Craftsman: Good all around tools. Pretty good quality, lifetime warranty, and convenience (available at all Sears stores and online) make this a good choice for beginners and pros. I haven't been overly impressed with their air tools, which is a shame because their larger compressors are pretty decent. The majority of Craftsman tools are actually made by a company by the name of Danaher Tools. Though Sears does contract out to other tool makers, with Stanley Tools being commonly used.
Snap-On: Good tools. Excellent quality on most of their tools. Very expensive. Their regular basic hand tools are overpriced in my opinion and can be overlooked. Some of the their special purpose tools are very functional and are worth the high price of admission.
MAC Tools: MAC tools are manufactured by Stanley tools and is their Mobile Automotive division designed to compete primarily with Snap-On. Very similar to Snap-On in terms of quality and price.
MatCo Tools: MatCo tools are manufactured by Danaher Tools and are that company's Mobile Automotive division. Once again comparable to Snap-On.
FACOM: Popular in Europe, these are excellent tools. Very expensive. Once again some of their specialty tools is what sets them apart.
S&K: Excellent tools. Expensive. Made by FACOM.
Proto: These guys have been all over the board over the decades, from great to so-so. Since they were bought out by Stanley tools they have been mediocre for the price. NASA and the US government love these tools because they are willing to perform the special qualification testing that the government requires. If you ever see a wrench floating around the Space Shuttle, it's almost guaranteed to be made by Proto.
Xcelite: Simply the best in small electronic hand tools (cutters, strippers, crimpers, and small
Husky Tools: This is Home Depot's house brand designed to compete with Sears' Craftsman line. They are made by Stanley Tools.
Kobalt Tools: This is Lowe's house brand designed to compete with Craftsman. Prior to mid 2003, Kobalt tools were made by J.H. Williams Tools, which is a subsidiary of Snap-On. In mid 2003 Snap-On sold the brand off to Danaher Tools, who has made them ever since.
It goes without saying that this list is based only on my experience. I encourage every one to offer their own opinions.
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