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Author Topic: Let's talk Harbor Freight...  (Read 14432 times)

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Offline Paschale

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Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« on: September 11, 2006, 06:28:35 PM »
So, I just swung by Harbor Freight to pick up some magnets and an oil drain pan, which I knew I'd find for cheap.  I have a love/hate relationship with the place.  There's no other place I've found where you can find so many cool, unusual tools under one roof.  Electrical, woodworking, metalworking, and all kinds of basic tools for maintenance of things, and very specific tools that you'd never find at any of the Big Boxes.  That's what I like about Harbor Freight.  I always enjoy looking around.

But then...a lot of the stuff is cheap too.  There are certain things I'd never want to buy from there, such as drill or router bits--anything that demands real precision work, and stuff that needs to be really sharp and keep an edge.  I was tempted today by a cheap looking recip saw though.  Guess how much it cost?  $16.99.  That's just CRAZY!  A lot of guys say run 'em cheap, and run 'em hard.  I was really tempted today, since I don't have one yet, though a Milwaukee is on the shopping list. 

Anyway, just wondering what you guys think of the place.  What have you bought that works for you, and what have you bought that you would stay away from in the future?

I've bought, and been happy with: a heat gun, a solder gun, a dial caliper and pipe clamps, and various miscellaneous stuff.  Haven't taken too many gambles there, so actually haven't struck out on any of the other things there, though I'd never really expect one of their power tools to work that well anyway.
Y'all can pronounce it "puh-SKOLLY"

Offline brdmkr

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2006, 06:37:49 PM »
CLAMPS!  All types, but especially bar and pipe clamps.  They have the best prices going and they hold stuff just fine for me.  I am looking at one of their metal chop saws.  I can't weld worth much, but I am trying to learn.  The saw would not get much use and would likely work just fine for me.
Lucas 618  Mahindra 4110, FEL and pallet forks, some cant hooks, and a dose of want-to

Offline tcsmpsi

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2006, 06:56:28 PM »
Vises, clamps, wrenches, sockets, TARPS, a 4" angle grinder than I have used the dickens out of for 15 yrs or so.   Nothing from them I had any problem with.  The angle grinder (though I have others), has been pleasantly surprising.  Their standard ol' tarps have always been about as good as any others I've found,  all sizes and quite reasonable.  Even 'cheap' if on sale. 

I think I would save my 20 bucks (or so) on the reciprocating saw, though.  If you have one, at some point or another, you're going to want a decided degree of precision cut with it.   You'll find the lesser ones more frustrating than anything else (too much play and chatter).
Or, so I have found.

\\\"In the end, it is a moral question as to whether man applies what he has learned or not.\\\" - C. Jung

Offline Larry

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2006, 07:21:22 PM »
Well lets see...guess my first purchase maybe 15 years ago was a 60 pound vise.  At my door for $19.95.  Over the years Ive made workbenches for friends and family all equipped with this vice...no complaints...price a lot higher now.  Think Ill keep the Reed vice on my bench...but it was 10 times the cost 30 years ago.

At Gilmans recommendation I bought the digital caliper...checked it against my Starlet dial caliper and both read the same.

Retracting 25' air hose reel...another gem.

10 hardwood flooring staplers for resale...they work good and lot better idea than renting one but dont know how long they will last.  Lost my butt on this one.

The boss stocks up on packing tape every time we go and says its good stuff.

Strapping thingy...works all right but I havent used it much.

Dad bought a 3/8" drill...lasted 5 minutes.  And Im sure Ive bought a few junky items also...cant remember right now.
Larry, making useful and beautiful things out of the most environmental friendly material on the planet.

We need to insure our customers understand the importance of our craft.

Offline PawNature

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2006, 07:42:45 PM »
I Like and use Harbor Freight. They have a 90 in store warranty on most stuff they sale, and from my own personal experience they stand by it. I am real big on buying American stuff when I can find it. For instance I went to buy a quality drill driver. Did you ever go into Lowes or Home deport or any where and look at the made in labels? The only one that came close was a Bosh, and I think it was only asselbled in the us, not real positive on this. But the point is that none of the quality drill drivers were made in America.

