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The HF Syndrome Lives On......

by poopiekat
posted 10-15-2012 11:35 PM

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84 replies

84 replies so far

View Nicky's profile


695 posts in 4114 days

#1 posted 10-15-2012 11:53 PM

Well articulated … excellent post!

I learned this many years ago. I have many tools now that have outlasted their original owners and will outlast me.

-- Nicky

View syenefarmer's profile


492 posts in 3102 days

#2 posted 10-15-2012 11:54 PM

Sorry but I don’t see your logic. You can no more say that absolutely everything in a HF store or catalog is junk than you can say that old used tools are a true bargain worth buying. A “well-chosen” tool can be found pretty much everywhere if you look hard enough. I’m not a huge fan of HF by any means but at the same time I won’t exclude them 100% of the time from places that I shop just because they happen to be HF.

View TheDane's profile


5438 posts in 3685 days

#3 posted 10-15-2012 11:56 PM

I never buy anything with a motor at Harbor Freight.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2308 days

#4 posted 10-16-2012 12:05 AM

I have HF BS and joiner. Very satisfied with the quality of both considering the price. That joiner is the same thing used in industry here in the US back in the 50’s and 60’s. We sold the Chinese our dies. It’s pretty much the same tool with a new crap motor, but name me a tool that doesn’t have a crap motor compared to the 60’s.

These tools I mention above are made by Central Machine, not Pittsburgh which is a hit and miss and most of what HF has on the shelf. I have one of their portable belt sanders and it works like a champ for over a year now. Overall, I’ve had great luck at HF and saved enough money to buy one of those over priced cabinet saws you guys drool over….but I still like my Ridgid better.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2820 days

#5 posted 10-16-2012 12:06 AM

I have several HF tools in my Az shop and even brought some back home. Dollar for dollar they are some of the best tools I have. If they were inaccurate I would chuck them but they’re not. If they break I’ll replace them with a smile because they were “cheep”.

I’m a bit new at this as I’ve only been messing with power tools for 40 years and haven’t gotten any good at it yet but I think that HF gets a bad rap way too often.

Sorry poopie. I just can’t agree with you this time.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View Billy E's profile

Billy E

162 posts in 2102 days

#6 posted 10-16-2012 12:34 AM

True, but… You may have to watch craigslist/ebay/newspaper for years before you find a good deal on the tool you need. I agree I’d much rather have a used quality tool vs junk.

-- Billy, Florence SC

View toolie's profile


2134 posts in 2650 days

#7 posted 10-16-2012 12:59 AM

what does the OP think of this comparison of a HF BS and what is apparently an IDENTICAL BS that was sold by grizzly for roughly TWICE what the HF was available for:

-- there's a solution to every just have to be willing to find it.

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3131 days

#8 posted 10-16-2012 01:03 AM

I guess the first thing I would ask is whether this post is for the purpose of gaining knowledge (hence the question of not understanding) or whether it is for the purpose of just articulating that you do not like cheap tools. One thing I have noticed that occurs quite frequently in this site is a general misunderstanding between those that do not have to work with tight budgets in tools and those that do.

I have a number of HF tools. I have a collection of Pittsburgh steel sockets and wrenches. If I break one (which hasn’t happened yet) I can take it to the store and they will give me a new one. I also have a collection of wooden clamps, f style clamps, a multimeter, 23 gauge pin nailer, a benchtop drill press and a set of press clamps, etc. and have been just as pleased with them as the more expensive models of the same that I have used. Actually, many of the tools there are made from the same factory as the more medium priced tools that you will find in catalogs and at the big box stores. If it is a piece of crap, which some of them are, I just return it, no problemo.

I have a very tight budget, each of the tools has allowed me to repair appliances, perform some maintenance on my vehicles, drill straight holes, hold items down, etc. Things I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise because the cost of the tools would have went outside my spending capabilities.

Some people can’t understand purchasing a festool at the prices that are charged for their products. Some people can’t understand why people don’t buy a festool due to the quality. Bottom line is, it isn’t your shop, it isn’t your money, so what does it really matter? If you want to know the reason, it is mostly due to people’s budgets. If you don’t like the tools, the answer is simple, don’t shop there.


