HF tools that don't suck
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    38

    HF tools that don't suck

    Instead of the usual 'does this tool actually work' or 'HF tools suck', how about a list of genuinely useful tools they sell. I'll certainly buy quality if I can afford to, but knowing where you can save in order to finance the shiny tools is more than half the battle...

    Anyway, here's my personal list

    HF tools I really like
    ============
    4 1/2" chicago electric grinder
    heavy duty sawzall (*not* the cheaper one, which won't cut a damn steak)
    18ga. brad nailer
    3/4" pipe clamps

    HF tools I tolerate
    ============
    8" 3/4hp (yeah right) grinder
    3 piece 'large' locking C-clamp set
    auto-darkening helmet
    8 ton comealong

    HF tools I promise never to buy
    ============
    anything with an integrated blade
    anything with rechargeable batteries
    any of their 2% duty cycle welders
    any of their pot-metal vises

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Davenport, Iowa
    Posts
    1,537
    triffid98,welcome. HF gets a lot of bad press so thanks for the heads up.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    California
    Posts
    630
    The anvils they sell are referred to by blacksmith's as "anvil-shaped objects" good for a doorstop or a paper weight. I am amused by that fact.

    I bought one of the 4-1/2" angle grinders for $15 and it died when it was the only one I had, so I gave up on that. However, as a backup it might be fine. I have a chop saw from there I bought at one point which has actually worked pretty well. It's light on horsepower but has worked ok. One of the auto-darkening helmets they have is supposed to be pretty good, but I don't recall the model.
    -Heath

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Northern Cal., Shasta County
    Posts
    6,983
    My simplified gauge for guying HF tools is this, 'if your life or income depends on it, don't buy it ay harbor freight'.

    I buy their vice grip knock offs. They do oakay.

    I bought their chicago angle die grinder. It runs good.

    I bought their 20 tone press to do four or five bends a year. It's just fine for me.

    I bought one of their cordless drills. It drills. That's about all I can say about it. I wouldn't put it up in any competition.

    I've had bought for me a lot of items in the hand tool category like end wrenches, ratchets and such. Those all fall in the total failure group.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Western WA
    Posts
    187
    I have great luck with Harbor Freight....
    - C-clamps
    - nitrile gloves
    - impact sockets
    - auto darken helmet (very specific model)
    - load leveler (for engine hoist)
    - 8" npeumatic wheels
    - 10" npeumatic wheels w/ castors (awesome price at 10$/ea! )
    - foam/rubber wheelbarrow wheel (blackberry proof! )
    - wire brushes
    - welding magnets
    - split leather gloves
    Thats about it for the happy with list. I have just as long a list of the negatives. But I will only give my Worst HF purchase.... that 50$ CRAP chop saw! It's like trying to cut a knife with butter.
    Good luck with your projects! Brian Lee Sparkeee24

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    California
    Posts
    630
    I must be the only person that's ever had any luck with the chop saw. I got it on a whim and have since made hundreds of cuts with it. The only time I've ever had a problem is with stock that is laying flat and giving a large bearing surface to the wheel. At that point, it becomes apparent that it's just underpowered. Unfortunately, it hasn't died yet. Maybe I'll give it away and get a decent one.

    I've had the C-clamps explode on me if dropped. I prefer better quality ones. Other folks have complained about the pneumatic wheels. So much so that I'm considering 10" hard rubber wheels for a new welding cart.
    -Heath

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Northern Cal., Shasta County
    Posts
    6,983
    I've had the C-clamps explode on me if dropped. I prefer better quality ones.
    Yeh, I only bought two and one just opened up in the middle of the 'C'. I understand there is a difference between just clamping two pieces together and performing a work load function. Occassionaly you need to pull two pieces of warped metal together, compress a caliper, hold for hammering, lots of things. Quality C clamps are a must.

    Other folks have complained about the pneumatic wheels. So much so that I'm considering 10" hard rubber wheels for a new welding cart.
    I have one pair of the pneumatic tires on a welder cart. They roll great on gravel but you have to put air in about once a month. Course I've never seen a wheel barrow tire that didn't need air either. A wheel barrow absolutely has to have a pneumatic but for anything else I'd use solid if I could. A friend of mine put two HF pneumatics on a mixer. Two years in the sun and they split out.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    38
    Quote Originally Posted by halbritt
    The anvils they sell are referred to by blacksmith's as "anvil-shaped objects" good for a doorstop or a paper weight. I am amused by that fact.

