Under the ownership of Stanley Black & Decker, the iconic Craftsman brand has relaunched. And while that launch actually touched a chord with me (Theme: What’s your Craftsman story?), brand means nothing if a tool doesn’t do the job. I want a hole not a drill.

Craftsman wasn’t always the stuff of keep-your-receipt gadgets. Its source code was cast-iron contractor saws, radial arm saws, ratchets, and wrenches with no need for a 2-year warranty because they lasted decades and even generations. (As an aside, the company's lifetime warranty for hand and mechanics tools is back, along with an industry standard 3-year limited warranty on most power tools). Anyway, does the impact driver you can buy at this point in history rip screws into wood or not? With Porter-Cable DNA, the Craftsman CMCF820 (tool only $99; mine came in an impact/drill kit CMCK220D2 with a charger and two batteries, $249) has pro-level features.

Power. Building a deck, I drove pounds of screws from #10 x 1 ½-inch to #10 x 3-inch to 5/16 x 6-inch Spax Power Lags for posts---screws so well designed in their own right I consider them tools (Full disclosure: In my other job, I’ve produced video with the company's products).

The power was up to task in every regard but one. The batteries almost last as the manufacturers all claim: Full power until no power. I got a 6-inch lag 3-inches buried when the battery died. A new battery wouldn’t move the frozen screw, but another impact did. So, it’s not the most powerful tool, but it makes up for it with a smooth engagement, lightness—I can carry it on my nail bags and almost not know it’s there—and the belt hook among other things already mentioned.

The Little Things. It’s doing the weird stuff that shows you the depth of design thought that goes into a tool. Fastening joist hangers on a low-to-the-ground deck with umpteen angles of attack required to set the screws qualifies. The Craftsman was nimble. The grip has the right “grip and slip.” It was equal parts easy to hold and easy to slide around in my hand. Its profile is less clunky than other brands.
I adore the DeWalt-inspired 3-point work-light. The trigger is easy to goose to set a screw just so. The noise is lower than at least one other brand I’ve used and on par with others. While I may never use this, it has three speeds. The battery fuel gauge is welcome. The forward/reverse switch is just OK.

I like the charger. It doesn’t require knowledge of Egyptology to decipher the hieroglyphics of what it’s doing. A solid green, easy-to-see-in-a-pile-of-stuff light means Charged. The belt hook is also great.

It’s light, but I don’t think that corresponds to light duty. The battery exchange is a little stiff on the tool and charger.

The ¼-inch hex drive is awesome in one regard: You can slot the bit without pulling the collar back. Conversely, there’s play. If you drink coffee or are straining to hold a joist on layout while setting a screw into a hanger and don’t have surgeon’s hands, you’ll notice it.

All told, it’s great to see a legacy brand in the game with a tool up to the name.

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