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

View 47phord's profile


182 posts in 2259 days

#9 posted 10-16-2012 01:13 AM

I agree with David. I own several HF tools-some proudly, others with shame-and yes, they are cheaply made but you have to remember that many of us: A)can’t afford to buy high-end, “brand name” tools and B) we do this as a hobby, so spending $1000+ on a drill press or a miter saw that you are going to use a couple times a month really doesn’t make much sense. Sure, I’d love to have a shop full of tools with names like ‘Festool’ and ‘Powermatic’ or ‘{insert expensive brand name here}’, but it ain’t happenin’. For that matter, I’d love to have an actual ‘Shop’, instead of a garage stall…

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 3406 days

#10 posted 10-16-2012 01:19 AM

I have a few things from Harbor Freight that do exactly what they are supposed to do. I also made the mistake of buying some sandpaper from there that did not work well at all. It quickly went from sandpaper to just plain old paper. I do have some old tools that were made to a high standard and still work great many years later such as my 1950s Delta drill press that I got for only 50 dollars and will probably last my lifetime. It’s just tough waiting for those deals on Craigslist when HF is so close and inexpensive and I could get the tool right now. Anyway, here is a link to a slightly funny HF parody for anyone interested.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View IsaacH's profile


128 posts in 2119 days

#11 posted 10-16-2012 01:28 AM

I second Davids Post!

Some of us are flat broke and would rather have crap than nothing at all. I only purchase quality tools…..if I have the money available. If I dont have the money available, but have a need, Ill go the HF route. Ill also utilize HF tools as “disposable tools”.

Many “Woodworkers” tend to get enamoured with the best most expensive tools and look down on anybody who gets by on what they can afford. It is a real pretentious attitude that makes tool makers feel confident to overcharge for tools that are functionally not much better than middle of the road tools. They can sell that beautiful $350 plane to someone who wants to put it on a shelf and look at it….id rather USE a $50 plane. I have used top of the line chisels…but my regular old Record chisels serve me just as well…and are easily replaced if broken.

Now I realize poopiekat is talking about truely crappy tools and not the middle of the road tools. I spent years living off the tools in my tool bag as an electrician. I admit crap is crap. Poor metal alloys and machining can lead to tools that never work quite right or wear out fast. But don’t get on a high horse declaring certain tool makers as less holy than others. HF makes no quality claims that ive ever seen, but I have generally had good luck with their products. If we quit being so pretentious, maybe the wood mags might review some of the “lesser” brands and we could get information on cheap tools that happen to work alright and not just the big 10 (or so) manufacturers. Even HF screws up and makes a good tool every once in a while!

Im done….anybody else want to get on the soap box?


-- Isaac- Decatur, GA - "Your woodworking....NOT machining parts for NASA!!!"

View TeamTurpin's profile


85 posts in 2083 days

#12 posted 10-16-2012 01:28 AM

I am confident that my woodworking brothers can walk through Harbor Freight and discern the junk from the workable bargains. I rarely buy anything there, but enjoy strolling the aisles from time to time.


View knotscott's profile


8055 posts in 3397 days

#13 posted 10-16-2012 01:31 AM

There’s definitely some junk at HF, but there are also some very functional tools at reasonable prices….even a few with a power cord. You just need to pick and choose wisely. Not everything needs to be made for daily professional use…..everyone’s needs aren’t the same as yours. If everything they sold was junk, people would stop buying from them.

I don’t own one, but the HF “2HP” DC has got a huge happy following.

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

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2712 days

#14 posted 10-16-2012 02:23 AM

I have some HF tools (love my oss. spindle sander) and I have bought a lot of higher end tools off Craigs List. The best thing about HF tools is that they will replace em for free if they lay down (even without the extended warranty) within a reasonable period of time. Just my 2 cents.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View poopiekat's profile


4356 posts in 3756 days

#15 posted 10-16-2012 04:07 AM

If I inspire one fellow woodworker to look for quality old tools, and spend the same amount of money for a fine older tool that he would have spent on a shiny new piece of junk, my mission is fulfilled here.
Why try to read between the lines?

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3020 days

#16 posted 10-16-2012 05:52 AM

Often the logic of refurbishing old tools fails miserably. Yeah, you can find some great tools that were well cared for or sat idle for years but many (most) are absolute dog meat. Do you have the resources to get a new part made to replace some broken or worn out part of a 50 year old machine that nobody stocks parts for anymore? That is usually why they are getting sold off. Here, let me go out and start melting down a pot of babbit to pour some new bearings. It is too expensive in both money and time to get them back into working condition.

