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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Here's a fun twist...post a photo of all the hf tools within easy reach

I use these pretty regularly:
View attachment 434677


Not pictured
Deadblow mallet
Dust collector
Extension cords
Might as well just post a link to my shop tour then...


Seriously it is too much to list, MOST of my automotive tools shelf with stuff in blow molded cases is from Harbor Freight, including my 4x4 ball joint service set, my rack and pinion tie rod service set, cooling system tester. blah blah blah...

It does what i need it to do, just like my B&D battery charger does what I need that to do...

Oddly enough, if you asked me would I buy a Harbor Freight plane. Probably not. Modern Stanleys are bad enough.
 

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The question keeps coming up A LOT on this and other forums and I wanted to address this head on.

It depends.

Simply put, as many of you know by now, most of the tool manufacturing that is going on is happening more or less in the same factories in China. There are slight variances in specifications / features, but overall, at their core, most of the tools kind for kind are more or less the same thing.

To be blunt, Harbor Freight sells a lot of tools that are absolutely best bang for the buck, as long as...

#1. You do not want / need, or are wiling to retrofit some of the fancier features. An example would be cartridge filters on the dust collector, or tension quick release mechanism on the 14" bandsaw. These same features are missing on MANY Of the consumer grade tools though.
#2. You are the quality control. Get the item, use the snot out of it in the warranty period. If it dies in the warranty period take it back and get a new one. If it doesn't it will likely outlive you.
#3. For the most part, their bits and blades are absolute garbage. NOT universally true statement, but it is enough to make me second guess buying them. I will buy the HSS hole saws for jobs I know will mess up a hole saw as I KNOW they are disposable. The BiMetal hole saws have been perfect for my use, and the masonry bits have been great though. Otherwise, nope...
#4. Some of the tools I bought from them for one job, are still with me, working 10+ years later. These include the 1/2" hammer drill, and an angle grinder.
#5. Sometimes their stuff outclasses the big names. I absolutely LOVE my Drill Master pocket hole jig and wouldn't consider the plastic based Kreg...

And with the used market being what it is. I honestly couldn't have afforded to outfit my home workshop without Harbor Freight, and particulary their older selection of tools.

They do seem to be wanting to move up market and have several lines of tools that are price and feature positioned to go up against Metabo, DeWalt, and Rigid, that category of tools, but they still only have a 90 day warranty. They SERIOUSLY need to reconsider that policy if they expect to sell at those price points.

For me and my shop, I have the following HF items that have worked GREAT over the years.

14" bandsaw.
2HP dust collector
12" sliding miter saw
Mortising machine
JWL1236 clone lathe.
4x24 belt sander
1/2" hammer drill
angle grinder
Dozens of clamps
29 gallon air compressor
8 gallon air compressor
Compressed air regulator / filter, and dessicant dryer / filter with bridging clamp.
50' self retracting hose reel
3/8" breaker bar
screwdriver sets.
tape measures
1/2" impact extensions
Variable Speed oscillating multi tool
Multi tool blades.

There are some tools of theirs I worry about.
Planers. Except for the newer Bauer model, but at that price, might as well get a Wen and at least get a spiral cutterhead.
Router. Nope, those just scare me.
Most of their handheld sanders. Specs lower than Ryobi, and similar prices with nearly no warranty. Pass.

Now is this stuff as nice, fancy, feature packed, or powerful as say Powermatic, or whatever. Hardly, and we all know it. Is there any way even on the used market I am going to be able to afford it? I hunt and play guitar as well. So, not hardly...

Do these inexpensive tools get me out into the shop and productive?

As much as any tools can, yes. And that is the whole point.