I guess what I was getting at was people say that Harbor has cheep Chinese stuff. I guess it's cheep Chinese stuff vs quality Chinese stuff
GOVERMENT HAS WAY TO MUCH CONTROL OVER OUR LIVES!!!!

Offline Engineer

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2006, 09:35:17 PM »
You will find one thing and one thing only in my house from Horror Freight, and that's a yellow coiled air hose.  I use it when I have to fill a tire or something and don't want to drag a long hose out.  It leaks, and it's not very flexible. 

I prefer not to buy junk, and the vast majority of what they sell is junk.  The thing that bothers me most about their stores is that they smell funny, and EVERYTHING is oily/greasy/sticky.  Covered in whatever cosmoline-type substance they coat stuff with in China.   

Based on your list - my heat gun is a Bosch, my soldering iron is a Weller, clamps are Record and Bessey, and the dial caliper is a red-dial Starrett.  No crap in there.  I do have two recip saws - one is a Milwaukee, which is tough as nails.  The other one, which gets much more abuse and use, owing that it's cordless, is a 18V Ryobi from Agent Orange (aka Home Depot).  I bought the Ryobi to kill it, and I haven't been able to under normal use conditions, ranging from cutting nails, PVC pipe in a muddy ditch, ICF forms for an entire house, tree limbs, taking it in the field on survey jobs, drywall, metal pipe and rebar, etc.   But I wouldn't trust a HF sawzall as far as my 2-year-old could throw it.

Offline scsmith42

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2006, 09:41:33 PM »
A good friend once called me a "tool elitist", so you can probably guess my opinion re HF...

I'd stay away from anything electrical, such as drills, sawzall's, etc.  Clamps, cords, etc are probably a good buy.

I've found that northern tool Note:Please read the Forestry Forum's postion on this company typically has better options.

Bottom line, use common sense.  If it's a tool that you intend to use multiple times and depend on, go with a solid name brand.  If it's a one-time throw-away, they maybe HF would make sense.
Peterson 10" WPF with 65' of track
Smith - Gallagher dedicated slabber
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and a mix of log handling heavy equipment.

Offline UNCLEBUCK

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #7 on: September 11, 2006, 09:59:38 PM »
I have used all harbor for any tools that  get hooked to the air compressor for many years and no problems , cousin uses all harbor battery drills for years and swears by them but I go Milwaukee on electric things and can really feel the differance in quality instantly .

I have found harbors prices to be a bargain many years ago but my local fleet farm store has come real close to matching finally so one must be kind of selective but yes I enjoy going to the harbor store in Fargo,N.D. and usually it dont take long to fill the shopping cart with crap  :D 
UNCLEBUCK    bridge burner/bridge mender

Offline Paschale

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2006, 10:11:45 PM »
 But I wouldn't trust a HF sawzall as far as my 2-year-old could throw it.

Nor would I, which is why I walked away.   ;D

You have to understand that I'm a tool hound myself.  My tablesaw, planer and jointer are all Powermatic, and my band saw is a Mini Max.  Bosch is my miter saw, and I have a Makita router to name a few.  I don't buy crappy tools, but my curiosity is piqued when I see a recip saw for less than $20, if for no other reason that to see what kind of life it would have.  But again...I let it lay where I saw it.

However, I've found that the heat gun is perfectly acceptable for the amount of use I need it for, and the dial caliper is actually a very good tool, believe it or not.  It's certainly not a Starret, but it works well enough for what I need it for.  Kelly Mehler, the big table saw guru, actually recommends it in his clinics, and says that it's just as accurate as more expensive dial calipers on the market that he's used.  It's not suited for government work, I'm sure, but for what I need it for, it's pretty DanG effective.

