15 Best Vintage Tool Brands

15 Best Vintage Tool Brands

Stanley, Starrett, Snap-on and More: A Vintage Tool Lover’s Guide to the Most Sought-After Tools and Brands of Yesteryear

15 Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands

Vintage tools have become increasingly popular over the years, with collectors and enthusiasts valuing their quality, durability, and historical significance. From saws and hammers to machine tools and metrology instruments, vintage tools have a rich history that has shaped the tool industry

Some of the best vintage tool brands to look out for include Stanley, known for planes and chisels; Millers Falls, which made drills and braces; and Snap-On, renowned for ratchets and wrenches.

In this article, we will look at 15 of the best vintage tool manufacturers in more detail, including a brief history of each company, the tools they manufactured, and how to identify them.

1. Stanley Tools

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - Stanley Tools

When it comes to vintage tools, Stanley is one of the most iconic and popular brands. Founded in 1843 in New Britain, Connecticut by Frederick Stanley, the company quickly became known for quality hand planes, chisels, and layout tools used by carpenters and other tradespeople.

Some of the most notable vintage Stanley tools include:

  • Block planes – The classic Stanley No. 60 1⁄2 low angle block plane, produced from 1898-1961, is highly sought after by woodworkers and collectors. Other popular models are the No. 9 1⁄2 and No. 18 block planes.
  • Bench planes – Vintage Stanley bench planes like the No. 4 smoothing plane and No. 5 jack plane have adjustable mouths and durable cast iron bodies.
  • Layout tools – Try squares, bevel gauges, marking gauges, and levels made by Stanley in the vintage era (pre-1970s) are top choices for craftspeople.
  • Chisels and gouges – From paring chisels to framing chisels and carving tools, vintage Stanley chisels marked with the sweetheart logo are excellent woodworking tools.

To identify vintage Stanley tools, look for the heart-shaped logo with a banner that says “Stanley” – referred to as the sweetheart logo. This can usually be found cast into metal components or stamped on wooden handles and knobs.

2. Disston Saws

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - Disston Saws

From the late 1800s through the 1950s, Disston was a leading manufacturer of handsaws and saw blades in the United States. Founded by Henry Disston in Philadelphia in 1840, the company produced some of the highest quality saws for both professionals and hobbyists.

Disston saws came in a huge range of types, including:

  • Backsaws
  • Panel saws
  • Crosscut saws
  • Rip saws
  • Bow saws
  • Coping saws
  • Turning saws
  • Pruning saws

Vintage Disston saws will feature the Disston name etched into the saw plate. Many also have an etched eagle logo. Other markings to look for are model numbers and patents stamped near the handle. These details make it easier to accurately date and identify Disston saws.

3. Millers Falls Tools

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - Millers Falls Tools

Millers Falls, founded in Greenfield, Massachusetts in 1868, manufactured high-quality hand drills, braces, saw sets, vises, and other tools well into the 1960s.

Some of their most popular vintage tools include:

  • Eggbeater drills – Models like the 2E, 700, and 77A are still sought after for intricate hand drilling.
  • Ratchet bit braces – Vintage ratcheting braces with chucks made by Millers Falls are perfect for driving auger bits and holing saws.
  • Buck Rogers saw sets – These compact saw set tools made it easy to sharpen and set saw teeth.

Look for the distinctive Millers Falls logo of an M inside a diamond shape. This can be found etched or cast into tools. Model numbers and patent dates marked under the logo can also help narrow down manufacturing dates.

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4. Goodell Pratt

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands- Goodell Pratt

Goodell-Pratt was a tool manufacturing company based in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The company was founded in 1888 as the Goodell Brothers Company by Albert and Henry E. Goodell, and was located in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. They specialized in hand drills, bit braces, and other precision tools for mechanics and machinists.

Some iconic vintage models include:

  • No. 400A eggbeater drill – A classic needle nose geared drill renowned for smooth operation.
  • No. 1570 ratchet bit brace – Featuring a pecan wood handle and chuck, this 10-inch brace is perfect for delicate drilling tasks.
  • No. 3 hand drill – With planetary gears and T-handle, this drill offered high torque in a compact size.

Original Goodell Pratt tools will be marked with the company name and logo. This includes “Goodell Pratt Co. Greenfield, Mass USA” etched on the frame and a stylized GP logo. Model numbers and patent dates can provide further help identifying vintage models.