We all have our own tolerance for the levels of finnesse for our tools. I personally have a fairly high tolerance for stuff rough around the edges.
It's like any other place, some tools are great and some are so/so to completely lousy. There 1/2" hammer drill will work fine but if you do very much you would be better off with another brand. I've had two of them and the last one the trigger stuck in the on position so I retired it and bought a Milwaukee hammer drill even though it was about five times the price. I've had 4 of their angle grinders over the years and only one of them has quit. It was a really good buy especially for the price. I haven't bought many of their clamps but have bought a pipe clamp which is every bit as good as Pony. I had one pancake compressor that worked for years but another compressor didn't last very long. I eventually put the compressor off the pancake on the larger tank of the other. Their wrenches have been every bit as good as any I've every bought as well as the screwdriver sets. The only tape measures I've gotten from them is the 25' tapes they used to give away free. Out of about 8 of them one didn't measure correctly and one the spring broke the first time it was used. I've had good luck with their machinery. I've got a metal cutting bandsaw, cement mixer, spindle sander and a couple dust collectors that work well.
 

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I remember buying 3 HF heat guns becausd I didn't want to pay for the milwaukee. Got by heating laminate on curves, but took three to do it. Two quit , one survived...
 

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According to Forbes Magazine Harbor Freight companies are privately held company and did approximately 5.1 billion dollars with a sales last year.

They as a company must be doing something right. I still believe some of their house brand tools are no better or worse than some of the house brand tools by the big box stores. it is some cases they came from the same foundry as the other places use. with different names and look identical. but it does not mean they are the same some with short warranties like 90 days vs 1 year. I do buy from them once in awhile for odd items. like packing blankets or three piece gear puller kit.
 

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They have Sone stuff that's pretty popular. I think it wa a garage mechanic website that said their wrenches weren't snap-on quality but held their own with the rest...
 

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Agreed....

FWIW, for what I use it for, the 4x24 belt sander works fine, and will likely outlive me. I don't use one often, so it won't get worn out.

The dust collector band saw, and miter saw get a LOT of use, I mean a LOT...
I'll stick with Bosch and PC FOR a belt sander cause I do use it alot..

The 125 clamps I bought at HF for 25 cents each I've only have 1-2 fail in all the years and I've used them hobby and professional..
Wood Floor Flooring Hardwood Lumber


Wood Engineering Gas Electrical wiring Machine
 

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The pipe clamp kits aren't near the quality of jorgensen , but will hp get you by..
 

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The question keeps coming up A LOT on this and other forums and I wanted to address this head on.

It depends.

Simply put, as many of you know by now, most of the tool manufacturing that is going on is happening more or less in the same factories in China. There are slight variances in specifications / features, but overall, at their core, most of the tools kind for kind are more or less the same thing.

To be blunt, Harbor Freight sells a lot of tools that are absolutely best bang for the buck, as long as...

#1. You do not want / need, or are wiling to retrofit some of the fancier features. An example would be cartridge filters on the dust collector, or tension quick release mechanism on the 14" bandsaw. These same features are missing on MANY Of the consumer grade tools though.
#2. You are the quality control. Get the item, use the snot out of it in the warranty period. If it dies in the warranty period take it back and get a new one. If it doesn't it will likely outlive you.
#3. For the most part, their bits and blades are absolute garbage. NOT universally true statement, but it is enough to make me second guess buying them. I will buy the HSS hole saws for jobs I know will mess up a hole saw as I KNOW they are disposable. The BiMetal hole saws have been perfect for my use, and the masonry bits have been great though. Otherwise, nope...
#4. Some of the tools I bought from them for one job, are still with me, working 10+ years later. These include the 1/2" hammer drill, and an angle grinder.
#5. Sometimes their stuff outclasses the big names. I absolutely LOVE my Drill Master pocket hole jig and wouldn't consider the plastic based Kreg...

And with the used market being what it is. I honestly couldn't have afforded to outfit my home workshop without Harbor Freight, and particulary their older selection of tools.

They do seem to be wanting to move up market and have several lines of tools that are price and feature positioned to go up against Metabo, DeWalt, and Rigid, that category of tools, but they still only have a 90 day warranty. They SERIOUSLY need to reconsider that policy if they expect to sell at those price points.

