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post #1 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 01:20 PM Thread Starter
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Harbor Freight Tools

I hear two opinons about Harbor Freight tools. One is that they are just junk and the other that they do okay for a home workshop, unless you are a serious woodworker. I was given a couple drills and a grinder as presents and they seem to work okay.

I'll bet I hear both opinions on here, but it will be interesting to me.
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post #2 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 01:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Star1pup View Post
I hear two opinons about Harbor Freight tools. One is that they are just junk and the other that they do okay for a home workshop, unless you are a serious woodworker. I was given a couple drills and a grinder as presents and they seem to work okay.

I'll bet I hear both opinions on here, but it will be interesting to me.
It's hit and miss. You could have the one good or one bad out of 100 no telling. I have some stuff I consider good some ok while some either went back immediately or were never purchased.
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post #3 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 02:00 PM
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Their mechanics hand tools are perfectly fine for weekend warrior use. The "bang for the buck" is extremely high. In the past year they've made very strong improvements to the quality, fit, finish, and design of their mechanic's tools.

Their woodworking hand tools and disposables are simply a case of "you get what you pay for". Everything metal is a little soft - chisels, files, drill bits, clamps. Their saw blades only use C2 carbide. You can tune them up, but they go soft. A lot of their stuff has plastic parts in places you'd rather see metal (but it only costs $5!). Haven't used the sandpaper belts but heard they are only as durable as 5 for $5 can be expected. "Bang for the buck" is totally average. You get $5 worth of use out of the $5 tool.

Power tools are not feature rich. They're basic. They all work just fine for basic tasks. They all will need a little tuning up out of the box. "Bang for the buck" is above average, in my opinion ($120 for a 12" sliding compound miter saw?!?). Just takes some work to tune them up.

The MAJOR problem with HF's lower quality tools (ie, not mechanic's hand tools) is exactly like RRBrown says: QA. Quality Assurance, Quality Control. Two guys can buy the exact same thing in two different cities. One works perfectly for 5 years, the other breaks after 5 minutes.

Always keep your receipts on power tools. They all have a 90-day no questions asked warranty. I've used it once. I had a grinder that only ran for about 30 minutes and then the magic smoke came out. Took it back, swapped it, and the one I got was good. It's been running strong for 3 years now. Not huge use, but it's probably working an hour a week. Anecdotal evidence is the stuff that will break does so within the first few days.

Ignore anyone that mentions "China sucks" this or that. Remember that HF's tools are manufactured in China to the specifications set by HF. Just like Dewalt, Craftsman, Delta, Grizzly, Jet, and everyone else...
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post #4 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 02:14 PM Thread Starter
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That low price on the sliding compound miter saw was what got me interested in the first place. I think here it was $169, but that's at least $200 less than the more known models. I'm going to have that much in a RAS I bought at a garage sale and am fixing up, and I'll bet the HF miter will do as well as this old Craftsman 9" RAS.
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post #5 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 03:01 PM
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Many are hit and miss, and none are the best available, but their return policy is generous, their discounts are attractive, and many of the tools can be very serviceable for a hobbyist. I've got a good HF 13" DP, mortising machine, a nailor, many clamps, and compressor from them that I'm happy with. I tend to avoid their blades and bits. If there's a store near you, give them a try. If there's no store I'd stick with more of the proven items.
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post #6 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 03:07 PM
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If you are interested in the 12" slider, watch the coupons! Since I bought mine, the cheapest coupon price I have seen is $119.00... I got mine for $109.00. The blade stinks, but aside from swapping a new blade in, setting the stops and angle indicators, and adapting the dust collection for my shop vac, it has been a workhorse. Settings have held reliably with frequent, hard use since December last year... I swapped in a Freud Diablo D1280X 12" crosscutting blade and the cuts are smooth as silk. Now mind you, I double check my angles before I make a single cut. But I would do that with a new Festool Kapex as well... It's more checking the user than the tool... So far no off square, or off angle cuts that weren't caused by user stupidity (chips behind the work piece not letting it sit flat to the fence etc...)

If you are that concerned with it, Harbor Freight offers a 2 year extended service plan for cheap... But typically, what will break on them will usually break within the first week. I just take the new tools home, use the heck out of them for a couple of weeks to verify function, and then use them to death...

I do agree, some of the metals aren't hardened as we would like on things like bits and blades. I simply put only buy HF bits if I know they are a one use thing, and you can forget HF blades...

If you are going to grab one, and want to connect a shop vac, I used the 1.25" to 2.5" rubber plumbing adapter from Home Depot for mine.

The Diablo blade adds about $55.00 to the overall cost, but is WELL worth every penny, several times over...