Many times it ends up being tool restoration as the hobby with no time left over for making anything. Let’s all sit around for years without tools until that gem shows up on craigslist, flea market, or estate sale. Or worse, let’s have a whole shop full of tools waiting for those obscure parts to turn up to get them back in service.

“Yeah, it will be perfect once I find that one left handed Whitworth screw that keeps the spindle from flying off…..”

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View exelectrician's profile


2327 posts in 2449 days

#17 posted 10-16-2012 05:55 AM

Hi poopiekat,

My first TS was a Ryobi BT3000 I just love that saw! It is dead accurate, absolutely repeatable, so many times I have dialed in the fence and cut away. I put my vernier caliper on the item and Oh! yeah! it is always dead on. I see ads for really spendy saws and have thought about changing – but why? Why get rid of a tool that serves me well?

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View DeLayne Peck's profile

DeLayne Peck

545 posts in 2224 days

#18 posted 10-16-2012 06:00 AM

The sad thing about woodworking is there will come a day when we can’t see, stand up, or breath anymore saw dust. Some outstanding brand tools show up on Craigslist when a brother has to quit and sells off the shop. I’ respect were they came from and am proud to own them. I take very good care of those tools. Someday that solid, old Delta or Stanley Sweetheart will probably pass into young, enthusiastic hands.

-- DJ Peck, Lincoln Nebraska. Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.

View Fishinbo's profile


11362 posts in 2198 days

#19 posted 10-16-2012 01:13 PM

I could not agree more with what you said. Vintage machines have always been my preference. They are built to last.

View hairy's profile


2717 posts in 3554 days

#20 posted 10-16-2012 01:53 PM

I went to HF yesterday. I needed bar magnets and rare earth magnets, they had them and they’re maybe 4 miles away. I picked up one of these 12” wing dividers for $7.99. It will do what I need it to do. I could have got one of these for a lot more.

A knock off of a quality tool. That’s what HF is all about. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes not. I don’t buy many things from HF, I go there for glue and rubber gloves and I always look around. They have a lot of real crap with a few gems in the mix.

-- My reality check bounced...

View yrob's profile


340 posts in 3674 days

#21 posted 10-16-2012 01:55 PM

Just got a pancake air compressor for $39.00 (I had a coupon) .. Its small but since I am only planning to use it to blow dust out of my machines and occasionally shoot brad nails, it is a deal I could not pass up. If it breaks, I am not going to cry over $39.00.

-- Yves

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3173 days

#22 posted 10-16-2012 02:09 PM

I’ve never bought a large power tool at HF. I’ve come close to buying the band saw but ended up going with a used Grizzly. I do agree with a lot of the comments above that there are some good tools at HF, you just have to check the reviews on their site and here on LJ. There is also a lot of crap to be avoided.

I do think you can buy good used power tools cheaper than you can buy new at HF. I love buying used tools, the best part about it, when you decide to upgrade, you can sell them and get most if not all of your money back.

So if you are on a budget, which I am, I say used is the best way to go.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2132 days

#23 posted 10-16-2012 02:15 PM

I have several HF tools. Usually they are tools that I will use rarely. My HF SDS hammer drill on average gets used once a year. Sure I could have bought a Milwaukee at 6 times the price, but for one use a year? I can spend twice the time (labor) and still be ahead.

After reading several posts here I just went out and bought the HF 2 HP dust collector to replace my 1 HP Penn State DC. If it works I will keep it, if not I can always return it. But is it worth $150 to go from 1 HP to 2 HP in a DC? Given that I could barely afford the $150 I could not afford the $350 Grizzly!

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2270 days

#24 posted 10-16-2012 03:10 PM

Poopiecat, I like where you are going with this
If I inspire one fellow woodworker to look for quality old tools, and spend the same amount of money for a fine older tool that he would have spent on a shiny new piece of junk, my mission is fulfilled here.

My problem is my generation and the latter (I am barely 35) have never seen quality products on a consistent basis. By the time we were old enough to afford anything on our own, the “I’ll just buy another if it breaks!” disposable mentality had set in. Everything made had an engineered lifespan and a price point to match. In most cases, the output was always very good and the difference between cheap and expensive wasn’t necessarily the quality of what the item did, it was how long it would do it (longevity). In addition products of all types were (and are) constantly and rapidly evolving. Why would you by a game system or computer that will work for 20 years? Everyone knows something substantially better is right around the corner.

