Craftsman Forever, Forever Craftsman

The Best Backed Tools You Can Buy

1. The Craftsman 35-piece Motorcycle Tool Set out on the battlefield and poised for action. Bullets not included.

2. Up close and personal on the arsenal. It includes pretty much everything needed to disconnect the battery or pull the sparkplugs, as well as tie-wraps and electrical tape to mend a short or temporarily hold something.

3. The driver handle comes with four interchangible magnetic tips. Note: You can use any number of different sized Torx, Allen, Phillips, Robertson, and SAE or Metric sockets available at any Sears or OSH on the included driver handle.

4. Also included are a couple of open-end wrenches. They come in common sizes for most exhaust system and fender mounts. The Craftsman adjustable wrench introduced in 1933 was 50 percent thinner than previous wrenches due to the use of Vanadium steel. And yes, this set comes with an adjustable wrench.

5. Craftsman introduced the quick-release ratchet in 1966. In 1986, it introduced the industry's first solid stainless steel ratchet and the 3/8-inch ratchet included in this toolset is of the very desirable, fine-toothed type.

6. A spare change of socks can be stowed in the Craftsman tool roll. Is this the right sized wrench to change them with?

7. Both 13/16-inch and 5/8-inch spark plug sockets come with the Craftsman kit, making it possible to remove the spark-plugs from a Sportster, Panhead, Shovelhead, Evo, or Twin Cam cylinder head.

8. Oops, the included Allen wrenches will not fit a stock Harley-Davidson, Evolution or Twin Cam motor's air cleaner...

9. ...but they sure look good next to the bike.

10. Check this out, a late '70s Craftsman rollaway combo. Note the earlier top boxes are in a brighter cherry red with a differently styled Craftsman logo.

11. Craftsman Pro-Line open-end ratchet box wrenches are perhaps one of the best tool innovations in recent years. They are not included in this kit, but buy some. You'll love 'em.

12. Every home garage should have a couple of these ratchets: 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, and 1/2-inch drive Craftsman ratchets.

13. Available in bright red, this Craftsman kneepad saves on Levis as well as retarding potentially irreversible kneecap damage (other activities are possible but not officially endorsed by Sears or its assignees).

14. Only at Sears will you find a tool guarantee so unconditionally enforced that a socket extension can be used as a drift punch with a sledgehammer, then returned if it fails.

15. Want to be a Craftsman aficionado? To identify the year of a Craftsman tool storage cabinet logo, check out www.searsarchives.com.

16. The Craftsman 75th Anniversary box (bottom) would have been a lot more desirable in the '60s silver and red color scheme (top) with something more than a cheap sticker for an emblem.

17. A trio of knurled pre-World War II Craftsman sockets perched atop a '59 David Bradley chainsaw, another Sears's brand name.

18. Not for sale in the US, the Craftsman Robertson drive is available only in Canada.

19. This handy Craftsman kneepad easily converts any ordinary trashcan into a nifty shop stool.

20. Legend has it there are currently more Craftsman toolboxes of this style in service than all of the Ford and Chevy trucks ever registered in the United States.

It's one thing when you're forced to write about an upstart chain of discount department stores with a brief two- or three-decade history, but where do you start when it's about a company that's more than a century old. To put it mildly, it's an American institution. This iconic company is Sears, and throughout the last 100-plus years, it's sold cars, motorcycles, guns, bicycles, musical instruments, and yes, even pre-fabricated homes.

If a person were some kind of extreme Sears fanatic, he could move into a neighborhood comprised entirely of Sears houses, fill it with Sears furniture and appliances, then put on a pair of Sears slippers, sit down in his living room, and listen to his Sears Silvertone radio. For the less sedentary Sears aficionado, he could jump into his Allstate car or ride around on an Allstate motorcycle or, better yet, a vintage Sears motorcycle. If you'd like a more in-depth look at Sears' history check out www.searsarchives.com. For those of you wondering where we're going with this story, keep reading.

The toolkit you see pictured is the Craftsman 35-piece Motorcycle Tool Set available for either metric motorcycles or domestics, like a Harley-Davidson or Victory. Craftsman sent it for us to review. Obviously, the best way to form an honest opinion of a product is to start using it.

I initiated my quest by looking at the box it came in and reenacting the scenes depicted. In one photograph, we have a guy unbolting the shell from his late-model Harley-Davidson's air cleaner, and in the other photo, he's next to his Harley with a red tray full of tools doing something else. For the first photo, I removed the Allen wrenches from Craftsman's handy tool pouch and looked for a 5/16-inch Allen wrench to remove the air cleaner... Uh-oh, the kit doesn't have the 5/16-inch Allen wrench necessary to remove the air-cleaner shell. Next, I looked inside the Craftsman tool pouch to locate the red tool tray and couldn't find one.

In all fairness, the mistakes made by some package designer can't be held against the toolkit. The fact still remains that no other manufacturer stands behind its tools like Craftsman. Sure, there are other tools on the market that offer a lifetime guarantee, but none are unconditional and honored to the degree Sears does. I remember one time I turned in a worn-out Snap-on screwdriver to the Snap-on truck. The Snap-on guy stuck it in a vise, yanked out the old blade, stuck a new one in the mangy old handle, and handed it back to me. The next time, I handed him a box wrench that broke because I had ground on it to fit a special application. I thought the Snap-on guy was going to start crying, as he was explaining why he couldn't honor the lifetime guarantee. In contrast, I have a drawer full of specially modified (read, ground paper-thin) Craftsman tools that when broken, Sears replaces without question.

Recently in the news, there was a story about three people suing Sears because they bought Craftsman tools to be patriotic, on the premise they were American-made. The story went on to say the people were so upset and distressed when they discovered a percentage of Craftsman tools was sourced globally, they had to run out and hire an attorney. According to the Craftsman website, 80 percent of its tools are manufactured in the United States for which 55,000 Americans are employed... Can't you just see these litigious phonies driving a brand-new Toyota to meet with their Mercedes-Benz-driving attorney? Not to harp on the subject, but I really question the motives of these people and can well imagine the legal expense of defending against this kind of nonsense.

Okay enough editorializing, did we like the Craftsman motorcycle toolkit? Yes, without any hesitation. It's a perfect gift for a non-motorcyclist like grandpa or grandma to give to a Harley-riding grandson. It will last many decades longer than any sweater and will always be a reminder of their love. For the guys who want a good basic toolkit for $79.95, it is a great start, and you will only have to add a few specific tools to suit your individual bike. Also, a message to Edward Lampert: Please don't rename Sears something lame like "Big Sears-Mart" or Craftsman as Kmartsman tools. Here's a look at the toolkit, and some other rare Craftsman products.