Craftsman brake adjusting spoons. These tools were offered as early as 1960, and at some point tools marked "BF" and "Japan" started showing up, without any notice in the catalogs regarding the import status.

The combination wrenches provide another good example. Sears started requiring model number markings around 1970, and the 1970 catalog listed both SAE and metric combination wrenches with 5-digit model numbers specifying the exact size. The "BF" combination wrenches can be found both with and without the model number markings, and the examples without model numbers were likely made before 1970.

The "BF" combination wrenches without model numbers allow us to push back the date of the first Craftsman "BF" tools to 1969 or earlier.

"BF" Tools Without Catalog Listings

Here's a quick summary of what we've found thus far:

In this section we want to discuss the last case, the tools sold without notice in the catalogs of their import status.

Our hypothesis is that if a tool was being sourced from both domestic and foreign producers, then the catalog fulfillment would supply only the domestic production, and the imported tools would be stocked only in the Sears stores (along with domestic tools) so that the customer could decide which product they wanted.

This policy would avoid the situation of a catalog customer receiving an imported product when they expected domestic production, while still allowing a secondary imported source, as long as the imports were available only in stores. (An implicit assumption here is that the tools would be marked for their country of origin, as required by U.S. trade laws.)

Let's see what this would mean for the case of combination wrenches. We know that for combination wrenches the dominant supplier was Maker "V", and when Sears decided to bring in the "BF" combination wrenches it was only as a secondary source, not as a replacement for "V". Under the hypothetical policy, the catalogs would have sold only Craftsman "V" combination wrenches, so no import notice would have been needed, and the stores would have stocked both Craftsman "V" and "BF" wrenches.

This fits well with the observed facts: at no point did the catalogs state that combination wrenches were imported, yet both Craftsman "V" (U.S.A.) and "BF" (Japan) combination wrenches are widely available.

The hypothetical policy also seems to explain the case of the Sears "BF" drop-forged wrenches with depressed panels. These are believed to be early "BF" tools that were made to be almost exact copies of the Dunlap wrenches produced by Lectrolite beginning in the mid 1950s. If we compare the Sears "BF" 5/8 Combination Wrench with the Dunlap "LC" 5/8 Combination Wrench, we can see that the design and construction are the very similar.

[Sears BF (Top) and Dunlap LC (Bottom) 5/8 Combination Wrenches]
Fig. 2. Sears "BF" (Top) and Dunlap "LC" (Bottom) 5/8 Combination Wrenches, with Inset for Top View.

To facilitate the comparison, we took a photograph of the two wrenches stacked together.

Fig. 2 shows the two wrenches arranged as a stack, with the Sears "BF" wrench on top and the Dunlap "LC" wrench on the bottom.

The nearly identical construction suggests that the "BF" example must have been made as an intentional copy.

The 1964 Craftsman catalog was the first modern catalog to omit the Dunlap brand, and it continued to offer the former Dunlap wrenches without stating the brand, except to say that they were not Craftsman. The listing shows the economy-grade wrenches with depressed panels as previously shown for Dunlap, and these listings continued through the 1960s. At no point were the wrenches noted as being imported.

Lectrolite is known to have produced "Sears" brand wrenches marked "LC" in the same style as the Dunlap wrenches it previously made, so it appears that Lectrolite continued production in 1964 and beyond. (We've also seen the same style of wrenches marked with a "WF" code for Western Forge.) The continuing production by Lectrolite implies that the Sears "BF" wrenches were intended as a supplement to the domestic production, so under the hypothetical policy the Sears "BF" wrenches would have been available only in stores.

Since there are no catalog listings for the Sears "BF" wrenches, we don't have a direct way of determining when they were first offered. However, we think it's likely that these were among the first "BF" tools available. Having a Japanese manufacturer make an exact copy of an existing tool would have been an excellent way for the maker to demonstrate their skills to an important new customer. In addition, the "BF" wrenches have a significantly better finish than the older Dunlap examples, again demonstrating that the Japanese maker was serious about providing high quality, even at an economy price-point.

Based on this rationale, we think the Sears "BF" wrenches were probably available in 1964 along with the other early "BF" tools.

The Origin of the "BF" Code

While researching this article we made an observation that at first seemed puzzling, but then became more interesting under further examination.

After doing a search for tools marked "BF" and "Japan" on a well known online market place, we found lots of Craftsman tools, some listings for "Sears" tools, a few "Companion" ... and a listing for Fuller combination pliers. Since Fuller isn't a Sears brand, we thought it was probably just an error in the listing, but the photos showed a clear "BF-Japan" marking on pliers stamped with "Fuller".

This seemed very puzzling, but after thinking about it we came up with a reasonable explanation.

The Fuller Tool Company sold tools primarily to hardware stores and is known to have imported tools from Japan from the late 1950s or early 1960s onward. Since Fuller's Japanese imports were similar to the tools being sold by Sears, it seems likely that some Japanese suppliers to the Sears "BF" line might have also supplied tools to Fuller. With the production line already set up to mark tools with "BF-Japan", the tools for Fuller then got the same marking as the tools for Sears.

This first explanation is probably sufficient to explain the observed markings, but on further thought we came up with a more interesting possibility. The following is speculation, so some readers may want to stop now.

When Fuller began planning to import Japanese tools in the late 1950s, they probably worked with the Daido Corporation to find suitable Japanese manufacturers. Fuller was a small company and their founder and president Bernard Fuller probably would have been closely involved in the planning and negotiations. At that time Japanese companies were eager to develop export markets, and since Fuller was one of the pioneers of Japanese tool imports in America, it's plausible to think that the some of the Japanese suppliers might apply a special mark on the tools being made for Mr. Bernard Fuller, for which a "BF-Japan" would serve nicely.

A few years later when Daido was negotiating its supply contract with Sears Roebuck, the subject of a manufacturer's code marking would have come up. Since Daido knew that some of the likely suppliers for Sears were already marking their tools with "BF-Japan", Daido asked to use "BF" as its manufacturer's code. (Even if only a few of Fuller's suppliers were using "BF", keeping the marking would have been a convenience.)

We hope our readers will agree that this second explanation is more interesting and yet still seems plausible. 😜

Our conjecture could be proven by finding a Fuller "BF" tool made before the 1964 advent of the Sears "BF" line, but at this point we don't have much information on Fuller's early imports, and probably couldn't make a reliable estimate of the production date even if we had such a tool.

Note that due to the sheer scale of Sears Roebuck, once the "BF" line was in full swing there were probably numerous Japanese makers with their production lines set up to mark "BF-Japan" on everything going to America. Thus our first explanation might very well account for most of the Fuller "BF" tools, even if the second explanation turns out to be true as well.

Maker Danielson (J.P.)

The J.P. Danielson Company supplied adjustable wrenches and pliers to Sears Roebuck from the 1930s to the 1960s or beyond. In this section we'll review the various markings and production characteristics useful for identifying tools made by Danielson.

