Tools #1: I received a Harbor Freight catalog!

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Blog entry by Jim posted 03-12-2008 12:59 AM 6804 reads 0 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Tools series Part 2: Performax Dust Shroud replacement »

Why is this a surprise? Because there was only one today. Leafing through it, I’m stunned to realize that I’ve bought a ton of stuff from these people over the years, the vast majority of it from retail outlets, first in Charleston and later from Scranton. The new one in Wilkes Barre is actually pretty nice.

I find myself spending some time defending the decision to buy from these folks, since the reputation of most of the tools is pretty low. I’ve been pretty happy with some of these purchases. I have a disc/belt sander from them that just won’t die . If it had dust collection and a decent (nonplastic) table for the disc sander, it would be a real winner. As it is, it’s not bad.

Of course, I’m not a pro. If I were, I’d probably see the point in spending $200 on a brad nailer rather than $20 on this one. I’ve already gotten my money out of it, so now it’s pure gravy. The framing nailer is also pretty great. Of course, good luck buying 34 degree nails (anywhere but at HF)! But 33 degree nails seem to work fine. Two days of renting a name brand nailer would have cost about as much.

But there have been disappointments, too. I’ll try to describe both as I leaf through this delightful catalog. Okay, I thought of a disappointment: the sandpaper doesn’t last very long. Stay tuned!

19 comments so far

View FrankA's profile


139 posts in 4699 days

#1 posted 03-12-2008 01:08 AM

One of these days when I get down th the Wilkes Barre area I will have to stop in there. So far I have been hesident to buy anything from HF, I have heard horror stories of tools never working or falling apart on day one. It may be the case that you only hear of the bad ones. I guess that if everything that they sold was trash they would no longer be in business. Thanks for the heads up on the good things that are available.

-- Frank Auge---Nichols NY----"My opinion is neither copyrighted nor trademarked, but it is price competitive."

View Jim's profile


49 posts in 4688 days

#2 posted 03-12-2008 01:13 AM

For the record, your mileage may vary. For me, as a hobbyist, price is a major factor.

View HallTree's profile


5665 posts in 4687 days

#3 posted 03-12-2008 01:19 AM

I don’t think Norm Abram would buy from Harbor Freight. But for those of us that are in our income bracket it is our kind of store. They do have some nice stuff but we just have to look it over real good. By the way, I don’t think that Norm buys any of his tools and equipment.

-- "Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life" Solomon

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4908 days

#4 posted 03-12-2008 01:26 AM

There are certain things I will buy there and certain things I won’t.

Gloves, foam brushes. C-Clamps, storage bins, tool stands…

You probably see a pattern here. Nothing has moving parts (Except the c-clamps).

When they are on sale you can really make out on them.

There is one thing that I did buy that has moving parts, and that is a 37” wood lathe.

Why? Well, I might use it once or twice a year so it should last a long time. If it were something I would
use all the time I wouldn’t have bought one from them. $140 you can beat it even if it it lasts 5 or so

But that’s me.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4664 days

#5 posted 03-12-2008 01:43 AM

I’m with Gary. I buy the small things from them. Some of them are the same as the more expensive counterparts just don’t have their name on them. I spent about 5 years working for myself as an A&P aircraft mechanic and I bought some of their cheap pneumatic tools. I figured that if they don’t hold up, I would buy better ones. They all lasted the entire time I needed them and 6 years later I sold them on Ebay for more than I paid for them. Throwing money at expensive tools isn’t going to make you a better woodworker.

View kshipp's profile


179 posts in 4698 days

#6 posted 03-12-2008 01:45 AM

I was in HF the other day and I overheard the manager telling another customer about their warranty. I was not aware of this before but apparently all of their power tools have at least a one-year warranty. All you have to do is keep your receipt and they will replace it right there in the store.
I haven’t bought many tools from them but I’m not really opposed to it. I have the same brad nailer as Jim and it has worked fine for me. Also, this tool is really unique and useful when you need it. I haven’t seen it anywhere else.

-- Kyle Shipp,

View Karson's profile


35229 posts in 5320 days

#7 posted 03-12-2008 02:10 AM

I receive a HF catalog about once a week. I guess that makes me good customer. I’ve never been afaraid to buy HF. They even offer extended warranty if you want to pay for them.

Most of my tools sit and collect dust, because I don’t use one for 8 straight hours.

Do be careful about some of the supplies. I bought a sander that I thought was 1/4 sheet but it wasn’t. You could only bet 2 sheets out of an 8 1/2\11 paper The sander is unused.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Tony Z's profile

Tony Z

205 posts in 4710 days

#8 posted 03-12-2008 02:55 AM

If you sign up for the HF email list they email you coupons you can use in the store. I got a coupon for 3/4” pipe clamps for $2.99! I bought all they had. I’ve limited my buying from there to small disposable items and a few cheap hand tools. I bought a POS $25.00 8” stacked dado from HF that cuts dovetails! I keep eyeing the 14” band saw for 229.00 but I think I’ll hold out and get a good one.

-- Tony, Ohio

View Greg3G's profile


815 posts in 5005 days

#9 posted 03-12-2008 03:15 AM

I have purchased some consumable stuff from them, mostly acid brushes I use for glue ups. I did buy a set of 3/4” pipe clamps…they broke….the casting snapped where you screw the clamp onto the end of the pipe. Maybe it was just a bad set but they both broke in the same place.

