Skip Navigation

Then & Now: Tools

Then & Now: Tools

Wish Book

From hammers and saws to drills and screwdrivers, where would any homeowner be without a quality set of tools? Whether you’re a professional woodworker or just trying to keep your house from collapsing, being well prepared means having a wide range of tools at your disposal. We’ve made lots of improvements since cavemen began with whatever was lying around, and have even made a load of progress in the past several decades.


Sticks & Stones

Fresh off the days of Rosie the Riveter, these tools from the Sears 1948 Christmas Book made hot gifts for aspiring handymen and handywomen. These assembled sets supplied garages and sheds all across America’s budding suburban streets with the means to tackle any project.

If you’re old enough to remember the days before widespread use of power tools, congratulations on your longevity. For everyone else, it’s daunting to imagine trying to assemble a 10-drawer dresser with nothing more than a Phillips-head screwdriver and a dream (although if you have done that, props. That sounds terrifying.)

Corded electric drills in the 1948 Sears Christmas Book
Hand tool set in the 1948 Sears Christmas Book
Mechanic tool set in the 1977 Sears Wish Book
Mechanic tool set in the 1989 Sears Wish Book


Craftsman 10" Single Bevel Compact Sliding Compound Miter Saw
Craftsman 450- piece Mechanic's Tool Set

Fire it Up!

The convenience of charging a battery to instantly apply hundreds of pounds of torque into nuts, screws and bolts makes all the difference when it comes to complicated household tasks. For starters, it’ll save you a massive headache come Christmas morning when your kids demand their harrowingly intricate toys assembled right here and now, gosh darnit! Even though things like corded electric drills and disc sanders were available all the way back in the ‘40s, the sleek designs, powerful motors and wireless convenience of today’s selection blow the power tools of yore right off the workbench. But beyond the motor-operated models that the modern handyman has come to love, you might notice that many of the hand tools of yesteryear strike a familiar resemblance to what we use today. 


Unlike the toys, appliances and (especially) fashion trends of the 20th century, some of these old hammers and pliers didn’t need much upgrading (insert some oldfashioned cliché here: “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke!” yadda yadda yadda).

Of course, we can surely all agree that we’ve come a long way from the cave, and can be thankful that we don’t have to rely on sharpened sticks and stones to assemble a cozy new breakfast nook.

More Wish Book Then & Nows