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Craftsman Teardrop Ratchet (1956-1993) Type Study ©

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Jim C.:
(Please respect the author’s work.  If you use the information presented here in any capacity and for any reason, credit your source.   It’s not too much to ask and it’s the right thing to do.  Thanks.)

Several years ago, I posted this Craftsman Teardrop Ratchet Type Study (1956 – 1993).  At the time I had gotten interested in older Craftsman tools from the =V= era.  For whatever reason, I was on a “ratchet kick,” and somehow got interested in collecting the ratchets I remember using as a teenager when I restored my first car.  Back in the early 1980s, my dad bought me a small set of Craftsman tools that included one ½”, one 3/8” and one ¼” drive standard ratchet and associated sockets.  The funny thing is that I still have all three ratchets and they’re still my everyday “go to” ratchets.  Anyway, I started doing a little research and discovered that the basic Sears/Craftsman teardrop ratchets so many of us have and/or use got their start somewhere around 1956/1957 and changed to a different configuration right around 1993.  Thinking like a collector, I decided to see if I could track down all the variations of each ½”, 3/8” and ¼” drive standard Sears/Craftsman ratchet offered between 1956 and 1993.   The trick was identifying all the variations and then attempting to put them into chronological order.  I was essentially creating a Type Study.  After a year of serious collecting I felt confident that I had them all and decided to publish my findings.  Well, almost immediately after my first post, it became very clear that I didn’t have them all and my fledgling Type Study was seriously incomplete.  Constructive feedback and my own further observations proved it.  It was a good first try and the foundation for what I now hope will be a more complete Type Study covering standard Sears/Craftsman teardrop ratchets produced between 1956 and 1993.  So, here I am several years later making my third attempt. After more serious collecting, observations, and assistance from others, I think I can provide an accurate, comprehensive Type Study. 

I’ll attempt to illustrate (with photos) the criteria I used to evaluate the ratchets and categorize them into "types" so they can be identified and assigned relatively close dates of manufacture/availability. The years I focused on were from 1956 to about 1993. The type study only applies to Craftsman teardrop 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2" drive sizes in standard lengths with raised panels on their handles. It does not take into account flex head teardrop ratchets nor the 15" long 1/2" drive versions. Once the teardrop head changed and the directional levers were made of plastic, I ended the study. That occurred somewhere around 1993. I was really just interested in the ratchets that most of us or our dads, uncles, grandfathers, and neighbors had in their boxes back in the day. In a nut shell, I want the reader to be able to scroll through the type study, find his/her teardrop ratchet and have a reliable time frame regarding when it was made and for how long. 

To accomplish this, I used a few different sources to help me construct the type study. Those sources include David Mahar's extensive Craftsman catalog DVDs (if you’re a Craftsman collector, these DVDs are a must have), Gary Lauver's Craftsman Date Code/Manufacturer Study, a tidbit or two regarding Type 1 and Type 3 ratchets taken from a couple of emails between myself and Dr. Doom, and a lot of personal observations just cruising Ebay on a daily basis.  As I was searching for examples to acquire for the Type Study, I discovered a seller on eBay who goes by "needmorewrenches."  Several tough to find examples in the Type Study, to include the Type 3, 1/2" drive, Type 8, 1/2" drive and a couple Type 14, 1/4" drive ratchets to name a few, came from his auctions.  He routinely sells vintage, mint to NOS condition Craftsman tools.  Anyway, when I was looking for a very hard to find Type 1, 3/8" drive with 32 teeth I reached out to him offering to buy one from his collection.  Instead, he gifted me the example depicted below (as well as another 24 tooth example).  Many, many thanks to "needmorewrenches."

Finally, Big Thanks go out to DadsTools, who provided some great research information relating to the dates of manufacture/availability regarding several of the Types described below in this study.  While I was in the ballpark regarding the timelines that the various Types were manufactured/available, his research got me closer to the actual dates. My goal from the start was accuracy, and Dadstools was undoubtedly instrumental in making this Type Study significantly more accurate.   