Interested in my woodworking, workshop and whatnot? See http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com, want to see my other interests such as hunting, fishing, off roading, and camping? See http://wildersport-outdoors.blogspot.com
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post #7 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 03:11 PM Thread Starter
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I've been researching miter saws on the Internet and my brain is now more numb than usual. The reviews on Craftsman are not that much better than HF and I think both are made in China. I'm kind of leaning toward a HF 12" and not sure if I really need the sliding feature with a blade that big. I can always use my table saw if the piece is too big for the miter.

I was a video producer and once pitched a corporate video to a company that made Crafstman sockets as well as their own cheaper brand. I asked the difference and the guy laughed at me and said "do you think we change everything on the line other than just the machine that stamps on the names?"
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post #8 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 03:18 PM
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Star1pup, you make my point exactly. What knotscott said is dead right. None of their stuff is the best available, but many of their machines, at least the major components of them are exactly the same thing as what sells under much higher priced brands. It's no different than the badge engineering that goes on all the time in the automotive world... You get a different grille, tailights, and badge on the dash board. Or in the case of say a 14" band saw, different stand, tension release knob, switch and paint color. NEXT!

I keep a miter saw for crosscutting longer work pieces that I don't feel comfortable cutting on my SMT. Which means any stock over about 36". And there's jobs where the miter saw is easier to just set up with stop blocks, slide the stock into place, zip through, let the blade spin down, remove the work piece, repeat the process...

Interested in my woodworking, workshop and whatnot? See http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com, want to see my other interests such as hunting, fishing, off roading, and camping? See http://wildersport-outdoors.blogspot.com
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post #9 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 03:28 PM Thread Starter
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dbhost: Thanks. This all makes sense as I already have a Craftsman table saw I bought in the 60s or early 70s and it is SOLID. No stamped table. I could use the miter saw for crosscutting and the table saw for other cuts.

My former neighbor was a mechanic on big dozers, etc. He used professional tools at work, but used a lot of HF wrenches at home.

Hope hurricane alley stays calm. I have a son in Dallas and a grandson in the Coast Guard stationed in N. Orleans. Here in Ohio we get tornadoes.
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post #10 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 07:08 PM Thread Starter
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Is it worth the gain to get the 10" sliding miter saw instead of the 12".

The extra price doesn't bother me, but I could probably use some of the blades I already have for my 10" table saw.
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post #11 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 08:14 PM
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Rule of thumb is that 12" is less accurate than 10". Blade flex. If it's the same motor as the 10", it'll bog easier.

You don't really want to use tablesaw blades on a sliding miter saw. Sliding saws want to use blades with a negative, or very low positive, hook angle on the teeth. Higher hook angles will draw the saw blade into the work, accelerating the saw head. It makes it harder to control.

Especially talking HF stuff, I would get the 10" if you're wanting to do quality finish work. Trim, crown, etc. Precise miters.

If you're mostly going to use it for framing or anything else that will tolerate a cut slightly off from 90*, a 12" is great due to the larger width of cut.
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post #12 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 09:18 PM Thread Starter
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[QUOTE=Porphyre;239604]
You don't really want to use tablesaw blades on a sliding miter saw. Sliding saws want to use blades with a negative, or very low positive, hook angle on the teeth. Higher hook angles will draw the saw blade into the work, accelerating the saw head. It makes it harder to control.

So if I go to Home Depot and buy a 10" Diablo blade will it be a negative hook angle? If I do not get a sliding miter does it use regular tablewsaw blades? So much to learn and tomorrow (Thursday the 25th) is the last day of the sale so I need to get moving.
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post #13 of 32 Old 08-24-2011, 11:03 PM
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[quote=Star1pup;239629]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Porphyre View Post
You don't really want to use tablesaw blades on a sliding miter saw. Sliding saws want to use blades with a negative, or very low positive, hook angle on the teeth. Higher hook angles will draw the saw blade into the work, accelerating the saw head. It makes it harder to control.

So if I go to Home Depot and buy a 10" Diablo blade will it be a negative hook angle? If I do not get a sliding miter does it use regular tablewsaw blades? So much to learn and tomorrow (Thursday the 25th) is the last day of the sale so I need to get moving.
Some Diablo blades will have low or negative hook angle, but it varies by model....other Diablo blades for TS will have a steeper positive hook. A low hook angle is less critical on a CMS than a SCMS, but I'd still suggest keeping the hook angle at less than maybe 12-15.

Here's a visual that demonstrates hook angle (aka "rake"):
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post #14 of 32 Old 08-25-2011, 02:36 AM
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As far as the 12 vs 10"". Thing goes, the blade can flex but I run a full kerf blafe. Diablo blades are marked if for the type of saw they are appropriate for...

Interested in my woodworking, workshop and whatnot? See http://daves-workshop.blogspot.com, want to see my other interests such as hunting, fishing, off roading, and camping? See http://wildersport-outdoors.blogspot.com
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post #15 of 32 Old 08-25-2011, 03:52 PM
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Harbor Freight again...

