Harbor Freight tools-good and bad

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Forum topic by MrRon posted 09-03-2011 09:52 PM 7019 views 1 time favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4710 posts in 3207 days

09-03-2011 09:52 PM

I came across this site that may interest you if you own or want to buy HF tools.

31 replies so far

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117061 posts in 3541 days

#1 posted 09-03-2011 10:14 PM

I have found that HF pipe clamps work great ,there are a percent of them that need to be sent back but for the most part after a little vasiline on the threads they work fine. I’ve purchased many of mine on sale for $1.50 each for 3/4” and probably own a 100 or so.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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27 posts in 2470 days

#2 posted 09-03-2011 10:44 PM

I recently purchased several HF bar clamps and the only thing they’re good for is to save the bar for something and toss the rest. Fortunately I found two 24” on sale at rockler for $14. ea.

I have stuff from HF that works fine, just have to be careful what you buy. Just be aware that this stuff is low end stuff.

-- My G-Kids call me Grumpy

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7980 posts in 3339 days

#3 posted 09-03-2011 10:57 PM

I’ve got a bunch of the Pittsburg bar clamps from HF that have been great, and not very expensive….usually $2-$5 depending on size.

Have also been very pleased with the 13” bencthop DP model 38142 that I got for $144. My $55 HF compressor and $100 HF mortiser have been fine too.

On the downside, their blades and bits scare me, as do their router, and the $5 hair clippers were a total waste.

You really never know how things will go with HF items, but they’re often really cheap, and their return policy is very good. U wouldn’t want to make my living with a lot of these items, but they’ve served this hobbyist well enough.

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

View Raymond's profile


676 posts in 3691 days

#4 posted 09-04-2011 04:26 AM

I have many Harbor Freight tools and have been happy with them all. From clamps to a mini milling machine. Use them for what they are intended for and they will work well.

-- Ray

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3301 posts in 2526 days

#5 posted 09-04-2011 05:29 AM

After reading every HF discussion I’ve come across it would appear that the general concensus is 50-50. Sometimes good sometimes bad and at all time beware.

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

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53 posts in 2881 days

#6 posted 09-04-2011 04:33 PM

Harbor Freight clamps are not bad for the price, but I will stay away from power tools from them in the future. I had purchased the Chicago Biscuit Joiner for $39.00 with a coupon some time back. I have used it twice and now the machine does not run any more. I press the start switch and nothing will happen. I talked to people at my local Harbor Freight and they can’t do a thing for me. That will teach me not to buy quality tools instead of junk.

-- "Happiness is creating dust"

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3015 days

#7 posted 09-05-2011 10:02 AM

Actually, if it were not for HF, I wouldn’t be doing this. It would be easier to list my bad buys than the good ones, so I’ll start. I bought a 1/2” drive demolition drill that worked famously until it went up in smoke. Seems that instead of 120 volt line, I got a hot and a mis-labled hot from a unlabled 3-phase which gave it 240 v. HF exchanged anyway even after explaining that it was my bad.

The rest have been perfect. Bought a really cheap ($15 to $18 on sale) trim router. Use them all the time—I have 4 now and plan 2 or 3 more—as they are easy to use powerful and smooth and a great buy. I have bought 14” bandsaw, 6” jointer, 10” scms, bench drill press, 6” grinder, oscillating spindle sander, 2 HP dust collector, f-style barclamps, c clamps, spring clamps, drill bits; split point, brad point, forstners, tapered w/countersinks, saw blades, a 33” bbe3tween centers 12” swing wood lathe, bench vise, drill press vise, hand tools of all kinds, lathe tools (ok, they’re cheap but I LIKE to sharpen—that means I can—hammers, chisels, cheap hand planes, two 8” dado sets, routerbits, a 8” slow speed wet sharpener, and stuff I can’t remember. I use it as it was designed to be used, do the set up and maintainance necessary and have never had a let down from HF Power or Hand Tools. I do just as good a job with them as I would with the expensive spread.

Too many people, because the tool is inexpensive, set out to break it because it MUST be broken to justify the illusion that money spent translates into quality received. Most of this stuff is not rocket science. Inexpensive tools are usually just as good in the end as top dollar in the work they allow one to do. Spending more is sometimes necessary, but the exception proves the general rule. Caviet Emptor. Beware, be wise, be honest in your assesments.

Magazines make a fortune not on subscriptions, but on add revenue. They can maximize that by giving deals on renewalls to keep the #’s pumped. They state their tool tests are un-biased, yet they either refuse to test or give such tests grudgingly with unrealistic results. They have stated in the past that they will not test HF tools because of low expectations and in order to provide the best guidance for the reader. I submit, however, that concern for the cherished reader doesn’t extend to REFUSING TO ACCEPT HF’S 2 PAGE ADD EVERY MONTH!! mONEY RULES IN THIS BUSINESS, AND THE ONES SPENDING THE BIGGEST BUCKS ON ADDS, AND THE ONES WITH THE HIGHER PRICES, ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE BEST TOOL IN WHICH TO INVEST. Buying decisions need to be made using the same thought processes one uses to buy paint or apples or light bulbs. Look dispassionaTELY,at the offerings, analyze them on the basis of suitability for the job, and greatest utility for cost, use what you buy wisely and enjoy this wonderful hobby with the knowledge that allways you do your best in everything you do.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 2925 days

#8 posted 09-05-2011 01:12 PM

I have bought some things from HF and found them to be OK, so far. I got some of their clamps for $1.99. A couple of them don’t snug down tight but work for what I use them for. They do have a good warranty.
Anything is subject to failure. A couple in town bought a Rolls Royce many years ago. The next day the car wouldn’t start! I knew a fellow who bought a Diehard battery. Next day, it had died.

