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
    1,536
    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
    9,291
    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
    May 2010
    Location
    gaithersburg,md
    Posts
    14

    Re: HF tools that don't suck

    Quote Originally Posted by Sandy View Post
    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.
    Totally agree about your life or income depend on it!!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Custer Park, IL.
    Posts
    393

    Re: HF tools that don't suck

    I got a set of snap ring pliers with interchangeable heads specifically for the snap rings when rebuilding my Milwaukee porta band saw.

    They worked fine for that and seem like a fair set but can't vouch for durability yet.

    On sale for $2.99 so if that's all they ever do they were worth it to me.

    Al
    A man is judged by what's between his legs...always ride a good horse

    Miller DialArc HF
    Lincoln Classic 300D
    Thermal Arc 181i
    Powermax 45
    Scotchman Ironworker
    (2) Bridgeports
    Okomota Surface Grinder
    AutoCAD 2010

  7. #7
    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

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    48

    Re: HF tools that don't suck

    Quote Originally Posted by triffid_98 View Post
    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
    I have really abused my poor $20 grinder. I have had to cut out the switch on the bottom so I could turn it on because the flimsy connector broke.

    Let me fill you guys in on a little secret to the longevity of ANY mechanical item manufactured in CHINA:

    Take it apart, get ALL the grease out, and PUT GOOD SYNTHETIC GREASE IN.

    That's all. I took a $99 18v "Firestorm" (Black and Decker) flashlight, reciprocating saw, drill, vacuum, sander, and circular saw and took them all completely apart (Sander didn't need any grease and the flashlight, well, I couldn't find the zerk fitting ) and put a bunch of Lucas grease in every nook and cranny.

    The Recip saw had *no* grease in it, the circular saw had a convenient port for blowing the grease out that I blocked, and the drill had precious little grease in either transmission.

    I took my blue Harbor Freight grinder apart and cram packed it with Chevron (I think) full synthetic general purpose grease. I have been hard on it, leaving it in the snow, rain, exceeding the duty cycle, etc. It's not failed me once. It doesn't squeak or squeal, and has the same amount of play (which is to say, a bit more than a quality grinder) today as it did when I first bought it. I inspect the transmission of it every once in a while and I find no metal shavings.

    It's been a good grinder. But I would suggest anything, no matter what it is, if it is the least bit mechanical, even down to a socket wrench, to be disassembled, cleaned, and re-greased. You may even find that in Chinese they have a word for "Oops I forgot to put any grease in it at all. Oh well, you didn't pay much for it, did you?".

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ghetto of Brooklyn, NY
    Posts
    46

    Re: HF tools that don't suck

    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 was considering getting one of their anvils...I really want to find an authentic one somewhere in the country, but I haven't had any luck. I'll keep searching. I recently checked HF for the anvils, and they are no longer available. Is it safe to assume that anvils from Northern Tool are the same as the door stops???

    http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/w...atchallpartial

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Posts
    15

    Re: HF tools that don't suck

    I've bought some crap but I wanted to buy a pair of electronic ear muffs, I liek to wear them when I am out in the shop grinding or making other noise. I wore them to the trap club and they seem to work pretty good. Real good for the 5.99 sale price. Drill master 4 1/2 angle grinder has also been real good, the 5.99 put me into free shipping once. Nitril gloves and EAR foam plugs are same as anywhere. The scroller has been fun and has taught me some things for cheap.

    I would like to try a pipe bender but am to cheap.
    Later

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Posts
    29

    Re: HF tools that don't suck

    Quote Originally Posted by halbritt View Post
    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.
    Yeah. If you love blacksmithing, you can get an anvil shaped object as a doorstop. You can also drill holes and weld them to pipes for a barbell, if you like sports.

  12. #12

    Re: HF tools that don't suck

    I've purchased the auto darkening HF helmet in the past and I nearly blinded myself, NEVER again. I made the sacrifice and paid for a good quality Speed Glass hood since. I agree there are some occasions when a HF tool is good for a back up HOWEVER people shouldn't risk their eyesight when it comes to welding.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Posts
    96

    Re: HF tools that don't suck

    Quote Originally Posted by SSG67 View Post
    I've purchased the auto darkening HF helmet in the past and I nearly blinded myself, NEVER again. I made the sacrifice and paid for a good quality Speed Glass hood since. I agree there are some occasions when a HF tool is good for a back up HOWEVER people shouldn't risk their eyesight when it comes to welding.

    I gotta disagree. I just picked up their top shelf Vulcan AD hood. Headgear is very adjustable and comfortable. The lens is amazingly clear when off and when activated vis is still great. It’s got the ‘new’ kind of blueish tint that the other big guys have. As advertised, it DOES make it easier to see the margins of the weld puddle. It has all the adjustments that the all big brands do. Overall it’s as good as the $2-300 models from Lincoln and miller. Probably not on par with the premium brands like Optrel etc but plenty good for this guy. Has a 1 year warranty. If it holds up that long it’s a win for me. At $150 I’d buy another one in a heartbeat.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    n.w. of chicago
    Posts
    850

    Re: HF tools that don't suck

    Quote Originally Posted by monte_santa_cruz View Post
    I gotta disagree. I just picked up their top shelf Vulcan AD hood. Headgear is very adjustable and comfortable. The lens is amazingly clear when off and when activated vis is still great. It’s got the ‘new’ kind of blueish tint that the other big guys have. As advertised, it DOES make it easier to see the margins of the weld puddle. It has all the adjustments that the all big brands do. Overall it’s as good as the $2-300 models from Lincoln and miller. Probably not on par with the premium brands like Optrel etc but plenty good for this guy. Has a 1 year warranty. If it holds up that long it’s a win for me. At $150 I’d buy another one in a heartbeat.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    How do you know the lincoln or miller is not better than the "premium" optrel or ect, price? I got a Jackson shadow and a huntsman their reaction time is .0000000000 so unless you can measure 1/25000 of a second it's hard to say what's premium, not saying HF , lincoln,optrel are junk but how do you know, when your eyes burn, it's to late then

  15. #15
    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

  16. #16
    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

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Northern Cal., Shasta County
    Posts
    9,291
    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.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Marietta, OH 45750 USA
    Posts
    148

    Re: HF tools that don't suck

    Quote Originally Posted by halbritt
    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 haver a really nice Millwaukee chop saw and I often encounter the same problem when cutting into a flat surface. I do recommend using good cutting disks. I have found that the SAIT brand disks work the best. They cost more but it's worth it. Even the DeWalt brand disks suck in my opinion.
    Dave B.
    E-MAIL: db1@pvpmedia.com
    WEB PAGES:
    www.wfmservice.com
    www.rides4rides.com
    www.pvpmedia.com/53f100.htm


    Dad always said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
    I say, We can make it better.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Outside of Rochester New York
    Posts
    54

    Re: HF tools that don't suck

    Quote Originally Posted by halbritt
    Other folks have complained about the pneumatic wheels. So much so that I'm considering 10" hard rubber wheels for a new welding cart.
    That is good as I was taught that it is not good to have pneumatic wheels where metal working is being done. The problem being molten metal causing a failure of the tire.

    Dave

  20. #20

    Re: HF tools that don't suck

    Get the hard rubber wheels. (if they re the 8 inch or larger t\hen they are called someting like no flat) Cost a lot more but worth it.

  21. #21
    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

  22. #22
    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.

  23. #23
    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.

  24. #24
    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.

  25. #25
    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'.

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