I know this does not apply at all to tools, however this mentality is impossibly hard to break. To the younger generation, everything old “sucks” compared to the “new version”. Also “cheap” doesn’t mean it won’t work well, it just means it won’t for well for very long. If you go back to the beginning of this statement, that trade off is entirely acceptable.


View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2270 days

#25 posted 10-16-2012 03:28 PM

Just to reinforce this point, this reply in this thread sums it up perfectly:

Just got a pancake air compressor for $39.00 (I had a coupon) .. Its small but since I am only planning to use it to blow dust out of my machines and occasionally shoot brad nails, it is a deal I could not pass up. If it breaks, I am not going to cry over $39.00.


I’m also not saying I agree with this mentality; either “everything old is junk” or “it’s going to break anyway, I may as well just get the cheap one that works just fine”, but that is the reason HF and the like do so well.


View AKSteve's profile


475 posts in 2325 days

#26 posted 10-16-2012 03:49 PM

I wouldn’t buy anything from HF that I think might kill me if it breaks while running ! but I would buy hand tools like pliers, wire cutters, gloves and stuff like that. there is a place up here in Wasilla that has cheap stuff like that I love that place! I get all of my clamps there and drill bits and junk like that.

-- Steve - Wasilla, Alaska

View Ralph's profile


166 posts in 2155 days

#27 posted 10-16-2012 05:46 PM

I understand what poopie is saying, but to make a blank statement that all HF products are junk is absurd.
DITTO David Craig’s comments.

-- The greatest risk is not taking one...

View yrob's profile


340 posts in 3674 days

#28 posted 10-16-2012 06:07 PM

I would not buy major tools like tablesaw or jointer from HF. However, for small stuff that is not used often and does not have to be dead on accurate (like that pancake compressor I was talking about) I am fine with that. None of my main tools are HF, they are good quality brands like JET or Delta. Some HF products are known to be disasters. Basically anything that requires accuracy like drill press or the like.

-- Yves

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2132 days

#29 posted 10-16-2012 06:19 PM

I’m a big fan of HF for neoprene finishing gloves, cheap moving dollies, wheels and casters, Goodyear air hose…

I tend to avoid things that can fail or non-perform in a way that might injure me, like respirator cartridges, prying and striking tools, things that are gasoline powered, things that can damage other things if they fail, like generators, cheap cordless tools, or are false economy, like cheap abrasives and foam brushes.

Lots of HF tools are identical or similar to Grizzly, like mini-lathes, trim routers, angle grinders, sockets, clamps… and can work fine if inspected on a case-by-case basis.

View poopiekat's profile


4356 posts in 3756 days

#30 posted 10-16-2012 10:23 PM

Hey, ya know what? I bought a reciprocating saw at Harbor Freight thru mail order, musta been 20 years ago, and it has seen some rather harsh use over two decades and still runs new. Oh, wait, it wasn’t a Pittsburg, or Central Machinery… it was a genuine Milwaukee SawZall, variable speed, dual range. It was in a catalog for $98… it retailed elsewhere then for about $175, prob over $200 today. Yup, at Harbor Freight. Jeez, stay away from the crap! And, hey, I’m not talking ‘Festool’ either. Here I go: I gotta say it: I’ve got less dough invested in my shop tools than the average cheapo/HF buyer. (My crazy handplane collection not included in that statistic!)...I got everything the traditional cabinetmaker needs. The real bargains are NOT at cheezo importer/discounter emporiums, when you can outfit your shop with well-chosen, well-made American heavy iron. Driving in a couple of ball bearings, for example, on an old machine gives you a reverence for the old, well manufactured tools that give you an almost spiritual feeling of well-being that you just never get with some rattly, noisy, vibrating hunk of potmetal. Just get out there and LOOK for the abundant bargains and find a GREAT old saw (and other tools!) and put it to work!
I guess this is the real point of divergence in the two schools of thought: Being a machine operator with an arsenal of crummy imported tools, versus the Zen-like sense of gratification and accomplishment that comes to anyone who has nurtured old iron back to life, and finds the inspiration and spirituality from a woodshop that truly has SOUL!