The identification of Danielson tools is complex due to the multiple markings and production characteristics that need to be considered. In addition, Danielson supplied tools to Sears over an extended period of time, and the tools were marked for multiple Sears brands including Fulton, Merit, Dunlap, and Craftsman.

Another complication is the fact that some of the markings that act as manufacturer's codes were just intended for Danielson's internal use, perhaps as part of its quality control.

The following list shows some examples of tools made by Danielson:

Since the markings on Danielson tools tend to have a lot of variation, it's best to use two or more identifying characteristics for a higher degree of confidence.

The "Bet'R-Grip" Marking

The "Bet'R-Grip" marking was a registered trademark for J.P Danielson adjustable wrenches, and the presence of this mark provides a trivial means of identifying the company's production.

An example of its use can be seen on the Dunlap "Bet'R-Grip" 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench. On this wrench the standard Danielson markings are forged into the shank, with a blank space reserved on the front for the customer's brand, the "Dunlap" logo in this case. (Note that we also get a "bonus" code with the "A.0." marking below "Dunlap".)

A similar example can be seen as the Merit "Bet'R-Grip" 10 Inch Adjustable Wrench.

The "A.0." Code

The "A.0." code is one of several markings that appear to act as manufacturer's codes for Danielson. Examples of this code can be seen on the Dunlap "Bet'R-Grip" 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench and Craftsman 4 Inch Adjustable Wrench.

On the Dunlap example the "A.0." code is stamped, but on the Craftsman wrench it is part of the forged-in markings. This implies that Danielson was treating the "A.0." code as an essential part of the markings for a Craftsman tool.

Both of these wrenches have other markings and characteristics that strongly identify Danielson as the maker, with the incontrovertible "Bet'R-Grip" marking serving for the Dunlap example and the typewriter font and general construction serving for the Craftsman wrench.

The "A.0." code has also been observed on Merit and Dunlap pliers.

The "LC" Code

The "LC" code will sometimes be marked on tools by Danielson, as in the Dunlap "LC" 5.5 Inch Combination Pliers and Craftsman "LC" 8 Inch Hose Clamp Pliers.

These tools are otherwise identifiable as Danielson production by the gripping patterns on the handles, and the hose clamp pliers also have a Danielson date code.

Currently we have only these two examples of the "LC" code.

The "312.1" Code

Some tools made by Danielson will be marked with a "312.1" code, examples of which can be seen in the Craftsman Vanadium 6 Inch Adjustable Wrench, Craftsman Vanadium 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench, and Craftsman Vanadium 12 Inch Adjustable Wrench.

The code also appears on pliers, as in the Fulton 6 Inch Thin-Nose Pliers.

The examples with the "312.1" code generally have a Danielson date code as well, with dates on our examples in 1940 or 1941. Thus it's possible that this code was used only within a limited time range.

Production Characteristic and Quirks

Tools made by Danielson have a number of production characteristics and marking styles that may be useful for identification.

Maker Duro/Indestro

Duro/Indestro were well known tools makers in mid-century America and provided extensive contract production for retailers including Western Auto Supply and Montgomery Ward, as well as offering a full line of their own tools under the Duro-Chrome and Indestro brands. With this background we might have expected Duro/Indestro to be a major supplier of Craftsman tools as well, but it turns out that only a few items are known to have been produced by the company.

However, Duro Metal Products was an important supplier to Sears in the pre-Craftsman era, and also supplied tools in the mid 1930s for the Sears "Cross-Country" brand.

Craftsman Tools by Duro/Indestro

Currently the only Craftsman tools known to have been made by Duro/Indestro are tappet wrenches from the late 1930s and ratcheting box wrenches supplied from 1949 through 1969.

Examples of these tools can be seen in the list below.

Maker Herbrand

The Herbrand Corporation was a merchant drop-forger and tool maker that offered a full line of automotive service tools from the 1930s onward. Although Herbrand provided extensive contract manufacturing for retailers including Western Auto Supply and Montgomery Ward, the company appears to have had only a limited supplier arrangement with Sears Roebuck.

Currently the Craftsman "C-F" Battery Pliers are the only known example of Herbrand production for the Craftsman brand. These battery pliers were identified as Herbrand production by comparison with known examples of the company's battery pliers, and in addition the "C-F" code has a particular connection with Herbrand.

During the 1920s Herbrand used a "CFT-Oval" logo for contract production, and examples of that production can be seen in the section on CFT Tools. The "CFT" letters in the logo were discovered to be the initials of Creighton Fuller Thompson, the son of the company's founder and its president from the 1920s onward. The present "C-F" code can be seen as Thompson's first and middle initials.

We think it's likely that there are other examples of Herbrand production for Sears waiting to be discovered, and hope to expand this section in the future.

Maker Hinsdale

Hinsdale Manufacturing was a maker of automotive tools active from 1919 into the 1940s. In this section we'll present evidence to show that Hinsdale supplied Craftsman wrenches and socket sets during the early to mid 1930s. In addition, Hinsdale was an important supplier to Sears in the pre-Craftsman era, for tools such as socket sets and open-end wrenches.

Pre-Craftsman Hinsdale Tools

[1929 Catalog Listing of Chrome Vanadium Wrench Set]
Fig. 3. 1929 Catalog Listing of Chrome Vanadium Wrench Set.

The 1929 Sears catalog offered a set of five chrome-vanadium open-end wrenches that can be identified as Hinsdale production by the distinctive tool holder.

The scan in Fig. 3 shows a set of five chrome-vanadium open-end wrenches in a distinctive metal clip, as published on page 1122 of the 1929 Sears catalog No. 159 (Fall-Winter).

A Hinsdale five-piece wrench set in the same metal holder can be seen as Hinsdale Chrome Vanadium Wrench Set.

By 1930 Sears was offering a 46-piece socket set in a hip-roof tool box, which can be identified as Hinsdale production by the illustration of the convertible T-L handle, with the Hinsdale name visible. This set turns out to be the Hinsdale Chrome-Nickel "Mechanics" Set, and the catalog description notes the set as being made of "strongest alloy steel", making it one of the first alloy steel socket sets sold by Sears.

Craftsman Open-End Wrenches

As noted above, Hinsdale supplied chrome-vanadium open-end wrenches to Sears in the pre-Craftsman era. Hinsdale later supplied Craftsman-branded open-end wrenches in the "Craftsman Vanadium" era, which can be identified in catalog listings by their distinctive smoothly sloping depressed panels.

An example can be seen as the Craftsman Vanadium 1729 Wrench.

Craftsman Box-End Wrenches

Craftsman Socket Sets

Maker Kraeuter

Kraeuter & Company was a well known maker of pliers during the first part of the 20th century, and the company offered a wide variety of pliers in both slip-joint and fixed-pivot styles.