    I bought one of the 4-1/2" angle grinders for $15 and it died when it was the only one I had, so I gave up on that. However, as a backup it might be fine. I have a chop saw from there I bought at one point which has actually worked pretty well. It's light on horsepower but has worked ok. One of the auto-darkening helmets they have is supposed to be pretty good, but I don't recall the model.
    I guess I must be lucky then, I've run through at least 40 disks on my grinder and it's still working great. Quite the deal for around $15-20.

    The auto-darkening helmetl I have is great for what it cost me (#46092), it reacts quickly to darken up. The downside is the viewing area isn't as nice as the $200+ miller, etc. units. For the money it's a great alternative to a fixed shade helmet.

    -David

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Western WA
    Posts
    187
    OK, gotta add another goodie. I just got the 40 lb "medium" sized pressurized tank sandblaster kit they sell, for a "deal" price of I think around 80 bucks. normally 140 or something silly. I was skeptical, as always, but WOW! This thing really works 10 times better then the 20$ siphon unit I was using. It could still use (as silly as it sounds) a cordless vibrator throw in the mix to keep the sand from clogging, or moving less then freely. I think that would be the case with any unit, regardless of model though. I am using cheep "big orange store" silica sand. 8$ for 100 lbs, and its safe enough to just have the grass grown in around it. Probably why it clogs every so often. but not bad. Uhm, lets see.... what else... oh yeah, the cheezy magnetic welding holders for your stinger and mig gun. Tried those out today, kinda nice for 3 or 4$. uhm... Something about 2 years of being in the sun, for 5$ (there every other week sale price) for 10" pneumatic tires, isn't bad at all. You leave bike tires in the sun for 2 years, they crap out too, even 80$ mt bike race tires with kevlar belts, beads and the works! So say, 700 days +/- divided bye 20$ (for 4 tires lets say) , and your still less then 1$ / mo for 4 wheels with bearings. I'm not saying there killer awesome, but you get what you pay for. In this case, you get alot more. IMHO. lets see... Oh yeha, the guy threw i an old stock 10" long fence/linesmans pliers that will work just fine for "hot tongs". Gave em to me for 3$. (I picked them out, it's not like he had 10 boxes of defective ones behind the counter...) anyway, even more disgusted with my chopsaw, after having such good results from my "foremost brand" taiwan gravity feed metal cutting band saw. NOT from HF. same castings, but stiffer stand, mine has bigger motor, and cast steel roller guides, not stamped thin steel. The table adjustment is alot better on the "formost brand" also. HF has theirs on sale for around 180$ right now I think, still WAYYYYY better then that chop saw. There stuff is just luck of the draw I guess. For my gravel/rough lawn/farm acreage, there lil 10" wheeled garden cart works awesome. for 50$, wheelin around welder, bandsaw, 80cu ft cylinder, and set of tools, I'm happy. Free chopsaw in the greater seattle area less then 20 cuts! 10 pack of HF discs too! :P Happy welding folks! Brian Lee Sparkeee24

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    38
    I've found that chop saw actually useable if you get the nicer norton blades for it and adjust the fence. It's still a piece of junk (the bearing slop is laughable, and so is the cheap base) but it will cut small/medium tubing/angle just fine. It ain't no Milwaukee, but it ain't no $300 either.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Tacoma Wa
    Posts
    4
    I've never had a problem with any HF air tools and I have quite a few of them. Die grinders(3), cutoff tool, air body saw, nibbler, impact wrench, air ratchets(2), air hammer, air drill, pressure sand blaster all work great. Just oil regularly and no probs. Only one I wouldn't recommend is the mini die grinder ( air dremel ) not enough umph.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    East Wenatchee, WA
    Posts
    20
    Bought lots of stuff from HF over the years. Some items:

    1. 220 volt spot welder - you gotta be FAST on the trigger, or you'll blow a hole. Works fine though.
    2. Corded hand drill $9.95 special - would have worked fine if they had better brush holders rather than the cheap plastic ones that melt. Chucked it into the garbage after a few meltdowns.
    3. Tire changer - saved tons of money changing my own tires, and even MORE money after I bought the motorcycle attachment. That thing paid for itself on first use.
    4. 100 amp welder - made in Italy, the thing welded like a charm. Finally sold it for $50.00 because I upgraded to an Lincoln multi process.
    5. Chicage Electric 4.5 inch disk grinder - I keep abusing that thing and it keeps going - amazing for $12.95 on special.
    6. Various air tools - mostly junk except the high speed cutter. The impact wrenches slip too much.