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2706 days

#31 posted 10-16-2012 10:37 PM

never even looked at HF for anything…I guess the late 80’s-early 90’s with Craftsman tools that I got for xmas gave me a bad taste for cheap tools (wow…there was a brand that managed to kill itself huh?). But at the same time I bought some tools from American Machine Tools because I didn’t have any money and have to say I had no complaints.

HF has expanded greatly (I surprised they are so big into retail…usually bad news for a tool store). But given that their footprint in the market is getting so big, if they sell junk they will have to improve or die. I think I’ll take a drive to Eau Claire tomorrow and check them out.

View poopiekat's profile


4356 posts in 3756 days

#32 posted 10-16-2012 10:43 PM

teejk: After seeeing how people readily step up to defend their HF choices, I’m sure HF will continue to thrive despite crappy quality. Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American consumer!
But.. I’ve tried to emphasize, I posted this thread to provide incentive for choosing vintage quality tools over the shiny, low-value import alternatives. It just feels good!

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3766 days

#33 posted 10-16-2012 11:05 PM

In the past, I’ve bought a two wheel dolley, a hydraulic table, but that’s about it. The main reason I don’t buy from them anymore, is the treatment of the founder by his son. See

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10117 posts in 4074 days

#34 posted 10-17-2012 12:24 AM

I have collected 4 #33 planes, made in India, at $7.99 EA…
They work GOOD…
I figured that I could always use the blade, which really looks good, in some shopmade planes, when I finally get to it.

There are some GOOD things and there NOT SO GOOD things from HF…

That comment about without Motors = Good; with Motors = Bad… comes pretty close.

Clamps are usually good…

Read the Reviews…

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View poopiekat's profile


4356 posts in 3756 days

#35 posted 10-17-2012 12:46 AM

Jeez, Joe, y’know everybody is of course welcome to their own opinions of what they feel is suitable for their needs. My point is that, with just a bit of trial and error, it is not really that hard to outfit your workshop with tools of a different era, tools that will not fail when under stress or high demands. Tools with cutters that will keep an edge. It takes knowledge, practice, a bit of trial and error, a few bad purchases here and there, but eventually you can build a spread of fine tools by searching the ads, antique shops, and second hand stores. My old-tool collecting and usage has something to do with self-image. I like showing off my tools, after showing the works I have created with them.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View 47phord's profile


182 posts in 2259 days

#36 posted 10-17-2012 12:59 AM

Poopiekat, I get where you are going with this, and on one level I agree with you- they don’t build em’ like they used to and it would be nice if we could all acquire those sorts of tools inexpensively instead of buying new, lower quality tools but the reality is that the old, higher quality tools are getting hard to find as everybody seems to think that the way to price a used tool is to take the price of a new one and subtract 5%. Maybe 10% on a good day. I’ll be honest, with the exception of a couple hand planes off of ebay, I’ve never had much luck finding a good used power tool that I could afford and I don’t have the patience to wait 2 years for the prize catch to show up. But that’s just me.

View mikema's profile


180 posts in 2608 days

#37 posted 10-17-2012 01:08 AM

I will go out and say, I agree with everyone here, as all are good points. It comes down to doing your homework. I started with a vintage Delta lathe. It was a nice machine that got me started turning. Unfortunately it had some problems and didn’t allow for any attachments. I did considerable research on it, and put numbers to paper, and the reality is the cost of restoration and bring it to modern standards was going to cost me as much as a new lathe. So I sold it to someone who enjoys restoring tools and bought a new Delta lathe.

Vintage tools are great, but it is important to do your homework on them, as it could be a diamond in the rough, or it could be scrap.

As a hobbyist woodworker, I try to buy the best possible tool for the least possible money. Why? With a wife, two kids, keeping a roof over our heads, and wheels spinning under us, my tool budget is limited. So, when it comes time to buy a machine, I start some research. When I start evaluating a tool purchase, all options are on the table, including new, used, vintage, and harbor freight. I actually typically look for used and vintage machines first. Potentially this can be the biggest bang for ones buck. But, just like buying a used or vintage car, you could be buying someone else’s problem. Next comes availability and pricing. The machine has to be what I want, and has to be within a price range I am willing to pay.

As for new vs HF new….. I have yet to buy a powered machine from HF. I try to go midrange on all my machine purchases, which, as others have said, HF machines sometimes look midrange, but are not. That said, I came very close to buying the HF DC. This was based on the feedback I had received on it from people who have purchased the DC as well a reading reviews and customer feedback on it. More often then not the responses were positive. The reason I didn’t get it? It was too big for my shop. I bought a smaller, more expensive, DC.