In this section we will present evidence to show that Kraeuter was a supplier of pliers for the Craftsman brand during the 1930s and early 1940s. Our approach will be to first establish Kraeuter as the maker of one type of pliers, specifically Button's pattern pliers, and then extend what we learn to cover other types of pliers.

Kraeuter was one of the first suppliers of pliers for the Craftsman brand and the early products were delivered before the advent of the manufacturer's code system. Thus the early production must be identified by design, marking, or manufacturing characteristics.

Button's Pattern Pliers

Button's pattern pliers were first developed by J.M. King & Company during the latter part of the 19th century, and the pliers remained popular well into the 20th century. The King company wasn't active after around 1910, but production of Button's pliers continued under Utica Drop Forge & Tool, Kraeuter, and Smith & Hemenway, later acquired by Crescent Tool.

Sears first offered Craftsman Button's pliers in the fall of 1930, in sizes 6, 8, and 10 inches. The Craftsman examples of Button's pliers closely resemble the models from Kraeuter in general construction and in the shape of the handles, and if we focus on two specific production characteristics noted below, we can show that only Kraeuter could have produced the Craftsman pliers.

These production characteristics are that (1) the cutting slot between the jaws is perpendicular to the faces, and (2) the sloping side facet of the jaw is slightly rounded and meets the flat side facet in a curved arc.

These features can be readily observed in the Early Craftsman 5781-8 Button's Pliers and Early Craftsman 8 Inch Button's Pliers. The photographs for both of these examples include a close-up of the open jaws to show the cutting slot, plus an inset with a side view of the pliers to show the curved arc of the sloping and flat side facets.

The above observations for 8 inch Button's pliers apply equally to the Early Craftsman 5781-10 10 Inch Button's Pliers.

Additional examples of later Craftsman Button's pliers confirm that these production characteristics continued into the early 1940s. The photographs of all of the Button's pliers were made with the intent of facilitating our argument in this section.

To see comparable examples of Kraeuter's production, we can examine the Early Kraeuter 1841-10 Button's Pliers and Kraeuter 1841-10 Button's Pliers. The photographs for both examples include close-ups of the open jaws and a side view of the pliers, and we can see that the cutting slot orientation and the upper jaw curvature match the characteristics of the Craftsman examples.

From the comparison of the Craftsman and Kraeuter Button's pliers, we can see that the examples match closely in general appearance as well as the two key production features.

In the next sections we'll examine reasons why the Craftsman Button's pliers could not have been made by Uitca or Crescent, the other major makers of this style of pliers. We don't mean to imply that these other companies were incapable of producing the Craftsman examples, but only that their standard production didn't match.

Why Not Utica?

We can rule out production by Utica by noting that after around 1909 Utica standard Button's pliers no longer had a single slot going through the jaws, but instead used a patented improvement that provided two angled slots between the jaws. This can be seen on the Early Utica 1000 Button's Pliers, and later Utica production continued to use the patented feature.

In addition to the two slots between the jaws, the sloping side facet of the jaws on Utica Button's pliers is flat rather than curved.

Utica later produced a special model of Button's pliers with a single slot between the jaws, as seen in the Utica [HS-180] 10 Inch Button's Pliers. But in this model the slot between the jaws is angled, as in earlier examples from J.M King. In addition, the HS-180 pliers were available only in the 10 inch size.

In summary, none of the Utica Button's pliers match the Craftsman examples in the two key features we identified.

Why Not Crescent?

Crescent's Button's pliers were based on the design from Smith & Hemenway, which Crescent acquired in 1926. An example similar to Crescent's production in 1930 can be seen as the Red Devil 1000 Button's Pliers.

In these pliers the cutting slot between the jaws is at a right angle, which matches one key feature of Kraeuter's production. However, the sloping side facet of the jaw is ground flat and terminates sharply at the side cutting slot, instead of transitioning to a flat facet. This difference in a key feature allows us to rule out Crescent as the producer of the Craftsman Button's pliers.

Extension to Other Pliers

The above discussion and comparison of examples have firmly established Kraeuter as the producer of Craftsman Button's pliers. We can now extend this knowledge to identify other pliers made by Kraeuter by using some specific production characteristics.

If we go back to our first example, the Early Craftsman 5781-8 Button's Pliers, we note that the pliers are marked with the Craftsman 5781 model number. In this early era Sears did not require model numbers on its tools, and marked model numbers were actually quite rare.

Another notable characteristic of the early 5781 Button's pliers is the finely crafted diamond checkered gripping pattern forged into the handles. Kraeuter was well known for its highly detailed gripping patterns, and actually had a design patent on the "Don't Slip" pattern used on many of its own models.

If we look through some other examples of Early Craftsman Pliers and Cutters, we find that the Early Craftsman 5783-5 Diagonal Cutters and Early Craftsman 5783-6 Diagonal Cutters are both marked with model numbers, and both have the distinctive diamond-checkered gripping pattern observed on the Button's pliers. This allows us to identify Kraeuter as the maker of the Craftsman model 5783 diagonal cutters.

In similar fashion we can observe that the Early Craftsman 5797 Combination Pliers are also marked with the model number and have the diamond-checkered gripping pattern, thereby identifying Kraeuter as the maker.

In addition to the physical examples available here, we have also seen photographs of Craftsman linemen's pliers marked with model number 5782 and having the diamond-checkered gripping pattern, and these are presumed to be Kraeuter production as well.

But for the special case of the Craftsman 5782 linemen's pliers, there's a much easier way to confirm Kraeuter as the maker. In the very first Sears catalog listing for these pliers (in the Fall-Winter 1930 edition catalog), Kraeuter furnished a highly detailed cut showing the pliers with its own patented "Don't Slip" gripping pattern! (The interested reader can see the early listing in our section on the Kraeuter Craftsman Contract.) Normally a supplier to Craftsman will try to disguise its contract production, and Kraeuter quickly rectified the situation by developing the diamond-checkered gripping pattern for its Sears production.

Changes for Later Production

At this point we have presented evidence and discussion to establish that Kraeuter supplied several styles of Craftsman pliers in the early to mid 1930s. Craftsman pliers underwent some changes in the mid to late 1930s, and to understand these changes, we can go back to the Button's pliers for examples, as these models remained recognizable as Kraeuter production.

If we examine the Craftsman "AM9" 8½ Inch Button's Pliers and Craftsman "AM41" 8½ Inch Button's Pliers, one change is immediately apparent: the handle pattern is now a simple line of nested diamonds rather than the earlier diamond-checkered pattern. Another minor change is that the former 8 inch size is now advertised as 8½ inches, and measures close to 9 inches. Apart from the changes in the handle pattern and length though, the key features of the construction remain the same.

