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Crescent CSWS11 1/2-Inch Drive Socket Wrench Set, 12-Piece

Price: Under $40

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Review of CSWS11 1/2-Inch Drive Socket Wrench Set, 12-Piece, made by Crescent

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


The first thing I noticed is the consumer-friendly packaging. Far too many manufacturers won't hire a packaging engineer unless that person is a certified sadist. I have taken (or shipped) products back for a full refund when faced with such contempt for those buying it. At Crescent, the policy is obviously to make the customer happy and that extends to the packaging. I didn't need a chainsaw to open the packaging, how refreshing.

Crescent and I go way, way back. I've got adjustable wrenches of various brands, but I have to say I get a glimmer in my eye when the one I pull out of that toolbox drawer is the Crescent brand. The company is famous for its adjustable wrenches the way Kleenex is for its facial tissue. I've got some other Crescent hand tools and have no complaints.

Why should my comments really matter? Well, I've been collecting hand tools (mostly for automotive use) for over 50 years. I've used them expertly, having pit-crewed for two year at a circle track and another two at a drag strip. That's in addition to building street hot rods.

Maybe you know someone who can, all by himself, remove the hood from a Camaro, disconnect everything, pull the engine, strip the engine down, move everything on the block to a new shortblock (making sure to properly torque those heads!), put the new engine in, hook everything back up, have it work flawlessly the first time, put the hood  back on and align it--without damaging anything. Fine, but I did that a week after breaking a finger (into three pieces). So I feel qualified to review a socket set.

So, let's get this review on. Here we go. The set comes in a sturdy, well-designed plastic box. This does not surprise me, given it's a Crescent product. But the degree of sturdiness and good design is surprising compared to many similar kits on the market. This isn't one of those plastic boxes with thin hinges that will break or with a crappy internal tray that doesn't hold things in place and you need half an hour to get the thing closed again if you were brave enough to try using it in less than optimal conditions. This box, inside and out, is made to be used under whatever conditions the owner finds himself. Big kudos there. And it even has a hasp for locking! When the kit is packaged, there's a plastic pin in this hasp. I removed mine by squeezing the insert side with a pair of needle nose pliers.

I've avoided 12-point sockets (keeping my collection small) for several reasons. Crescent has addressed all of them with this product. For example:

  • A leading competitor offers a lifetime warranty. If you break it, they replace it. But the sockets have such heavy, thick walls they are unusable in many applications. For example, I cannot use that competitor's sockets to change a spark plug because they are too fat to fit into the well where the plug is. Crescent uses a high-grade steel and can make very strong sockets with thin walls.
  • They slip. Like crazy. Back in my race car days, I called them "nut rounders" and refused to use them. In other applications, they were a necessity so on an "as needed" basis I splurged for a single socket from a high-end manufacturer just to have that one socket for the job. Crescent has a trade-marked feature that "just about eliminates rounding of fasteners." I think for a skilled mechanic, you can leave out the "just about" part. I think if you round fasteners with these, you're also going to round them with a run of the mill six-point version or maybe even with one of the higher-end brands.

Another problem I have with many of my sockets is I cannot read the markings. I can distinguish a 9/16 from a 1/2 on sight, no need to read the markings. I can actually do that without even seeing the socket. But unfortunately, that is not the case with many of the oddball sizes I have in some of my socket sets. And as I built my metric collection on an as-needed basis, I didn't account for this so now have to use a bright light and reading glasses for anything other than a 10mm (which I know by feel).

A problem I haven't had is "cheap ratchet syndrome." My dad started buying me tools before I was even in kindergarten, and he didn't want his little boy skinning up his knuckles or slipping the nut or bolthead while turning. So my ratchets have always been the high-quality type. When you pick one of them up, it has heft. Boy oh boy, does this Crescent ratchet have heft. Almost too much, which to me is a good thing.

The ratchet has a quick release button on back. It also has one of the best direction switches I have ever seen. On most brands of ratchet, these are ambiguous so you can't tell what direction the wrench will turn or they easily move with the slightest bump so by the time you wedge that head into place it's turning the wrong direction. In my tool collection, I early on threw out (or took back) ratchets with such direction switches after having made the mistake of buying them without thinking about this aspect of the tool.

The handle isn't knurled, but it is shaped in a way that should make that unnecessary. Since I clean all of my tools to pristine condition before putting them away, I prefer handles without the knurling.

In addition to this well-made, "outlast the owner" ratchet, the kit contains:

  • 10 sockets ranging from 7/16 to one inch. I have some smaller 1/2-inch drive sockets (but don't think I've ever used them) and some bigger ones; this is a good range for a smallish kit. Except for the one-inch socket, these are all 1-1/2 inches tall. The one-inch socket is 1-5/8 inches tall.
  • Three-inch socket extension.

If you've already got a complete socket set, you might think also having this kit doesn't make much sense. But I don't see it that way.

For one thing, I don't take my socket sets with me to do work outside of my garage (for example, doing a job for a friend at the friend's place). I don't have a pickup truck into which I can roll one of my rollaway toolboxes. What I do is use a separate hand-carry toolbox, then put everything back when I return. Now I can just pull this socket set out of the drawer and not have to worry.

And because it is a set in a defined box, the mandatory tool count after the job is a breeze. At a glance you can tell if something's missing and not wonder, "Did I bring that?" In my case, the solution long ago was the socket caddy (have several of these, each for a different socket set).



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