Very recently, DadsTools, completed a comprehensive type study that discusses in detail the Craftsman Round Head Fine Tooth (RHFT) ratchet.  If you’re a Craftsman tool collector or just want to find out about (RHFT) ratchets, that’s the place to start and finish.  In some ways, this Teardrop Type Study may have served as an inspiration for the RHFT study, but in the end, this study was the beneficiary of some great information collected by DadsTools.  If you read his RHFT study, you’ll see that it’s based on hard facts, written accounts, court proceedings and patent dates.  There’s very little reliance on Sears catalogs, which he proves are frequently misleading or just plain wrong in terms what was actually going on at Sears.  When I re-wrote this Teardrop Type Study a couple years ago for the second time, I was still relying on memory/experience using/receiving specific ratchets over the years, the memories of others, the Sears catalogs, and the observation of thousands of ratchets on eBay, etc. Those less precise sources got me ballpark timeframes for each Type within the Study.  Still there were times I missed the mark by as little as six or less months or as much as two years.  Make no mistake however, I still used old memories, experience with the ratchets, and the Sears catalogs to assist me with this re-write, but I also included and relied on some hard facts that came from the RHFT study.  I tried to use the best information I could get, again, in an effort to make this Type Study as accurate as possible.

The Craftsman Teardrop and RHFT ratchets were Sears’ bread and butter for decades.  They shared some mechanical features.  After comparing the two, it’s very clear that things happening to the Teardrop line of ratchets were also happening to the RHFT ratchets and visa versa.  As we will see, patent dates and stamped information on ratchet handles were happening to both ratchet families at the same time.  For that reason, portions of DadsTools research can be accurately applied to BOTH studies.  So, as I forge ahead into the third, and hopefully final re-write of the Craftsman Teardrop Ratchet Type Study, I’ll point out some of Dadstools research.  I’ll also point out some places where Dadstools and I don’t exactly agree.  Many thanks again to DadsTools!”       

I basically used eight criteria to evaluate each ratchet. Those criteria were:

1. The teardrop shaped head. I designated this criteria with a "TD" for teardrop. Pretty straight forward I’d say. Every ratchet in the study has this basic shape and head configuration.

2. The oil hole on the top of the head. Earlier types in the study all had oil holes, while they were eliminated on later types. The 3/8" and 1/2" drive versions eliminated the oil holes long before the 1/4" did. I designated this criteria with "OH" for oil hole. 

3. The directional lever. All Craftsman teardrop ratchets in the study were produced with a "long lever" designated with "LL" except for the Type 2, which was manufactured with a "V" shaped lever, designated as "VL."

4. The quick release function. The three earliest types in the study did not include a quick release mechanism, while all later types did beginning with Type 4. This criteria is designated as "QR."

5. The letter "A" in the word Craftsman. Early types of the ratchet used a pointed letter "A" in the word Craftsman, while later types used a flat top letter "A." Those designations are "PA" and "FA" respectively.

6. The patent information. Several times throughout the course of the study, various patent numbers and information were stamped on the handles of the ratchets. The size of the letters, their configuration, placement in relation to model numbers, and the patent numbers themselves led me to create various types based on their existence and occurrence on the handles of the ratchets.  Typically, if only a manufacture’s mark changed, while everything else remained visually the same on the ratchet handle, I simply categorized the two, or more, as variations within a Type.  On the other hand, if font sizes changed, or patent numbers and/or model numbers were rearranged, then I created a Type to reflect those visual differences.

7. The model numbers. This one is self-explanatory. Some of the earlier types did not have model numbers stamped onto their handles, while later types did in some way or another. Interestingly, ALL the ratchets were assigned a model number in the Craftsman catalogs that I reviewed. That must have been for purposes of ordering them from the catalog.  They just weren't always applied to the ratchet handles.

8. Finally, the mind boggling manufactures codes. While most of the manufactures codes for Types 1 though 13 were either =V=, -V-, except for Types 9 and 10, which both also used -VV-, all the Type 14 ratchets, which seem to have been manufactured between approximately 1986 to 1993, included -V-, -VE-, -VF-, VF, and -VG-. Those are the codes I've identified so far. There could be others. Some could actually be relatively uncommon. For example, so far, I've observed very few ratchets bearing the -VE- and -VG- codes. 

In future posts, I'll include photos showing every Type (all 14) and discuss some of the variations. The 1/4" models were a little harder to classify because they didn't always follow the changes that were occurring with the 3/8" and 1/2" models.