There is also a new marking in the form of the letters "AM" stamped on the underside of one handle, usually followed (but sometimes preceded) by one or two digits. The digits observed on our examples (considering all styles) are 9, 41, 42, and 43. (We've seen a photograph showing an "AM40" code as well.) We hope our readers are thinking "Manufacturer's code!" and "Date code!", which would qualify as Very Useful findings.

New Handles and a Custom Length

Let's now look more closely at the changes for the later Button's pliers. The new gripping pattern (we call it "Nested Diamonds") appears not only on Button' pliers, but on later production of other styles as well. The "Nested Diamonds" pattern was first documented in the Sears 1938-1939 general catalog, but probably appeared some years before that. It was also used by at least one other vendor, the maker using the "C-Circle" manufacturer's code.

The "Nested Diamonds" pattern contined to be used during the 1940s, and during the 1950s is became the "official" pattern for Craftsman pliers — to the extent that even Wilde Tool was forced to use it! (Wilde Tool strongly preferred their own "Rope-Banded" pattern.)

From these considerations, it's likely that the "Nested Diamonds" pattern was developed by Sears as a way of giving their pliers a more consistent appearance. The pattern is fairly simple and could be used by even by vendors without the skills to make highly detailed forging dies. So we can assume that at Sears' request, Kraeuter dropped their diamond-checkered pattern and switched all Craftsman production over to the "Nested Diamonds" pattern.

Now let's consider the change in length of the Button's pliers from 8 to 8½ inches. In the late 1930s the sales of Button's pliers were beginning to slow down, and Sears apparently did not want to stock the pliers in three sizes. But since there was still some demand, they decided on a compromise by offering just an 8½ inch size. An 8½ model would probably still be acceptable to someone wanting the 8 inch size, and might pick up some of the demand for 10 inch pliers as well.

Since Kraeuter only offered the 8 inch size for its own production, this meant that the company would have had to make custom forging dies for the Craftsman 8½ inch Button's pliers. The minor increase in length could have been provided with slightly longer handles, and Kraeuter was in the business of custom forging anyway, so making new dies would not have been a problem for them.

With this understanding of the changes for the new handle pattern and increased length, we can remain confident that the 8½ inch Button's pliers were still being produced by Kraeuter.

The "AM" Manufacturer's Code

With the recognition that Kraeuter was the maker of the later Button's pliers, we get a bonus: the clearly marked "AM" codes on the two examples noted above appear to be manufacturer's codes for Kraeuter. This is a significant finding, as having a marked code will allow us to identify pliers in the absence of a unique gripping pattern.

Usually after finding a proposed manufacturer's code, we like to look for other examples and see whether they can confirm the identification. If we review the other Craftsman pliers marked with the "AM" code, the styles include diagonal cutters, linemen's pliers, needlenose pliers, and angle-nose pliers. The examples we have are all plausibly by Kraeuter, although for these other styles there are so many competing examples that it's difficult to positively identify the maker.

In particular, the Craftsman Angle-nose Gripping Pliers have some production characteristics that don't exactly match any known producer, although they are very similar to several, including Kraeuter. Thus the additional examples with the "AM" code are generally consistent with Kraeuter as the producer, but nothing emerges as a strong confirmation.

At this point we think it's highly likely that the "AM" code indicates Kraeuter, but would like to gather additional evidence to support this conclusion. Some additional examples that would be helpful would be:

Update June 2024. After some further research we were able to find online photographs of early Craftsman 5835 pliers and confirmed that the pliers had been made by Kraeuter, based on construction characteristics matching other early Craftsman pliers. In addition, the early 5835 pliers were very similar to the Kraeuter 743-8 pliers, differing only in having 9 instead of 10 notches on the upper jaw.

With this information, we can understand the small differences in the construction of later Craftsman angle-nose pliers as representing product improvement over time.

About the Date Codes ...

What about the apparent date codes? All of the observed "AM" markings come with a one or two-digit code such as "9" or "41", and we think it's likely that these are date codes for the years 1939 to 1943. The tools marked with "AM" codes are all of late 1930s to early 1940s production based on other characteristics, so the date codes would fit well with the a priori date estimate.

We did a search for pliers marked with any variation of "AM8" or "AM44" and didn't find any examples, so this provides evidence that the "AM" markings began in 1939 and ended in 1943.

The date code turns out to be not as useful as might be expected, simply because the "AM" code itself has not been observed on tools made after the mid 1940s. If we had examples of pliers marked with the "=Craftsman=" logo and an "AM47" or "AM48" code, the date code would be extremely helpful — it's very difficult to estimate production dates for tools of the post-war era. But we haven't seen any examples like this, and it's uncertain whether Kraeuter even continued as a supplier to Craftsman after the mid 1940s.

Kraeuter Production Periods

As a final summary, we can pull together all of our information on Kraeuter's Craftsman production to identify several production periods, each with differing construction or markings.

Note that the time boundary between the Early and Middle Periods is just a rough estimate, to account for the existence of similar examples both with and without model number markings.

The transitional period is documented by 1938 catalog listings noting the using of vanadium steel for pliers and illustrating the "Nested Diamonds" pattern. Tools classified as production during this period should have some Kraeuter-specific characteristics, since the "Craftsman Vanadium" marking and "Nested Diamonds" gripping pattern had become standard by this time.

Maker Lectrolite

The Lectrolite Corporation was a maker of drop-forged wrenches and other tools and was closely associated with Sherman-Klove (S-K) during the 1950s onward. This section will present evidence that Lectrolite was the maker of Dunlap wrenches marked with the "LC" code made during the 1950s and early 1960s.

During the 1950s Lectrolite offered a line of economy tools under the "TruFit" brand, which included open-end, box-end, and combination wrenches. The wrenches were made in a style with depressed panels and forged-in markings.

During the 1950s Sears offered Dunlap brand wrenches in open-end, box-end, and combination styles, and the 1957 Craftsman catalog illustrates the wrenches with depressed panels. Examples of Dunlap wrenches have been found with depressed panels and forged-in markings that are very similar to the Lectrolite TruFit wrenches in construction, and in addition the Dunlap wrenches have a forged-in "LC" code, an obvious mnemonic for "Lectrolite Corporation".

An example can be seen as the Dunlap "LC" 3/8x7/16 Offset Box Wrench, which resembles the Lectrolite TruFit 3/4x25/32 Offset Box Wrench in its construction. (We have only a limited selection of TruFit tools and don't have the exact matching size.)

Another example can be seen as the Dunlap "LC" 5/8 Combination Wrench, which closely resembles the TruFit 9/16 Combination Wrench.

Another point of similarity between the Lectrolite and Dunlap wrenches is that Lectrolite typically included a forged-in letter code at the left of the panel with the "TruFit" name, and this manufacturing quirk persists in the Dunlap examples. For example, with the combination wrenches noted above the TruFit wrench has an "H" at the left and the Dunlap wrench has a "T" at the left. (We're not certain of the meaning of the codes, but they may have been part of Lectrolite's quality control process.)

