Question about Harbor Freight

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Forum topic by NH_Hermit posted 11-24-2010 08:18 PM 3864 views 2 times favorited 62 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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394 posts in 3705 days

11-24-2010 08:18 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I just found out there is a Harbor Freight Tools store near me, but I know nothing about them.

Can someone give me some feedback and impressions of their quality and price?


-- John from Hampstead

62 replies so far

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3716 days

#1 posted 11-24-2010 08:52 PM

Harbor Freight has a lot of junk and some very good stuff as well. Their 1 1/2 hp DC gets very high reviews. I have a router/shaper that is identical to Grizzly and a couple of others and I have no complaints with it. I have tried several of their air tools and returned everyone of them. You just have to be very careful, but they do have a great return policy, it just means an extra trip to take a lot of stuff back.
I have a set of router bits that have been good enough for around the hobby shop, but I would not try them in production work. All of their hand tools have free replacement just like Mac and Snap-on.
Look them over and see what you think.

View TheDane's profile


5729 posts in 4272 days

#2 posted 11-24-2010 09:06 PM

I think if you shop carefully, you can get some decent deals at Harbor Freight.

Some of their stuff is junk, but some is pretty serviceable. I don’t have a nearby store, but when I visit my daughter on the other side of the state, a trip to HF is usually on the itinerary. I make a list of stuff I am interested in. I have a dovetail jig, corded drill, pneumatic table, doweling jig, etc. from HF and haven’t been unhappy with anything I have bought from them.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3783 days

#3 posted 11-24-2010 09:14 PM

If you care whether or not a thing breaks on you, while you’re using it—like … if it could HURT YOU by breaking, or significantly piss you off, or delay a job for which you’ve made commitments, and expect to earn money—I’d go elsewhere to buy that thing.

If you DO NOT CARE about that, then you should look very carefully at every single widget—whatever it is—before you buy it.

Their quality control is very weak.

Take, for instance, clamps.

On a rack of fifty, I can usually find one with fairly smooth action, fairly clean threads, and all the pieces in place.

One or two … even three.

But lots that are garbage, plain and simple.

But … buying from Harbor Freight, in my experience, IS a crap shoot.

The advantage you get, in return FOR that crap shoot, can be significant savings.

In all seriousness, though, there ARE lots of things that—for me, at least—I don’t particularly care if they break. It’s inconvenient, but not harmful.

See what I mean ?

-- -- Neil

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 4332 days

#4 posted 11-24-2010 09:27 PM

It is a great store to buy “Dumb” tools. If you want to spend money on something good or something that you need precision from, go buy it elsewhere.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View Viking's profile


881 posts in 3804 days

#5 posted 11-24-2010 09:32 PM

The 2HP dust collector is a great tool. Several of us have them and it has gotten very good review and comments.

-- Rick Gustafson - Lost Creek Ranch - Colorado County, Texas

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 3841 days

#6 posted 11-24-2010 09:33 PM

I have a Harbor Freight about 8 miles from my house. So far I have…

#32208 14” 4 speed band saw. Very basic features, but it works very well. I did modify it to get the features I wanted, but even stock it worked well…

#34706 12×36 Cast Iron Bed Lathe… A copy of the Jet JWL1236, and an excellent machine. Been very reliable, put up with my poor usage nicely…

#97869 2HP Industrial Dust collector. I never even fired it up with the stock 5 micron bag, but instead added a Wynn cartridge right off the bat. This thing really sucks, which is a good thing…

#95386 2HP 8 gallon air compressor (now a superceded SKU#). Been chugging along nicely thank you very much.

#66872 16 gauge brad nailer. I am on the second one I got from them. The first one died within 10 nails driven, nailer #2 has driven about 2 full boxes no problem… The first one was let out the door with a missing wrist pin. The second one is what I used to build a mess of cedar planter boxes, a lattice board attched to PT framing, etc… Been bomb proof.

#98917 28 degree framing nailer. This thing has helped me put up a fence, and built a couple of walls for a friend’s auto repair shop business office…

#97526 23 gauge pin nailer. Been dead on accurate.

Pittsburg branded F style bar clamps in 6, 12, 24 and 36” sizes, as well as 3/4” pipe clamps, 12” wooden hand screws, as well as a wide assortment of spring clamps have all been spot on.

#94203 hole saw set. Total crap. Not worth the $3.00 I paid for it… pilot bit notch is cut too deep, had to notch a spare drill bit to use as a pilot to get it to work at all, the cups are out of round etc… Just garbage…

If you compare those results, to those of a college buddy of mine that buys nothing but Delta / Porter Cable unless he can’t find what he needs from those brands, and I have to come to the conclusion that modern Harbor Freight is higher quality merchandise than modern Delta. At least the stuff that my friend picked up is total junk. Band saw, busted within a week. Miter saw, 6 months, etc…

Having said THAT. If I had the $$, I would have bought a Delta 50-760 dust collector… But I insist on a cartridge filter, and I never could swing a deal on the 50-760 low enough to squeeze in a cartridge that I could afford…

Now there ARE tools I will NOT buy from Harbor Freight, mostly because the floor models I checked out were so bad. They were…

#1. Routers. Not gonna go into detail, but they were obvious junk. #2. Drills. The handheld, both corded and cordless are junk. #3. Sanders. Again these are hit or miss. I have looked at the belt sanders which seem okay, but the palm sander, and ROS both look and feel very poorly made…

FWIW, and I do not do this often, but I disagree with Neil on the clamps thing. I have 48 HF bar clamps, and have only had one bad one from the batch, and HF was more than happy to give me a new one for the bad one.

