What Harbor Freight tools would you buy?

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Forum topic by tefinn posted 01-12-2012 08:55 AM 10571 views 3 times favorited 58 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1222 posts in 2433 days

01-12-2012 08:55 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m already planning on how to spend my tax return (after catching up on bills) and would like to stretch it as far as possible. HF has the best prices by far but some really questionable quality.

I know their dust collection is supposed to be a great bargain and some of the hand tools are decent for the money. What else do you consider to be a good buy if your on a budget? What would you stay away from?
Why do you like or dislike a tool or accessory?

Some of the things I’m interested in are their sanders, lathes, router bits, turning chisels, paint guns, etc. But anything you have to say about whatever they sell would be welcome.

-- Tom Finnigan - Measures? We don't need no stinking measures! - Hmm, maybe thats why my project pieces don't fit.

58 replies so far

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3105 days

#1 posted 01-12-2012 09:22 AM

Lathes – generally favorable reviews for their reverse head cast iron model. Don’t pick up any of the models that are steel tube. They are too light and the vibration makes them a poor choice for a lathe. For an inexpensive though generally favorable set of turning tools, check with penn state industries “Benjamin’s Best” line.

Router bits – I would stay away from all HF router bits. The carbide coating is light and they have a tendency to burn after short use. Their trim router, though, gets pretty good reviews. When you buy router bits, avoid large sets (150 bits for $200.00!) sales. Roundover, cove, rabbet, straight, and trim and/or pattern bits will be your main stay. I generally would buy a set of whatever one I needed to make sure I had all sizes. Large router bit collections tend to leave you with many bits you may never use or would use only once in a very blue moon. If you are looking for good quality bits at a reasonable price, check out They have good prices and free shipping regardless of the size of order. I prefer 1/2 inch shank bits because they are more stable.

If you ever get into using an air compressor. Their pin nailers are considered a gem of a deal.

Clamps – You can’t go wrong with Pittsburgh brand clamps. Steer clear of Central Forge.

I would avoid their sandpaper, as the backing is very poor and the paper becomes useless in a very short time. If you want to stretch your sandpaper dollars, buy a good brand and pick up an abrasive cleaning stick. That five dollar investment will extend the life of your sandpaper double, if not triple the length of time without it. It elminates clogging that shortens the life of the paper.

I believe there is a review or two in regards to their paint guns. Go to the reviews section of the site and look up spray guns.

Hopefully this will help get you started.


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

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2967 days

#2 posted 01-12-2012 09:50 AM

I have several HF tools that I am completely satisfied with. Best sale price shown.

#38142 Bench Top Drill Press, 16 speed, the 40” tall one. ~$200

#97869 Dust Collector, 5 micron, 2 hp. ~$150

#65345 Mini Lathe, 5 speed, 10” x 18”. ~$160

#47066 HSS Lathe tools, 8 pc set. ~$50

#43468 Disk Sander, 12”, benchtop ~$100

I don’t have, but have studied and read good reviews on:

#34706 Floor Model Lathe, 12” x 33-3/8”, 3/4 hp ~$200

#67595 Band Saw, 4 speed, 14” wheels. ~$350

I also have some air nailers that work very good, but they are constantly changing suppliers. Not sure if they still sell the ones I have.

They also have an oscillating spindle sander I would love to have. With a coupon from Wood Magazine this is $90. The same machine is sold under other brand names for twice as much.

View Kelby's profile


134 posts in 2407 days

#3 posted 01-12-2012 10:01 AM

I have owned many of their tools, and most were trash. But I was very pleased with their benchtop drill press and their 6”x48” stationary belt sander (the one that has the disk on the side). The 14” bandsaw is OK for a little bandsaw if you don’t need to get super high quality bandsaw cuts. I also have one of their 12” disc benchtop disc sanders, which is pretty good.

