Made in America, Made in Germany - How to Tell Where Your Tools are Made

Because quality of tools is of prime importance to a lot of tool users and because country of origin is often an important indicator of quality, it’s important to be able to tell exactly where your tools were made. While many manufacturers and consumers know this, unfortunately, so do a lot of less reputable manufacturers and retailers. Displaying a “made in” label on a product can be influential, but just as influential is a label that LOOKS like a “made in” label. In Europe it’s a problem as the “made in” label can be somewhat ambiguous. In America, it’s become popular recently to put a label that reads “assembled in” or something equivalent to persuade inattentive buyers to purchase on an assumption that something was made completely in America when it actually wasn’t. So when did “made in” become a thing and what does it mean now? How can you figure out where a tool is made?

Made in GermanyStrangely enough in the modern era, “made in” was not a selling point to imply good quality, but rather a warning to avoid products that were inferior. While the practice of labeling country of origin seems to have originated thousands of years ago, in the Industrial age, it started in 1887 as a slight against Germany who had apparently been making knock-offs of British products. This was Britain’s attempt to out Germany as maker of substandard goods and allow British-made products to sell better. Unfortunately, Germany’s dedication to details and quality surpassed Britain’s and the “Made in Germany” label became a sign of quality, a sign that persists often to this day. Since then, the “made in” label has been used to denote country of origin on almost everything – both good quality and not and various places have come to adopt one reputation or the other as a result. The reputation has become so important that many labels in today’s market can be a bit tricky, which makes it all the more important to be able to tell a knockoff from an original.

Designed in America made in ChinaAt some point in America’s history, “made in the USA” became a point of pride and an indicator of quality. For good reason too, buying American-made products supports the American economy, not just with jobs at the factory, but jobs with logistics and suppliers as well. Because of the perceived quality of American products as well as the pride in supporting American jobs, more labels than ever LOOK like they’re advertising “made in America” when in fact, they are not. The FTC regulates this, so when you see a label that looks like it’s advertising American-made products, take a closer look. Simplifying the FTC’s definitions, you can use the following guidelines (explained in more detail below) to help you figure out where your stuff is made.

Made in USA – This basically means that all of the item, or “virtually all” must be made in America. There is some wiggle room with raw materials, but overall this is the real deal, everything originated in and was made in the US.

Assembled in the USA OR Made in the USA with Foreign & Domestic Parts – When something is labelled as this, it can contain a higher percentage of foreign-made parts, but it’s physically put together in America.  

Made in USA with Global componentsThere are other variants to watch out for, for example if a US flag is prominent or “USA” or “American” are part of the brand’s name, it’s implied to be a completely American product. Other variants include a statement about being made in America with a given percentage of US-made parts. In essence, they have to be pretty transparent about it, or else they can get in trouble with the FTC for label fraud. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to make a label stating or implying US origin when said claim is false and the FTC is obliged to take action against that. When you’re trying to determine where your tools were made, this is where brand preference can help. Reputable tool companies will clearly label their products and if you check out their websites, they’ll make it clear where the majority of their products are made. Sticking with a big name like Klein and Ideal, or a small niche manufacturer focused on quality – like Bondhus – will be a way to ensure quality, as would knowing the reputation of the toolmaker you’re buying. Buying your tools at places other than a big box store like Home Depot or Harbor Freight can help too.

For German tools, despite the fluidity of European labeling standards, you can have a pretty good idea of where they make their tools with a little digging. Although some manufacturers, like Felo, Ochsenkopf and Witte for example, will advertise pretty clearly if they’re made solely in Germany, some, like Wera are less clear on their website. However, by reputation and brand awareness, you can make a good guess as to where they are made. In those situations where a given manufacturer doesn’t make things in Germany, they drive home that the tools are still made to German standards. Wiha, for example, makes a few things in Vietnam, but because of a reputation for quality concerns for tools made there, Wiha stresses that those tools are made to Wiha’s high German standards. This does take some digging to find out, so feel free to reach out to one of our tool experts if you have questions.

Country of Origin Since we sell the highest quality tools available and we want you to be satisfied and confident with that purchase, we’ve taken the guesswork out of where a tool is made whenever possible. In listings where we know the country of origin, we display the flag of that country and you can hover your mouse over it to see the name of the country or right click it to pull up all tools with the same country of origin. Searching for tools made in the USA or made in Germany are two such options. This will help ensure that you get the tool you want and help you feel confident with the purchase you make.

Here at Haus of Tools, we want you to get the best tools available and we want you to be satisfied with that purchase and helping you select the tool from a specific country of origin will help you with make the right decision.

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