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Harbor Freight

Post in 'The Gear' started by pistonslap, May 12, 2007.

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  1. pistonslap

    pistonslap Burning Hunk

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    I've been looking online at the harbor freight catalog. I'd like to get a log hauling cart and possibly an electric splitter for my basement. The prices are really cheap. Are the products of decent quality or is it a case of you get what you pay for?

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  2. restorer

    restorer New Member

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    Hmmmmm, look at Northern Tools, on line. I can not recommend anything personally from Harbor Freights, NT at least stands behind their tools and such. Realize, much of what is sold is imported, so "You get what you pay for". NT has many American made lines and very good quality products, but they have their bottom feeder lines also. HF serves the bottom.
  3. bruce

    bruce Member

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    stay away from the freight!!
  4. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Just got back from HF and picking up a tire changing rig. To go with my three winches, two engines, three storage sheds, pallet jack, power lift gate on the Suburban, tons of air tools, moisture meter and heaven only knows how much other stuff around here.

    The manager at HF meets me at the door with a basket when I walk in.

    If I made a living with the stuff it would be higher end brands but for what I need it for their stuff is great. And a lot of it is the same stuff that is at Northern Tool for more money and a shipping charge. If I didn't have a hydraulic splitter one of the HF jobbies would be under the shed.

    Edit: I just remembered the cement mixer.
  5. drizler

    drizler Minister of Fire

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    I can't speak for the quality of HF splitters but as for their tools overall you get both good and bad. I have bought a few dogs over the years but for thier name brand stuff its just fine as is a lot of their Oriental stuff as well. When it comes to expensive electircal devices I shy away from their Oriental stuff as I do for things requiring specialized hardness or extreme precision. Chinese rubber be it tires or hoses is lacking UV protection and will crack every time in my experience. Still if you can find a HF store and go take a look at it you might find they are well built. The Chinese build castings about as good as anyone these days and anything else that can be easily changed out or repaired might be . worth it as well. Expect stuff like Hydraulic lines that crack from sun exposure and the like as well as switches that wear out and electric motors that even the Wizzard Of Oz would have a hard time justifying the power rating on. Figure Chinese electric motors at about half the power they say they are. You might expect the same from a splitter of theirs. Northen tools sells mostly the same stuff as HF so dont' think their stuff is better either, its all oriental. Another thing is how cheap can you get it and maby replace with a good motor and or hoses if and as needed?
    Long story short. HF way cheaper often free shipping which is a big savings and no tax often either. On the other hand you are taking your chances with something that will be expensive to ship back. For me personally, I would stay away till I got to see one or hear from someone who has one for a while. Clear now? Just like mud right........................................
  6. restorer

    restorer New Member

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    I think this is a sad commentary on what we are willing to accept. I use a lot of cast iron and precision machinery. I won't buy a new saw, lathe or drill press today. To get the quality of a USA made machine from twenty years ago, you'd have to buy European at 5-6 times the cost of even USA labelled machines. A friend of mine helped one of his old buddies set up a Central Machinery (Harbor Freight) milling machine. He's a master machinist. They had about 100 hours into it, but Jon said they wouldn't be able to do precise machining, it's not solid enough. They replace the motor and several bearings and bushings to get an average machine that will only do small work. Looks good though. I restore woodworking machines for resale (4-5 per year) I'm working on a sixty year old table saw right now. I have already had offers at 80% of new retail for the current model version. I was offerred full retail for a new motor for the 50's version I/R motor.

    A carpenter friend swears by HF. He claims he buys one tool at a time, and with the warranty replaces it four or five times a year when it breaks down. I've had my PC driver/drill for three years and it runs strong, he's had at least a dozen and all have failed in two months. That's not quality in my book.

    I'm not saying made in USA is the only way to go. I have Metabo, Elu, Fein, Bosch and other tools, but I plan to have them for years not months.