    Lot of other stuff on my way to making my first million in my garage. Have fun.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Carrollton GA
    Posts
    2,329
    Nelson,
    Do you have the needle scaler? I have been eyeballing that thing for a while, wondering if it's worthwhile.
    Smithboy...
    if it ain't broke, you ain't tryin'.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Sacramento , CA
    Posts
    103
    My best HF tool the 1" rotary hammer (41983) also have bender,4-1/2" band saw, 9"angle grinder (46607) a brute,8" drill press, auto dark hood(47277) very good hood, 3.5 cu. ft. cement mixer elect. a concession to a bad back, 20 pound sand blaster, 4" and 5" angle grinders , adjustable degree framing air nailer,2 different models were defective, air impact, air die grinder(just ok) spray gun and a bunch of STUFF. if my foot wern't broke,i'd be tryin'.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Midland, Texas
    Posts
    1,006
    My dad used to sell Proto tools. It was a looong time before I would even look at a Harbor Freight tool.

    Well, that has changed. I've spent far too much there in the last two years. You have to be careful what you buy, and don't expect commercial quality. You can usually get something that will work well for light duty stuff, and you might get something that actually lasts, too.

    Some things that I've had good luck with include: 9" Angle Grinder, 2 HP Dust Collector, Needle Scaler (small), Underwater Video Camera (works great for seeing into tight spots), Twin Tank Air Compressor (first one leaked), Forstner Bits, Nytrile Gloves, Mini Pneumatic Die Grinder, Pipe Threading Set, LED Flashlight, Quick-Release C-Clamps, 'Precision' Tool Grinder, 14" Wood Band Saw, & Rotary Hammer Drill.

    I bought a Blasting Cabinet this year and I had to add a light & dust collector to it. I'm still experimenting with it to get it to feed right with glass beads. I also bought the 20 pound pressurized Sand Blaster, too. It works, but I have to figure out how to adjust the valves to get the flow working right.

    I bought their cheap Metal Band Saw. It had several problems. It wouldn't go all the way down unless I bent the blade cover. Doesn't cut stuff very straight. I think I need to get a good blade for it.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Wayne County, OH
    Posts
    397
    Every HF tool, I mean EVERYONE I've purchased has needed some modification or tweaking to get it to perform correctly. I fully expected that walking into HF. Some that come to mind:

    Pneumatic Panel Flanger, rebuilt with better o-rings to stop air leaks.

    Pneumatic 3/8 drive ratchet, dissasembled & cleaned out the metal deposits from ratchet works.

    Dual Sanding Center, reinforced the base, tweaked the belt sander section to be properly aligned.

    Adjustable Work Support Roller, removed the loose ball bearings & pressed in a set of 32mm sealed bearings.

    4.5" Angle grinder, when dropped, the plastic handle shattered beyond repair so I permanently welded the cast housing it to an aluminum frame and use 8" disks to be a "fixed" bench grinder. It's actually very useful.

    It's like the old man said, "Buy the best tools you can afford. If you pay for crap, then you can't complain when you get crap."
    There are no small projects

  17. #17
    The 2 ton overhead hoist trolley is fine, especially since I never pick up over 1200 lbs. The creepers are OK for the price. I have had good luck with the vices. Steer away from the 3 and 5 HP electric motors. The blue 4 1/2 inch grinders are junk, but the yellow ones are OK for a spare. The big drill press is OK except for the chuck. Paint guns are great.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Midland, Texas
    Posts
    1,006
    I forgot a few items I like in my first post (and it won't let me edit it):

    I've got several of the Air Hose Reels, wish they steered the hose on better, but they seem to work OK. I really like my Aluminum Racing Jack. It will even lift my 4x4 Suburban. Also, have a bunch of their Jack Stands.

