During a recent trip to the Midwest I managed to tour several tool factories—one of the most interesting being SK's new plant in Sycamore, Illinois. The SK brand will be familiar to anyone who uses automotive tools.
Like many tool companies that have been around for a while, SK has a long and complicated history. Founded in Chicago in the early 1900s by Mason H. Sherman and Roger Klove, it was originally known as Sherman-Klove and specialized in screw machine products—items produced on automatic metalworking lathes. During the 1920s the company produced sockets for the Hinsdale Socket and Wrench Company. Hinsdale went broke during the depression and Sherman-Klove was left with a large inventory of sockets and wrenches it needed to sell. It changed its name to SK Tools and after receiving a patent for a round-head ratchet in 1934 came to be known for that kind of tool.
Fast-forwarding to more recent times, the company was owned for a time by Facom Tools. After going bankrupt in 2010 the company was purchased by IDEAL Industries, which closed SK's Chicago factory and moved its operations to a new plant a few miles down the road from IDEAL's's headquarters in Sycamore, Illinois.
It was this new SK factory that I toured over the summer. All manner of sockets, impact sockets, socket adapters, flex sockets, extensions, and swivel impact sockets are produced in this plant. And items such as ratchets are assembled there. Not everything bearing the SK label is made in Sycamore; some items are produced in Colorado by Western Forge-which like SK, is a subsidiary of IDEAL.
The slideshow on the left contains photos from my tour of the factory. The captions will explain what everything is. Be sure to look for the video links in some of the captions.