kevin_c

Harbor Freight

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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.

Which clamps? Pic?

They have limited clamp selection at my HF and I wouldn't mind getting a pointer on which ones were the good ones.

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I got a 23 gauge micro pin nail gun at HF for under $30 . It shoots up to a 1" nail. It does a decent job . It does not compare to my Grex gun but it is handy to have 2 sizes of pins loaded and just switch guns .

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Which clamps? Pic?

They have limited clamp selection at my HF and I wouldn't mind getting a pointer on which ones were the good ones.

image_14720.jpg

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There are two things that go into the quality of a product: the quality of the design, and quality control, i.e., checking that the product was actually manufactured to spec. When I read that somebody has used a Festool router, or a Bridgeport mill, and they like it, I can go out and buy the same one and it will indeed be identical. It's not that these companies have somehow figured out the trick to produce 100% consistent stuff all the time, but they do a lot of quality control and feed it back into their manufacturing process continuously. I think that's why you read such mixed reviews of Harbor Freight stuff: usually, it's designed to a budget, but the design is pretty good given the budget. It's just that to get consistent quality, from product to product and from batch to batch, is expensive, and Harbor Freight clearly economizes on it.

 

Good quality control is notoriously hard to do when you are bidding things out to contract manufacturers in China. I have heard this from several people involved with manufacturing in China. It's not that they put something in the water in China that makes tools less accurate or workers more sloppy. It's just that the typical model with outsourced manufacturing is to take your specs around to various contract shops, place a big order, hope for the best and wait for the 20' container to show up. If your quality control is entirely on the US side, that makes for an enormously loose feedback loop. And what do you do if you receive a container full of doweling jigs with off-center guide bushings? Sue in Chinese court? The commercial law is not very well developed in China; to do business, you have to develop relationships to the point where you can trust people, and then proceed to trust them.

 

The companies that are most successful at doing high quality manufacturing in China often find out that it's not as much cheaper as they hoped for. I mean, presumably it's still a little bit cheaper, or they wouldn't bother –– with the exception, possibly, of consumer electronics, where the supply chain in Shenzhen, Guangdong is just unique in the world (but rife with counterfeits). They have skilled people on the ground all the time (who can be mighty expensive), or they work with contract manufacturers that have really gotten themselves a reputation for quality (and charge a premium for it). Some other examples of high-quality products coming out of China recently have been homegrown Chinese companies, like Rigol, which makes surprisingly good electronic test equipment, both under its own name and as a contract manufacturer. Obviously, if Engineering is in China too, the feedback cycle between Production and Engineering can be pretty tight again.

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Found some today at my local HF. I'm in need of 36", and they were all out of those. But I also need some short ones for a project I'm working on, and grabbed a few 6" to see how they work out.

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I've got two of those clamps, and they work well.  I have a dozen of the Black/Orange plastic "clamps" and they work..... occasionally.  I bought one of their wooden handscrew clamps with the intention of cutting it and turning it into either a drill press vise for pen blanks or the tail vise of my bench.  (again, with that idea that it's ok to "destroy" something they sell because the price is so low.)

 

I've used their turning tool set for a while, and only one handle has cracked on me... and since I rarely use that gouge, I'm not really out much.  I've purchased their two sided sharpening stone, again on that concept of "get what you pay for," and have not had any complaints for the "hack jobs" I use it for.  I've purchased sandpaper from there that had both good and bad sheets in the same pack.

 

I've acquired those little plastic "kit boxes" from them for things like grommets, rivets, and springs for various smaller projects, with only one complaint... but that was because the rivet gun I purchased from there didn't work with the size of rivets I bought.

 

I have an air pin/stapler combo unit, but never plugged it in, because I didn't get back in time for the compressor. 

 

I use their tool boxes for quite a bit.  (One not only holds my tools but my rear end when I need to work on the brakes... and has only given out once.)

 

I think the best thing that they have done, besides the DC unit, is that you go there expecting a disposable tool, part, or component.  In that instance, I think you get far more than what you pay for... particularly if it holds up better than you expected it would (like my Chicago Electric corded 3/8" drill).

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Found some today at my local HF. I'm in need of 36", and they were all out of those. But I also need some short ones for a project I'm working on, and grabbed a few 6" to see how they work out.

Out of all the sizes, the 6" clamp is the one I reach for the most.

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The little $7 wood handled pull saw is a great little tool. I bought one because I needed a .024 kerf and it has exceeded my expectations. On the other hand, the black and orange pull saw is terrible for woodworking though it's an okay pruning saw for branches up to a few inches diameter.

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I have many thing from HF. Mostly clamps (the black and orange ones are crap), screw drivers, and small hand tools. They work okay. If I were using them in an everyday type shop they wouldn't last a week, but for the occasional work that I use them for not bad.