Many pros buy HF tools for a single job. These tools are usually cheaper to purchase than renting. If the tool lasts for a second job, the pro has saved money. If the tool fails within 30 days of purchase the tool is replaced by HF.

As for stationary HF power tools, some are great, some are OK and some not OK. I have a HF, two wheel grinder that is superb. HOWEVER two quality grinding wheels cost almost as much as the grinder itself.

HF stationary power tools are hit and mostly miss. If you are good with fine tuning the tool, most can be made to work well. Adjustments may not be accurately repeatable.

Don't spend your money on HF clamps. The clamping pressure is almost never parallel.

The best deal at HF is their $10 or less 10" saw blades. Put one of these blades any time you are salvaging wood. These blades have a real ability for finding nails that you wouldn't want your $110 blade to find.

HF sells a baby poop green color fiberglass vernier caliper for about $3 and sometimes on sale for a dollar or two. Make sure that they read zero when the jaws are closed. Buy a bunch. They are great for use in the shop. (Several because the markings do wear off.) This is the single most used measuring device in my shop.

I have purchased a reciprocating saw (115 V) that I use once a year on my neighbor's trees. (LS NWGIH) A good blade in the saw and it works fine. Total running time over 3 years is probably two hours. At $20, what should I expect?

Use the right tool for the job.

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Remember that when we have the "BIG ONE" everything east of the Rockies falls into the ocean.
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post #16 of 32 Old 08-28-2011, 04:54 AM
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Harbor Freight, oh how I love to be tortured by them.

They do sell some (key word "some") good stuff, but you NEED to buy the 2yr warranty on ANYTHING power tool that they offer it on. Trust me, best insurance ever!

As or their stuff, some is great, some good, some horrible. I have a ton of their clamps, and while they aren't awesome, they do work, though some you need to watch the pressure or you will bend them. For the price though, they do real well. I have "adjusted" some of mine with a grinder and a file on the clamping pads to get them closer to parallel, but no big deal.

I also have their 12" sliding miter saw and have nothing but praise for it. I went through it and tuned it up real well when I bought, built a nice table for it and added a really sweet blade from Integra Precision (best blades on the market, PERIOD.) and another from Freud, and the thing cuts so dead nuts I can see my table-saw and Incra miter gauge get jealous!

I also have 2 of their lathes, the 5 speed mini lathe, which is just a sweet little machine that also has a nice duplicator set-up on it for cutting pens and other small "kit" turnings, and their 12"X36" swivel head lathe. I did have a few issues with the motor and belts on the big lathe, but they were real good about sending me a ton of new parts (pulleys, belts, new motor, etc.) and although the original motor got super hot after 45 minutes or so, it runs my 12" band-saw really well.

So in all, I have had good luck with them more often than not, and I plan to continue to do business with them. Especially when they carry something I need and I can't afford the big name stuff.

I will say, if it wasn't for HF tools, I wouldn't have several power tools that I love and really couldn't do without, as I just can't afford the big names in those areas.

Wayne

PS: I also have their metal detector "wand", and it's worth every penny and then some! I tested mine side by side with my buddies "Little Wizard", and my HF detector won hands down.
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post #17 of 32 Old 08-28-2011, 05:55 AM
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Mini Rant

I'm not going to bash HF, or Sears, or International Tool, or Enco, or Northern Tool, or HD, Or Lowes, or any place that sells a variety of tools. There's good and bad at all of them, and to have a vendetta is just useless.

To say...stay away from this specific tool at this specific place makes no sense. If an electric drill (or cordless for that matter), fails, and you had it replaced 185 times, and they keep failing, I would say you have a defective drill. But, poor performance of a tool may be just that particular tool and to say all corded tools from that source are junk is a gross generalization.

I buy quite a few tools, and some work better than others, some are less expensive than others. In the end, I usually wind up with getting the project done, and if necessary, received whatever exchanges or refunds or brand replacement.








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post #18 of 32 Old 08-28-2011, 08:23 AM Thread Starter
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I bought the 10" HF sliding miter and hope to have it set up today. By the time I got the website disocunt and then an additional 20% store discount it was less than $75! Since it was so cheap I also bought the 2 year warranty.

I had 2 HF cordless drills break when the guy heling me build an upper deck dropped them 12' to the concrete, but hard to blame HF for that.
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post #19 of 32 Old 08-28-2011, 12:01 PM Thread Starter
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Now that I bought the saw and have it about set up to try, I could use some help in "tuning" it. I keep reading from you more experienced woodworkers about tuning your miter saw and I would love some advice.
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post #20 of 32 Old 08-28-2011, 12:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Star1pup View Post
Now that I bought the saw and have it about set up to try, I could use some help in "tuning" it. I keep reading from you more experienced woodworkers about tuning your miter saw and I would love some advice.
Buy a decent blade for it....non-HF!
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