Based on the similarities with the TruFit examples and the marked "LC" code, we think it's very likely that the Dunlap "LC" wrenches were made by Lectrolite.

The Craftsman catalogs for 1959 and 1960 listed the Dunlap wrenches in the same style with depressed panels, so the production by Lectrolite appears to have continued into the early 1960s.

Changes in the Early 1960s

Beyond the early 1960s it becomes more difficult to trace the production. Sears discontinued the Dunlap brand around 1962 or 1963, but continued to offer the former Dunlap wrenches in the same style, with no brand stated but a note that the wrenches were not Craftsman. (By default Sears may have used its own name as the brand.) The wrenches were listed this way from 1964 to 1969.

There were major changes on the Lectrolite side as well — in 1962 Sherman-Klove (S-K) and Lectrolite were acquired by the Symington-Wayne Corporation, and by 1964 their tools were being sold as S-K Wayne instead of S-K Lectrolite. The S-K Wayne catalogs continued to list the former Lectrolite TruFit wrenches as economy carbon-steel tools, but with no mention of Lectrolite or TruFit.

A further change occurred in 1968 when Dresser Industries acquired Symington-Wayne, and the S-K Wayne brand changed to simply S-K Tools. The economy carbon-steel wrenches continued to be offered in a 1969 S-K Tools catalog.

We reviewed some online photographs and found combination wrenches marked "Sears" in the same depressed-panel style as the earlier Dunlap wrenches, and marked with an "LC" code as well. This strongly suggests that production by Lectrolite continued at least into 1964, the first year without the Dunlap brand.

Maker McKaig-Hatch

In this section we'll present evidence to show that McKaig-Hatch supplied tools to the Craftsman brand using the "Y-Circle" manufacturer's code.

The manufacturer associated with the "Y-Circle" code was a mystery for a long time, although there was some of evidence pointing to McKaig-Hatch as the likely candidate. We recently (2024) decided to pull together the known evidence and present it in this section, and along the way we found some important additional information that had been overlooked.

McKaig-Hatch was a drop-forge operator and tool maker operating in Buffalo, New York, and during the 1950s the company offered a line of tools that included all of the types known to have been marked with the "Y-Circle" code. Many of these "Y-Circle" tools have forged-in markings, and as a merchant drop-forger, McKaig-Hatch would have been adept at creating the dies needed for custom forging.

A 1950s era catalog for McKaig-Hatch is available for Download [External Link] from ITCL and will be useful for anyone wanting to compare Y-Circle tools with the McKaig-Hatch counterparts.

Adjustable Wrenches

These are probably the most commonly observed tool with a Y-Circle mark, and are usually found with a distinctive interior hanging hole, as seen in the Craftsman 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench. Craftsman adjustable wrenches with the interior hole were first offered in the 1952 catalog, published late in 1951.

The Y-Circle mark has also been observed on adjustable wrenches with a more conventional ringed hole at the end of the shank. See for example the Dunlap 10 Inch Adjustable Wrench in a later figure.

One construction detail noted for Y-Circle adjustable wrenches is that the screw pin is threaded on the outside (slotted) end, the type of pin generally used by Danielson, Utica, and J.H. Williams. In contrast, Crescent and Diamond used a screw pin threaded on the inside end.

We checked a McKaig-Hatch adjustable wrench and found that it uses a pin treaded on the outside end, the same as the Y-Circle examples.


Dunlap pliers in combination and "Arc-Joint" (tongue-and-groove) styles have been observed with a Y-Circle mark. We don't have any examples here, but we've seen photos of the pliers showing a distinctive rectangular grid gripping pattern. In addition, we have seen photos of pliers marked for McKaig-Hatch with the same rectangular grid pattern.

The rectangular grid gripping pattern can be seen on the Dunlap Arc-Joint Pliers illustrated on page 25 of the 1953 Craftsman catalog.

The gripping pattern on the Y-Circle pliers is not the standard pattern used by McKaig-Hatch, which consisted of two or three chevrons bracketed by parallel lines. (An illustration of the McKaig-Hatch pattern can be seen on page 12 of the catalog noted previously.) This leaves open the possibility that an unknown third party might have made the pliers for both Dunlap and McKaig-Hatch.

However, it's possible that McKaig-Hatch may have used different gripping patterns over time, as we have only sparse catalog information for the company.

The "Arc-Joint" brand was first used by Sears in 1953, and the company later filed a trademark for "ARC JOINT". The mid 1950s McKaig-Hatch catalog also used "Arc-Joint" for its tongue-and-groove pliers, which provides strong evidence that the company was working with Sears at that time.

[1953 Catalog Listing for Dunlap Arc-Joint Pliers]
Fig. 4. 1953 Catalog Listing for Dunlap Arc-Joint Pliers.

The composite scan in Fig. 4 shows a catalog listing for Dunlap "Arc-Joint" pliers, as published on page 25 of the 1953 Craftsman catalog. (We overlaid the description into the illustration to make a compact presentation.)

The illustration on the left (labeled "E") shows the tongue-and-groove ribs of the pliers, and the handles show a rectangular grid gripping pattern. This gripping pattern has also been observed on McKaig-Hatch Arc-Joint pliers.

Stillson-Pattern Pipe Wrenches

Dunlap Stillson-pattern pipe wrenches have been observed with the Y-Circle code, with forged-in markings for "Dunlap" and "Dependable Quality". The 1953 Craftsman catalog offered Dunlap pipe wrenches in sizes 8, 10, 14, 18, and 24 inches.

McKaig-Hatch offered this type of wrench in sizes 8, 10, 14, 18, and 24 inches.

We've seen reports of Dunlap pipe wrenches with McKaig-Hatch jaws, but this could be a case of a damaged jaw being replaced by another.

Heavy-Duty Pipe Wrenches

In addition to the familiar Stillson-pattern pipe wrenches, Sears also offered heavy-duty pipe wrenches in the familiar Ridgid design. While researching this style, we ran across a photo on a well-known online marketplace showing a Craftsman 10 inch "Heavy Duty" pipe wrench in the Ridgid style, and stamped with a "Y-Circle" code. (We don't own the photo and so can't show it here.)

The wrench included a simple but unusual production feature in the form of four finger depressions on the side of the handle, making a more natural grip for the hand. We have a number of examples of Ridgid-pattern pipe wrenches from various makers, and all of them have a smooth handle without finger-grips. However, McKaig-Hatch is known to have produced heavy-duty pipe wrenches with finger-grip handles, and this offers the most compelling evidence so far for McKaig-Hatch as the "Y-Circle" maker.

A catalog listing of the McKaig-Hatch Heavy-Duty Pipe Wrenches includes an illustration with the finger-grips plainly visible on the handle, and the illustration on page 12 of the 1954 Craftsman catalog shows the same style of pipe wrench with finger-grips on the handle.