    Northern Tool sells many of the same tools as HF. They have a standard they impose on the manufacturer the same as Delta, PowerMatic, PC and others do. But they also sell lines of equipment that are made in America and have proven reliable for years. They sell a lot of equipment that they can supply parts for, or you can get locally. Both have a bottom feeder line, but unlike HF, they have a better and best line in many areas. If you are in an area where their stores are it's worth taking a look. We have an HF here. I do buy somethings from them, such as disposable brushes, wire brushes, plastic tarps. I look at their equipment and am not even tempted. For awhile they carried Marathon motors and I was temped to buy one until a local machine dealer said they were Taiwan made and had a thirty day warranty, just the Marathon name.

    All that said, if you check with members who depend on their equipment for a living I think you will find they don't spend a lot of time at the discounters. They may buy from Lumber/Hardware, Farm/Ranch, or other regional or national chains. Some will even buy from the Big Box stores, but remember even Lowes and HD are second tier tool sellers.

    Sorry about the rant, but I have thrown my share of defective and broken tools across the shop and cursed the day I bought them. Looking good and working good are not necessarily synonymous.
  7. drizler

    drizler Minister of Fire

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    They do make some very worthwile stuff though you just have to have a tolerance for what you may get stuck with. If I was running a business I would use mostly all (anything but oriental) but thats not the case for most of us. We don't get the tax write off or secret handshake discount either for that matter. Some things take a beating no matter what and a Makita is going to last as long as a cheapie when it falls off the roof a couple times. Thats life, thats work and its all about what you can afford and afford to lose. My favorite stuff to beat up on is Snap on. So far overpriced you would think the Air Force was buying all of it. Lots of their stuff is knock off too and you can buy the same tool from the original MFG for about 1/2 price. Thats the other side of quality. With some mechanic types its mine is bigger than yours is just like college professors argue for the better faster computer, seems a little childish to me. People will go out of their way to steal the nice stuff too. They will shoot your doberman to get that Snap on chest.
    Like I said the simple stuff is fine. I do a fair bit of welding and own 1 Makita and 4 Chinese grinders. They all work about the same now that I gave the Makita a safetyectomy so the trigger works decently. I have left a couple cheap Chinese grinders out in the snow all winter buried and they work now as they did before. As for welders I wouldn't touch one from over there. They aren't quite as powerful but I can live with that as you aren't supposed to push that hard anyways. Their impact sockets seem to hold up as well as ours too but their wrenches are decent but not grand especially the bigger ones. I never saw any evidence of better or worse grades of HF stuff. What I have seen is that stuff sold by the traveling tool outfit, ( name evades me now but they stole the name of some former famous tool co.) Those guys out of Texas, you probably have seen em. THeir stuff seems to be a great deal returns and rejects with who knows what missing or out of line. Buy from them and take it home and set it up immediately so you can take it back if needed. Too bad no one makes decent comsumer priced tools today but for the most part its hit or miss all over the place and if you want nice stuff you gonna bleed for it, then lose it in the mud under the tractor just like a HF wrench.
  8. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I replaced my splitter and compressor motors with the HF Lifan knock-offs of the Honda GX-200 and the little suckers are great. $129 vs. $400 for the Honda and they are so exact that the internal parts are interchangable. Makes ya wonder since Honda has had plants in China since 1982.

    And Japan has bombed us once. China hasn't. Well, yet anyway.
  9. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I have a rolling tool chest, folding utility trailer, 30 ton splitter, electric splitter, trailer dolly, and other smaller stuff I can't think of.
    None of the above items are bad.
    I think the electric splitter is quite competitive with other small electrics.
    I have split about 2 cords of hemlock with it, and it worked pretty good. You have to have reasonable expectations though concerning these little splitters. I split a good chunk of that wood inside the garage when it was dark outside. What I like about the HF design is that it has a tubular frame that allows it to be put on a mover's dolly to wheel it around to a more distant splitting site.
  10. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    Pick and chose. I've had to return a few things but overall I'm pretty happy with my purchases from them. But again you have to pick and chose.
  11. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    How would you describe their "Central Forge" or "Pittsburgh" socket sets... been looking at getting a set of metric 1/2" drive sockets...
    Nothing too earthshattering applications, basic car stuff and I guess now splitter and machinery uses. I have a bunch of 3/8" drive sockets but with a shortish drive wrench, I have a DIY breakerbar for it but my longer drive wrench is 1/2" drive so some real 1/2" sockets would be nice....