I do have a couple of their spring clamps, the black ones with the orange pads that you see all over the place. They work pretty well, better than some of my jorgensons.

I did see a review of their miter saw once in one of the mags…they said if you get a high quality blade (about the same as cost of the saw) it would produce decent results, not the best but not unacceptable.

-- Greg - Charles Town, WV

View clieb91's profile


4103 posts in 4855 days

#10 posted 03-12-2008 04:01 AM

I have a few few things from them including a brad nailer I bought not quite a year ago. It does a good job for the amount of current use it gets, may even think about going back out there to buy a few other nail guns.
I don’t know what most of their stores look like but I got to say the one closest to me in Virginia (which is almost an hour away) kinda made me wonder, it was a real mess.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View Justin's profile


36 posts in 4677 days

#11 posted 03-12-2008 04:41 AM

All my clamps are from there. F clamps, aluminum bar clamps and even 2 paralle clamps I happen to find there once. I have only broke a couple of the F clamps (but I was really torquing them) and one bar clamp. Like everyone else I do buy their throw away stuff as well. The big things I have bought from there and could not be happier with is a 4 gallon air compressor, and a 2 hp dust collector, I have not had a problems with any of them. The DC I use everyday, and It works great. I look at it this way. If it lasts a couple of years it worth it. Say I bought a name brand and got 3 times a much time out of it , I am still breaking even. There is things I won’t buy, Common sense tells you when something is made cheap. Thats how I see it.


View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4742 days

#12 posted 03-12-2008 04:49 AM

My personal philosophy is to spend the most money you can afford on a tool. I do not necessarily buy a tool because it costs less than another brand. The times that I have gone against this I have regretted it. If faced with a decision to buy two cheaper tools or 1 expensive tool go the expensive route and save up for the purchase of the second tool at a later date.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View JoeButler's profile


39 posts in 4648 days

#13 posted 03-12-2008 06:10 AM

Well, I have to admit. I have purchased a lot of stuff from them since I started on this hobby back in 2005.

First thing I got from them was their sliding compound mitre saw. I was cleaning out my garage after 10 years of accumulated junk had gathered and forced both vehicles outside (5 truck loads of stuff to the dump..the wife and I are pack rats! LOL). I had a door that I had purchased for a project that never got off the ground. I didn’t want to throw it away, so the mitre saw helped me build a “work bench”. That hooked me on woodworking.

I used that saw to replace some rotted wood work around a door and a couple of windows. Plus several other things that I build over the last couple of years. It worked great, for what it was.

But, I have just replaced that saw with a new Ridgid saw this past weekend. It still works, but it just won’t cut a square cut. (It still has the stock blade on it. I just never could bring myself to replace the blade with another one that cost more than the saw!) It’s ok for “construction” grade work. But if you need an accurate cut, forget it. Too much slop in it. I couldn’t believe the difference when I cut my first board on the Ridgid!!

Did I get my $100 out of it? I feel like I did, many times over. But the stuff I’m doing now, I need an accurate cut.

Good things I have gotten from them? All my clamps. I wait until they are on sale and then hit my local store.

My second purchase from them was my 8 gallon air compressor. Still going strong after 3 years. If it blows up tomorrow, I got my $120 out of it. I would buy another one in a heartbeat.

I purchased some air tools after getting the compressor. Most are “still in the box”. The impact driver that I got gave out after 2 uses. I took it back without a receipt and they replaced it without question.

A combo brad nailer/stapler I used a bit. Until I got tired of the wide stapler depression it made in the wood with brads. A $20 brad nailer came home. It would randomly shoot a brad across the gargage while laying on my “work bench” the first time I used it. Very exciting to say the least. It went back the same day and was replaced with another one that works fine.

Got an oscillating spindle sander from them. Seems to work great, especially for $89.

Router, piece of junk…took back. Got Porter Cable…a lot happier.

Router 1/4 inch shank bit collection. They work ok for what they are. Limited use bits that you throw away when they get dull. Most I have never used. The ones I did use, I have since replaced with 1/2 inch shank “quality” bits. But they gave me a chance to cheaply “try first, buy later”.

Various hand tools. Had good luck with those. Pliers are pliers, I guess.

$20 laminate trimmer. Best thing since sliced bread. I tend to use it more than my Porter Cable router. For small work, it can’t be beat!

I’m in the market for a jointer. They have one on sale for under $200 this month. I have researched the web. It’s going about 50/50 for/against. I will probably pass on that and save for a “higher quality one”. But it really looks a LOT like the Delta jointer!

Sorry for the long post…I just like HF for certain things. Like always, it’s “Buyer Beware”.

-- Joe

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4794 days

#14 posted 03-12-2008 11:29 AM

I just get consumables there. Brushes, etc. I got a nice dead-blow hammer for about three bucks.

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 4971 days

#15 posted 03-12-2008 02:18 PM

I use the floor mats from HF. I have about 1200 sq. feet of shop floor to cover and I buy some every time they are on sale. Maybe in another year or two I will have the floor pretty much covered. I also buy many consumables there also.

-- Hope Never fails

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