One last point, HF is great to have if you have an immediate need for a tool, no one to borrow one from, and funds are limited.

-- Mike ---- Visit my woodworking blog:

View poopiekat's profile


4356 posts in 3756 days

#38 posted 10-17-2012 01:14 AM

47phord: Yeah, there certainly are people who demand ridiculous prices for their stuff…when I encounter these situations, my reaction is to not give any response at all, just keep my dignity and walk away, silently. It’s not up to me to hip people to the real value of anything. It’s their problem. Enough good tools come onto the market that there is always opportunities to buy reasonably, but in the case of classified ads, ya gotta be quick! Because the bad deals will always be there, day after day. In our local classifieds, there was a listing for a ‘37 Chevy and ‘39 Olds, both looking like they were rolled over by a bulldozer, and the man wanted $800 apiece for them. That ad was active for a year or more; but an ad for a sweet ‘39 Ford tudor for $900, near rust-free and engine not stuck, came and went in two days. Kinda like oats, you want prime quality oats, you’ll pay top dollar, but you can buy oats that have already gone through the horse, for less money.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10117 posts in 4074 days

#39 posted 10-17-2012 02:21 AM


Everyone has their own way of doing things…

Some love to track garage sales, auctions, trash day jewels, etc. etc. (don’t forget the cost of gas to do this)
Other people don’t have the time or the markets to do that…

Some people like to just watch Craigslist and eBay… some don’t…

Some have become familiar with HF… they have learned, by hard knocks, what type of things are GOOD or have a chance of being good… they have learned that items with motors (power tools) have a slim chance of being good…

It is very difficult to ask the question about HF as the title of this thread and really get any solid results…

You will not get a Black or White answer whether HF is good or bad…

The bottom line is…
Do what is comfortable for you and NOT let yourself be guided into areas that may not ‘fit’ you.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View huff's profile


2828 posts in 3307 days

#40 posted 10-17-2012 02:36 AM

The bottom line is…
Do what is comfortable for you and NOT let yourself be guided into areas that may not ‘fit’ you.


I think you just summed it up in one sentence. Well put.

-- John @

View Purrmaster's profile


915 posts in 2115 days

#41 posted 10-17-2012 02:41 AM

To each their brand of tool. One man’s junk is a another man’s treasure.

View derosa's profile


1577 posts in 2858 days

#42 posted 10-17-2012 02:49 AM

it’s hard to deny that HF has its place in the world and that I can’t argue with some of their quality especially based on what you need the item for. Installing the oak floor in my daughter’s bedroom I spent 60.00 to rent the nailer from HD; if I’d been doing more floors or a whole house I’d have spent the 100.00 that the HF nailer shows up for and used that. Wouldn’t have needed another nailer once all the floors are done and it could hit craigslist for 25.00. Really isn’t a reason to spend the cash on a top end version just for the sake of having a top end when it isn’t something you’re liable to use again for years if not decades and a HF product will get the job done. I keep going back and forth on the spindle sander, HF is cheap and it is the exact same sander that 3 other brands use, even the colors aren’t completely different but for something I plan to use as much as I want to use the sander I’m setting the cash aside for a delta pro model. Worth it to me.
I race on a 5k dollar bicycle, will it get me to the store faster then the behind the dumpster bike I picked up at work; yup, but why bother when it’s only going to the store and the free one doesn’t matter as much if it gets knocked over, dinged by a bag of cans, or even stolen. I own cheap kilts that cost less then 100.00 bucks and a couple I made myself; always good for kicking around the shop, the garden, a hike in the woods, and slumming at the bar. All things I wouldn’t do with my bespoke Scottish wool tartan kilts that are nice for evening wear out. Cheap isn’t bad as longs as it fills the role you need it to and does so as well as you would need it to, then you can spend your money on the things that actually matter. I need a higher quality table and band saw but not a top end circular saw, hand drill or nailer for the limited basic use I will give them. Knock cheap all you want but my wallet isn’t bottomless and I pick and choose wisely based on want and necessity.

