Ideal Industries Inc., Sycamore, Ill., has agreed to acquire Pratt-Read, Shelton, Conn., the third-largest manufacturer of screwdrivers in the United States and one of the country's oldest companies. The acquisition follows on the heels of Ideal's acquisition in January of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Western Forge, a manufacturer of pliers, screwdrivers and adjustable wrenches. The two additions to Ideal's lineup are significant expansions of the company's hand-tool offerings as well as providing Ideal with additional U.S.-based manufacturing capacity.

Founded in 1798, Pratt-Read manufactures screwdrivers, which it sells to a wide range of customers under its own brand name and produces screwdriver parts for other tool manufacturers, including Stanley, Snap-On, Danaher, Klein and, until last year, Sears. Pratt-Read started out making buttons, beads and billiard balls in Ivoryton, Conn., then expanded into piano keys and pianos before it started making screwdrivers in 1834. During World War II, the company also produced military gliders while continuing to produce screwdriver blades and handles for smaller manufacturers. Since Pratt-Read's 2005 acquisition of American Industrial Manufacturers, the company has manufactured a complete line of screwdrivers, handles, blades and bits at production facilities in Shelton; Pottstown, Pa.; and Beloit, Wis.

Pratt-Read, which posted net sales of just over $19 million in 2008, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2009, according to a prospectus seeking new investment after the filing. Despite posting modest profit growth amid the economic downturn, the company reported that customers were slowing payments and Pratt-Read wasn't generating sufficient cash to sustain the business, according to an article in the Connecticut Post. The company at that time had 142 employees and had laid off 20 in the downturn, the Post said.

“Acquiring Pratt-Read in addition to Western Forge enhances the capabilities of Ideal and expands the product offering in the hand tool market to further emphasize our strong, strategic focus on American-made quality, service and value,” said Jim James, CEO and president of Ideal.

The company will operate as Pratt-Read Tools, LLC., a wholly owned subsidiary of Ideal Industries.