In the fall of 2014 we ran a survey asking newsletter recipients to tell us about their favorite hand tools—specifically, their preferred brands of 16’ tapes, 25-30’ tapes, screwdrivers, adjustable wrenches, lineman’s pliers, and pump pliers. We also asked about the kind of work they performed and what they considered to be their primary trade. The tables below contain the answers from all 731 people who responded to the survey. The questions were multiple-choice and included the option to leave a comment. A selection of the more interesting comments can be found at the bottom of this page; be sure not to miss them!

Separate stories have been posted with data specific to the following trades:
Cabinet Maker/Installer or Finish Carpenter

  • Remodelers

    Selected Comments:

    Preferred 16’ Tape

    • Remodeler; likes Stanley FatMax; says “90% of what I do never involves stock over 16'. One of the best tools I ever bought was a 16' tape but my 30' is always nearby”
    • Builder; likes Milwaukee; says “Comfortable grip, strong tape and large hooking end so it stays where we need it.”
    • Remodeler; likes Stabila; says “Compact, works well, accurate, markings on both sides of tape, really like the 32nd marks up to 6 inches.”
    • Handyman; likes Stanley FatMax; says “Could be improved by having an additional set of numbers on opposite side of tape so it could be more easily read from either side or direction.”
    • Remodeler; likes Stanley FatMax; says “Durable tape, easy lock that can easily function as brake, always easy to slip onto belt”
    • Remodeler; likes Stanley; says “easy to carry, otherwise not as handy as 25' tape”
    • Electrician, Remodeling, Woodworking, Builder; likes FastCap; says “FastCap is a step ahead of most the tape measure that you are going to see, for me the FastCap is the best tape measure for the things that FastCap gives to one looking for a tape measure that you are able to write on the tape, you can get one that is able to measure left to right, right to left, and you can have a place to write down things that is a help when you get ready to cut you have what you need right there. As I said it is a step ahead of others that is out there.”
    • Cabinet Maker/Installer; likes Kobalt; says “Free replacements. Life time warranty”
    • Remodeler; likes Milwaukee; says “Great design. Love the numbers on both sides of the tape. Magnet on end is a nice extra touch and the open notch under the tape is great. Very durable and the numbers don't wear off.”
    • Finish Carpenter; likes FastCap; says “I like the Lefty-Righty with automatic brake.”
    • Remodeler; likes Husky; says “I use a 35' FatMax for most work. A 16ft Husky someone gave me for basic measurements and a 5 meter metric tape for finish work. Would use metric for everything if I could.”
    • Electrician; likes Milwaukee; says “It used to be Fat Max by Stanley but Milwaukee wins now!!!”
    • HVAC/Mechanical; likes Craftsman; says “Lifetime guaranty. If it breaks, just return to any store and get a new one no questions asked. Can't beat that!”
    • Electrician; likes Stanley; says “Nice bright yellow with easy to read numbers. will extend almost 7 feet without bending/kinking.”
    • Handyman; likes Kobalt; says “No Hassle, Lifetime warranty. You can't beat it!”

  • Preferred 25-30’ Tape

    • Remodeler; likes Stanley; says “always questioned this about tapes.... being right handed, as most people are, I hold tape in left hand and "hook" the material end by reaching across to the right and pull the tape out and mark with my right hand, but the numbers are upside down. Why is it universally done like that?”
    • Builder; likes Stanley; says “I don't trust Asian tape measures. I have compared them side by side on several occasions and they are all different in measurement. US tape measures are very accurate.”
    • Remodeler; likes Stanley; says “I use the LEVER LOCK models, because I like the orange and green colored cases - which make them easier to see where I laid them down.”
    • Remodeler; likes Kobalt; says “I would say the Milwaukee but the stop knob for the tape already failed after 3 months of very light/infrequent use. The Kobalt has the added bonus of a metric measure on the underside”
    • Cabinet Maker/Installer; likes FastCap; says “not the most durable but it’s nice to have metric and standard on one tape.”
    • Remodeler; likes Stanley; says “Off-Brands are cheaper for this disposable, easily broken tool. Particularly on Remo Jobs and new construction, rarely outlast a single jobsite.”
    • Remodeler; likes Stanley; says “Old chrome no frills stand by. Cheap, easy to find, fairly dependable and durable. I buy them in 10 packs online for dirt cheap”
    • Cabinet Maker/Installer; likes Stanley FatMax; says “If I do change allegiance, it will be the Milwaukee. I do have a 35' FatMax for laying out larger nursing stations, but it is rarely pulled out.”
    • Handyman; likes Stanley; says “The FatMax was a great tape but they kept making it bigger. Now it is just cumbersome.”
    • Remodeler; likes Lufkin; says “They used to sell one which had decimal markings on one edge and fractional on the other. It was inexpensive too. I bought about a dozen of these. I still have one which is unused, but soon they will all be gone.”
    • Remodeler; likes Stanley; says “Traditional Stanley 25' tape with square chrome case is the only one I use. Only tape I have used that makes accurate inside measurements. The case is exactly three inches.”

