The Harbor Freight Experiment Series #1: Setting ground rules to contain my impulsiveness and inner cheapskate

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Blog entry by paxorion posted 12-15-2013 07:37 PM 1576 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of The Harbor Freight Experiment Series series Part 2: Not enough clamps! »

As I was cleaning and (re)organizing my cramped basement tool storage, I realized that I’ve acquired over the years a large number of Harbor Freight tools and disposable items. Most of my early purchases were made as impulse buys (after all it’s only a few bucks!) or because my inner cheapskate convinced me (against reason) that I didn’t need to spend any extra money for a brand name. Seeing the stockpile made me realize that I have certainly wised up in ways of figuring out what the HF gems (for me are), and when I would consider it an acceptable disposable. I thought I’d start a blog series to share my thoughts, hoping that it will be helpful for some, polarizing for few, and entertaining for all, as this newbie woodworker hunts for the elusive HF gems. Hope you all enjoy this series, and certainly let me know if you have any words of wisdom to share.

For part 1 of this series, I wanted to share the “10 commandments” ground rules (an examples of items I’ve purchased to date) that I set for myself to limit the number of “what a waste of money purchases” I make.
  1. If it’s a freebie, I’ll take it (e.g. tape measures, flashlights, tarp, screwdriver set)
  2. If it’s a seemingly “fail-proof” item (e.g. moving blankets, gardening tamper) it’s probably a money saver worth risking
  3. If it’s a disposable and the per-unit price is low enough, I’ll risk up to $10 total to form my own opinions (e.g. nitrite gloves, acid brushes, sanding sponges)
  4. If I need to stock up on a lot of them, and they seem to be well reviewed, I’ll give it a shot myself (e.g. clamps)
  5. If it’s only going to be useful for one project or one type of infrequent project, I’ll weight it against the cost savings (e.g. specialty clamps, ratcheting tie-down, electric planer)
  6. If I think it falls into the good enough category, or spending more money for a “better” version will go unnoticed by me (e.g. rubber mallet, dead-blow hammer)
  7. If a power or air tool has a trend of reviews calling in a HF gem, I’ll take a risk to form my own opinion (e.g. 3 gallon compressor, brad nailer/stapler)
  8. If I want to get a tool that I have zero experience with, and want to practice breaking and repairing before investing in good quality ones (e.g. chisels and planes)
  9. If I was going to go with a bottom of the barrel power tool from a big box store, I’ll try to save a few bucks with a HF version since they will likely be very comparable (e.g. reciprocating saw)
  10. If I find a particular type of tool I have is regularly lent out, I might buy a HF backup to serve as a loaner

-- paxorion

2 comments so far

View MT_Stringer's profile


3172 posts in 3283 days

#1 posted 12-15-2013 07:49 PM

Those cheep F Style clamps work great. I use the 6 inchers all the time and several of the 12 inchers. After using it to tear down some pallets, my reciprocating saw still works (fingers crossed).

Dead blow mallets, heat gun, several nail guns from pin nailer to framing gun. Cheep but work for me as an occasional user (not a professional).

Wiping pads for applying stain and sanding blocks.

A lot of this stuff seems to fall under some of your commandments.

But, Band saw – Grizzly, Jointer – Jet, Drum Sander – Grizzly, Table Saw – Grizzly. Brad nailer and stapler – Bostich. ROS – Dewalt. 12v Screwdriver/drill and drill driver impact – Dewalt. These get used frequently and have worked for me without failure.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View paxorion's profile


1107 posts in 2098 days

#2 posted 12-15-2013 07:54 PM

MT – next up in this series, will be the clamps. I own a lot of the F-style clamps and wrote a review about them recently. Good tip on the wiping pads, I’ll have to check them out. I just got a recip saw with which I hope to test out in the near future.

-- paxorion

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