The finger-grip handle is an example of a quirky or distinctive feature that can sometimes serve to identify otherwise anonymous contract production. We knew of the McKaig-Hatch catalog but had overlooked this feature on the pipe wrenches.

[1954 Catalog Listing for Craftsman Pipe Wrenches]
Fig. 5. 1954 Catalog Listing for Craftsman Pipe Wrenches.

The scan in Fig. 5 shows a catalog listing for Craftsman pipe wrenches, as published on page 12 of the 1954 Craftsman catalog.

Note that the wrench on the left in the illustration (labeled "A") includes "finger-grips" on the handle, an unusual ergonomic feature for this type of wrench.

The description below identifies this as model 5566 and states that it is "Professional Quality" with a one-piece frame and handle, the characteristic of Ridgid-style pipe wrenches.

We don't have an example of this wrench model, but have seen a photograph of a Craftsman pipe wrench with model "5566" forged into the shank, and with four finger-grips on the handle. The wrench was stamped with a "Y-Circle" manufacturer's code.

Tire Irons

During the 1950s McKaig-Hatch offered a distinctive tire iron or spoon, and a very similar tool is known to have been offered under the Craftsman brand with a Y-Circle marking.

Craftsman tire irons closely resembling the McKaig-Hatch models were listed in the 1955 catalog, also coincidentally on page 19. The length was specified as 19.5 inches, and both a flat and curved spoon were available.

A catalog listing of the McKaig-Hatch Tire Irons provides an illustration of these tools.

Summary of Evidence

In summary, we think that the evidence presented above makes a convincing case for McKaig-Hatch as the maker of "Y-Circle" tools. The strongest evidence is provided by the unusual "finger-grip" feature on McKaig-Hatch heavy-duty pipe wrenches, which has been observed on a Craftsman pipe wrench marked with the "Y-Circle" code.

The use of the term "Arc-Joint" in the McKaig-Hatch catalog is additional strong evidence that McKaig was working with Sears on the production of tongue-and-groove pliers.

The distinctive tire irons also offer strong evidence, as the Craftsman catalog offered both the flat and curved spoons, and the tools match in style and dimensions.

The remaining evidence supports the case for McKaig-Hatch, and no obvious contradictory evidence is known at this point.

Maker Moore Drop Forging

The case study to identify Moore Drop Forging as the maker of the Craftsman "V" tools is the centerpiece of our article on the Craftsman Modern Era. Please refer to the section on Tracking Maker "V" for the details on this important attribution.

Maker New Britain Machine

New Britain Machine supplied sockets and drive tools for the Craftsman brand using the "BE" and H-Circle manufacturer's codes. The attribution of this manufacturer was the subject of one of the very first articles here at Alloy Artifacts, and the reader will find the details on our page Craftsman "BE" and H-Circle Socket Tools.

Maker Parker Manufacturing

Parker Manufacturing was a supplier to the Craftsman brand from the 1940s through 1980s, and provided tools including screw-holding screwdrivers, hacksaws, locking pliers, and ratcheting box wrenches. The company used an "I-Circle" mark as its manufacturer's code.

Some of the company's production is still relatively recent and its use of the I-Circle code is still widely recognized, so we don't need to do a formal case study to establish the identification. But for completeness, we'll cite some evidence based on patents that should remove any lingering doubts.

In 1959 Parker added a quick-release lever to the locking pliers it provided to Craftsman, which were based on patent RE24.465, issued in 1958 to G.J. Waterbury with assignment to Parker Manufacturing. We've seen this patent marked on Craftsman locking pliers bearing the I-Circle code.

In the early 1970s Parker began producing ratcheting box wrenches based on patent 3,742,788, issued to E.D. Priest in 1973 with assignment to Parker Manufacturing. We've seen Craftsman ratcheting box wrenches of this design marked with the I-Circle code.

An example of Parker's production can be seen as the Craftsman 93558 "I-Circle" Hacksaw.

Maker S-K

The identification of S-K Tools as the first supplier of Craftsman 3/4-drive socket tools is one of the few genuinely easy cases of supplier attribution. S-K's 3/4-drive sockets have an easily recognizable appearance, with a short squat format and a distinctive dome-like top, and readers familiar with the company's socket tools would be able to identify them just from the catalog illustrations, without even needing to physically examine the tools.

S-K used a "K-Circle" mark as its primary manufacturer's code, and this mark will be frequently found on Craftsman 3/4-drive socket tools from the mid 1930s to mid 1940s. (A small number of 1/2-drive tools were also supplied by S-K and marked with a K-Circle.)

S-K also used "BM" as a manufacturer's code, and this mark will found less frequently on Craftsman 3/4-drive socket tools from the same era. The "BM" code is almost certainly a mnemonic for "Brazil Manufacturing", the old name for S-K's stamping division.

Examples of S-K's production for Sears can be seen in the section on Craftsman 3/4-Drive Socket Tools.

Maker Snap-on

[Editor's note: this case study was originally presented as part of the section on the C-Series tools. We've edited it lightly to fit better with the other case studies.]

The first Craftsman socket sets were offered in 1932 and are commonly referred to as the C-Series socket tools, based on their model numbers with a "C" prefix. In this section we'll present evidence to show that these tools were made by Snap-on.

Numerous examples of these tools can be found in the section on Craftsman C-Series Socket Tools. After presenting our examples of the C-Series tools, we were fairly certain of the maker, but it took a number of years to gather the necessary artifacts to present a convincing case. Recently (2011) we added the final pieces of the puzzle and are now ready to offer our evidence.

The remainder of this section will present evidence based on the design and construction of two key tools, (1) flex-head handles and (2) open-style ratchets.

Flex-Head Handles

The most significant feature of the flex-head handles is the use (in the earlier years) of a design with the fork on the flexible head instead of the handle. We'll refer to this as the "outer-head" design, borrowing a term from P&C tools, a maker of both outer-head and inner-head flex handles.

There is an interesting history behind these design alternatives, with the outer-head design being intended to avoid infringing the 1920 Eagle patent #1,380,643, which described the inner-head design. Eventually a patent infringement lawsuit was brought against a maker of inner-head flex handles, but the court decision in 1935 found in favor of the defendant and overturned the patent. Additional details can be found in the section on the Eagle Patent Lawsuit.

Of the companies making flex-head handles prior to 1935, those using the outer-head design included Cornwell, Duro/Indestro, P&C, and Snap-on. Other companies used the inner-head design exclusively, including Armstrong, Blackhawk, Herbrand, Hinsdale, New Britain, Plomb, S-K, and Williams. (Plomb was the licensee of the Eagle patent mentioned previously.)

Refer now to the early Craftsman Outer-Head Flex Handle, and note that the handle terminates rather abruptly in a square stud where the flex-head is attached. Compare this with the Snap-on Outer-Head Flex Handle, and note the similar construction at the handle end. Note also that both of these examples have the drive stud on the flex end oriented at 45 degrees from the plane of the flex motion.

