Who Makes My Tools?
Curious about who makes the tools we use to fix up our homes? The answers can be elusive. We'll look at some major brands to see who owns and manufactures them.
Ever find yourself wondering who makes the tools we all spend so much money on? Perhaps you’ve wondered whether certain tools from different brands are actually the same, just with different names, prices and paint jobs. Or maybe you’ve just wanted to know where your tool was made.
Turns out these can be surprisingly complex questions to answer. To help clarify, we looked at who owns and manufactures some of the most popular tool brands on the market.
But first, a couple of definitions.
“Makes” vs. “Owns”
There’s a difference between wondering who makes a tool versus who owns that tool line. Tool brands are often owned by a parent company without direct expertise in tool manufacturing. In that case, the actual production is shopped out to a third-party manufacturer.
But these manufacturing licenses can be split. That means a brand’s power tools might be manufactured by one company, and the hand tools by a different company on the other side of the world. Licensing may be for short periods, so it’s possible for a specific tool to be made by Manufacturer A one year and Manufacturer B the next.
Mergers and Acquisitions
It’s also common for tool manufacturers to merge with other companies. In some cases, the brands remain largely independent, operating in separate facilities and meeting different standards. But sometimes one brand’s manufacturing is consumed by the other, and the differences between the two become largely cosmetic.
Making things more complicated is the blurry line between the two manufacturers. A subsidiary that operates independently for years may be changed, rebranded or spun off by the parent company.
And it’s worth noting that tool brands are bought, sold and licensed all the time. An overview like this one can be rendered obsolete with a few corporate signatures.
With all those caveats in place, let’s dive into some of the most common tool brands DIYers ask about.
Who Makes Ridgid Tools?
Ridgid is a well-known brand that’s a perfect example of why understanding who makes your favorite tools can be tricky.
Many people assume Ridgid is a house brand of The Home Depot. While Ridgid is sold at The Home Depot, it’s owned by Emerson Electric, who bought it in 1966.
Ridgid hand tools, with a red and black color scheme, are manufactured here in the U.S. by the Ridge Tool Company (owned by Emerson). But Ridgid power tools with an orange and black color scheme are made in China by Techtronic Industries Co., LTD (TTI) — except for Ridgid shop vacuums, which are gray and orange and made by Emerson in the U.S.
Clear as mud, right?
Side note: The weird spelling of Ridgid comes from the city where the Ridge Tool Company was founded — North Ridgeville, Ohio.
Who Makes Hart Tools?
In the same way that Ridgid power tools can only be found at The Home Depot, Hart power tools are only sold by Walmart. This budget-friendly tool line is owned and manufactured in China by Techtronic Industries Co., LTD, the same company that makes most Ridgid power tools.
You’ll see TTI mentioned a lot in this roundup. It’s important to note TTI isn’t running a single, massive manufacturing facility and slapping a different brand label to charge more for the same set of tools. They clearly understand consumers want brands to stand for certain quality standards, prices and features.
That brings us to the next entry in our list…
Who Makes Milwaukee Tools?
Milwaukee is another famous tool brand owned by TTI, though it operates as its own entity. Headquartered (logically enough) in Milwaukee, this line of high-quality tools is entirely manufactured in the U.S.
Milwaukee reaps the benefits of being part of a larger family of tool brands while maintaining a separate identity. Milwaukee is targeted to professionals and high-end DIYers.
Who Makes Ryobi Tools?
Ryobi is a Japanese company with products ranging from power tools to printing supplies. Their popular cordless power tools are manufactured under license by TTI.
Sold by The Home Depot and online, Ryobi is largely targeted to DIYers, focusing on providing quality tools at an affordable price point. They tend to have shorter warranty coverage than higher-end TTI brands like Milwaukee, but are more than capable of withstanding casual homeowner demands.
Who Makes Flex Tools?
Flex power tools are manufactured by FLEX-Elektrowerkzeuge GmbH, a German company owned by Chervon (not the oil company). This Chervon is a Chinese manufacturing company that also owns tool brands like Ego and Skil.
Founded in Germany in 1922, Flex manufactures woodworking and metal working tools; it made the first angle grinder in 1954. Chervon acquired FLEX-Elektrowerkzeuge and the Flex brand in 2013. Flex’s manufacturing has remained in Germany.
Who Makes Kobalt Tools?
Kobalt is a house brand for Lowe’s, so the big-box retailer owns the Kobalt brand. Of course, Lowes isn’t in the tool manufacturing business, so the question remains: Who makes Kobalt tools? The manufacturer varies depending on what tools you’re asking about and when they were made.
Currently, Kobalt’s cordless power tools are made by Chervon, except for outdoor power tools, which come from the well-known outdoor tool company Greenworks. Greenworks is in turn owned by the Chinese manufacturer Globe Tools Group. (Interestingly, in 2016, the German company Stihl purchased a minority stake in Globe Tools, presumably so they can control a piece of Greenworks’ market share.)
Kobalt hand tools are harder to pin down. It appears that Kobalt mechanic’s tools were at one point manufactured by Snap-On, although we were unable to verify that’s still the case. Most Kobalt hand tools are currently made by Apex, a U.S.-based company that operates in more than a dozen countries.
Who Makes DeWalt Tools?
DeWalt tools are manufactured in the U.S. by Stanley Black+Decker.
Black+Decker purchased DeWalt in the 1960s. When Black+Decker rebranded their tool line targeting the pro market in the 1990s, they chose a distinctive yellow and black color scheme and a familiar name to appeal to their target audience. Black+Decker merged with Stanley in 2010, and Stanley Black+Decker makes DeWalt tools to this day.