A few months back we ran a survey asking newsletter recipients to tell us about their favorite hands tools—specifically, their brand preference for 16’ tapes, 25-30’ tapes, screwdrivers, adjustable wrenches, lineman’s pliers, and pump pliers. The tables below contain the combined responses of cabinet maker/installers and finish carpenters. I put these trades together to create a larger sample and because there is a fair amount of overlap in the kind of work they perform. Between the two trades we received 65 responses.

Be sure to check out the links to the responses from other trades and the comments pulled from the surveys. Both can be found at the bottom of this page.

About the same proportion (29.7%) of finish carpenters/cabinet maker-installers do not use 16’ tapes as remodelers (30.5%) and GC’s doing new construction (29.4%). It’s surprising that the numbers are so close for these groups; I would have thought cabinet makers would drive the proportion down because the sheet materials used to build cabinets are rarely more than 10 or 12 feet long. People who self-identify as handymen are the most likely to use shorter tapes; only 20.7% say they don’t use 16’ tapes.

I wouldn’t make too much of the lowest numbers in the chart above, because with a sample size of 65 people 1.6% means one person prefers that particular brand.

Clearly, there's a reason why adjustable wrenches are referred to generically as “crescent wrenches”.

A few respondents said they were not familiar with the term “pump pliers” and had to look it up. The term is somewhat archaic and has been shortened from “water pump pliers”. Channellock is strongly associated with these tools and tradesmen frequently refer to them as Channellocks (even when they carry a different brand label). One respondent said I should have referred to these tools as “tongue and groove pliers” or "slip joint pliers". At one time that would have been an accurate way to describe them, but nowadays pump pliers are available with a variety of mechanisms for adjusting the jaws—for example, the push-button mechanism on Irwin’s pump pliers.

Survey Results for Other Trades

  • All Trades Combined

    Selected Comments by Finish Carpenters and Cabinet Maker/Installers

    16’ Tapes

    likes Kobalt; says "Free replacements. Life time warranty"

  • likes Stanley FatMax; says "I have been trying the new Milwaukee tape and like the features that it brings. After 12 years, I might have to switch."
  • 25-30’ Tapes

    likes FastCap; says "not the most durable but it’s nice to have metric and standard on one tape."

  • Screwdrivers

    likes “other”; says "Megapro!" [Editor’s note: Megapro produces multi-bit screwdrivers at plants in the USA and Canada.]

  • likes “other”; says "Picquic" [Editor’s note: Picquic is a brand of multi-bit driver that’s made in Canada]
  • likes Snap-on; says "Hands down, the best. And the guy comes to me to replace them. The problem lies with how they grow legs. So I use a cheap 6 way while on the jobsite. Keep the good ones for home shop use."
  • Lineman’s Pliers

    likes Klein; says "Call me old fashioned, but these were my first pair and I still have them 30 years later."