Building My Work Shop #9: The Dangerous Side of Cheap Power Tools

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Blog entry by Crushgroovin posted 12-21-2010 08:20 AM 2273 reads 0 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 8: Belsaw Molder Planer or Another Craigslist Bargain Part 9 of Building My Work Shop series Part 10: Slotted T Crank Handle for Powermatic Belsaw 12" Molder Planer Drum Sander »

When I started building my workshop I was on the tightest of tight budgets. So where do someone on a tight budget go for tools, yep Harbor Freight. While for the most part their products are ok if not cheaply built. I mean a cheap screwdriver may break but likely won’t cause serious injury(now some moron is going to post about how they lost their right ball due to a defective screwdriver). But man did I make a mistake buying power tools from them! Eeegad man!

The biggest mistake of all was to use my Father’s day gift card to buy a open box Thickness Planer. Within days of purchase I had destroyed the blade and the gib that holds it in place. I figured that was my mistake for attempting to make a cut 1/32” deep. So I replaced the gib got a new set of knives and was on my way.

Over the following months I would have kickbacks on occasion and tons of pull out but overall it did the job for my meager needs. Then today I finally got the brunt of it. Again I got all out of control and turned the hand by 1/4 of a revolution. A full revolution is 1/16” so what is that 1/64” cut? So I start slowly feeding it and BOOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE! Luckily I do know better than to stand behind any wood I am feeding into any machine. But it did catch the heel of my hand and that stung a bit. As for the rest you can see it pretty clearly. Blade Shattered, both gibs are destroyed. My one last Christmas present I was making for my brother, who surprised me with a present, Destroyed! It snapped that 6/4 thick board like dry spaghetti.

The guys at HF have been really cool to work with. So I am hoping when I take it in tomorrow I can get a refund or store credit for this piece of crap. For all the crap products they sell there their customer service is fantastic.

But really I am just glad I wasn’t hurt and my kids were inside.

Merry Christmas!!!!! (Yes I said Christmas cause that is what I celebrate. If you don’t that’s YOUR problem!)

-- I wouldn't be so arrogant if you weren't such a moron!

22 comments so far

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3550 days

#1 posted 12-21-2010 08:33 AM

At least you got away with only minor damage to yourself. I never buy power tools from HF, just can’t bring myself to do it. I would go without if I couldn’t afford it.

View Crushgroovin's profile


234 posts in 3432 days

#2 posted 12-21-2010 08:42 AM

Yeah when I started I was a bit naive, learned plenty since though!

-- I wouldn't be so arrogant if you weren't such a moron!

View WoodSparky's profile


200 posts in 3610 days

#3 posted 12-21-2010 08:49 AM

You have just reaffirmed my convictions about buying anything from HF with a cord or a hose required.
Sorry about your loss of the cutting board, and yes have a Merry Christmas.

-- So Many tools, So little time

View timjr's profile


28 posts in 3335 days

#4 posted 12-21-2010 08:51 AM

Is that an end-grain cutting board, perchance? Stories abound on the ‘net about them fragging planers.

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3550 days

#5 posted 12-21-2010 08:52 AM

I have certainly bought a lot of crap from other stores though. I bought a cheep Hitachi Band saw from Lowe’s what a piece of crap that was. The first one I bought the neck was broken, so I took it back and got it replaced. You would think that would have been a big clue to me, I use it now to collect dust.

View Broda's profile


313 posts in 4027 days

#6 posted 12-21-2010 09:02 AM

if thats end grain then its probably not the planers fault
have a look at this on end grain planning

have a look at the comments too

-- BRODY. NSW AUSTRALIA -arguments with turnings are rarely productive-

View Crushgroovin's profile


234 posts in 3432 days

#7 posted 12-21-2010 09:02 AM

Yup that is an end grain cutting board. One of many that are being gifted this year.

