Harbor freight quality

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Forum topic by pariswoodworking posted 08-15-2011 01:59 AM 3186 views 0 times favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View pariswoodworking's profile


386 posts in 2451 days

08-15-2011 01:59 AM

I was looking online at some of harbor freights tools and was wondering. Are they good quality tools or cheap worthless trash? I am mostly interested in their clamps and general hand tools. I saw that they also have some planes. Are they any good? What should I avoid buying from them if anything?


-- Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -- Albert Einstein

34 replies so far

View Bill Davis's profile

Bill Davis

226 posts in 3890 days

#1 posted 08-15-2011 02:13 AM

A lot of my clamps are from HF and most are just fine and much more affordable than some name brands. I do not like the pipe clamps I got from them however. I do shy away on something where I want precision and I think theirs does not bear the quality. I’ve gotten a couple of compressors and accessories which I think are a good value.

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3212 days

#2 posted 08-15-2011 02:20 AM

Somewhere here on LJs is a thread about harbor freight gems. Things like the dust collector.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View WilsonCreations's profile


105 posts in 2497 days

#3 posted 08-15-2011 02:31 AM

The stuff from HF seems better than it used to be, though I still hear it’s hit or miss. Luckily the seem willing to exchange just about anything. There are several threads on them, one has a link to there test site and they do seem to be turning things towards the better.

-- Wilson

View patcollins's profile


1683 posts in 2831 days

#4 posted 08-15-2011 02:33 AM

It all depends, they got some pretty decent stuff and they got some real crap too.

I like the Pittsburgh bar clamps click here for a review I did on them.

Some of their hand tools are alright too, I got a set of wrenches to keep in my truck and they are actually pretty good wrenches

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3513 days

#5 posted 08-15-2011 02:39 AM

Coming from a person who is anti harbor frieght.

Regarding the clamps, HD sells a set of quick grip irwin clamps that price out comparable to the equivelants sold at harbor and the irwins are higher in quality therby making them more economical over long term. And buying a few pipe clamps every now and then builds up a decent inventory of 3/4”pipe clamos and those will last your life time. Try using the square tube clamp from harbor and you get less pressure and they will not last a lifetime.

You get what you pay for in life.

-- .

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 2606 days

#6 posted 08-15-2011 02:40 AM

Just search harbor freight on Lumberjocks and read the reviews. There are quite a few recommended gems. I believe the dust collector is a favorite. The large lathe seems to have a following.

Here’s a list :

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2649 days

#7 posted 08-15-2011 02:44 AM

I bought the little No. 33 plane for $10. It’s not bad, but the throat is enormous and tearout can be a problem.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View Ray Friddle's profile

Ray Friddle

68 posts in 2996 days

#8 posted 08-15-2011 03:10 AM

I found the lifetime and quality of most of their tools is pretty low. I bought a tree trimmer and it fell apart on the first cut. I bought a measuring tape and the belt clip popped off immediately. But shovels and bars that I plan to smash into the roots and rocks of our backyard, that’s HF material!

-- Ray

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2530 days

#9 posted 08-15-2011 03:10 AM

There stuff can be so hit or miss. I recently bought a 4 1/2” grinder and a oscillating multi-tool and the 23 ga pin nailer. All great products. Most of the basic hand tools are ok (my thought is the less moving parts the better), but I agree with Bill in that its not great for precision stuff. I have had some chisels which are ok, but not amazing. A hand plane which was terrible (I think the same No. 33), but that may have been partially operator error. Also a combo square set which was ok other than the fact that the ruler would not stay rust free.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View knotscott's profile


7980 posts in 3342 days

#10 posted 08-15-2011 11:02 AM

HF is hit and miss IME. I’ve got some tools from them that have been pretty darn good, but their quality control is spotty so one might work well, the next might not. Really happy with my HF DP, and am fairly happy with my HF mortiser and HF compressor. I’d be more leary of more expensive critical tools like my TS. I like their Pittsburg bar clamps quite a bit for the value. Not a fan of their blades and cutters…too much downside risk considering the cost difference….just not worth it IMO. They have a good return policy, so if there’s a store near you, some things are worth a try.

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

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4954 posts in 2460 days

#11 posted 08-15-2011 12:58 PM

As a rule, I try to avoid anything that has an electrical wire from them ( the DC is a noted exception), The other stuff, as mentioned is hit and miss. Farmers around me carry some tools on their equipment for adjustment in the field. HF stuff is perfect since those tools can be easily lost. I’ve had good luck with their pipe clamps, others haven’t. Like someone said, they have a fairly easy return policy so you have some assurance your money isn’t completely wasted.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2647 posts in 2888 days

#12 posted 08-15-2011 02:42 PM

I have some of their quick clamps and the best thing about them is the price. I got 12” long quick clamps for $2 each. Only thing is, they do not last nearly as long as the irwin quick clamps do. I avoid their sandpaper but I like the 6”x48” stationary belt sander. This is my most used tool and I bought this heavy duty tool over a year ago for $169. Works very well. Had to assemble some of it but that is no problem. If you know what to look for there you can get some good deals. Oh Yes, I never buy vise grips unless it says “vise Grip” on the tool. This goes anywhere not just harbor freight. We used a lot of vice grip tools in construction Sheetmetal work.

-- Website is

View pariswoodworking's profile


386 posts in 2451 days

#13 posted 08-15-2011 05:46 PM

Thanks for the advice everybody. I’ll be sure to avoid most of their power tools and anything that needs precision but I may try a few things like their belt sander if I ever need a new one. The thing I was most interested in was their bar and c clamps so I’m glad to hear that they are decent quality.

Thanks again.

-- Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -- Albert Einstein

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2937 days

#14 posted 08-15-2011 06:13 PM

Every power tool I have gotten from HF has been a gem, but I go to the store and pick em up and check em out real close. There’s plenty of junk to be had in those aisles.

Their 4” x 24” magnesium belt sander is just as nice as any I have seen by Porter Cable, Dewalt, Craftsman or anybody else and at 1/4 the price..

Their biscuit jointer is a plastic attachment they stuck on a angle grinder and pasted a label on it that says it’s a biscuit jointer. I think it was a waste of a fair quality angle grinder, and packaging.

I like their little 10” x 18” 5 speed lathe just fine. But they have a couple of lathe models with very poor reviews and a couple that folks seem to like. When you go look at them in person you can see why.

View Sarit's profile


549 posts in 3106 days

#15 posted 08-15-2011 07:23 PM

Their version of the Irwin Quick Clamp I think has more clamping pressure, but it doesn’t last as long. I actually reach for them more so than the Irwin’s. The internals on one of mine broke, but I was able to fashion a wooden shim to make it work again. Its possible the Irwin’s are just as bad internally, and I simply haven’t used them as much.

I also have the aluminum bar clamps, which won’t let you really crank them, but I’ve found that I don’t need that much pressure anyhow. The big advantage is that they are so light and easy to handle and so cheap that you can buy enough to glue up all your panels at once.

I only buy non-precision stuff from them, like the reciprocating saw. It’s not as nice as a sawzall, but it gets the job done. I have their “foldable” trailer, and its not so foldable since it takes 2 people and 10 minutes of ratcheting to fold/unfold the darn thing.

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