Now refer now to the later Craftsman Inner-Head Flex Handle, with the fork on the end of the handle as is found on most modern flex handles. This tool design is illustrated only in the Sears 1935 Spring and Summer catalog, shortly before the C-Series line was discontinued, making this variant of the flex handle one of the less common examples of the line. (The tool in our collection is the only example we've ever seen.)

This can be compared with a Snap-on Inner-Head Flex Handle of somewhat later construction (1944). A review of the Snap-on catalogs found that the 1936 edition was the first publication to show the use of the inner-head design. Since Snap-on catalogs were prepared in the fall of a calendar year, this would imply that the change to the inner-head style would have occurred sometime from late 1934 through mid 1935. Thus we can see that Snap-on switched to the inner-head design at the same time that the rare Craftsman inner-head design was offered.

Open-Style Ratchets

We'll now turn our attention to the open-style ratchet design provided with the C-Series tools. The laminated construction used in this style of ratchet made them relatively easy to manufacture, and a number of different tool companies made similar ratchets at some point in their history. However, one company's ratchets provide a nearly identical match to the Craftsman models in both features and construction details.

Referring first to the Craftsman CF-87 Open-Style Ratchet, note the use of a round knurled handle, the transition with the shank becoming wider and thinner, the use of four rivets to secure the plates, and the small shift lever projecting from the side.

For comparison we can examine the Snap-on PF-87 Open-Style Ratchet, where we find a tool with nearly identical dimensions, features, and construction.

The final confirmation comes from the close similarity of the model numbers, with an obscure "PF-87" becoming a "CF-87". Model numbers for Craftsman tools were not required in this era and were seldom marked, so the chances of a different manufacturer just happening to choose something close to a Snap-on number would be remote indeed.

Based on the above evidence, we can conclude that Snap-on was the maker of the Craftsman C-Series tools.

Although some readers might be surprised to find that Snap-on was supplying tools to a mass-market retailer, in the context of the 1930s economy it would have made good business sense. For many companies 1932 was the nadir of the Great Depression, and Snap-on (like many other companies) was looking for new sources of revenue. The large retail market controlled by Sears allowed the company to buy in volume and to make deals with companies like Snap-on that normally sold through other channels.

Maker Vlchek

The Vlchek Tool Company was the maker of a wide variety of tools including hammers, chisels, pliers, wrenches, and automobile tool kits. During the 1930s the company supplied tools to the Sears Fulton, Merit, Dunlap, and Craftsman brands.

Vlchek used "BT" as its manufacturer's code, and in this section we'll review the evidence that established Vlchek as the maker associated with the "BT" code.

Vlchek Socket Tools

For most of its history Vlchek was primarily a producer of drop-forged tools such as chisels, wrenches, and pliers, but for a brief period in the mid 1930s Vlchek also produced sockets and drive tools. Their line of 1/2-drive socket tools included a reversible ratchet of a distinctive design, and this ratchet was to key to identifying Vlchek as a supplier to Sears.

The 1934 Vlchek catalog A-2 offered the Vlchek WSSR10 1/2-Drive Reversible Ratchet, a model with a forged body and an unusual shift mechanism in which the lever passed through a slot in the handle.

In 1936 the Sears Spring and Summer catalog offered a Craftsman 1/2-drive reversible ratchet as item number 6155 at a $1.98 price. This listing was significant as the first 1/2-drive reversible ratchet offered under the Craftsman brand, and an example of the tool can be seen as the Craftsman "BT" 1/2-Drive Reversible Ratchet.

A comparison of the photographs shows that the Vlchek WSSR10 and Craftsman "BT" ratchets are identical except for the markings, thereby establishing "BT" as the manufacturer's code for Vlchek.

The "BT" ratchet became available around the same time as the transition from the C-Series Socket Tools to the "BE" series, but as neither of these socket lines included a reversible ratchet in 1/2-drive, Sears offered this as an alternative.

Sears later included the "BT" model as the standard ratchet in otherwise all "BE" style socket sets, which must have been quite embarrassing for New Britain Machine. New Britain Machine took the hint and by around 1938 finally offered its own "BE" reversible ratchet, and the socket sets became all "BE" again.

Other "BT" Tools

Apart from the ratchet identified above, Vlchek's production for the Sears brands also included pliers and wrenches. Examples found thus far include the following tools:

Maker Wilde

The Wilde Tool Company was a major supplier of pliers for the Craftsman brand from the 1930s through the 1970s or beyond. The company used a "P-Circle" (or sometimes just "P") as its manufacturer's code.

The "P-Circle" code is one of the widely recognized codes that currently needs no explanation for its association with Wilde Tool, based on Wilde's many decades of making Craftsman pliers.

Ultimately though the recognition of the "P-Circle" code is tied to Wilde's use of a distinctive "Rope-Banded" gripping pattern for its pliers. Wilde adopted this pattern in the 1920s shortly after its founding, and this remained the company's preferred pattern in subsequent decades. An early example can be seen on the "Wilde Wrench" 7 Inch Pliers.

Most of Craftsman pliers made by Wilde have the "Rope-Banded" gripping pattern, except for those made during a short period in the 1950s when Sears forced all makers to use their "Nested Diamonds" pattern. Sears eventually relented and by the late 1950s Wilde was back using its preferred "Rope-Banded" pattern.

Maker Williams (J.H.)

J.H. Williams was an early merchant drop-forger and became one of the largest makers of tools for industrial and automotive markets.

Despite its size and market dominance, Williams supplied only a few types of tools to the Sears Craftsman brand, which included a distinctive "8-in-1" socket wrench and adjustable wrenches. Examples include the

Table of Manufacturer's Codes

One of the goals of the Craftsman articles is to identify the manufacturers responsible for the various lines of Craftsman tools, and for the associated brands such as Dunlap as well. Unfortunately it has proven to be fairly difficult to determine the manufacturer associated with some of the codes, and as a result there are still a number of "Unknown" entries in the table.

In addition to actual marked codes, the table also includes manufacturers identified by specific production or stylistic characteristics.

This table includes manufacturers active from the early Craftsman years in the late 1920s through the 1970s.