    Preferred Screwdrivers

    • Custom Furniture Maker; likes “other”; says “Crown of England”
    • Cabinet Maker Installer; 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.”
    • Remodeler; likes Craftsman; says “Have a couple of sets and have been using them forever”
    • Handyman; likes Snap-on; says “I feel the best quality for the money. As long as they are not lost or stolen they will last forever. Not as easy to warranty as other brands because of dealer availability. I do take them to an auto repair shop and they have the dealer do the warranty for me.”
    • Electrician; likes Craftsman; says “I like Craftsman brand because I really 'beat up' screwdrivers & these are guaranteed for life @ Sears. As I get older, I'm leaning towards Greenlee brand due to the rubber grip handles (I don't 'beat up' on screwdrivers as much anymore).”
    • Remodeler; likes Husky; says “I'm glad you have Husky brand on the list. They actually make really good hand tools. I think they are severely underrated though.”
    • Mechanic; likes “other”; says “Proto Industrial Tools, DuraTek product.”
    • Electrician; likes Klein; says “The fit the screw head perfectly.”
    • Finish Carpenter; likes Klein; says “Tips hold up better than most”
    • Electrician, Remodeling, Woodworking, Builder; like Klein; says “To Me this is a great set of screwdrivers that is out there and made to last plus it’s a safe screwdriver made along with feels good to your hands. Better tips are found on Klein and I have a set that's five years old and it’s like a new one. Over all the best for your money. Pay more now for something that will last longer”
    • Remodeler; likes “other”; says “Wera. The grip is excellent, hold up well, feel like they are a great screwdriver especially for the price point which I find is reasonable.”
    • Remodeler; likes Craftsman; says “When I break it they replace it.”
    • Remodeler; likes Snap-on; says “You would be surprised how careful you are with an $18 screwdriver. I always carry a few beaters too. Most all my driving is done with a12v drill driver (DeWalt) and bits.”

    Preferred Adjustable Wrench

    • Cabinet Maker/Installer; likes Snap-on; says “But I carry Crescent to the jobsite.”
    • Plumber; likes Channellock; says “Channellock code blue wide azz have thin and long jaws that are good for tight spots.”
    • Plumber; likes “other”; says “Diamond brand”
    • Handyman; likes Craftsman; says “Easy to warranty at our local ACE”
    • Remodeler; likes “other”; says “Irega. What can I say.. a company that only makes adjustable wrenches, they're darn good at it!”
    • Remodeler; likes Crescent; says “Lightweight, big opening size, classic.”
    • Mechanic; likes “other”; says “Martin (Formerly Fairmont)”
    • Plumber; likes “other”; says “My old Diamond Calk Horseshoe 12" adjustable wrench and my 15" Wright's SuperJustable are my go-to wrenches in those sizes. For a 6" wrench, I like my Craftsman as it has a wide opening jaw.”
    • Remodeler; likes Crescent; says “Old models that are made in USA. Taiwan product is not comparable.”
    • Remodeler; likes “other”; says “Ridgid has widest jaw opening for size and jaws are tapered at tip.”
    • Builder; likes Crescent; says “They are called Crescent Wrenches for a reason”

    Preferred Lineman’s Pliers

    • Building Maintenance; likes Klein; says “An Industry standard."
    • Electrician; likes Klein; says “Best Made and Made to Last”
    • Cabinet Maker/Installer; likes Klein; says “Call me old fashioned, but these were my first pair and I still have them 30 years later.”
    • Remodeler; likes Knipex; says “Can't beat them for their ease of motion and quality out of box, the red/blue ergo grips are great”
    • Electrician; likes “other”; says “I have a 42 year old T&B Lineman's pliers that I wish they would make again.”
    • Remodeler; likes Milwaukee; says “I think Milwaukee's most recent line of hand tools, tape measures, etc. is exceptionally well made and I have been basically giving away most all my old hand tools as Milwaukee keeps introducing more.”
    • Remodeler; likes Irwin Vise-Grip; says “Irwin pliers were cheap and work just as good as my $35 Klein's.”
    • Concrete work or masonry; likes Knipex; says “Knipex for many years, though I just recently purchased a 9" Channellock pliers to replace my worn out Knipex.”
    • Remodeler; likes Klein; says “Long handles and better version can cut piano wire without dulling cutting jaws”
    • Remodeler; like Knipex; says “No comparison. By far the best quality.”
    • Electrician; likes Channellock; says “The wire cutters are hardened and last a good long time. I've even cut a nail or two, and I still can't see 'daylight' thru them. The jaws are hardened also; giving a nice 'diamond' pattern that seems to last forever. The only time I will give up these pliers is when the insulated grips wear out/thru.”
    • Electrician; likes Klein; says “Used Klein 5 to 7 days a week for 50 years.”

    Preferred Pump Pliers

    • Remodeler; likes Channellock; says “2nd to none for plumbing applications”
    • Plumber; likes “other”; says “Douglas makes a nice plier.”
    • Remodeler; likes Irwin Vise-Grip; says “Got a pair of the new push button pliers. Great improvement over the classic Channellock.”
    • Cabinet Maker/Installer; likes Irwin Vise-Grip; says I am guessing that Pump Plier refers to a slip joint plier. Channellock we're my go to set(s), but I am switching to the Irwins with the quick button style adjustment.”
    • Remodeler; likes Husky; says “I have never heard of them called "pump pliers" and had to look it up. As far as I know, the proper term is either "adjustable pliers" or "tongue and groove pliers". Not on this list, Crescent makes really good quality adjustable pliers too. I assume the popular vote will be Channellock but while I own several pairs of their pliers I actually find them to be exceptionally low quality, uncomfortable, and slippery in wet or greasy hands.”
    • Remodeler; likes Knipex; says “Knipex is the BEST pump plier ever invented. Period. The rest can only pretend. Lightweight, strong, slim, gets into any crook and cranny, ergonomic particularly for small hands. Kudos to the Krauts! I've been buying them since I saw them in an ACE hardware store in California in 1990.”
    • Remodeler; likes Knipex; says “The cobras to be exact, excellent all around.”
    • Finish Carpenter; likes Channellock; says “tried a few others but always come back to Channellock”
    • Remodeler; likes “other”; says “Vintage Diamond, made in Duluth Minnesota, Best pliers I've ever used.”

    Survey Results for Specific Trades
    Cabinet Maker/Installer or Finish Carpenter