At $12.99 minus 20% (coupon), this $10 meter is worth a try & here's why

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Review by SST posted 05-20-2010 10:46 PM 11237 views 1 time favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
At $12.99 minus 20% (coupon), this $10 meter is worth a try & here's why No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Last fall I put up a couple hundred bd ft of ash to air dry in a friend’s building near our summer place. I couldn’t wait to get back this spring to check on the progress so as soon as I got our place open for the year, I called him to see if he could check it with me since he has a pinless Wagner moisture meter that he paid several hundred bucks for.

Just before I headed that way, I stopped at our local Harbor Freight store & bought my own meter. It was a pin probe style, but I can live with that, and the price was $12.99. Since I get 20% coupons often in the paper, I used one here, so for a bit over 10 bucks, I’ve got my own meter.

I figured that a good test of the meter would be to compare it to the results of my friend’s much pricier meter.
So I did. The HF one comes with batteries (to install) and simple but easy to follow instructions. They say it’s accurate to within + or – 2%, which is (I think) pretty standard for this type of meter. There is no adjustment for different wood species.

My friend adjusted his meter for white ash & read 11-12%. My meter read 10-12%. We both tried this several times with pretty much the same results. I was a happy guy & he was impressed. The only possible thing to be aware of (and I don’t know if it’s really an issue since I’ve not used other pin meters to compare) is when you press the pins into the wood, you sometimes have to try it a time or two to get it to read, or wiggle it a bit. I think it might just be the nature of pin meters, but I don’t know for sure.

The bottom line… I find it to be a great addition to my toolbox at a price that really can’t be beat.

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

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790 posts in 5252 days

19 comments so far

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 4289 days

#1 posted 05-20-2010 10:49 PM

That meter is on my short list for HF buys… Thanks for the review…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Joe Watson's profile

Joe Watson

316 posts in 4604 days

#2 posted 05-20-2010 11:03 PM

i bought a metal detector for reusing old wood so i dont hit nails from HF works well too.

-- Got Wood?

View AaronK's profile


1512 posts in 4522 days

#3 posted 05-21-2010 12:34 AM

thanks for the review, it’s very helpful. gotta keep this in mind.

View wch's profile


45 posts in 4016 days

#4 posted 05-21-2010 12:43 AM

If you get the chance, do you mind comparing it with your friend’s meter in different woods and different moisture contents? I’d be curious to know if the HF model is accurate across its range. Personally, I don’t need super accuracy—even a very rough reading for me is a big improvement than what I have now, which is nothing.

View mmh's profile


3684 posts in 4780 days

#5 posted 05-21-2010 05:26 AM

What a find! If it works it really is a deal and helpful in determining if one’s wood is ready to use. I mark my purchased wood with the date acquired and add a “G” for green. If I don’t know when the wood was harvested, I can at least go by my purchase date to try and determine how long it’s been drying. Thanks for the heads up.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 4248 days

#6 posted 05-21-2010 06:50 AM

Sounds like a happy day at the wood pile!!!

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View ZeroThreeQuarter's profile


120 posts in 4115 days

#7 posted 05-21-2010 05:34 PM

interesting find.. thanks for the review, just might have to pick one up myself now.

@Joe Watson – what metal detector did you get from HF and do you like it?

Like many, i try to avoid HF, but i know they have SOME things worth looking into, just not their powertools.
Also, I tend to just use the 20% coupon at the big box places cause they take competitor coupons :)
of which, you can just print them from their website! (always having a 20% off is kind of nice, and i try to put that savings into a safe place to save up for a new tool, justifying the cost with money i saved elsewhere!)

-- Your mind, much like a parachute, works best when open.

View Clarence's profile


125 posts in 4164 days

#8 posted 05-21-2010 06:54 PM


Your experience is just the latest example of what I have come to regard as a phenomenon of sorts: the subtle but relentless emergency of Harbor Freight as a serious contender in the tool market. It’s a deliberate effort on the company’s part: their ubiquitous advertising campaigns, including pages in the woodworking mags as well as the multi-page sale flyers included with our newspaper or mailed to our homes; the one-after-another sales events they stage, the 20-percent-off coupons, etc.

It appears that they’re trying to move up to the next level, to be taken seriously. They seem to be modeling their transformation much in the same way Japan did after WWII. Those of us old enough to remember can recall that the stuff coming out of Japan then was just junk. In time it evolved into a better quality junk, and ultimately it became the standard for others to beat. A few years ago you might go to HF to buy a hammer, a pry bar or maybe some clamps. You’d be reluctant to buy their hand drill, much less a drill press or a lathe. In my experience it seems that HF’s stuff is getting better. The quality is at least proportional to its price; it’ll do the job you want done for a small price. After all, some tools are bought as a one or two-use item; we don’t intend to hand ‘em down to our grandkids.

In the case of HF, I’d say their re-branding plan is working. I visit my HF frequently, and each time I do I’m amazed by the number of guys I see there loading up on stuff. It used to be like two Baptists running into each other at the liquor store—turning down separate aisles, avoiding eye contact. Now guys are unabashedly loading up their shopping carts with a variety of stuff. Not too long ago on this board guys were almost apologetically confessing that yes, they owned HF tools, but the devil made ‘em do it. The new attitude seems to be, “What difference does it make which store I buy my Chinese tools at?”