I do think there are some things at HF that are just fine, and actually some are even well made, as crazy as it sounds.  I guess that's really more what I'm curious about:  what people have bought that has worked well for them.

I agree on the tarps thing too, btw.  Perfectly acceptable, and a great deal when you can get them on sale.

Y'all can pronounce it "puh-SKOLLY"

Offline wiam

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2006, 10:19:47 PM »
I bought the smallest metal cutting bandsaw just before they dropped from a one horse motor to 3/4.  I have had it for probably 4 years.  I bought it when I built my mill.  The cuts are pretty accurate and I have been quite happy with it.  I think I paid $150 for it.

Will

Offline PineNut

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2006, 11:15:39 PM »
I have bought several tools and other items from HF.  Any time I need a quality tool, I get a name brand tool, usually locally.  While HF does have some of the name brand tools, look close and you may find "factory reconditoned". While it may not be true in every case, many times this means cleaned up and repackaged. I have purchased several tools that I did not have a continuing use for but have been very handy when the unexpected need occured.

While not in the tool category, I recently purchased a greenhouse from HF. While I haven't completed the assembly, it appears to be of quality construction and has very detailed assembly instructions (that are not a word for word translation from chinese.) 

I will continue to use HF for some items but when quality is a requirement, I will go elsewhere.

Offline CHARLIE

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2006, 12:00:43 AM »
I've never bought anything from Harbor Freight but injoy looking at their catalog. Once I bought a 4" side grinder for $20 from northern tool Note:Please read the Forestry Forum's postion on this company only to use to sharpen my lawn mower blades. It did fine for several years until I needed to do a lot of grinding on some angle iron. It got real hot fast and burned up. I replaced it with a DeWalt.  I should have bought the DeWalt the first time and I would not have been out the $20.
Charlie
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Offline jack

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2006, 12:37:49 AM »
I believe the point has been made, if its not life support then sometimes HF has some good deals,  I use HF for the expendables....brushes,  airline fittings etc,  or that once in a bluemoon use of a product that wont kill me if it breaks while under strain.   I have made some purchases,  the little air die grinders,  $7.00 on sale,  my last two were totally used up,  lasted about 4yrs.  But we used them at least 150 days a year,  4hrs at a time, in the worst conditions immaginable, water, dust, cutting soil screens off of a trommel.  Best $14.00 i spent.   its like was mentioned below.  IF you need it to live with, then get the best. no skimpin on the coin for good tools.

HF did cover their warrenty stuff though..  no questions asked.

Jack
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Offline getoverit

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2006, 12:56:31 AM »
I have bought several things from them that have been good, and several that just plain suck.

The worst thing I bought is their 12 1/2" planer. It will barely knock the dust off of a 6" board, much less trying to Plane with it. :(

One of the best things I have got from there is a 5 pound dead-blow  hammer. It holds up good and works fine for my needs. Their 2,000# winches arent bad for $50 either... so far I've had good luck with them.
I'm a lumberjack and I'm ok, I work all night and sleep all day

Offline metalspinner

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2006, 09:13:28 AM »
The smell gets to me, too.

Once, my live center for my machine lathe (Jet) siezed up. The only store in town that stocks a machine lathe is HF.  So I go in the store with my fingers crossed that they might have a live center. Well, I browsed around for as long as I could stand it, then asked an employee if they carried live centers.  He looked at me with a dazed, confused look ( I think from the smell)  then said, "Sir, if I knew what a live center was, I wouldn't be working here."  :D :D

Quote
I guess it's cheep Chinese stuff vs quality Chinese stuff

This is actually quite true. One of the woodworking magazines a few years back had an article on just this topic. The tool brand is responsible for the quality of the product that comes out of the factories overseas.  One factory may make tools for several labels, but the higher cost labels put more restrictions on the quality of the finished product they will accept.  This is done with more manager types of representation at the factory.  The more expensive brands like Dewalt or Makita
would have maybe ten or twelve representatives on sight cracking the whip  for the best products coming down the line.  Fewer reps would be on hand for the next price level of tool.  This continues all the way down to zero representation - places like Harbor Frieght. ::)

I do what the little voices in my wife's head tell me to do.

