Vaughan Hammer – Sad Gloat

I am still suffering from a severe case of workshop withdrawal.  The entire contents of my workshop are still residing in a 5’x8’x8′ U-box pod waiting for us to move into a new house.

Uboxes are great for moving a workshop

My workshop packed in a U-box ...recipe for depression.

Overall I have to say I am happy with the U-box service…just sad to be without a shop for the duration of the move. My shop has been packed up this way since the middle of June. Now this has lead to a bit of workshop withdrawal and a few instances of lack-o-shaving induced depression so I might be easily susceptible to sad tool situations. I might be over reacting, but I just find this sad. I was in Home Depot the other day looking for a framing hammer. I was eyeing a nice Estwing Hickory Handled “California Framer” feeling good that I’d be getting a great hammer made in the USA. I was getting mentally prepared to shell out the $30 for a hammer with the knowledge that I would one day be passing it down to my son. Then I did a double-take.

Made in Taiwan!!

It turns out that only the metal handled Estwings are still made in the USA.  Apparently their wooden handled line is now made in Taiwan.  I shook my head in disgust.  The other brands on the rack (Husky, DeWalt, and some no-name) all bore the familiar “Made in China” stamp of shame.  I get it, the World is now “flat” and global trade is global.  I understand the inevitability of it all, but it still saddens me to think we’ve become incapable of or unwilling to make tools in our country.

As I placed the Taiwan  Estwing back on the rack and muttered a few choice words under my breath, I looked down to see my 3 year old son holding a large wooden handled California Framer.  He had picked it up from the bottom shelf.  I recognized the name and the characteristic blue color.  Vaughan.  The sticker on the side of the head read “Proud to say Made in USA”.  The yellow sale sticker on the top of the head  showed a normal price of $27 marked down to $11 and then a further reduction to $7.99.   I was happy for a minute.  I had found a hammer that was going home with me today and that I would proudly hand down to my son.  Then I got a sinking feeling.  These were super sale priced because Home Depot was cleaning house and getting rid of them.  Sure enough, there was a small assortment of Vaughan hammers of various sizes that were all drastically marked down.  Home Depot was eliminating them to make room for others of the foreign variety.

Vaughan Hammers Proudly made in America

Vaughan Hammers Proudly made in 100% in America

I was afraid that it was an indication that the company was going under.  Fortunately,  the company is alive and well and still proud to be making tools  in America.  Vaughan & Bushnell have been making tools since 1869 and have a long history with  hammers and pry bars.

23oz Vaughan California Framer

23oz Vaughan California Framer proud of its heritage and ready to go to work.

I have to admit, I am a sucker for curves.  I was attracted to the curved handled version of the California Framers (they resemble hatchet handles) but after a few test swings of the straight version Vaughan and the curved Estwing I felt the straight handle was more natural. Maybe it was just because that handle style matches all my other hammers.  I’m not sure.   It is probably a question that could only be answered after swinging the thing all day, but that is not likely to happen any time soon.  If the curved handled version appeals to you, Vaughan has them too,  just not at Home Depot.  If you want to find Vaughan hammers now, you have to go to Lowes, or Sears, or you can order them Vaughan hammers from Amazon.

The model I bought (model CF1)  has  a 23Oz milled face (for better traction on the big nails) with rip claws and a 17″ Hickory handle.  After driving a few 16d box nails just for fun, I can say I am happy with the way it handles.

Vaughan California Framer

Vaughan California Framer - solid and well balanced hammer

I may even use it to break the lock of the U-box when it comes time to liberate my workshop tools from their captivity.


UPDATE 3/12/2012  – I was in Home Depot today and in looking at the hammer section, I see that there are “Husky” brand hammers in the display that are of similar style to the Vaughan framing hammers,  only they are a fraction of the price and made in China.

Reader's Comments »

  1. By superdav721 on November 8, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Hello Swirt. Build a shop, get a shop or put together a lean to. Something, please. We need you back in full swing [new hammer and all]
    Dont forget you moved south. The humidity is slowly rusting you tools. I sit in my shop at night and listen to the oxidation. They need rescuing.
    you fellow wood worker..

  2. By swirt on November 9, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Thanks for the encouragement SuperDav. We are closing on a house this week (knock on wood) and 1 bay of a 3 car garage will be mine…all mine for use as a workshop. 🙂

  3. By Jay on November 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Good for you, man. Whenever I have the necessity to buy a new tool, I look for, and prefer something still made in the United States. If I can’t find it and it’s not urgent, I just don’t buy anything. It’s part of the reason why I buy so many tools at flea markets–it keeps the money away from the wrong people. In a funny way, the US-manufactured junk from yesteryear is already landfill; only the best and most durable tools hang around, so I’ve lucked out and gotten some pretty good stuff.

    I’ve got no brief against the Chinese, especially the ordinary people who want to work and feed their children like anybody else. What I don’t like is having old-line US companies offshoring their manufacturing (and machine tools, and technical expertise), then charging the same price, taking a tax credit, and pocketing the difference, while pretending to be “American” companies. And firing all those hard working people here in the United States. Frankly, I’d rather buy something from Harbor Freight than support the shiny-ass accountants and marketeers who commit the global labor arbitrage equivalent of treason.

  4. By Rusty on December 2, 2011 at 10:09 am

    The list of American company defectors is endless from Stanley, Erwin, Dewalt,Delta, Porta Cable, etc. Now companies such as Stanley are trying to recapture some of their lost market by playing on the Sweetheart era with Mexican made planes. Unlike Toyota they don’t see any social responsibility in retaining their manufacturing in this country. Believe me they are making huge profits on outsourcing their operations but they like to play on the American heritage theme. I avoid buying anything not made in America and if I can’t find the product then I look for something from a similar economy such as UK or Germany or use ebay. We should all write to these companies and reduce them to the “Hall of Shame”. Be sure of one thing when the term “Global Economy” is used it really means seeking out the cheapest global labor in order to maximize profitability. End result is the Chinese or Mexicans get some crumbs, the corporate execs and share holders get a nice cut and middle class America gets zip!