kevin_c

Harbor Freight

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I am relatively new to woodworking...and still putting together a decent set of tools. Trying to come up with a list of good online suppliers too...it's hard. I can tell there are "brand whores" in this field as with any other...heck, my Dad refuses to buy "any yellow tools". I'm more interested in quality than price...but not interested in top quality either...I guess middle of the road.

Not to bad mouth Harbor Freight, but the couple of times I've looked there to buy something I've opted out because it just doesn't seem like the quality is there.

What do you buy from Harbor Freight?...What have you had success with?

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only things i have goten from there are fool proof iteams like a metal punch, or a package of rulers for the classroom, box of staples and brad nails, hammer ect..... stuff that its just about imposible to build wrong. after all if you cant make a hammer you are in big trouble as a tool maker. but you better off spending little extra and geting the better tools you will end up geting what you pay for and in the long run if you trade up you wont be able to sell your tools. for example harbor frieght tool wont sell for what you paid for them. if you sell a festool saw you will get the same amount or just a little less then the origonal purchase price.

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The 2hp dust collector (if you get the one with a metal impeller) is quite good. You can add an aftermarket baffle and get a very low micron DC for a very competitive price. I found their heavy duty pipe clamps to be just as good as any other pipe clamp on the market when I first started out. I have a bunch of 12" f-style clamps that work fine. Foam mats and moving blankets are nice and cheap. But for most stuff you do need to realize why they're less expensive than others.

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I have heard good things about the 2HP DC. I get my acid brushes from their, as well as tools I may only use once or twice, but glad I have them when I need them. I have heard good things about their air tools as well. I have seen varying degrees of success with power tools, but it seems the largest group seems to say stay away from them. I may consider one of their power tools if I had a project that I know was going to abuse, possibly ruin one of my good tools. Two of my machines are also equipped with their link belts.

The best thing with harbor freight (and really any other brand line) is to do your homework. Know what it is your buying to base your final decision. I really try hard to not automatically say "xxxx brand/store sells nothing but junk" as well as "xxxx brand/store sells nothing but superior products" as both are highly subjective, and tend to not to be completely true.

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http://drunkenwoodworker.com/projects

All the projects from that link used Harbor Fright Band Saw, 2HP Dust Collector, Spindle Sander, 12" Disc Sander and HF clamps.

The Harbor Freight 14" bandsaw was quite a deal. I waited until it went on sale and then used the 20% discount coupon. It works great if you upgrade to cool blocks and high end blades. The 12" disc sander works as expected. the spindle sander is ok. The rubblier spindles that holds the sandpaper are not the highest of quality and will break apart with time and wear. You can replace them with. THE BIGGEST value is the clamps. Holy cow, they are cheap and the work great!

Many many things from HF is total crap. Read as many reviews online and on forums as you can.

DW

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I haven't bought any tools from my local HF, but I have bought several typical household items. Hold-down straps, flash light, trailer hitch/ball, etc. Nothing wrong with those :)

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THE BIGGEST value is the clamps. Holy cow, they are cheap and the work great!

Many many things from HF is total crap. Read as many reviews online and on forums as you can.

DW

The clamps I purchased from them are total crap, they were the black and orange f clamps that would literally break with ordinary pressure, i.e. from me who is not particularly strong. Which ones did you buy there that are good?

I have heard that Harbor Freight sells tools and TSO's - Tool Shaped Objects. :) The trick is determining in which category something is. I buy things like tarps, bungies, moving dollies... But, even things like green tape aren't as good as the name brand. But, their little flashlights that are often free with a coupon are wonderful!

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grizzly makes a ok product its not top of the line but from what i hear from different reviews they are prity decent. i plan on geting a dust collector from there and eventuly upgrading to a better bag.

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I bought a chain hoist from HF and it nearly killed me. I'll stick to floor mats and acid brushes. I'd never buy a power tool from there unless for some reason I only intended to use it once.

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The clamps I purchased from them are total crap, they were the black and orange f clamps that would literally break with ordinary pressure, i.e. from me who is not particularly strong. Which ones did you buy there that are good?

Yep, these are total crap and the plastic shrouds on the jaws fall off and get lost easily. I still have them because they occasionally come in handy when I'm desperate for more clamps, but I much prefer my Irwin quick clamps.

Like other said, the DC is good for the price. Some of the parts and bolts are cheap on it, but what I appreciate about it is that I don't feel bad modding it since the cost is low. I wouldn't feel the same about heavily modifying a $400 Delta or whatnot.

I had a pair of Harbor Freight saw horses. I knew they were cheap, but hey, they often got the job done. Well I was working on a new workbench recently and had it flipped upside down on them, and eventually the legs on one sawhorse started to bend in. I was in trouble because I needed to get the bench off of there, but had absolutely no help I could get over there immediately. I did my best to try and get it into a better position to flip back around off the sawhorses, but then the one sawhorse gave out and the bench came down. (Rated for 350lbs each, my ass.)

Fortunately the demolished sawhorse underneath the one end cushioned the fall ;) I was able to get the bench flipped back over from the ground and no harm done, other than now needing new (and decent) sawhorses. Anyway, I will never trust Harbor Freight stuff for things that lift a lot of weight like floor jacks, jack stands, engine hoists, etc. But if you do, take their rated weight and divide it by two to get the real rating. Or maybe three, even.

Otherwise, I do like their socket wrench sets. Simple, cheap, does the job.