-- Kelby

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3047 days

#4 posted 01-12-2012 11:12 AM

The 14” bandsaw is a spectacular buy. I can do anything as easily and precisely as any other brand, The 6” jointer (being discontinued ) is a real jem. Had these for years, no problem. The 10” csms is dirt cheap and accurate. Pleanty of power. Needs to be set up, but all tools do. The 2 hp dc is a wonderful buy but get the Wynn environmental cannister filter. The drill presses are good, the above-mentioned wood lathe is excellent, the oscillating spindle sander is a baqrgain and a super addition. Trim routers are a bargain, work well, and are cheap enough to dedicate a task to one and leave it. I have 3 and want 3 more. The Pittsburg bar clamps (F-style) are as good as anything 4 times as expensive, Drill bits, etc. are all good for the money. Theeir oscillating multi tool is fabulous and is $20. They even have a new planer that looks good.

Most of the stuff to swtay from is really cheap and obvious. Most if not all the power tools represent exceptional buys. All the things I mentioned, I have and use regularly. I like almost everything they have and thqat’s because I have gotten more than my money’s worth many times over. Interestingly enough, I haven’t had a single tool failure or dissatisfaction from Harbor Freight.


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

View Mickey Cassiba's profile

Mickey Cassiba

312 posts in 3027 days

#5 posted 01-12-2012 01:25 PM

I bought a set of their carbon steel turning tools when I started turning. Mostly to see if I could turn, but also to refine my sharpening skills, as I didn’t want to mess up any good tools in the learning process.Three years later, I still have and use them. At around 18 dollars, I consider them one of my best turning investments. They are used almost daily, and though a little shorter they are still some of my most used tools. I generally stay away from any of their electric tools, I’ve been bitten a few times, but the reciprocating saw has been another surprise. 5 y. o. it not only still runs, but has more miles on it than a lot of my more expensive tools.

-- One of these hammers oughta fix that...

View knotscott's profile


8008 posts in 3371 days

#6 posted 01-12-2012 02:20 PM

There’s little that I’d buy from HF if prices weren’t low, but at the right price:

Might buy:
- 38142 13” bench DP (very happy with this one)
- 2hp DC (don’t own it but would consider it at the right price if starting out)
- mortiser (works fine)
- Pittsburg metal F-style bar clamps (not the quick grip plastic ones)
- digital calipers
- step drill bits
- jointer (this is also one that I don’t own but would consider if starting out)
- compressor

Would not buy:
- router bits
- saw blades
- hair clippers
- quick grip style clamps (black and orange ones)
- orange router

It’s worth noting that HF tools have a fair amount of variability….I suspect that it’s higher than most, but I don’t have data. Tools that work well for others, might not work well for you.

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

View Stillhave10fingers's profile


6 posts in 2458 days

#7 posted 01-12-2012 02:48 PM

I have 3 things I bought from HF that I have been very pleased. The first was the 12 inch sliding compound miter saw. I put a Freud blade in it and took the time to make sure it was setup properly. Cuts like a champ. Remodeling my house with it. The others are an air framing nail gun and an air roofing nail gun. I purchased HF nails for these because I don’t know if other brands will fit properly. But both guns work flawlessly. Also, got all three of these when HF was having a sale so the price was nowhere close to what big box stores charge. 1 item I found to be no good (at least mine wasn’t) was the Magnetic base for dial indicators. The screw adjustments are flimsy and stripped out long before it would support the weight of the indicator. Took it back. Also, if you are thinking about getting one of their 6 inch vernier calipers, be sure to check inside the box to make sure you are getting the one you think you are. I just remembered…I also have a HF plunge router. This, too, has been working very well. HF does have many items that, in spite of being not major brands, are fine tools that are well worth the money. Just be selective.

Have fun tool shopping!

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3072 days

#8 posted 01-12-2012 03:04 PM

The one thing I have in my shop that really stands out as a “Good Deal” from HF is their osculating spindle sander. I flat out love this gem and tickled about the price…. I have absolute no gripe at all about it (has saved me countless hours).

I do own a few clamps from them as well…. Kind of finicky at times, but when your on a budget they will definitely get the job done….