Luckily I just picked up a Belsaw Powermatic 5 HP Molder Planer! I am just waiting for some parts to get here so I can use it. That and put in a 240v breaker to power that bad boy. Got the HSS Planer knives for it today. Now just need the gibs to hold them in and the Dust Collector Attachment so I can use it without burying everything in sawdust.

My thought at the time was, well hey what’s the worst that can happen. Damn I should know something bad is coming when I think that! LOL

-- I wouldn't be so arrogant if you weren't such a moron!

View Crushgroovin's profile


234 posts in 3432 days

#8 posted 12-21-2010 09:11 AM

Thanks for the link Broda!!! Great Info!

I would agree that it is in some way the fault of mine putting an end grain board through it. I would however say that it has launched side grain boards much the same. I have laminated some strips together and run it through and ended up with some ugly ugly stuff. It has dug 1/2” or deeper rolls into everything from Pine to Purple Heart.

-- I wouldn't be so arrogant if you weren't such a moron!

View dubsaloon's profile


622 posts in 3302 days

#9 posted 12-21-2010 12:13 PM

It could have been real bad.. Lost 3/4” of my right thumb to a joiner. Be safe. Happy you were not hurt. HF is stuff is good for 1 or 2 projects then dispose of them.

-- The works of evil people are not the problem. It is the "Good" people standing by and watching not speaking up. Dubsaloon

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3365 days

#10 posted 12-21-2010 12:25 PM

Glad you did not get hurt.

I hope Santa gets you a better one.

Have a Great Christmas and a Guid New Year from my family to yours.


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 3469 days

#11 posted 12-21-2010 01:39 PM

ouch, end grain hardwood cutting boards through a planer is asking for trouble, it’s like planing a piece that consists only of a knot!
glad you didn’t get hurt! can you maybe explain what happened when the blades shattered?
it may be helpfull for the rest of us to know what to expect, did they come flying out?

my teacher had a jointer blade come loose, the whole cast iron machine started shaking so he ducked away and suddenly the blade flew out and burried itself into a wooden beam across the shop. if youre on it’s path it will go right through..

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4253 days

#12 posted 12-21-2010 02:04 PM

I would think you bread board makers would invest in a drum sander to even up these things. Planing end grain, like planing figured wood, is just asking for trouble, there is going to be tear out, or worse. Sander might be a little slower, but it would be safer. That’s my $0.02.

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4396 days

#13 posted 12-21-2010 02:26 PM


First, all cheap tools are dangerous one way or another, not only HF tools. If anything, HF is offering lifetime warranty for their products, a lot better than Lowes and HD, so they stand to loose a lot. I had a Delta tablesaw years back (with direct drive) that was unbelievably unsafe. A Skill router that never tightened the router bit properly; I was always afraid that it will throw it out at full speed and was guaranteed to ruin almost always the piece I was routing. As with anything, some things HF sells are good some not so much (read reviews) but this is true for everybody else. I do not think you should avoid HF but cheap tools in general unless you read a very good review from multiple users. For example, I’m using a HF tile saw to remodel my condo and I’m utterly shocked how good it is. Same goes for the Fein-like tools they sell.

About your end-grain board, you should probably use a low-angle hand plane to smoothen it followed by a scraper and sanding. Any rotary tool on it is bad and end-grain is very harsh on the blades.


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4181 days

#14 posted 12-21-2010 03:28 PM

I’ve agee cheap power tools are dangerous. I think you need to be using a sander on that cutting board.

View StumpyNubs's profile


7734 posts in 3309 days

#15 posted 12-21-2010 04:19 PM

Don’t be so down on Harbor Freight! A lot of woodworkers never would have gotten started without them, and a lot of veterans use some of their machines every day. There’s a lot of junk in there, but if you read the reviews on this site, there’s a LOT of great stuff. Maybe the planer isn’t one of the good ones, but it would be a shame for someone to miss out on the very good bandsaw, dust collector, lathe, etc because they read someone saying not to buy anything with a cord there…

By the way, if you don’t want to be killed, use a sander on that end grain cutting board. Maybe it wasn’t the planer after all…

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

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