An example: Saturday I was looking at a bench top lathe at HF, priced $199. My latest Grizzly spring sale catalog shows a lathe that appears (yes, I know “appears” is the operative word here) to be a virtually identical machine for $199. At HF I would pay sales tax; with Grizzly I would pay shipping. Tomato, tomahto?

I would guess HF is going to become a bigger and bigger player. I don’t know if they have common stock on the market, but if I had a few extra yen…......

Just sayin’.

-- Getting old is a good thing, but being old kinda stinks.

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 4289 days

#9 posted 05-21-2010 07:14 PM

Clarence, you have an excellent point. I do recall back in the 1970s, Japanese cars were still a bit, lowly on the features scale, but they were well made, and did what you wanted to for a cheap price. To be blunt. I do agree, I see stuff like Harbor Freight, Northern Tool etc… spitting out Chinese MFG tools, but it’s not all mainland China… And honestly, Asian tools have gotten MUCH better over the years. Prior to 1995, you couldn’t have given me a Taiwanese or Chinese tool of any sort. I simply wouldn’t have had anything to do with it… But now the quality is there, for the most part..
I am not sure what the resistance to HF power tool sis honestly. I have the Band saw, and yeah, it lacks some nice features, but I can add those myself… I have the Jet JWL1236 clone lathe and love it, I have the 2HP DC and it works great, a stud / metal / electric sensor that works great, a mess of clamps (Don’t bother with the corner clamps) etc… The only items I have ever gotten from Harbor Freight that I thought were truly poorly made were the red corner clamps, and the hole saws. (The pilot bit on mine was messed up, I replaced it with a regular drill bit that I ground a flat spot in so the set screw could bite… Now it works perfectly).

Overall, Harbor Freight is great for those that don’t need or want all the bells and whistles. You CAN add bells and whistles if you are creative, and want to go through the effort. I honestly see a LOT of HF branded tools on job sites around my area. ESPECIALLY the compressors, nailers, and miter saws… Think about it. If you are getting paid low wages, have to provide your own tools, and have a decent chance of them getting stolen, you’d buy at Harbor Freight too!

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4635 days

#10 posted 05-21-2010 09:43 PM

Sounds like a low cost possibility for folks without a metor


View SST's profile


790 posts in 5252 days

#11 posted 05-22-2010 05:51 PM

For the most part I’ve been happy with the tools I’ve gotten at HF. I have a friend with an auto shop that buys a ton of their tools because they work well enough for the shop & are cheap enough so that when his guys abuse then, lose them, or swipe them, he can replace at a reasonable cost. I know that he once ran the shop on a HF 2hp pancake compressor when his big one went down. It ran almost constantly for 2 days without a hitch. That’s when I went out & bought mine. I’ve had it for several years & it’s great. -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View Knothead62's profile


2600 posts in 4019 days

#12 posted 05-23-2010 01:49 AM

great! I was at HF in Chattanooga yesterday. Now I have an excuse to go back. AS to HF products, I’m not familiar with them as many of you are. Any business had to compete to keep afloat. If HF keeps getting the rap for poor quality stuff, they will be out of business.

View tomd's profile


2222 posts in 4828 days

#13 posted 05-23-2010 07:16 AM

Recently I was on a tour of China, I had never been there and had always wanted to see China. To make a long story short, while touring a city I noticed a woodworking and machine tool making factory, it was not on the tour but being interested I found time to go visit. I found that they had stopped production while two new CNC machines from Germany and Italy where being installed. A team from both countries were setting up the machines and showing the workers how to operate them. The factory official told me that this would increase their production and greatly improve the quality of their machines. Later I learned almost all of their production was cast iron, from this I asume all of their cast iron products will be higher quality.

-- Tom D

View mmh's profile


3684 posts in 4780 days

#14 posted 05-24-2010 08:52 PM

Despite the quality issues that HF has had, I do have to remark that I have ALWAYS experienced the most polite and helpful clerks at this store. They have always been friendly and cooperative in trying to find an item or helping in returning a defective one. This has a lot to say about their management, as the atmosphere in any work place can become dark and sour by just one bad apple. I have never had a negative experience with any clerk at HF, although they do seem to have a high turnover. (Yes, this means I’ve patronized them more than once, and will probably do so many times again.)

I do have a lathe from HF and so far my husband who is doing most of the lathe work has not had any complaints, not that it’s used that much, but for the money, it works decently. I had to return a belt/disc sander after the motor burned up from less than 2 weeks of use, but was refunded 100% of my money, no harrassment.

From tomd’s remarks, it’s good to see that China is trying to improve their merchandise. At least they’re taking action to the slump in the market and complaints of poor quality goods. The younger generation is getting a taste of luxury that their parents did not have access to and I can see how they want to keep the foreign dollar coming into China to keep their quality of living higher too. When I visited in 2004, I saw that their shacks were being replaced by expensive condos, a definate sign of their progress. They also had a good representation of very high end stores, trying to lure the tourist dollar and showing their own consumers what quality goods are.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3980 days

#15 posted 05-26-2010 04:28 AM

I have tools in my shop from a lot of different manufacturers,including HF. I don’t buy major tools(TS,BS,Planers etc) from them but I do buy a lot of comsumables from them. I buy things like foam brushes,paste brushes, clamps etc. I have no compaints about anything I’ve bought there. If you buy a bargain priced item you should only expect a bargain priced performance. I’ve had more problems out of some of the so called “major” brands than from HF. I will say in the last two or three years their quality seems to be improving.
Just my 2 cents worth.

-- Life is good.

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