For me and my shop, I have the following HF items that have worked GREAT over the years.

14" bandsaw.
2HP dust collector
12" sliding miter saw
Mortising machine
JWL1236 clone lathe.
4x24 belt sander
1/2" hammer drill
angle grinder
Dozens of clamps
29 gallon air compressor
8 gallon air compressor
Compressed air regulator / filter, and dessicant dryer / filter with bridging clamp.
50' self retracting hose reel
3/8" breaker bar
screwdriver sets.
tape measures
1/2" impact extensions
Variable Speed oscillating multi tool
Multi tool blades.

There are some tools of theirs I worry about.
Planers. Except for the newer Bauer model, but at that price, might as well get a Wen and at least get a spiral cutterhead.
Router. Nope, those just scare me.
Most of their handheld sanders. Specs lower than Ryobi, and similar prices with nearly no warranty. Pass.

Now is this stuff as nice, fancy, feature packed, or powerful as say Powermatic, or whatever. Hardly, and we all know it. Is there any way even on the used market I am going to be able to afford it? I hunt and play guitar as well. So, not hardly...

Do these inexpensive tools get me out into the shop and productive?

As much as any tools can, yes. And that is the whole point.

We all have our own tolerance for the levels of finnesse for our tools. I personally have a fairly high tolerance for stuff rough around the edges.
Here is the breakdown of who makes the tools. You will notice that Makita is not on this list. Makita is one of the few tool companies I know of that are independently owned.
Product Font Parallel Circle Illustration
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
The pipe clamp kits aren't near the quality of jorgensen , but will hp get you by..
FWIW, the HF Pipe clamps in my experience were so awful that I more or less gave up on pipe clamps.
 

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You have to have them for cabinet work.. pretty much a fact..
 

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FWIW, the HF Pipe clamps in my experience were so awful that I more or less gave up on pipe clamps.
If the HF pipe clamps are so bad, don't buy HF pipe clamps kits. Buy Jorgensen, etc..

So the recommendation from you and a big country is to not buy HF pipe clampe kits, correct?

There has been many discussions over the years on numerous forum that the HF pipe clamp kits were a good bang for your money.
 

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I don't claim to be an expert on pipe clamps I just know the HF ones didn't work for me. When I upgraded to pony heads it wasn't any better.
 

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Here are the pictures from 2005. its an old discussion.. ive also used them for finished backs. Guilty....
Tire Automotive tire Wood Gas Audio equipment
Hand tool Wood Tool Metalworking hand tool Stonemason's hammer
Wood Wood stain Fender Gas Hardwood
Wood Flooring Floor Hardwood Gas
.
 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
If the HF pipe clamps are so bad, don't buy HF pipe clamps kits. Buy Jorgensen, etc..

So the recommendation from you and a big country is to not buy HF pipe clampe kits, correct?

There has been many discussions over the years on numerous forum that the HF pipe clamp kits were a good bang for your money.
MY experience with the HF pipe clamps is lousy. Not a quality issue so much as i bought the wrong ones. IF you are going to get pipe clamps, get the ones with the base. I got the ones without and they are a royal PITA to use / keep from rolling around on you.

I believe Jorgenson offers similiar to both styles and would likely have the same issues. The other issue would be 100% same complaint with the Jorgenson. No clamp pads. These appear to be accessories. I ended up just using some leftover Plastidip to cushion the jaws and give them a bit more grip. Just scuff the clamp face finish and paint the stuff on and let it dry.

FWIW, the Jorgenson add on pads fit the HF clamps...

What I ended up with are these...


If you look somewhat closely you can see the, uh, feet(?) of the clamp are kind of rounded, this causes the clamp to roll a bit if you are winding it enthusiastically....

And not these... Which have a nice 4 point contact that doesn't crown like the others, thus does not tend to roll... They also have screw holes if you want to attach little wooden block faces to the clamp.