Craftsman Manufacturer's Codes: Late 1920s to 1970s
Code Description Manufacturer Usage Period Notes and Examples
A.0. Block letters J.P. Danielson 1934-1939 Observed on earlier Craftsman Vanadium adjustable wrenches.
Craftsman Vanadium "A.0." 4 Inch Adjustable Wrench
Also noted on Merit and Dunlap pliers.
Merit "A.0." 7 Inch Bent Thin-Nose Pliers
Dunlap "A.0." 7 Inch Bent Thin-Nose Pliers
AF Block Letters Billings 1930s to 1940s Generally stamped, rarely forged-in.
Found on open-end, box-end, and combination wrenches.
Identified by patented clip on Merit 6-Piece Wrench Set.
AM Block Letters Kraeuter 1939-1943 Stamped on Craftsman pliers.
Typically preceded or followed by digits, e.g. 41AM or AM9.
Craftsman "AM9" 8.5 Inch Button's Pliers
Craftsman "AM9" Angle-Nose Pliers
AZ-Circle [AZ-Circle Logo] J.H. Williams 1950s to 1960s "AZ" in a circle.
Found on Craftsman Locking Adjustable Wrench.
BC Block Letters Unknown 1930s to 1940s Found on Craftsman Vanadium Cotter Pin Puller.
BE Block Letters New Britain Machine 1933 to 1940s Used on sockets and drive tools with knurled band
BF Block Letters Daido Corporation 1964 to 1990s? Stamped or forged.
Found on wrenches, adjustable wrenches, and pliers, usually with "Japan".
Craftsman "BF" 5/8 Combination Wrench
Found on screwdrivers, not marked for Japan.
BM Block Letters S-K Tools 1930s to 1940s Known only on 3/4-Drive tools.
Probably a mnemonic for "Brazil Manufacturing", S-K's stamping division.
BT Block letters Vlchek 1930s to 1940s Identified by Craftsman "BT" Ratchet.
Also known on other Craftsman, Dunlap, Merit, and Fulton tools.
Merit "BT" Waterpump Pliers
Fulton "BT" 9/16x5/8 Half-Moon Box Wrench
Dunlap "BT" Battery Pliers
Bet'R-Grip Typewriter Font J.P. Danielson 1930s Registered trademark for Danielson adjustable wrenches.
Observed on adjustable wrenches for Merit and Dunlap.
Merit "Bet'R-Grip" 10 Inch Adjustable Wrench
Dunlap "Bet'R-Grip" 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench
B-Circle B Unknown 1940s to 1960s? "B" in a circle, stamped.
Known only on pliers.
Craftsman 4507 Combination Pliers
Craftsman 4476 Battery Pliers
C-Circle C Champion DeArment Mid 1930s to 1940s Stamped or forged on Craftsman pliers.
Craftsman "C-Circle" Electrician's Pliers
Craftsman "C-Circle" 7.5 Inch Needlenose Pliers
C-F Block Letters Herbrand 1930s Stamped mark.
Related to Herbrand "CFT" mark, CF = Creighton Fuller [Thompson]
Craftsman "C-F" Battery Pliers
CI Block Letters Billings 1920s to 1940s Typically forged into open-end wrenches.
Forged-in or stamped on box-end and combination wrenches.
Also noted on Fulton wrenches, possibly from 1920s.
Less common on Dunlap wrenches.
D.I. Block Letters Duro/Indestro 1949-1969 Found on ratcheting box wrenches with raised "=Craftsman=" panel.
Craftsman Ratcheting Box Wrench
F-Circle F Millers Falls 1930s to 1960s Planes, bit braces, offset screwdrivers.
Craftsman Four-Way Screwdriver
G-Circle G Unknown 1950s to 1960s? "G" in a circle, stamped.
Craftsman "G-Circle" Star Drill
H-Circle [H-Circle Logo] New Britain Machine 1933 to 1940s "H" in a circle, originally used by Husky Corporation.
Used on sockets and drive tools similar to "BE" series.
I-Circle I Parker Manufacturing Co. 1940s to 1980s "I" in a circle, stamped.
Used for hacksaws, locking pliers, ratcheting box wrenches.
Craftsman 93558 "I-Circle" Hacksaw
JW Block Letters J.H. Williams 1960s to 1970s Stamped marking on adjustable wrenches.
Craftsman "JW" 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench
K-Circle [K-Circle Logo] S-K Tools 1930s to 1940s "K" in a circle.
Generally found on 3/4-drive tools.
Craftsman "K-Circle" 3/4-Drive 1-1/4 Socket
Craftsman "K-Circle" 3/4-Drive Ratchet
LC Block Letters J.P. Danielson 1930s to 1960s? Stamped code observed on primarily on pliers.
Craftsman 4732 "LC" Combination Pliers
Usage appears to overlap with "A.0." code.
Dunlap Combination Pliers.
LC Block Letters Lectrolite 1950s Forged-in code observed on economy wrenches.
Dunlap Offset Box Wrench.
N-Square N Unknown 1930s to 1940s? "N" in a square, stamped code found on chisels and punches.
Dunlap Center Punch, Craftsman Punch
Also noted on Craftsman 4-Position Waterpump Pliers.
P-Circle [P-Circle Logo] Wilde Tool 1940s to 1960s "P" in a circle, stamped or forged.
Typically found on pliers with rope-banded gripping pattern.
Craftsman [4527] "P-Circle" 10 Inch Arc-Joint Waterpump Pliers
Craftsman [45360] "P-Circle" 6.75 Inch Combination Pliers
Less commonly observed on wrenches.
V Block Letters Moore Drop Forging 1938 Onward Generally stamped, but may be forged on early tools.
Early usage noted on tappet wrenches and Dunlap wrenches.
WF Block Letters Western Forge 1965 Onward Generally forged into tools.
W-Circle W Unknown 1950s? "W" in a circle, forged or stamped.
Currently known only on Dunlap pliers.
Possibly an alternate code for McKaig-Hatch, based on handle pattern.
Y-Circle [Y-Circle Logo] McKaig-Hatch 1950s "Y" in a circle, usually forged, may be stamped.
Found on adjustable wrenches, pipe wrenches, pliers, and tire irons.
Found on both Dunlap and Craftsman brands.
Craftsman 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench.
312.1 Block Numbers J.P. Danielson Early 1940s Observed on later Craftsman Vanadium adjustable wrenches.
Craftsman Vanadium 6 Inch Adjustable Wrench
Also noted on Fulton Pliers.
N/A No code marked Kraeuter 1930-1937 Early pliers with diamond-checkered gripping pattern.
Early examples may be marked with catalog model number.
Early Craftsman 5781-8 Button's Pliers
Early Craftsman 5781-10 Button's Pliers
N/A No code marked Snap-on 1932-1935 Produced Craftsman C-Series socket tools
See C-Series Socket Tools.
N/A No code marked Hinsdale 1933-1934 Craftsman box wrenches
X1 Box Wrench
X30 Short Offset Box Wrench
N/A No code marked Hinsdale 1933-1935 Craftsman Vanadium socket sets
Craftsman Vanadium "Midget" Socket Set
N/A No code marked Hinsdale 1935-1938 Craftsman Vanadium open-end wrenches with gently-sloped panels
Craftsman Vanadium 1729 Wrench
N/A Text on Curved Arc Duro/Indestro Late 1930s Observed on Craftsman No. 3 Tappet Wrench

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