    Jay
  12. MrGriz

    MrGriz New Member

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    I don't have any experience with those brands, but I would put a plug in for Craftsman. I think Craftsman makes good quality tools for the homeowner / weekend warrior. They are generally fairly priced and have a lifetime guarantee.
  13. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Harbor's hand tools carry a lifetime guarantee also. And HF ain't near as broke as Sears/K-Mart is these days.
  14. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I would say the HF stuff is mostly OK, but not great. I would stay away from most of their "Chicago Electric" stuff, it seems real cheesy - I had an angle grinder that I got from them that melted the brush-holders in less than two hours of intermittent use. OTOH, their “Central Forge” or “Pittsburgh” hand tools seem to be pretty good overall. I've been very happy with the brand name mfgr recondition tools I've gotten from them. I have one of those bicycle tire log haulers, and it works really well except that the tires are a bit weepy - I have to air them up every few weeks... They've also been reasonably good on warrantee stuff, including many times picking up the tab on the return freight. Essentially I'd say you get what you pay for, and probably wouldn't get their stuff to earn a living with, or for anything "mission critical" - but for occasional home use the price is right.

    I would consider Northern to be an HF clone - same basic stuff, slightly higher prices

    Sears Crapsman used to be great stuff for the home wrench, but IMHO they've gone WAY downhill in recent years, and they now do everything they can to weasel on their guarantee, when it used to be no questions asked. These days I wouldn't pay more to get Crapsman than I'd pay for HF on most items.

    Gooserider
  15. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    Hit or miss on quality.

    Yesterday I picked up a pry bar and some organizing trays for nuts and bolts, etc. Neither one is a precision instrument so I felt pretty safe.

    Matt
  16. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    The organizing trays are probably OK :coolsmile: OTOH, I've had pry bars from HF bend or break on me, (granted, under VERY heavy load conditions...) so don't over load them. Seems especially likely in the case of the cast / forged type bars - I've got a couple rolling head prys that have chunks missing out of their tips... The failures were in cases where I had a lot of pressure on the tool so I may just have been overloading, but I thought it should have handled it. I also once had a drift pin snap on me when I dropped it off my work bench onto the concrete floor :shock: Seems they sometimes have trouble with getting the metal hardening right. OTOH this was a set of pins that cost less than one Craftsman drift would have...

    Gooserider
  17. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    Their socket sets are cheap enough that I wouldnt mind trying them out. if I lost them. who cares. I have 2 nice socket sets from high dollar places and I'm always misplacing one or two of them.
  18. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    I don't have the most organized shop, but I've found the HF hand tools (wrenchs, sockets, etc) to be fine. And frankly (going back to the organization thing) I find it's frequently more useful to have 2 or 3 of a wrench or socket (esp 1/2", 9/16", and 5/8) than to have a 'good' one for 2 or 3x the money. Haven't broken one yet, and I do engine rebuilds and damn near all my own auto repair, along with tractor and bobcat. For that matter, I've been beating on a $14 Chicago Electric angle grinder for 10 yrs and it's running great. Also got a decent (not stellar) morticing machine last year. Not sure it would take on a lot of work in oak, but I work mostly with pine and poplar, some cherry, and it does fine. Probably wouldn't have bought the Delta or PC for 2.5 x as much.

    As was said, if I were in the business, I'd probably buy the better quality stuff, because if you break a tool you're down for hours, and that costs. My time is essentially free on most of the projects I do, so I'm willing to tolerate a trip to the hardware or HF if necessary. And as I said, I haven't broken one yet.

    Steve
  19. Jay H

    Jay H New Member

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    I will find out soon enough about the hand tools. Bought a set of metric 1/2" drive sockets from "pittsburgh". I also bought a 250lb wt trailer dolly for $30 and a couple pulleys I intend to use for my kayak rack.

