Our Article in The Gateway Magazine October 28 2014
Chapman was established in 1936 by Mr. John Chapman of Durham, CT, in a garage around the corner from where the factory is today. Though the great depression wasn’t the best time to start a business, Chapman has succeeded due to the diligence and passion for tools of its three owners. Current owner Tracy Camassar bought the business three years ago and Chapman is certified as a Woman Owned Business diversity supplier.
Chapman has focused on manufacturing precision small screwdriver and bit kits since its establishment. Chapman’s famous midget ratchet and accompanying milled insert bits have been used on everything from the Nautilus submarine, space ship testing equipment, Apache helicopters to everyday use in machine shops and households worldwide. Though Chapman tools have a long and colorful history, they are more useful today than ever. As new technology brings more computerization, mico-manufacturing and tighter working tolerances, Chapman tools are sought after as they are non-magnetic (they don’t interfere with electronics) and excel in tight spots. Unlike many other companies that have outsourced and are now returning, Chapman manufactures in the USA from American made materials.
Chapman ¼” drive screwdriver bits, available in 53 types and sizes including Std. & Metric Allen Hex, Phillips, hollow ground straight sided Slotted, Bristol 6-flute, Reed & Prince/Frearson, Robertson square head and Torx. All are milled from USA tool steel, heat treated with a black oxide finish and are interchangeable with their screwdriver handle and famous offset midget ratchet. Two available extensions add length to the screwdriver handle and ratchet. All Chapman tools are non-magnetic, hand assembled and inspected and available in different combinations in their tool kits.
The beauty of Chapman tools lies in their versatility. Their famous offset midget ratchet provides up to 200 inch pounds of torque (four times the leverage of a large screwdriver) in a tiny space. There’s also a screwdriver handle and a spinner top, both of which can be used independently or combined with their 2” or 3 5/8” extension. You can even use the ratchet, screwdriver handle and extension together as a ratcheting screwdriver.
While there are many types of insert bits on the market, Chapman’s are reasonably priced and offer exclusive quality features competitors don’t. All the bits are stamped with a part number and have a ball-detent, which is a tiny spring and ball bearing that locks the bits into the tools without the use of magnets. The bits have ear stops or oversized working ends depending on size, and all but the Torx bits have knurled ends for finger tightening. Lastly, the bits are heat treated to a specific hardness for each size and are meant to break before damaging a fastener. For example, many gunsmiths rely on Chapman Slotted bits for working on antique firearms with irreplaceable soft, hand cut screws. Chapman tools are engineered and are hardened to specific tolerances to prevent damage when the fastener is more valuable than the bit. If a bit is broken, all Chapman bits are available open stock for under $2.00 each on their website www.chapmanmfg.com
Though Chapman’s largest customer base are machine shops like them, Chapman tools have unlimited uses including assembly, calibrating and servicing of aerospace, medical, dental, imaging, gauging, sewing, sound and robotic equipment and are used extensively on knives and firearms. Probably their biggest fan is Jay Leno, who uses Chapman tools on his antique cars and motorcycles. On a whim about five years ago, owner Tracy sent Jay Leno a letter. Jay personally called Tracy about a week later and said that he’s used Chapman tools for a long time. He invited Tracy out to his garage in Burbank, California to film a short video promoting Chapman tools which you can see on www.chapmanmfg.com. Jay supports American manufacturing by making videos with business owners, and it was an honor to be invited to his Big Dog Garage.
Though a small, tight knit shop with less than 20 employees ranging from college students to lifelong employees, Chapman is an integral part of the community. In 2013 they were awarded by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection with a Green Circle award for their oil recycling process. In fact, Chapman recycles all the cardboard, bottles and cans, office paper and shredding that they use, so typically only one trash can is sent to waste a week. They have also contributed to several charities from the Rocky Hill Veterans Hospital to Running for Rescues, a charity that helps shelter animals. In fact, the Chapman office is run by Savannah, a rescue dog and two rescue cats named Smith and Wesson. Savannah, Top Dog at Chapman, was saved from a Georgia shelter is in charge of welcoming and the cats enjoy nudging people for attention.
For the last two years, the Chapman team has been restoring a 1959 Chevy Apache pickup truck. They painted it Chapman yellow and white and use it as a public relations piece at car shows and trade shows. You can see photos of the restoration on their Facebook: www.facebook.com/chapmanmfg
The Chapman team prides themselves on the quality and longevity of the tools they make. Each tool kit is hand assembled and inspected for quality. All their hard work has paid off, as Chapman receives many glowing reviews, e-mails, letters and phone calls attesting to the handiness and quality of the tools. Two notable ones follow:
“My father introduced me to one of your smaller Chapman tool kits when I was quite young in age back in the mid 60s…When I became older and was working in the technical service field I purchased a kit of my own to use when I worked on equipment. I was happy to have inherited the kit my father had when he passed away in 2002. Today I ordered the master kit as it contains many of the bits I currently do not have. Thank you for making such a useful tool which I will be passing down to my three sons when the time comes.”
“My name is Aaron, I’m a Sergeant in the Army and I work on Apache attack helicopters. I’ve used your tool set for about four years now and couldn’t imagine completing my job without it…Almost anything that has a stripped/stuck screw or hex head gets the Chapman set. It’s our SECRET weapon. If your kit can’t get [the screw out] then only a drill can. Any screw that is in a hard spot to get leverage gets your kit. There are several electrical boxes in the tail of the aircraft. We call it the "hell hole". Once you crawl all the way down into the tail, your arms must remain above your head as you wiggle up to the boxes and remove their mounting screws blindly.”
While all of Chapman’s long term quality USA manufacturing history sets them apart from the majority of the competition, it’s the future in manufacturing that really counts. Chapman is looking into making security Torx and Allen bits to fit tamper proof fasteners with center pins, as well a complement of other tools. They release pre-production tools and other specials through their e-newsletter and Facebook first, so be sure to subscribe to the newsletter from their website and find them on Facebook.
Chapman sells directly through their website www.chapmanmfg.com. For resale or quantity discounts, please contact Joel Camassar at email@example.com or 860-349-9228. Peggy and Rebecca answer the phones and take orders, so make sure to say hi.