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

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1287 posts in 3081 days

#43 posted 10-17-2012 03:10 AM

I for one live in both worlds. I have an old Delta Table Saw, an even older Rockwell Band Saw, an older Ryobi planer that I bought used, a near new Ridgid Jointer bought used and finally, a Delta dust collector purchased used. Almost all of them bought from CL ads. I also have some routers purchased similarly. In addition, I have and have had a few HF tools. I have an HF air stapler that is excellent. I have an HF drill press that is just slightly better than junk. I have an HF pancake air compressor that I bought for portability. For the $40 it cost, if it lasts a year, I’m willing to throw it away and buy another one. I’ve had a couple of their cordless tools that the batteries barely lasted 3-4 months that definitely were not work the money. I have some chisels that were a great deal of work to actually get them good and sharp, but once they were sharp, they have proven to hold an edge very well and have been very useful. I use them for tasks away from home because they work, and because they were inexpensive, I am not afraid of them getting stolen or lost. I used to install automotive shop equipment for a living. My Snap-On, Mac, Craftsman and other higher quality brand tools were great, but it seemed that anytime I left something unattended for a few minutes, something would disappear, not doubt finding it’s way into the tool box of a sticky fingered mechanic. Eventually, I bought a bunch of import wrenches and sockets and the like from a store similar to HF called Mill and Mine Supply. I find it funny how nobody wanted to steal those tools. They worked just fine for the purpose of the work that I was doing. Finally, there are some tools such as hammers, pry bars and some things like that, that are going to be abused anyway, that it just makes sense to buy as cheaply as possible.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

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David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3020 days

#44 posted 10-17-2012 03:36 AM

Most people that complain about inexpensive tools are never saying anything from real first hand experience. Most woodworking machinery is real simple stuff mechanically. There just isn’t that much to go wrong. A couple castings, a few bearings, a spindle or arbor, an electric motor, an assortment of clamps and guides. Blades, belts, and bearings are consumables. If adjusted properly, maintained well, and not abused even the inexpensive ones will give many years of dependable service.

I have heard a lot more people complaining about other brands of bandsaws than I have HF bandsaws. Delta doesn’t sprinkle magic Delta dust over the castings when they come off the same production line. Neither does Porter Cable, Rigid, Jet, Grizzly, Powermatic or any of the other companies that buy from the same factories. My only complaint about mine was that the stock tension spring was too wimpy when I put the riser block in mine. $21 later, it was solved. The only other modifications I have made were an aftermarket fence and upgrading the guide blocks to roller bearings. I didn’t even need to re-align the wheels when I put the riser block in it.

If it makes you feel better to pay $400-$1200 for a nearly identical saw with a prettier paint job or logo than the one that I got for $250, I hope it lasts as long and cuts as well as mine.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

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4356 posts in 3756 days

#45 posted 10-17-2012 10:37 PM

And still the point I’m trying to make is getting lost on a few…
I never advocate high-end, expensive tools. I never owned any, myself.
My point is that there is a better alternative to cheezo shop tools and machines. I cannot speak for everyone, because there are people with long green but perhaps are less-experienced woodworkers. My words of course are of no value to them if they are going for the trophy tool mausoleum decor in their workshop. I may, however, be of some influence to a few woodworkers who are intensively trying to build their skill-set, and think their choices are limited to the least costly merchandise on the importer’s shelf. These are the people I wish to address. People who are just beginning to feel the passion, and find joy in discovering the smoothly worn wooden surface of an old wood-bodied plane, for example. Perhaps an old jointer, that will purr like a kitten while the baby sleeps upstairs. Or, countersinking a chamfer for a flat-head screw with a bit-brace. I feel an affinity toward people who like to put a great deal of their hand-work in their projects. As I’ve stumbled down the path of project after project, the hits and misses, I’ve come to appreciate dovetails that are NOT perfectly uniform and machine-cut. Surfaces that bear no indication of planer marks. molding edges that show no trace of router bit irregularities. Some furniture has soul, others not so much. I’ve come to appreciate that. Everyone of course can make their own choices freely.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

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2899 posts in 2270 days

#46 posted 10-17-2012 10:43 PM

I agree with you. Re read my post (because I don’t feel like typing it again) and that is the reason. I’m not saying I agree with it or endorse that behavior, but the fact is the new age fellows like myself are from a disposable economy. We’ve never really bought products that weren’t designed to break, so we but the cheapest ones that will do what we need them to do assuming they will fail and be replaced.