    There's a $5 off $50 or more coupon floating around: 762-284-594 expires June 1, 2007

    Jay
  20. Shane

    Shane Minister of Fire

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    Has anyone ever bought an air compressor from them? I'm considering an oiless airbrush compressor. Don't want to waste my 50 bones though.
  21. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I purchased a "Quincy" brand compressor from them a while back, and would give it a mixed review. It compresses air just fine, runs well, and has never given me any sort of trouble. However I find that it "runs out of steam" very quickly if I'm doing anything that involves steady air consumption like using a die grinder or a cutoff wheel. IOW, either the tools are drawing more than their 4-5 CFM stated draw, or the compressor isn't putting out it's claimed 6 CFM @ 90 PSI rating. It is suposedly a 3.5HP, 2 cylinder, electric (110/220 motor, came wired for 110, I switched it to 220) 20 gallon "mid size" unit, so probably bigger than the one you are looking at Shane.

    If I'm using an air ratchet or an impact wrench I'm usually OK. I have a mini-die grinder (think pneumatic dremel) and it carries that w/ a bit of a struggle, but if I use my cut-off wheel or die grinder, it gives me about 30 seconds of full power, another 30 seconds of decreasing but useable power, and then I have to let it sit for two minutes while it builds itself back up.

    I would love to get a larger unit, but this one works well enough for what I need it to do.

    Bottom line, I'd probably get another compressor from HF if I were shopping for one, but I would expect the actual output to only be about 50% of what is claimed. I also wouldn't touch anything by Chicago Electrics.

    Gooserider
  22. restorer

    restorer New Member

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    Shane,
    For the difference in price I would get a complete kit from one of the major manufacturers. They are matched compressors and brush/gun. Most come with cups or jars and a variety of tips. There are some very good ones on the market for under $200. With these you don't have to worry about compatibility. Also, you can likely find good deals on the Net or through everything from art supply stores to autobody and paint suppliers. My local paint shop had a complete Iwata kit for just over a hundred last month. I was tempted, but was only buying necessities that day. Paache and Badger have good kits also and can be readily found and have great parts availability.
  23. restorer

    restorer New Member

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    Goose:
    The topic of compressors could be a separate thread that will last for ever. I used a 2HP Standard Pnuematic for years. Finally I upgraded to a Saylor Beal 5HP. Your 3.5HP is probably closer to an older 1.5HP cast iron compressor. The two ways to get more air is a larger pump, or a larger tank. You can buy a supplemental tank, 20-40gal. reasonably. Tie the tanks in series and your reserve may cover the air needs. Of course the pump will take longer to cycle, but if you are not using max air on the tool, you can extend the range of the pump. Also, dialing down the pressure to the lower range of the tool will add usable time. Say the die grinder is rated for use from 40-60psi, putting the delivered air at the lower end will decrease the max rpm some, but the effectiveness of the tool will not diminish more than 10-20%. I have a rubbing machine that demands 21cfm at 80psi. It will run at that rate, but the pump will run almost constantly. If I run it at 60psi, and use a cfm reducer it slows the cycling some, but still works fine. Pump returns to a normal 50/50 cycle.
  24. MrGriz

    MrGriz New Member

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    I didn't know that HF tools had a lifetime guarantee. I must say the quality in Craftsman has gone down, but I figured with the gaurantee and my limited use it wouldn't matter. Guess I'll give the HF stuff a try. Thanks BB
  25. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I would take the HF "lifetime guarantee" with a large block of salt... If you read it, they 1. want you to show proof of original purchase (did you actually save it?) 2. want you to send them the busted tool (compare cost of shipping to replacement cost...)

    That said, Sears used to be "walk in, hand them the tool and they hand you a new one" - now they also give you a bunch of chit, and frequently (if the tool was part of a set especially) want you to order it via the catalog, and pay overpriced shipping. I no longer think Crapsman is worth the extra price for their decreased quality, and neither is their warrantee.

    IMHO there is not that big a gap between HF and Crapsman anymore, HF is at least as good as the NON-Craftsman "SEARS" brand, probably better than K-Mart or Wally-world. I haven't used the regular HF sockets, but their wrenches and impact sockets seem OK (I haven't busted one yet, I HAVE busted Craftsman in the past) and I would expect similar from their regular sockets. The pricing is such that I would consider the HF tools to be a good enough value to make up for any shortage in the quality department, and they don't hurt as much to loose :red:

    Gooserider
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