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The Best Tool Brands in Every Category – for Me

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I tend to develop strong opinions about tool brands, as well as associations between brands and tool categories. Based on personal experiences, conversations with different users, others’ recommendations, and visibility, one or sometimes two brands immediately come to mind when it comes to specific types of tools..

Back in 2014, I wrote a post, answering the question If I Lost All My Tools, Which Brands Would I Pick for Replacements?

I have been asked for an update, and now seems like a good time.

In a recent post, some people expressed displeasure that I don’t associate their favored brand with fine woodworking tools. I can’t – and won’t – apologize for my raw opinions and the brand-tool associations I have made over the years, or lack thereof. If you have a problem with how I associate certain tool brands with specific products or categories, the only way to change my mind is to tell me about your experiences and preferences, and even then there’s no guarantee. Altering my perception is a process that can only happen over time.

Beyond my personal experiences and observations, readers definitely have a hand in expanding or evolving my views. Tell me about the brands you like, the preferences you’ve formed, the choices you would make today.

Here’s what I would buy today in “no time to think about it” decisions.

Some of these are the best tool options for me, others are the best options for anyone. Snap-on, for instance, is inarguably a top brand in many regards, but it’s not a brand I associate with my own needs. So when I think “I need to buy a ratchet,” I do not think “Snap-on.”

If your opinion differs, tell me about it!

Mechanics Tools

Wrenches: Proto
Ratcheting Wrenches: Gearwrench
Portable Socket Set: Wera Zyklops
Master Set: Gearwrench
Ratchets: Gearwrench
Torque Wrenches: Undecided

(Or Snap-on for everything if this was in a “winning lottery ticket” context.”


Ball Pein Hammers: Vaughan
Dead Blow: Trusty-Cook, Nupla
Claw Hammer: Dewalt, Estwing


General Screwdrivers: PB Swiss, Proto, Facom
Precision Screwdrivers: Wera, PB Swiss
T-Handle Ball Hex: Bondhus
Hex Keys: PB Swiss, Bondhus
1/4″ Hex Bit Holders: Felo
Ratcheting Screwdrivers: PB Swiss, Megapro

Cutting Tools

Utility Knives: Milwaukee
Folding/Pocket Knife: Spyderco
Fixed Blade Knife: ESEE
Scissors: Milwaukee
Aviation Snips: Wiss, Midwest Tools



LED Flashlights

Compact: Olight
Headlamp: Petzl
Flood: Zebralight
Max Durability: Malkoff Devices (USA)
Jobsite: Milwaukee

Tool Storage

Ball Bearing: Husky
Industrial: Lista, Proto
Power Tools: Milwaukee Packout (mobile) Festool Systainers (select equipment)
Small Parts: Akro Mils
Organizers: Sortimo T-Boxx (old style), Allit or Durham (metal)
Tool Bag: Husky
Portable Tool Box (non-modular): Keter, Milwaukee

Pliers & Similar

Pliers: NWS, Knipex, Klein, Channellock
Diagonal Cutters: NWS
Wire Strippers: Klein
Automatic Wire Strippers: Knipex, Jokari
Precision Pliers: Xuron, Tronex, NWS
Locking Pliers: Grip-On, Eagle Grip
Adjustable Wrench: Channellock
Adjustable Pliers: Knipex (Pliers Wrench, Cobra)


Gladiator with Maple Top
Husky Adjustable Table
Bench Vise: Yost, Wilton
Portable Work Bench: Dewalt, Kreg
Sawhorses: Ridgid
Workholding: Rockwell (Jawhorse)

Woodworking Hand Tools

Saws: Veritas
Chisels: Veritas
Hand Planes: Veritas
Layout: Woodpeckers
Squares: Milwaukee, Woodpeckers (specialty)

Woodworking Power Tools

Drilling: Bosch, Festool
Fastening: Festool
Track Saw: Festool (corded), Makita (cordless), Mafell (if money’s no object)
Jigsaw: Bosch
Joinery: Festool (Domino)
Benchtop Tools: Jet, Rikon
Table Saws: Dewalt (portable), SawStop (stationary)
Band Saws: Laguna

Power Tools

12V Drills & Drivers: Dewalt
12V Selection & Specialty: Milwaukee
18V/20V Max: Milwaukee
18V/20V Max Impact Driver: Metabo HPT
Hammer Drill: Bosch
Miter Saw: Dewalt
Portable Table Saw: Dewalt
Circular Saws: Dewalt, Milwaukee
Shop Vacuum: Ridgid (corded), Milwaukee (cordless)
Dust Extraction: Festool (portable), Jet (workshop), Oneida (large workshops)

Power Tool Accessories

Impact Bits: Milwaukee
Screwdriver Bits: Wera, PB Swiss
Drill Bits: USA-made Industrial Brands (whichever set is on sale)
General Drill Bits: Milwaukee
Reciprocating Saw Blades: Milwaukee
Jigsaw Blades: Bosch
Masonry Bits: Bosch
Circular Saw Blades: Freud, Dewalt
Hole Saws: Milwaukee
Forstner Drill Bits: Diablo
Router Bits: MLCS, Whiteside, Freud/Diablo


Boots: Undecided
Goggles: Uvex
Hearing: Peltor/3M
Respiratory: 3M
Work Gloves: Mechanix
Disposable Gloves: Microflex

Air Tools

Compressors: Rolair
Air Nailers: Metabo HPT
Hose: Tekton
Fittings: Legacy


Soldering: Hakko
Multimeter: Fluke
Oscilloscope: Rigol
Power Supply: Instek

Measuring Tools

Tape Measure: Milwaukee
Micrometers: Mitutoyo
Calipers: Mitutoyo
Gauges: Mitutoyo
Dial Indicator: Interapid
Laser Levels: Undecided
Laser Distance Measuring Tools: Bosch
Levels: Empire, Milwaukee

Other Categories?

Did I miss anything?

As was the case last time, I’m sure I left out some categories, but I wanted to put down my raw thoughts about which brands I would choose right now, without any time left for debate. I then reorganized the selection to line up with my impressions from 7 years ago for better comparison.

If you have any questions, I can add more categories to this section.

If you want to complain about my opinions, that’s fine, but offer your personal experiences or even anecdotes. Telling me I’m wrong about an opinion because of how large a particular brand’s catalog is – that’s never going to work. Give me something to think about, maybe a different way to look at brands I don’t share your associations about.

Previous Editions

(2014) If I Lost All My Tools, Which Brands Would I Pick for Replacements?

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