Last but not least, I'm open to any and all constructive suggestions, corrections, additions, comments, etc. The more info I get, the better this Type Study will be.”

Well, I guess we should get into it. This post will feature Type 1 of the Craftsman Teardrop Ratchet. I'll present the nomenclature that will be used throughout the type study and going forward in each successive Type post. Before I start, there are a few more administrative notes to make. Any time a criteria designation begins with "Non" that means it was not present on that ratchet Type. It should also be noted that EVERY single ratchet in the study was stamped with "FORGED IN U.S.A." The other thing I was never able to conclusively figure out was the word "OIL" above the oil hole on the head of some ratchet Types. Some oil holes included the word "OIL" while other oil holes do not. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. With that being said, here's the nomenclature for the Type 1 Craftsman Teardrop Ratchet.

Type 1: 1956 - 1959, TD, OH, LL, NonQR, PA, =V=, Non#
(represents 1/4", 3/8", 1/2" drive sizes)

Essentially what that says is the Type 1 ratchet first appeared somewhere around 1956/'57 and last appeared in 1959 (based on my review of Craftsman catalogs). It had a teardrop (TD) shaped head, an oil hole (OH), a long lever (LL) direction switch, no (Non) quick release (QR) mechanism, a pointed letter "A" (PA) in the word Craftsman, a =V= manufacturer's mark, and did not (Non) have a model number (#). Below the nomenclature line, I stated that all three drive sizes were represented by the same features. When that's not the case, I'll present two (or even three) nomenclature lines and tell you which is representative to which drive size. As you'll see, the 1/4" drive didn't always follow what was going on with the 3/8" and 1/2" sizes. Anyway, it's not too hard to follow once you get the hang of it. If you get confused, just refer back to this initial post where the nomenclature is spelled out, or post a question and I'll try to answer it.

One thing you may have noticed is the fact that I included two ½” drive ratchets that look identical on the outside, as well as two identical looking 3/8" drive examples.  Well, shortly after I published my first Type Study several years ago, Dr. Doom pointed out that the ½” drive ratchet was produced with a 40 tooth gear, and later in production, with a 32 tooth gear.  The only way to tell them apart from the outside is to “count the clicks” in one revolution of the of the socket post.  A similar variance occurred with the 3/8" drive.  It was initially produced with a 32 tooth gear, that later in production, was reduced to 24 teeth.  The ¼” drive was only produced with a 24 tooth gear as far as I know.  But who knows for sure.  The 1/4” drive may have been initially produced with a higher tooth count gear, possibly with 30 or 32 teeth, that was later reduced to 24 teeth.  To date, I have not seen one nor heard of its existence.  (For a little more information on Type 1 ratchet tooth counts, please refer to Page 9, reply #128.  For more information on Type 1 pawl design and identification, please refer to page 10, reply #143 and #144.)  Also notice that the directional levers have a more domed shape than what was fitted on later Types of the teardrop ratchets.  Those levers seem to be somewhat fragile, as I’ve seen more than a few Type 1 ratchets with cracked off levers.  Finally, every example of the Type 1 that I’ve seen has a chrome plated socket post and gear.  That goes for all three sizes.

Okay, so there’s Type 1…….only 13 more Types to go.

Jim C.

I have never had the tenacity to do any kind of type study.
Glad you did, Jim !

If Merkava is around,,,he knows a lot about this ratchet.

I applaud your work.   Thank you for sharing it here. :smiley:

Jim C.:

--- Quote from: p_toad on July 31, 2018, 02:02:55 PM ---I applaud your work.   Thank you for sharing it here. :smiley:

--- End quote ---

Well Peter, this was just Type 1.  I have thirteen more Types to present.   Hopefully you’ll still feel like applauding when I’m done.  When I started this thing three years ago, it didn’t go so good.  I guess I was just being hasty and didn’t do enough research prior to publishing my results.  I am a little more confident this time around because I have not discovered any other iterations in more than a year of searching.  The first time I tried to publish my results, I found, or was made aware of others within the first week or so.  Interestingly however, late last week, I did finally manage to buy the last one I knew existed and had been looking for.  Like I said earlier, some of these ratchets are relatively scarce.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they have a lot of monetary value, but a few of them did cost a little more than I expected.  Anyway, stay tuned.  I hope the thread will meet your expectations.

Jim C.


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