Harbor Freight's BEST Tool Bargains

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Forum topic by HorizontalMike posted 10-16-2012 02:43 PM 42000 views 21 times favorited 459 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7909 posts in 3883 days

10-16-2012 02:43 PM

Topic tags/keywords: harbor freight best buy bargain bargains

I keep seeing Harbor Freight being referred to as if it were a 4-letter word. While it is true that some/a lot/most of what HF sells is of poor quality, there are still bargains to be had at HF. With that in mind:


My personal list of BEST buys:

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

459 replies so far

View AJLastra's profile


87 posts in 3197 days

#1 posted 10-16-2012 03:22 PM

The HVLP spray gun they sell for around $20 is a very good gun and so is the turbine spray system that others like Rockler sell for over $100.

View lumberjoe's profile


2902 posts in 3217 days

#2 posted 10-16-2012 03:50 PM

I personally own every one of these items and would recommend them to anyone; regardless of budget or skill set.

18 AWG nailer/stapler

The Pittsburgh bar clamps
This lathe (which many other places sell the exact same one, not a similar looking one for at least 100$ more)

8 Piece HSS turning chisel set

This drill press

This cordless LiON oscillating multi-function tool


View knotscott's profile


8406 posts in 4344 days

#3 posted 10-16-2012 03:53 PM

The Pittsburg bar clamps from HF work pretty nicely, and usually cost a fraction of the bigger names.

My HF Central Machinery 38142 13” DP has been excellent…it was $144.

The HF digital calipers work well too.

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

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Bill White

5329 posts in 4929 days

#4 posted 10-16-2012 04:13 PM

Nails for my air guns, the DC, and an excuse to get out of the house/shop every so often.

-- [email protected]

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3940 days

#5 posted 10-16-2012 04:21 PM

The HSS 8 piece lathe chisel set.

The 18ga stapler/16ga brad nailer combo nail gun.

12” disk sander.

16 speed, 3/4 hp benchtop drill press. (the one with the round table)

The 2hp Dust collector

The 10” x 18” 5 speed mini lathe.

The 4” x 24” portable belt sander.

7 pc auger drill bits.

F-type bar clamps, 6”, 12”, 18”, 24”

I own all these tools and have been very happy with them. No issues what-so-ever.

View lumberjoe's profile


2902 posts in 3217 days

#6 posted 10-16-2012 04:24 PM

Oops, forgot the drillmaster pocket hole jig

This probably has the nicest fit and finish of any tool I have ever seen at HF. Machined billet aluminum (not stamped), super tight tolerances, excellent design, and works like a charm. (Get the Kreg screws though)


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274 posts in 3495 days

#7 posted 10-16-2012 04:26 PM

I like my HF hvlp sprayer:

HVLP spray gun

-- Jesse --

View ChuckC's profile


844 posts in 3904 days

#8 posted 10-16-2012 05:06 PM

A few weeks ago I was looking for a set of beater chisels for the times I don’t want to use my good ones. I was in HF and saw these. With the 20% coupon they were under $7. I sharpened them on my WorkSharp 3000 and I can’t believe how well they work. They don’t compare to my Stanley Sweetheart set but they work very well and have been a great addition to the shop. I don’t know how they would perform if I was chopping mortises all day long but for a hobby guy like myself they can’t be beat.

I also have a bunch of their F-style clamps and the 2 HP DC with no complaints.

View Planeman40's profile


1532 posts in 3730 days

#9 posted 10-16-2012 06:29 PM

This opens up a few thoughts from me as I have been around for a few years . . .

The “cheap Chi-com” crap” label people put on Harbor Freight reminds me of the “cheap Jap crap” label put on Japanese products back in the 1960s and 1970s. In those days many of our guys had fought the Japanese in World War II and wouldn’t buy a Japanese-made product if their life depended on it. In the early years the Japanese stuff was poorly and cheaply made as they got their decimated economy and production back together after the war, but they kept after it with a stubborn resolve. By the 1970s their quality was beginning to equal and in many cases surpass the USA-made products. In the 1980s Japanese products flooded the USA and their quality was superb. By the end of the 1980s Americans were beginning to panic that the Japanese were outproducing the USA and were making so much money they were buying up US companies and prime real estate. Then the inevitable happened. The high-flying Japanese economy faltered and crashed. Japan is now just another industrialized country like others in the world and its competitive edge has waned.