    Probably the best item I've bought at H.F. is the Booster Pack, item # 8884. This portable battery pack also has a small compressor and light. Make sure you get this model, as it has longer cables than the others. I've got 3 for myself and I've given a half dozen of them away to family & friends. Just make sure you bring it in the house once a month and charge it. This has saved my butt many times. Great for the lake, where I might arrive to find that my boat trailer has a low tire, or the boat battery is low. Being portable, it is very easy to jump start a boat that has died in the water.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    wright city, mo.
    Posts
    169

    HF tools that don't suck

    HELLO TO ALL,
    i bought a bandfile sander from HORROR FREIGHT.
    it is junk, and would not work. most people would
    take this item back, and get their money back. i had
    to rework it, extensively to make it work. but it does
    work now. i think the problem with HF tools is they do
    not have a proper inspection department to check the
    tools, or maybe they do not care, and figure someone
    will buy them as they are.
    wlbrown

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Jawjuh
    Posts
    119
    The Chinks are smart. They know us "rich" Americans will plop down the money on a cheap knockoff tool to try and "save" a dollar. ....and then cry on a tool forum about how sorry the China tools are. Im sure they probably log in to these sites just for a good laugh. ....and yeah, Im a Harbor Freight-aholic too.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Midland, Texas
    Posts
    1,006
    I bought an HR 4" Metal Cutting Bandsaw last summer. It took some work just to use it, and it never cut very well. I just installed a GOOD blade and what a difference! It cuts about 4 times faster, and it cuts straight.

    I've had a 14" Wood Bandsaw for a couple of years. It was much better with a good blade, too. When I stopped at HF a week ago, I found that they make a ball bearing guide kit for this saw blade that replaces the original nylon blocks. Of course, it didn't fit right (They would fit the saw, but one block stuck out so far as to hit the miter gauge. I shortened it about 1/8" and it works fine).

    If you buy any kind of saw from HF, plan to buy a better blade for it as soon as you get it home. I bought my bandsaw blades from Grizzly, and I'm pretty happy with them.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    SW Ohio
    Posts
    8
    Well, I can tell you that I had purchased a few tools from HF many years ago when I had to order them from a catalog and experienced mixed results. I had not bought anything from them for a very long time until recently when we got not one, but two HF stores in my area. Since it is now convenient to shop in the store, I am once again trying some of their products. I did purchase one of their drill presses (second from the largest), and I am very pleased with it. Other items I have purchased have for the most part been OK. I tried one of their mig welders, and returned it for a refund after having trouble with it. I also purchased one of their multi-testers for a garage wiring project. It was on sale for $2.99, and paid for itself on the first job. I have found as others have, that you just need to watch what you buy from them. A forum like this can be a great help when choosing stuff from Harbor Freight.
    -Vic

  23. #23
    I own a few HF tools. I bought their cheap chop saw for a few projects and didn't have the best of luck with it. I was cutting some heavy stuff, but I was taking my time. 3 saw didn't last a afternoon of cutting. No I wasn't betting the hell out of them either. I upgraded to the $100 chop saw and it's worked great since. Don't use the blades that come with them, they'll burn up the motor fast then anything. I like the welding magnets the best, I watch for them on sale and pick up a few when I need them. The C-clamps for the price are that bad. I get those on sale as well. Most of the stuff is passable and with a little work can be made better. You get what you pay for with them.

  24. #24
    New guy here. I've got a few HF tools, but usually restrict my purchases to items for which I have a one-time use or that will be used infrequently.

    I've gotten good use out of their Chicago 4.5" angle grinder... it was cheap enough that if it dies on me now I'll likely just go and pick up another one. Bought their $40 rotary hammer when I had a project that required me to bust a few good sized holes in some masonry... worked just fine using SDS bits and chisels. I subsequently needed to use it as a hammer drill (my son had "borrowed back" his nice little Makita) so plugged in the supplied "Jacobs" chuck and started drilling. The chuck promptly "blew apart" into about a dozen pieces. Tool still works fine with SDS bits, though...

    I'm lucky in that I've got a HF store about three miles from my house, so I can actually set eyes on their stuff before taking it home. Got a real nice rubber air hose there dirt cheap. Not everything they sell is junk...

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Midland, Texas
    Posts
    1,006
    I recently picked up an 8" Grinder/Buffer (#92425), which seems OK. I took the grinding wheel off and installed a wire wheel. It doesn't have any flats on the shaft to keep it from turning, so I had to use an impact wrench to loosen/tighten the nut. I may grind flats in later.

    Also, picked up a 12" Disk Sander (#43468). Haven't had a chance to really use it, but it seemed pretty nice just testing it.

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