 

I do have some power tools from HF circular saw, chop saw, drill, and air compressor, everything has minor issues except the air compressor. It is a great tool. I over work that thing all the time (I am trying to break it as I want a larger one) and it has lasted 7 years! Great tool for the price.
 
The best way I can sum it up is, if you like to gamble shop at HF. You may win big with a cheep air compressor that just won't die, or you may lose big when the chain snaps on your engine hoist and squishes your friend who is just trying to help you move some tools.

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I did a review on the black and orange one handed squeeze clamps from HF several years back. In the review I showed a way to alter them to make them far stronger. The fix costs just pennies and only takes a few minutes. You can "fix" all those cheap clamps faster than you can drive back to one of their stores. The only thing is the grip strength is still a function of the plastic clutch plates. I never got into wanting to "fix" those ;-)

 

http://www.bt3central.com/showthread.php?t=50271&highlight=clamps

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Besides being an interesting site to follow, check out svseeker.com and his YouTube channel.  The guy is building a 73 ft steel sailboat in his front yard and a good portion of the tools/equipment he uses is from HF.

 

To keep it on topic, he build an ambient pressure wooden submarine and details that on his site as well.

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I needed a paint sprayer for a project I finished last week.  

I bought the $20 electric sprayer.  The project was a porch swing

with a lot of slats.  The sprayer did a good job and probably worth the 

money.

Dennis

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My first wood lathe was HF's 5-speed 10" x 18" model.  I paid $144 for it after a 20% coupon.  As far as I can tell and from what I've been able to find out online, it is absolutely identical to Rockler's "Excelsior" lathe (except for the color)  I also have a ton of the blue clamps and a revolving stock of the orange/black plastic "cramps".  One other thing I'm surprised nobody else mentioned is their tool cabinets.  They have a 45" base/top combo that can be purchased for under $700!  I researched everything available in the market and turned this set upside down, inside out to try to find out what was "wrong" with them and came to the conclusion that they are an unsung bargain from HF ... along with the blue clamps.  They also have a 26" top/bottom set that is also full-depth all the way for around $300 and a 5-drawer "cart" (red) that is often on sale for $159.  Every one of these pieces is built like a blockhouse, uses great casters, thick steel, pneumatic top-lifts and full-length ball-bearing slides.  The 5 drawer cart also has locking drawers.  All of the good ones are only available in a gloss red finish.  The matte-black finish pieces are junk as well as the older style matte red ones. 

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FYI, the Black and Orange clamps have changed to Black and Gray, still crap. First clamp that I grabbed I tried to clamp to a counter didn't hold and dropped on the floor.

Also the black and orange clamps  are still in HF ads but the 2 stores near me have changed to the black and gray clamps.

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i recently (about a month ago) purchased a dozen of the blue and gray handled F-clamps of various sizes because they were on sale. I have used them regularly with no issues, i have yet to see one slip while clamping projects or jigs to a table, etc., unlike some other off-brand clamps i have used. for the money i would by a lot more and suggest them as a buy!

 

has anyone used any of their aluminium bar clamps? i was going to buy a couple of them, but the aluminium bar seems to be pretty flimsy and flexes more than i would like. at least compared to other name brand clamps of this style.
http://www.harborfreight.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/i/m/image_13636.jpg

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I went in yesterday bought a 4 piece ratcheting 15ft strap set for $8.00. They also had a deal that you get a free tape measure with any purchase. From what I can tell, this tape measure is actually really nice.

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i recently (about a month ago) purchased a dozen of the blue and gray handled F-clamps of various sizes because they were on sale. I have used them regularly with no issues, i have yet to see one slip while clamping projects or jigs to a table, etc., unlike some other off-brand clamps i have used. for the money i would by a lot more and suggest them as a buy!

 

has anyone used any of their aluminium bar clamps? i was going to buy a couple of them, but the aluminium bar seems to be pretty flimsy and flexes more than i would like. at least compared to other name brand clamps of this style.

http://www.harborfreight.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/i/m/image_13636.jpg

 

I've looked at those aluminum clamps too and they just look crappy to me.  No actual experience with them though. 

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i recently (about a month ago) purchased a dozen of the blue and gray handled F-clamps of various sizes because they were on sale. I have used them regularly with no issues, i have yet to see one slip while clamping projects or jigs to a table, etc., unlike some other off-brand clamps i have used. for the money i would by a lot more and suggest them as a buy!

 

has anyone used any of their aluminium bar clamps? i was going to buy a couple of them, but the aluminium bar seems to be pretty flimsy and flexes more than i would like. at least compared to other name brand clamps of this style.

http://www.harborfreight.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/i/m/image_13636.jpg

I didn't realize it at first, but my dad actually have those exact clamps. Do they bend a lot, absolutely. I will not deny that. But, they do work if you are on a budget. I used them in conjunction with other clamps, and they held their own. Good enough for gluing up a 1" thick maple top for a project. Granted, I did a really good job with the edges and making sure there were no gaps to really close with clamps.