It is NOT often a problem for me though, Aside from the RARE occasion I glue up a carcass for a book case, I never need clamps longer than my 36" bar clamps... And I CAN make the wrong pipe clamps work...
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
Here are the pictures from 2005. its an old discussion.. ive also used them for finished backs. Guilty.... View attachment 434704 View attachment 434705 View attachment 434706 View attachment 434707 .
Okay FWIW, my footless HF pipe clamps do NOT do that. The bottoms are more rounded, and they DO cover fully the detent things, sorry I don't know what the proper name for them is, but the little adjuster paddle gizmos...

Yeah that would tick me off to no end.

And yeah, for LARGE cabinets, book case carcasses and the like, there just isn't another tool that will work.

My little Plastidip mod on the faces works fine for me to get a grip with them. And I don't have a lot. Only a half dozen.... The clamps themselves are not the expensive part, even if you bought higher end brands, it is the pipe itself...
 

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What are the expectations of the tool? How often will the tool be used? Is the tool "heavy duty" enough. Can you afford the tool to fail in the middle of a job?

I own some HF tools. I try to balance the amount of usage with the cost of the tool. If the tool will be used every day then I tend not to buy HF. For the "one time" use of maybe half dozen uses then HF "can" be a good buy. Somebody mentioned Snap-On. Very good tools but at a price most can't afford. Most mechanics have a running tab with the Snap-On dealer. The dealers do this for a reason. Keep them coming in the truck to pay the bill and see the new shiney tool they "have" to buy.

Make you choices, pay your money and live with what you purchase, don't be afraid to change brands.

Ken
 

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One tool from HF I do really like is their T-handled allen wrenches. Great bang for the buck and you don’t sweat if one goes missing from time to time.

As others have said analyze what it’s worth to you and pay for the tool that’s worth it to you in your circumstance. If your fortunate to not have to rely on Hf than great, for those on a tighter budget, Hf can keep you in the game.
 

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Here is the breakdown of who makes the tools. You will notice that Makita is not on this list. Makita is one of the few tool companies I know of that are independently owned. View attachment 434693
And now you can add SK tools (Sycamore,IL) to Black and Decker as well as MTD products as they had bought 20% of the company a while back and last fall bought the remaining 80%. So there in lawn equipment now also.
Stanley also just bought Huster Turf Equipment (higher end zero turn mowers).
Didn't see that one coming (I know the head engineer).

If you need Powers cement spike/nails they will now be in a Dewalt box.

Black and Decker own Cold forming shops in the US so I would expect hand tools to stay mostly here. SK tools is relocating to Pennsylvania.

Small but well know Salt Spreader company I started with is now as well as all of it's competition owned by an international company based in Europe.
Machinist most of my career could never get more than 10 years in a place before being sold out & relocating or out of business.
Glad to be retired and out of the rat race.
 

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And now you can add SK tools (Sycamore,IL) to Black and Decker as well as MTD products as they had bought 20% of the company a while back and last fall bought the remaining 80%. So there in lawn equipment now also.
Stanley also just bought Huster Turf Equipment (higher end zero turn mowers).
Didn't see that one coming (I know the head engineer).

If you need Powers cement spike/nails they will now be in a Dewalt box.

Black and Decker own Cold forming shops in the US so I would expect hand tools to stay mostly here. SK tools is relocating to Pennsylvania.

Small but well know Salt Spreader company I started with is now as well as all of it's competition owned by an international company based in Europe.
Machinist most of my career could never get more than 10 years in a place before being sold out & relocating or out of business.
Glad to be retired and out of the rat race.
I thought SK went tits up a while back. I guess I was wrong. They always used to be good tools. That was many years ago though.
Ken
 

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Discussion Starter · #40 ·
I thought SK went tits up a while back. I guess I was wrong. They always used to be good tools. That was many years ago though.
Ken
I haven't seen, nor heard much about SK tools since the early 00's.... Blast from the past time. Yes, when I saw them around they were good tools at a reasonable but not great price. Sort of a poor man's Snap On...
 
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