One of the most discussed topics among leather craftsmen is stamping tools. The number of opinions about who made or still makes the best tools is as varied as the number of tool makers. It ultimately comes down to personal opinion and personal preference.
One opinion that seems to be consistent among the top leather carvers is that the older tools are the ones they most often prefer. Each tool was hand ground or hand finished and thus, no two were alike even though they may have the same number on them. This is what you will find among the vintage tools listed here at Pro Leather Carvers.
To aid you further in selecting a vintage tool, here is some information we have gathered about the various markings on Craftools and the probable age that those markings represent.
The History of Craftools
The earliest name and date we have heard mentioned in regard to Craftool is Dick McGahen who began to make tools for leather carvers in California in the 1940’s. According to Ellis Barnes (deceased), he had many different tool makers that created tools for him including Ellis, Ken Griffin and 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 1950 or before.
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.
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.
Do not confuse Craftools with tools made by Craft Co. of Japan. The tools made by Craft Japan have no relation to the original Craftool Company.
As noted, we may have multiple copies of some of these tools. There will be differences in each one. Those differences could include the placement of the number or name, condition of the chrome plating, wear patterns from the previous owner and other things that make each tool unique. The important part, the stamp impression, will be as close to the example as possible, allowing for the differences found in hand ground tools.