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i recently (about a month ago) purchased a dozen of the blue and gray handled F-clamps of various sizes because they were on sale. I have used them regularly with no issues, i have yet to see one slip while clamping projects or jigs to a table, etc., unlike some other off-brand clamps i have used. for the money i would by a lot more and suggest them as a buy!

 

has anyone used any of their aluminium bar clamps? i was going to buy a couple of them, but the aluminium bar seems to be pretty flimsy and flexes more than i would like. at least compared to other name brand clamps of this style.

http://www.harborfreight.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/i/m/image_13636.jpg

 

I have had 4 of the aluminum bar clamps. They do work as long as you don't need too much clamping pressure from them. They flex a lot and one of the castings snapped on mine while under pressure. Also, the plastic pads mar wood very easily. Mine are all covered with thin wood pads now.

 

Like everyone else, I'm a fan of the F clamps! :)

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My useful HF purchases include:

 

- Neoprene gloves (regularily!)

- Their better air hose offerings

- Casters (need to hand pick, QC is all over the place)

- Low usage mechanics tools, like oddball sockets that get left out in the shed or used once a year

- Plastic automotive interior trim tools

- A floor jack

- A mechanic's creeper

- Moving dollies

- Squeeze bottles

 

Lots of stuff in the store really is total crap...  Tape that doesn't stick, foam brushes that fall apart... 

 

However, many of their power tools are identical to Grizzly's lowest offerings, and a few are close to some older Jet tools.  There might be a value here or there on power tools, but for tools that will get real usage, I'll usually choose good used commercial / pro stuff over new low-line from anyone, even brand names.   I don't have time or patience for cheezy clamps, etc...  I'd rather buy Bessey or Jorgensen from a discounter like Coastal Tool, or used, and leave them to someone else in my will someday.  Any tool that can injure me if it fails, like grinding wheels, or tools that take a lot of stress, are out of my consideration.

 

I'll add that I like Harbor Freight a lot better since a local store opened.  Since their QC can only be termed slapdash, there are items I'll consider if I can hand pick the examples, or easily return, that I never would have considered mail ordering.

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I have a bunch of HF aluminum bar clamps and like them a lot. I also buy disposables there - things like gloves for finishing. Harbor Freight is also a source for people who, frankly, like to work with wood, but can't afford Festool tools or other high-end items.

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I have a bunch of HF aluminum bar clamps and like them a lot. I also buy disposables there - things like gloves for finishing. Harbor Freight is also a source for people who, frankly, like to work with wood, but can't afford Festool tools or other high-end items.

I have Festool items, but I also like to stay frugal with whatever purchases I can. Could I buy the $30, $40, $50 parallel clamps? Yes, I would just need to save longer. Do I absolutely need them? No, I can  get by just fine with the HF clamps. Do I need an expensive screw driver set? Nope, HF does just fine for now. 

 

I like to save money where I can, and spend what I save on more important items. Before anyone says, "the tools you buy more than once...etc etc..." I have yet to break or replace the aluminum bar clamps my dad has from HF after 5 years of decent use, along with my 4 year old screw driver set, ratchet straps, and other miscellaneous bits. Just be smart with what you buy. 

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I will not shop at harbor freight. My father taught me from a young age that it just isnt worth it when buying cheap tools.

The frustration and expense of inevitably replacing the tool add up to more than a middle-upper range tool

For this reason, right now i dont have quite a complete shop but all of my tools should (if well maintained and looked after) last longer than me.

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Two bits from me today.  First, my father still shops at Harbor Freight, despite repeated tool failure.  One of the things that he likes is that they have that replacement guarantee on tools he purchases.  He has taken things back three and four times to get one job done.  He's also taken things back three times then asked for his money back to get a better tool somewhere else to finish the job.  It depends what you are looking to get out of it.

 

Craftsman still has that money back guarantee on their tools, and Harbor Freight copied that for their business model.  It's a good thing they did, based off the quality I've seen and that my dad has told me about.

 

Second thing: my father in law worked there for a while.  He used to be an Over The Road truck delivery for Do It Best before he retired, then picked up a part time at Harbor Freight for about a year when he got bored.  He commented that he saw as much returns from customers at Harbor Freight in one week as Do It Best might get in a year.  Quality?  Yup, definitely something to pay attention to.  But, you gets what you pays for, and if you're happy with it, go ahead.

 

I'm not ashamed to admit I shop at Harbor Freight.  I'm even not ashamed to admit I buy from Harbor Freight.  Recently, I got irritated because I saw one of my fantastic ideas from three years ago for sale there, so I know they have product innovation.  And the small pump I purchased from there works fine... the plastic piping they provided with it cracked under simple hand pressure from assembling, however.  (But the geese thanked me immediately for providing a drinking fountain... which was completely opposite the intended desire.)

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