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1454 posts in 2949 days

#9 posted 09-05-2011 01:31 PM

HF is one of several stores that I buy from. I will not say that they are my go-to store, but neither are they a last resort. I make sure to read about and examine every tool I plan to buy from there. There are some things, like a cold chisel or taping knife, that are so uncomplicated that I have no problem buying.

However, my personal rule of thumb is to stay away from hand held power tools and anything with a cutting edge. The exceptions that I have found to this are their oscillating multitool (for the hh power tools) and their drill bits (for tools with cutting edges). If you do buy tools with cutting edges (chisels, planes, etc.) be ready to spend extensive amounts of time sharpening them, as they are really only roughly shaped and never sharpened out of the box. Then again, there are many places that are more expensive where the same holds true.

The short and long is that I don’t think one should expect good or bad across the board from them. They are hit and miss and, depending on your own personal experience with them, they may be more of one than the other.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View navtalk's profile


27 posts in 2470 days

#10 posted 09-05-2011 05:07 PM

I said earlier that the Bar Clamps I bought were useless. When I tried to use them they would clamp to a point and then relax as you released the trigger. one fell off the work as I moved it. One clamp broke, you can see my fix, a silver colored bolt.
The second picture shows some real Bar Clamps and I picked up two Irwins for $14 ea on sale at Rockler, the bottom bar clamp is a HF useless.

I have several power tools from HF that work well. If I were in business I would probably not deal with HF except in the most limited way. I still have a circular Saw I purchased from Grainger when I was in my 30’s, I am 73 now, and it still runs great. it weighs about 2.5 ;) tons and is made out of metal. I can hardly pick it up. I only use it to rip sheets of plywood to make them manageable for use on my table saw.

-- My G-Kids call me Grumpy

View MrRon's profile


4710 posts in 3207 days

#11 posted 09-05-2011 05:52 PM

Although many others have brought up the topic of HF quality, I wanted to try to approach it from a different perspective. Instead of condemning all HF tools as junk as some people do, I wanted to keep an open mind. Fussy made a great point about paid ads by the name brand tool makers; it’s all about the money. If one goes into a HF store, you should have a pretty good idea of what your needs are and if the tool will suit your needs. This is true with name brand tools as well. I guess it takes a certain amount of knowledge of tools to be able to make good judgement calls. One should note that Northern Tool and Equipment carries pretty much the same quality tools as HF. The name “Harbor Freight” conjurs up a negative image of a store selling surplus and distressed goods; in other words, “junk”. The Northern name presents a positive image, implying that it is an industrial supplier that caters to serious industry. Please note that I have no connection with HF what-so-ever. I’m just a shopper like you.

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342 posts in 3484 days

#12 posted 09-05-2011 10:51 PM

The trick is to just look at the stuff closely and use your head to see if it looks decent. Usually, cheap tools will look, well, cheap. The do have some decent non-powered stuff at HF (I recently purchased some rubber-covered four-inch wheels, and I have a digital caliper that works fine), but I would be suspicious of some of their power tools. They have a compound slider that looks cheap to me, and at one time they had a jointer/planer that looked dangerous to use. I once was on the hunt for some new feather guides and the ones they had were jokes. They have some cheap, plastic-head clamps that work OK, but you cannot use them to clamp tightly. I had the handle break right off of one a while back, and I was not squeezing the grip all that hard.

Howard Ferstler

View a4523427's profile


1 post in 2406 days

#13 posted 09-19-2011 03:12 AM

Has anyone noticed the high prices at HF these days?! Even the sale prices are not a bargain, considering the products are inexpensive, non-branded products made in China. Kind of shocking. Their claim of “ridiculously low prices” is unmoored from reality.

View NiteWalker's profile


2736 posts in 2541 days

#14 posted 09-19-2011 03:30 AM

My Personal HF Gem List:
Air Hose Reel – Want another one of these.
Dial Indicator
Feeler Gauge Set
12-inch Bar Clamps
Multimeter (I caught this on sale for $2.99)

I did have a couple of the rubber parts of the clamp handles come off; epoxy or CA glue to save the day.

Thanks for posting that thread! Gettin a shopping list together. :D
Some things I keep forgetting about, like the orange dead blow hammers.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2451 days

#15 posted 09-19-2011 03:51 AM


I got those same HF clamps for Christmas and had the same results…...

Until a light dawned on my little noggin.

I took a 3 corner file and made lines across the top and bottom about every 1/8” and now those suckers clamp hard enough to squeeze Christmas presents out of the Grinch!

I never told my wife that they didn’t work. I know better.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

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