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David Craig

2137 posts in 3131 days

#47 posted 10-17-2012 11:25 PM

The point isn’t lost. You are correct, used tools is a very good option for those purchasing tools. If it was left at that, there probably would not have been the ruffled feathers. The problem occurs when generalized statements are accompanied by a tone of criticism for other options.

In my area, for example, woodworking tools on the used circuit are rare and far between. Pursuit of advertisements in Craigs List is usually a waste of time. While it may be true that bargains can be found on very rare occasions, that frequent searching is a huge investment of time. Used tools do have to go through a restoration process and that takes knowledge, time, and money. Not everyone is geared to be a machinist as well as a woodworker. Familiarity with tools does eventually become a requirement, but not everyone is pursuing a high level of professionalism in their pursuit of a hobby.

My own shop is a mixture of used tools, new tools, and HF items. The wording “throw away tool” is not one I am specifically comfortable with because I haven’t had to throw too many of mine away. Most of the tools I own have lasted for years and when I do upgrade, I give the old tools away to a new woodworker so that they can get their feet wet before making their own purchases down the road. Recycling at its best.

Used tools are a good option, but not the only option, and not always the best option. It depends, like everything else, on the individual’s situation.


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

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4356 posts in 3756 days

#48 posted 10-17-2012 11:51 PM

Thanks, David!
Out here on the open prairies, there is little to be had in terms of used tools. There’s no local wood to speak of, because there are no local trees worth milling out here where it’s minus -35 in the winter. without lumber, there’s fewer woodworkers. In a way, I can benefit from this, because there is less interest in a hot ad for an old or vintage tool once it’s advertised. There are NO HF stores on this side of the border, or anything remotely similar, though we do have our share of those discount import emporiums that smell like cheap rubber when you open the door.
Out of a purely academic curiosity, I’d like to construct a questionnaire about the woodworker profiles here on LJ. Does the HF shopper drive his 2012 F250 King Ranch Edition Ford pickup to the HF store when he goes ? Does cheepness pervade a person’s life in all facets, or just woodworking? does he rationalize other purchases when they are either extremely cheep, or extremely indulgent? Does he steal Sweet&Low’s from the restaurant when he orders the liver & onions? Hey, I just know I’ve spent well on my purchases over the years, not ever anticipated an early, irretrievable failure in my shop equipment, and when an upgrade opportunity presented itself, I was able to recover a good bit of the cost of the item I was replacing. From this approach to my woodworking life, I am rewarded with a feeling of well-being that I’d never known in my early years, indeed when I ‘harbored’ a throw-away tool mentality. Just sayin’!

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2526 days

#49 posted 10-18-2012 12:07 AM

47phord came pretty close to hitting the “answer nail” on the head. If you only use a tool once or twice a month then it doesn’t really matter who makes the tools or where you buy them.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

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David Craig

2137 posts in 3131 days

#50 posted 10-18-2012 12:16 AM

A demographic wouldn’t be a bad idea. I think it would be beneficial for people to understand how experience, shop space considerations, budget, etc. is different for everybody and does affect buying choices and one’s personal investment (time and money) to the craft. I know that a pet peeve of mine is when I see someone carefully lay out a specific question regarding a tool, such as a table saw, and ask buying advice and the response shows that the person did not pay much attention to the question. For example, this made up scenario – “I have a small shop, I spend only a couple hours a week down there and my budget is 200 dollars. Does anyone have a recommendation for a small TS that would fit that guideline?” Responder “Get a Powermatic cabinet saw. You won’t regret it.”

Very helpful….

I have been there. When my first wife set a price range, that was what I had. No more, no less. The rest of the money was food, shelter, needs for the kids. My first saw cost about 200 bucks. I couldn’t get any advice other than to not buy a saw if that is all I had to spend. I explored the possibility of used but found that most wanted more than that for their contractor saw and those that I could afford required an investment in order for it to work. I was allowed 200 bucks. If I saved my pennies for 10 years I would have 200 bucks :)

I ended up buying a craftsman. Not a great saw, but the fence was good and I made some things and the investment also told me what to look for when I had the money for a cast iron model. When I had the cheap saw, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted in a TS. When I had the money for the real deal, I knew exactly what I wanted. In the end, it might actually have saved me a couple of bucks because I have what I want and I have it for life.

Incidentally, the Craftsman is being used by a weekend woodworker. I gave it to him and he is getting the feel for what he wants. It has been almost a decade and still not a throwaway tool.

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

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