History of Craftool markings by: Ron Eaton.......
Craftools with no number or info stamped on them are rare and made from circa 1949 and earlier
Craftools markered "Craftool Co" with a numeric numer ONLY are made from
1949 to pprox 1963
ie: "CRAFTOOL 821"
Craftools marked "Craftool Co" with Numeric number AND and Alpha Prefix were made from 1963 to approx 1968
ie: "Craftool B 201"
Craftools marked "Craftool Co USA" are made after 1969
ie: "Craftool Co USA B 200"
Craftools marked "Craftool USA are made from the 1970's thru more recent years. The plant was closed in 1999 and no more tools were made in the USA.
ie: "Craftool USA V 730"
New Craftools are marked "CRAFTOOL" and the newer ones are just black printed lettering and not stamped into the tool per se. This was the beginning of the "IMPORTED CRAFTOOL" Some have the number and some do not. These are all imported and much lower quality and not made to use with leather mauls, etc.
There are also some tools made for Tandys (mostly sold in KITS) that have a "Z" Prefix and a number but not stamped Craftool. These are even lower quality. Bare in mind these are tools with ONLY a number and NO Craftool designation. In the past some were nickel plated and somee were Gilt plated. These are the cheapest tools ever offered by Tandys.
ie: "Z V707"
NOTE: note NOT all "Z" tools are the lower quality.....if preceeded by "Craftool Co USA" then they may be a special or limited run. These are the same quality as the other tools with a similar Craftool stamp but were a spcial or limited edition.
ie. "Craftool Co USA Z998"
The are also a few tools that are stamped with the Letter "S" After the numeric prefix. These were special HEAVY made tools most with a 3/8 inch or larger shaft and designed for Saddle Makers and extra heavy to hold up to heavy maul use. These are very limited and some consider rare.
ie: "Craftool Co USA P 361 S"
There are also some tools marked "Craftool Tiawan"
Also do not confuse tools marked "Craft Japan" or +Craftool Japan" with Craftool Tools.
Although not all of these are the same quality I have found some of these tools that were made in Japan to be the highest quality of any of the imported tools and normally much better than tools made in Tiawan, etc
Although I am not an expert I have been doing leather work and collecting leather tools fo well over 40 years. This is based on my personal experience and what otyher very knowledgable people in the leather trade have shared with me. Through the years the earliest names and dates I have heard assoiciated with Craftool would be Mr. Dick McGahen who began to make tools for leather carvers in California in the 1940’s. According to Ellis Barnes (deceased), he had several other tool makers that helped him created tools including Ellis Barnes, Ken Griffin and some others. The tools that were made by them probably had no numbers on them and may or may not have been stamped with the Craftool name. When you see this type of tool, it was likely made around 1949 or earlier.
Once the numbering of tools began, they were marked with “Craftool Co” and just a number. This type of marking was consistent up through 1962 or 1963.
In 1963, they started adding a letter prefix to the number. From 1963 until around 1969 they were marked with “Craftool Co.” and a number with a letter before it to identify the type of tool it was.
Around 1969, they began marking the tools with “Craftool Co. USA” plus the number and the letter prefix. This continued until the later years of the company. They eventually changed to marking them with “Craftool USA” and the number with the letter prefix. This continued to be the practice until they closed their manufacturing plant in 1999. This was the last time Craftools were made in the USA.
Afetr this point most Craftools were and are still made in Tiawan or ogther overseas locations.
Do not confuse genuine Craftools with tools made by Craft Co. of Japan "Craft Japan" or "Craftool Japan". The tools made by Craft Japan are nice enough tools, but they have no relation to the original Craftool Company.>
By, Ron W. Eaton
Tandy Catelogs and publications
Vintage Leather Tools