5. L.S. Starrett Company

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - L.S. Starrett Company

The L.S. Starrett Company is an American manufacturer of tools and instruments used by machinists, tool and die makers, and the construction industry. The company was founded by businessman and inventor Laroy Sunderland Starrett in 1880 in Athol, Massachusetts

Some of their classic vintage offerings include:

  • Combination squares
  • Protractors
  • Calipers
  • Levels
  • Rules

Starrett tools are revered for their unmatched accuracy and quality. Try squares, protractors, and rules made decades ago can still deliver dead-on precision.

Vintage Starrett tools will have the L.S. Starrett name etched into them along with model numbers. Many also came in a signature maroon Starett toolbox with gold lettering.

6. Atkins

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - Atkins

The Atkins Manufacturing Company operated in Indianapolis from the 1850s into the early 2000s, producing saws, knives, and specialty cutting tools.

Notable vintage Atkins tools include:

  • Handsaws and blades
  • Saw sets for sharpening and setting saw teeth
  • Knives, draw knives, and axes

Look for the Atkins name, logos like the double A, and patent dates stamped on vintage models to help identify pieces made by Atkins.

7. Ridgid Tools

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - Ridgid Tools

Founded in Elyria, Ohio in 1923, Ridgid was an early pioneer in pipe tools and plumbing equipment. Many of their vintage wrenches, vises, and pipe tools from the mid-1900s are staples in shops and garages.

Vintage Ridgid tools to look out for include:

  • Pipe wrenches – Models like the classic 24″ Stillson wrench have a timeless, rugged design.
  • Pipe vises – Cast iron vises like the No. 604 are perfect for holding round workpieces.
  • Tubing cutters – The vintage No. 20 Ratchet Tubing Cutter with encased feed screw is a prime example of Ridgid’s quality.

Aside from the RIDGID name cast or stamped on tools, the vintage logo featured the letters stacked diagonally with a gear behind them. Ridgid tools also often came in a signature red toolbox with gold branding.

8. Snap-On Tools

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - Snap-On Tools

Founded in 1920 by Joseph Johnson and William Seidemann, Snap-On pioneered high-quality mechanics hand tools and the franchise van model for selling to automotive repair shops.

Their vintage tools from the middle 20th century include:

  • Ratchets – Iconic designs like the Model 80 ratchet handle set the standard for engagement and smooth action.
  • Wrenches – Combination wrenches and specialty wrenches made from chrome vanadium steel show the Snap-On quality.
  • Tool storage – From roll cabs to tool chests, vintage Snap-On storage is coveted for its distinctive styling.

The name “Snap-On” is typically forged, etched, or cast into tools dating from the vintage era. Toolboxes feature bold Snap-On logos across the lid or along hinging edges.

9. Craftsman Tools

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - Craftsman Tools

Owned by Sears, Roebuck and Company, Craftsman enjoyed huge popularity among home DIYers and mechanics during the vintage period from 1930-1960. Their tools were sold widely through the Sears catalog.

Notable vintage Craftsman tools include:

  • Mechanics tool sets – Boxes filled with everything from wrenches to pliers and screwdrivers.
  • Machinist chests – Loaded with precision tools like calipers, micrometers, and gauges.
  • Power tools – Vintage Craftsman power drills, sanders, and saws were garage staples.

To identify Craftsman vintage tools, look for the Craftsman name, logo, and model numbers stamped or etched into tools. Vintage Craftsman machinist boxes featured a classic double-stacked toolbox design.

10. Estwing Manufacturing

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - Estwing Manufacturing

The Estwing Manufacturing Company dates back to 1923 in Rockford, Illinois. Founded by Ernest O. Estwing, the company focused on innovating striking tools and pry bars. Their vintage tools are treasured for hefty forged steel construction.

Notable vintage Estwing tools include:

  • Claw hammers – Iconic hammers with milled claw, polished bell face, and shock-reducing grip.
  • Axes – Strong yet well-balanced axes like the classic camping axe with leather grip.
  • Pry bars – Beefy one-piece pry bars forged from American steel.

Vintage Estwing tools will proudly display the Estwing name and logo prominently on the tool. This is typically etched or forged into the forged steel. The shock reduction grip on hammers and axes is another identifying trait.