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. Anyway, I will never trust Harbor Freight stuff for things that lift a lot of weight like floor jacks, jack stands, engine hoists, etc. But if you do, take their rated weight and divide it by two to get the real rating. Or maybe three, even.

Or more. The hoist I spoke of earlier was rated at one ton and snapped while lowering a 600# planer. It wasn't swinging, it wasn't bouncing, it was just coming down slowly. Fortunately the unit only freefell about two inches or so and the impact was absorbed mostly by the crushing of the pallet. And fortunately my toes were spared dismemberment.

I'd say steer clear of purchasing anything from HF that your safety will rely on...or that you'll rely on for anything in general.

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I have a HF right down the street from my house. The black and orange squeeze clamps are garbage, but they do have a warranty. So I go there, get an arm full. The broken ones go in a pile in my garage, then I exchange them all at once. Endless clamps. I bought some 6" F clamps there for $2 or something and I really like them. I have the oscillating spindle sander and have no complaints, and it has gotten a lot of use. Every handheld power tool I've gotten from there has been complete garbage.

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I have a HF right down the street from my house. The black and orange squeeze clamps are garbage, but they do have a warranty. So I go there, get an arm full. The broken ones go in a pile in my garage, then I exchange them all at once. Endless clamps.

Can't argue with that logic, especially with a small thing like clamps, Harbor Freight does have a generous return policy. This sort of reminds me of an anecdote; once my friend (not a woodworker) laughed at me for driving down to Grizzly in Springfield to buy a drill press. "Why not just go to Harbor Freight, dude? They're great: if it breaks, just take it back."

Uh yeah...I am not going carry a drill press up my stairs, get it into my Toyota Corolla, carry it into HF, and do the entire thing with the exchanged one in reverse EVERY - SINGLE - TIME it has an issue. I'm sure his routine involves a quick run for hand tools, big equipment a very different story.

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The clamps I purchased from them are total crap, they were the black and orange f clamps that would literally break with ordinary pressure, i.e. from me who is not particularly strong. Which ones did you buy there that are good?

Not sure about those, but I had no trouble with the Pittsburgh heavy duty pipe clamps or the wood handled black steel Pittsburgh f-styles which have taken a lot of abuse and are still kicking fine. Just checked their website and they don't seem to sell the f-styles I have anymore though.

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I would put it this way. I monitor Craigs List tools section ofter just to see if there is something of interest. You see a LOT of Chicago Machinery brand stuff being dumped on there which is Harbor Freights house brand. Probably a reason for that....

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A lot of the HF stuff on CL could be because people bought them for one job at home and now don't need it. Kinda common to hear people say to get a throw-away blahblah at HF for doing their deck/patio/kitchen-cabinets/etc and sell it.

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I tend to avoid things from HF that have a motor, unless there's overwhelming info out there to the contrary, like the 2HP DC. 

 

I have some edge guides, tarps, acid brushes, clamps and other things, but nothing that will stop me from working if it fails. You can also check out hfreviews.com to read user reviews on any HF part number for a little more info.

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I have the HF 2 HP dust collector and the 36" Lathe.  Both of these items are considered to be above average HF quality by most wood workers who have used them.  Research, research, research!  Be sure to find a number of different forums before making a decision.  I haven't had an issue with either!

 

I don't have HF clamps, but I plan to in the future.  

 

HF is also good for some weird little things around the shop, like the squeeze bottles for custom mixed finishes.  Rockler wants $6-$8 per, HF sells 3 for $4 or something.  

 

Finally, ALWAYS use the 20% off coupon on any purchase over $20.  If you aren't on their email list, just Google it, and print it off.  I personally would just get on the email list. You never know when you might catch a crazy sale.

 

I would challenge those that use Craigslist as a barometer of quality to consider the fact that they have crazy market share because of their price point.  Also, at the lowest price point you get a lot of people that buy for 1-2 uses and sell because it's cheaper than renting it.  I won't pretend to claim that HF is great stuff, but assuming it is useless or of little "Value" is typically a misrepresentation.  

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I bought a chain hoist from HF and it nearly killed me.

I agree. Bought one just to lift my dust collector about ten ft in the air. The chain broke and the collector came crashing down on my buddy both were fine. Got another one and by the time it made it up it wouldnt come back down. Had to cut the chain to get it off the dust collector.

Their toe kick saw is great. Its not going to last for years but will do alot of jobs before it craps out.

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Most stuff from HF is junk but if you do some research they have a few things that are good.  From what I have found, the Pittsburgh   clamps are a hidden gem, stay away from the HF ratchet/spreader clamps.  I also got a free screwdriver set and hex wrench set with a coupon when I ordered some clamps.  Keep an eye out for the coupons.

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Most stuff from HF is junk but if you do some research they have a few things that are good.  From what I have found, the Pittsburgh   clamps are a hidden gem, stay away from the HF ratchet/spreader clamps.  I also got a free screwdriver set and hex wrench set with a coupon when I ordered some clamps.  Keep an eye out for the coupons.

I've got a bunch of those Pittsburgh clamps. If you are talking about the blue ones.

 

I paid $2.99 for 6" ones, and they have quickly become my favorite clamps.

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Those are the ones.  

The longer ones bend quite a bit when under tension, but they get the job done for $5 each.

 

I plan on picking up about 2-4 more soon. I would like to have about ten of the 36" clamps, 24" clamps, 12" clamps, and four of the 6" clamps. That would set me over for a good while.

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