The Chinese are now going through the same cycle. In fact, I see it at the “1980s” equivalent of the Japanese cycle. I find many of their once cheap and poorly made products are now the equal of any available and at a price that is a steal at the moment. Yes, there are still some cheap and poorly made items, but they are becoming fewer and fewer. Keep in mind the USA also produces some bummers these days as they and every other country has for eons. Soon though the Chinese economy will vastly overheat as the Japanese economy did in the late 1980s and a big recession will ensue. In fact, it appears it may be beginning now. Pressure will be on to improve wages and living conditions in China and these pressures (which are present now) will force their prices to rise. Give it some time and the Chinese will soon be in the same situation as the Japanese in the early 1990s and their price competitive edge will have eased and will eventually peter out.

Then it will be the Indians, the Brazilians, and maybe even the North Koreans given time. Who knows.

What I do know is for those of us who can examine a Chinese-made product and see quality and a bargain in it should take advantage of it now, for in a few years there will probably be no more Chinese-made bargains. Have you found many Japanese-made bargains much any more?


P.S. I also propose that we should convince the unions in the USA that they should immediately take on unionizing the Chinese work force. The unions appear to be very oriented toward socialistic and even Communist ideology and should have much in common with the Chinese leadership and bureaucracy. It would certainly speed along the rise in Chinese production costs and ease our trade deficits with China. :)

-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View HorizontalMike's profile


7909 posts in 3883 days

#10 posted 10-16-2012 06:44 PM

I almost forgot to add this, at $45:

I only use it occasionally, such as lifting my Grizzly TS and my assembled used Grizzly Jointer off of my truck bed and for placing both my TS and BS on mobile bases. It is made by Central Machinery.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View MrRon's profile


5975 posts in 4212 days

#11 posted 10-16-2012 08:28 PM

Planeman40, You are so correct. The Chinese are now getting to the point that Japan was in the 1980’s. I have seen examples of Chinese made goods that rival the best of anywhere else in the world. People mistakenly think the Chinese are not smart enough to make things. They are every bit as smart and capable of competing at all levels of technology. Sure they copy, but what country doesn’t. It’s not beneath America to take a good idea and run with it. Quite a lot of aircraft and rocket science came from the Germans and Russians. I can see in the foreseeable future a reversal of the manufacturing roles paid by the countries. As their costs become greater, there may come a time where the economies of the world will be on equal footing. HF products are not just from a few factories. They are like the Sears of China. Some of it is good, some is bad, just like every other company in the world.

View lumberjoe's profile


2902 posts in 3217 days

#12 posted 10-16-2012 08:34 PM

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. Carl Sagan

Carl was correct, and this is what is happening. We don’t make anything anymore, we trade ideas and information.


View syenefarmer's profile


566 posts in 4049 days

#13 posted 10-16-2012 08:38 PM

Here’s a few that I like;

Wide Crown Stapler

“¼ Crown Stapler

Wand Metal Detector

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 4288 days

#14 posted 10-16-2012 08:57 PM


I am glad you said something. It always makes me angry when people get all sanctimonious over HF tools. While at this moment I don’t own any HF gear, I did when I first started woodworking. I go in somewhat regularly just to look around.

The only person I ever “banned” was a guy that just wouldn’t shut up about how stupid people were to use anything HF. Just wouldn’t buy the hobbyist view point.

Thanks for a good post.


-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 4077 days

#15 posted 10-16-2012 08:59 PM

I like their Pittsburgh line of tools. That line of sockets, wrenches, and clamps are pretty top notch for the price. HF has a lifetime warranty on their hand tools and they do honor it. I bought a 23 gauge pin nailer for about 10 bucks with a coupon. It performs very well. I do tend to shy away from their pins and use a name brand. I stay away from their sandpaper. Very poor quality in that area but did get a nice sanding drum kit for a very reasonable price. Their small diamond files are very handy and do a great job. When I look at the power tools, I look at the amperage of the tool. Their cordless drills are pretty underpowered. Same goes with their grinders though I have known a few people that use them mostly for sanding and found them more than suitable for the job. I tend to shy away from their router bits. The carbide content is small and they tend to burn wood. I heard good things about their 6” digital calipers. I stay away from their spreader clamps. I used a dozen of them when I first started woodworking. Can’t quite get the torque needed and they break easily. I do like their 3/4 pipe clamps (again Pittsburgh line) and their wooden clamps are a steal when they are 50% off.

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

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