11. Vaughan & Bushnell

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - Vaughan & Bushnell

Vaughan & Bushnell Manufacturing, also known as Vaughan Manufacturing and branded as simply Vaughan, is an American manufacturing company that specializes in the production of hammers, axes, prybars, and hand saws. It was founded in 1869 in Peoria, Illinois by Alexander Vaughan, an 18-year-old blacksmith

Their vintage tools are identifiable by:

  • Vaughan or Vaughan & Bushnell name forged into tool head
  • Stamped model numbers like No. 999 on hatchets
  • Etched tiger logo on some handles and tool heads

Highly sought-after vintage models include Vaughan No. 999 hatchets and No. 35 tack hammers known for balanced striking power.

12. Harvey Peace

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands  - Harvey Peace

Harvey W. Peace was a saw manufacturer who was born in Sheffield, England on August 10, 1831. His father and grandfather were both involved in the saw business, and he began working part-time with them at the age of 13.

In 1850, Peace moved to the United States and settled in Philadelphia, where he worked for a saw manufacturer. In 1855, he moved to New York City and established his own saw manufacturing business. In 1863, he founded the Vulcan Saw Works of Brooklyn, New York.

By 1884, Peace’s saws were known for their durability and their highly detailed metal surfaces. The most sought-after tools are older tools with patent numbers stamped on them. Today, vintage Harvey Peace tools are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts.

Notable vintage tools include:

  • High-quality saws
  • Handsaws, backsaws, and miter saws
  • Mason’s hammers and specialty hammers

The Harvey Peace name or HP initials stamped into tools helps identify vintage chisels, gouges, and hammers produced by Harvey Peace.

13. Allen Manufacturing Company

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - Allen Manufacturing Company

The Allen Manufacturing Company was founded by William G. Allen in 1910 in Hartford, Connecticut. The company was initially established as a stove manufacturer, but it later expanded into other areas of manufacturing. The company’s buildings were constructed in 1929, and more than $100,000 worth of preferred stock was sold locally to finance the construction.

 In 1956, the Allen Manufacturing Company was purchased by the Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company, which was headquartered in New York. The company’s tools were known for their quality and durability, and they were used in a variety of industries. Today, vintage Allen Manufacturing Company tools are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts

Vintage Allen tools to seek out include:

  • Allen wrenches – The original hex keys trademarked as Allen despite generic use today.
  • Screwdrivers – Durable carbon steel models like the No. 600 with contoured handles.
  • Speeder keys – Their patented No. 5 speeder was loved by mechanics and machinists.

Allen logo and model numbers are typically stamped onto tools and etched onto handles. Green colored handles also help identify vintage Allen tools.

14. Simonds

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - Simonds

The Simonds Manufacturing Company produced saw blades, cutlery, and hand tools in Fitchburg, Massachusetts from the mid-1800s into the 1900s.

Notable Simonds vintage saws include:

  • Handsaws for woodworking
  • Coping saws with fine blades -Jewelers saws for detailed work

Look for the Simonds name etched into the blades of vintage saws to help identify models produced by Simonds.

15. Brown & Sharpe

Best Vintage Tool Manufacturing Brands - Brown & Sharpe

Brown & Sharpe has origins dating back to 1833, starting as a machine shop in Providence, Rhode Island. They became legends in precision measuring tools and machinery.

Notable vintage tools include:

  • Calipers – Inside, outside, and hermaphrodite calipers featuring superior gradations and friction locks.
  • Rules – Premium rules like the No. 706 precision rule graduated in 1/128″ increments.
  • Micrometers – Vintage micrometer gauges and calipers available in ranges under 1″.

Look for etched Brown & Sharpe logos and model numbers like those mentioned here to identify vintage pieces. Machinist box sets with the logo are also collectible finds.

Key Takeaways

This extensive guide covered over 15 of the most iconic vintage tool manufacturers that shaped workshop spaces through the early and mid-1900s. From Stanley’s planes to Snap-On’s ratchets, these brands’ vintage tools represent the pinnacle of durability and craftsmanship.

While new tools may mimic retro design, genuine vintage models had unmatched performance and longevity thanks to quality materials and precise machining. As demand for vintage continues to rise, use this guide’s insights to identify authentic tools made decades ago by revered brands like Disston, Millers Falls, and Starrett.

Whether buying vintage tools to use or collect, look for distinguishing traits like company names etched into metal and iconic logos that mark production from vintage eras. With care and maintenance, these well-built vintage tools can easily serve craftspeople for many more generations.