I do agree with him in his assertion, take a look at everything very carefully before plopping down your cash. Some GREAT bargains can be had on the cheap, but some real duds can come out of there…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View b2rtch's profile


4915 posts in 3657 days

#7 posted 11-24-2010 09:43 PM

I have been buying HF tools for over 20 years.
90% of the time I was satisfied with my purchases.
Only a few times did I returned tools.
If you have a limited budget, HF is a very good place to buy tools.
My other favorite brand is Ridgid, which offers very good value

-- Bert

View Broglea's profile


687 posts in 3700 days

#8 posted 11-24-2010 09:52 PM

My advice is to look over the tool carfeully you are intending on buying. There are some very good deals at HF, but there are also a lot of junk.

The other thing is to look in the Sunday paper for their 20% of coupon. The coupon turns good deals into great deals.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3783 days

#9 posted 11-24-2010 09:56 PM

dbhost wrote:

”FWIW, and I do not do this often, but I disagree with Neil on the clamps thing. I have 48 HF bar clamps, and have only had one bad one from the batch, and HF was more than happy to give me a new one for the bad one.”

Then I’d take dbhost’s word over mine on this one.

I’ve only bought clamps there twice, and twice that WAS my experience, but … it literally may have been a bad batch that I was looking over, and—since it was only a few months apart—the inventory simply may NOT have turned over.

-- -- Neil

View knotscott's profile


8364 posts in 3985 days

#10 posted 11-24-2010 10:01 PM

It can be hit or miss, but at least they have a good return policy. Check out each item thoroughly before buying, and watch the sale prices…if it’s not on sale this week, it’ll be on sale next week! HF isn’t where I go to buy my most critical tools but I’ve been happy with my 13” drill press, mortising machine, multi-tool, and their Pittsburg bar clamps.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 3841 days

#11 posted 11-24-2010 10:11 PM


Not singling you out. Just that I Have gotten good clamps from them… I did pass on a batch they had, I guess 2 years ago, and waited. They did have a run that the bars weren’t straight, and the threads were junk. FWIW, I have seen that with Jorgenson clamps at Home Depot as well… I figure it was a Friday batch…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View traupmann's profile


124 posts in 3396 days

#12 posted 11-24-2010 11:58 PM

I’ve had a cement mixer for 15 years that has done many, many yards of concrete.

I often buy clamps from them, but they need close inspection that the anvil swivels and is square to the end. The newer ones with the plastic handles seem to have gotten better.

Great place to get tarps cheap.

Like everyone says, be careful and understand what you are buying. Most of the stuff is light duty.

-- chas -- looking for Serta sponsorship to go Pro...

View StumpyNubs's profile


7799 posts in 3410 days

#13 posted 11-25-2010 12:23 AM

Harbor Freight is God’s gift to men, bottom line. There’s lots of junk, but among that junk are some REALLY REALLY REALLY great deals on very acceptable quality. Some of the best deals for the woodworker are:

-Dust collector. Worth the price by far!
-Large variable speed lathe. Almost as good as the Jet for a fraction of the price.
-Drill Presses. They’re good quality for woodworking applications.
-14” Band Saw. As good as the Delta and most other similar clones.
-Mortising machine. With some modifications you it’s great for the price.
-Clamps. Again, may need some modifications, but for $6 each you don’t mind!
-Hand tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, sockets, etc. Woodworkers demand less from these tools, so they do everything you will ask of them. Professional mechanics should looks elsewhere.
-Wire welder. Not for a pro, but for a woodshop who may want to tack a few pieces of steel together it’s great.
-Stationary belt/disc sander. Great deal!

This is just what I thought of off the top of my head. I find that if you have any doubts, just hit the internet and read reviews before you buy.

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

View AaronK's profile


1509 posts in 4073 days

#14 posted 11-25-2010 12:36 AM

google “harbor freight gems” and you’ll get some ideas of what’s worthwhile.

pretty much everyone is on the mark here. one thing to note is that at least all the “Pittsburgh” brand hand tools (clamps, wrenches, etc) have a lifetime warranty. I had some of the bar clamps strip out and they exchanged them for new ones without a problem- didn’t even make me wait in line at the cashier. Although none of the stuff is “awesome” (poor fit and finish on everything) sometimes you just dont need awesome – at least not the DIYer. Like has been mentioned, i think theirs is a quality control issue. The best you will get there is just OK, but it is dirt cheap. But you do have to be careful to get the best that they have :-)

If you do go there, you’ll realize that Harbor Freight is really a holistic experience. ie, good luck!

View StumpyNubs's profile


7799 posts in 3410 days

#15 posted 11-25-2010 03:08 AM

Cessna- i guess i should have been more specific. Of course the standard HF bandsaw will not compare to a premium model of another brand. but it will compare to the regular models put out by Delta, Jet, Grizzly, whatever, because they all come from the same Taiwan factory!

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

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