Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Vanished Tool Makers: Vaco Products Company, Chicago, Illinois




The above two items are the extent of the Vaco tools I've picked up over the years.  The company dates back at least into the 1940's, but I can't find any online information on when or by whom it was founded.

October 1948

Popular Mechanics, December 1959

Popular Mechanics, December 1960

1970

Radio Electronics September 1983

In 1986, Vaco was acquired by M. Klein & Sons of Chicago where it remains as just a brand.  In 2006, Klein demanded wage cuts, leading to a strike.  Klein announced that the Vaco factory was to be closed, with most production moved to China.  Only 11 of the 127 workers would be retained in the new organization.  The surviving employees would see their health insurance benefits disappear, and their wages would be cut from $14.80-19.25 down to $9.75. The union rejected this proposition, and "production" (which now consists of placing chinese made rubber guards on chinese made molded screwdrivers) moved to the Mansfield TX "Advanced Manufacturing Facility".

 Update Feb. 2022; I'm informed that the above statement is wrong and that the complete screwdrivers are now made in Mansfield, Great to hear, people like these tools! (see comments)

Update, an almost perfect set of nut drivers.
Thanks, Lance

27 comments:

Unknown said...

Vaco was a top quality tool in the 1970's. They also maufactured the Craftsman brand screwdrivers back then. Vaco and Switches Inc. were owned by the same Chicago based investors in the late 70's.

Mister G said...

Thanks for the contribution!

Windymoon said...

Hubby has a Vaco tool his dad owned, combo bolt cutter, stakehole pliers, he is 3rd gen IBEW electrician

Windymoon said...

Hubby has a Vaco tool his dad owned, combo bolt cutter, stakehole pliers, he is 3rd gen IBEW electrician

Mister G said...

I'd love to add it to the post, you can send pics to gerald@vanwyngaarden.ca Thanks!

jslwriter said...

Vaco used to be owned by Ray Silverstein and his father, Harry,in the 1970's. I worked there.

Unknown said...

I have TONS of vaco tools from my dad who was a fermilab electrician for 30 years. Best hand tools made in my opinion, and his.

Stuart said...

I've got my trusty VACO reversible screwdriver (DUH-4) in my desk drawer. I also have VACO allen wrenches amongst other tools.

Gbgreen said...

I have a Vaco USA MODEL 8104 bent needle nose pliers. They were originally owned by my grandfather back in the sixties. They look old but work like they just came out of the box.

Mister G said...

So many stories with the same message. Thanks for the notes!

Unknown said...

I have a VACO PRODUCTS tool :
Part no.70376
Patent no. 4173070

Trent

TonyD said...

I loved Vaco tools. I had a few reversible screwdrivers that I cannot locate; I lost them when I moved to my new home.
I still have individual nut drivers I purchased in a hardware store in Lower Manhattan years back. There has to be a website that sells whatever Vaco tools are left.
I didn't realize Klein did Vaco dirty like they did. Brutal.

Mister G said...

Thanks for the note! Hope the screwdrivers turn up.:-)

Unknown said...

I would rather save my dollars than spend them on bad tools. I found a single set of Vaco nut drivers. They look pretty nice. Also, they come in sizes that I don't have in my Wera set. Remember that there are other tool brands that are still made in the USA: SK, Wilde, Lang, Council, Klein (some), etc. You can find high quality and good prices with these.

Unknown said...

Just picked up a vaco 70341 for 25cents at a garage sale.

Unknown said...

My Vaco impact driver bits were indestructible never found a replacement for them.

Unknown said...

Well, a Vaco duh4 came along with the wife in 1987. I've used it rather roughly over the years but not the Mrs. It has gone with us wherever we've lived (Michigan, Tennessee, Georgia, then back to Michigan). It was made in Jonesville,MI. I am just now finding the facts about this screwdriver. I'm pretty sure I'll treat it better now. I'm glad I married it with the wife. American made and made to last.

Anonymous said...

I beg to differ about the last line. Those nut drivers and the rubber handles over molded screwdrivers are completely made in Mansfield TX.

Mister G said...

Good to hear, I will change that. Thanks for the input!

Unknown said...

Hi .
Where can I find a case this case of tools

Jim said...

Bought 4 screw drivers, 2 straight & 2 Phillip back in the early '60's which I still use regularly with very little wearshowing. I've had Craftsman over the years, some good and some bad, makes me wonder when they were made???
Vaco, my goto drivers!

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me what a Vaco An-2 is specific for? When it was made? Is it some sort of specialty tool? It looks like a plain flathead screwdriver that fits in a front shirt pocket. I can't find much on it. Any info is greatly appreciates.

Steve said...

As an electronic parts distributor I sold Vaco Tools, along with Xcelite and Klein from the 50's through the 70's. Vaco was great quality and covered many specialty tools that the others didn't carry. I have several Vaco tools in my roll-around tool cabinet. They still come in handy.

Unknown said...

My dad was the a manufacturer rep ( salesman) for Vaco in New England from the 50’s until he died in 1966.: I still have a number of tools. At that time there was only mom and pop hardware stores. My favorite was Pill Hardware in Cambridge.

Mister G said...

Pill hardware still exists! https://www.loc8nearme.com/massachusetts/cambridge/pill-hardware/3002994/

Lethal-d@se said...

I have a VACO No. 1963 wire stripper/crimper that I had lost but now found. It kind of ruined me since I have gone through a bunch of cheap made in China knock offs that are no where near the quality and I gave up on this type of tool completely - just found them buried underneath my bed tonight and the quality difference is unreal.

Conrad said...

My family's electric motor repair shop in Bismarck, North Dakota is loaded with old Vaco tools. Mostly nut drivers, but also some wrenches, snap ring pliers, T handle Allen wrenches, and others. The tools were distributed by electric motor parts supplier Essex Brownell out of Fort Wayne, IN. There are some old, illustrated catalogs of theirs with Vaco products I can share if I can find them.