They Just Don’t Make (fill in the blank) Like They Used To

Notwithstanding the fact that I believe we are living in The Golden Age Of Woodworking Tools, the precipitous decline and apparent imminent demise of Sears/Craftsman is a cautionary tale, although I remain uncertain of its ultimate meaning.  As a devotee of Joseph Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” premise, I do not mourn Sears/Craftsman’s passing as much as I celebrate the role going to the Sears tool department played in my early life.  The tool department was large, the shelves fully stocked with high quality products, and the sales folks knew what they had and how to use it.  Really.  That is probably incomprehensible to anyone going to Sears now, but it was true in 1970.

The trips there with my Dad were too numerous to recall, and were equal parts utilitarian errands and incalculable treasure hunts.  Our bond of toolism and tinkering was foundational, continuing until the day he took his final breath and we parted with no unfinished business.  In fact that bond remains as after his funeral my brothers and I divvied up his tools, some of which get used in my shop now.

The first tool I ever bought with my own lawn-mowing money was this pocket knife, still in use 49 years after its purchase.  (full disclosure — I could not lay my hands on mine at the moment, it is probably in a pair of pants or overalls that I have hanging on some hook in some closet.  This is an identical one I saw on ebay.)

My first power tool was this 3/8″ Craftsman drill, still going strong after 47 years.  It’s a low-speed, high torque unit that can just as easily spin you around if used carelessly.  The only changes from the day I bought it are a new power cord and Jorgensen chuck.

I still have many other wrenches, sockets, and screwdrivers from the same store bought around the same time.  None has ever given me a lick of trouble.

But recently my mondo Craftsman Shop Vac gave up the ghost, after only 44 years of faithful service.  Or at least I inferred that it was dead based on the acrid smoke shooting out of the motor casing moments after it ceased operating with a snap, crackle, and pop.  I did not even bother with an autopsy, merely cutting off the power cord and taking the canister lid to the dump (I never throw away a good power cord).  I saved the rolling base, it still serves as a receptacle for scraps.

On the way home from the dump I stopped at our local farm coop and hardware store and bought a successor model.  Given the current state of Craftsman products, I guess I will only get 30 years or so from it.  I can only imagine how cranky I will be shopping for a new one at 92.