Offline Larry

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2006, 10:18:11 AM »
You guys might find this interesting.  Take a close look at the picture of Geetechs planer production line. 

http://www.geetech.com.tw/profile_1.htm

On the right Powermatic and on the left Geetech blue.  Different day ya might see few more colors.

The quality Powermatic comes with some really nice frills and a bloated price tag.  The no name Geetech is the same machine without frills.

At the production these factories are running at I cant believe one color is made better than another color.  So...which is the best value?

One difference that may be real is a lot of companies like Grizzly, have switched production from Taiwan to mainland China to save on labor cost.  But is the same quality in those brand new China factories?

I dunno know anymore...the other day I needed a part for my Bosch worm drive circular saw...ordered it and the paperwork said it was for a Skill model 77.  And the part worked fine.
Larry, making useful and beautiful things out of the most environmental friendly material on the planet.

We need to insure our customers understand the importance of our craft.

Offline Modat22

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2006, 10:38:16 AM »
I buy wood clamps there (one can never have enough wood clamps) and cheap socket wrenches that I weld to all thread for DIY adjusters.
remember man that thy are dust.

Offline Stephen1

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2006, 10:43:09 AM »
I was looking for a new lawn tractor as I blew the engine on my 12 year old craftsman.  As I was doing reasearch on the net I came across a recall for a craftsman tractor, also a weed-eater, a murray, MTD, also a Huskavarna all made by Huskavarna and I think a few more models. What suprised me was the amount of different lines that were produce out of the same factory. I ended up with the craftsman again but with the 16.5 twin honda engine, but basically the same unit.The parts look a lot like the old mower  the old mower is out front for sale and if no one gives me enough money for a case of brown ones, I will put it behind the barn for parts later.
IDRY Vacum Kiln, LT40HDWide, BMS250 sharpener/setter 742b Bobcat, TCM forklift, Sthil 026,038, 461. 1952 TEA Fergusan Tractor

Offline MemphisLogger

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2006, 10:50:37 AM »
Pipe clamps--hold as good as Ponys.

4" angle grinder--built 2 trailers 2 welding tables and and run an Arbortech head on it all the time for the past 4 years and it won't die--it even came with an extra set of brushes but I haven't needed them yet.

1/2" hammer drill--had it for 2 years, mainly to drill hloes in my cinder blocks but also use for augering holes in big timbers--hasn't let me down yet.

Consumables--rags, chip brushes, flux brushes, etc.--best price in town.

GFCI outlets--they sell UL listed 15 and 20 amp for $4.99

What I won't buy from HF--anything cast or forged that needs to be strong. We went though 4 pitman separators in one day--they kept replacing them for free but it was a pain to keep going back.

I love/hate Harbor Freight.    
Scott Banbury, Urban logger since 2002--Custom Woodworker since 1990. Running a Woodmizer LT-30, a flock of Huskies and a herd of Toy 4x4s Midtown Logging and Lumber Company at www.scottbanbury.com

Offline Paschale

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Re: Let's talk Harbor Freight...
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2006, 11:57:22 AM »
You guys might find this interesting.  Take a close look at the picture of Geetechs planer production line. 

http://www.geetech.com.tw/profile_1.htm

On the right Powermatic and on the left Geetech blue.  Different day ya might see few more colors.


Man...THAT'S fascinating!  Thanks for the link.

The comments about the husqvarna recall, and this link makes you wonder with globalization how much difference there is in a lot of brands these days.  I've often thought about that when you look at lawn equipment.  There are literal twins out there, at very different prices, and now to see this with Geetech...very, very interesting.

I'm enjoying hearing about what works/doesn't work for you guys at HF.   ;D
Y'all can pronounce it "puh-SKOLLY"


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