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View DIYaholic's profile


19620 posts in 2671 days

#9 posted 01-12-2012 03:14 PM

To: tefinn & All budget concious folks like me,

I too am leary of purchasing from HF due to the quality or lack there of. I only purchase those items recommended by others with actual experience with the item in question. dbhost made an excellent posting, regarding Harbor Freight Gems. It is on BT3Central Forums. Check it out!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View RibsBrisket4me's profile


1554 posts in 2501 days

#10 posted 01-12-2012 03:50 PM

Lots of great advice already given. I had their bench top drill press when I was starting out and it was fine. I’ve read that their 15 inch DP is also good.

I’d get the 14 bandsaw if I needed one. After tuning up my Ridgid, I’m confident I could tune up the HF and get it running fine.

THeir air compressors look to be a nice bargain, and I have their Pittsburg clamos and they are fine as well.

I’d also NEVER buy a router bit from them. Just for me, too much risk of a broken bit that scares me.

View brtech's profile


1029 posts in 2918 days

#11 posted 01-12-2012 04:27 PM

The biggest gem is the 2 HP DC. There is a coupon for it in this month’s Popular Woodworking edition.
The F clamps are great, and I also like the aluminum bar clamps. The pipe clamps are pretty good. I actually use the cheapie plastic quick grips, but they are not as much of a bargain as they seem.
The pin nailer is fine. The brad nailer is a good tool, but the hammer is bigger than other brands.
The hex key sets are great
I have the drill press table which I like a lot
Can’t go wrong with their acid brushes and chip brushes
The roller stands are not as good quality as others, but much more bang for the buck. I use them a lot.
I have an old 14.4V drill that keeps on working. I don’t use it much any more, but it still works just fine.
My HF Dial Indicator and mag base works great. I use it all the time for machine setup
I have their plastic router plate. It’s as good as any other of the same material.
The tap and die set is okay.
Their heat gun/paint stripper is a fine tool

I did pick up a framing square that wasn’t square. Not on my HF all time hits list.

View ShaneA's profile


6928 posts in 2594 days

#12 posted 01-12-2012 05:15 PM

I have been pleased w/the Pittsburgh clamps as well. Good luck.

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3170 days

#13 posted 01-12-2012 05:17 PM

Looky here

-- -- Neil

View poopiekat's profile


4354 posts in 3730 days

#14 posted 01-12-2012 05:22 PM

The only HF item I’ve ever bought from them was an awesome Milwaukee 2-speed+variable speed Sawzall, thru the “Insider’s Club” (do they still have that?) Had to be 22 years ago, still runs like a champ and it was like $78 then when sug. list was $135. I avoid their house brand merchandise.

-- 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 StumpyNubs's profile


7590 posts in 2796 days

#15 posted 01-12-2012 05:38 PM

The first thing you should buy is the dust collector. It’s the best deal in the store.

I love their reversible head lathe.

All of their drill presses are a great value.

The mortiser is great for light duty work. But if you do a lot of hardwood mortising, pass on it.

The palm router is great, and I’ve heard good things about their heavier duty router, the heavy duty electric hand plane, and the cheap sanders can’t be too bad for the price.

The steel bar clamps are great.

I have a small wire welder that I use for some things and think well worth the price.

Vices and grinders are a good value.

I’ve heard good things about the Jointer.

The band saw is a great deal, maybe one of the best in there.

The steel cutting, horizontal band saw is very good.

The dovetail jig is nice.

The oscillating spindle sander is something I plan on buying.

They have at least one decent hand plane “(":

Some people like their sliding compound miter saw.

The chisels work nice for beating on, but get a better set for fine work.

The machinist dial gauge and stand are a great deal for tuning up your table saw, etc.

The buffing compounds are a great deal for honing planes and chisels (demonstrated in this video)

And always remember: NEVER PAY FULL PRICE! Almost everything goes on sale eventually, often for a LOT off. And always bring a coupon, you can find 20%-40% off coupons in woodworking magazines at the book store, and those discounts can even be used on top of the sale prices!

(The best woodworking show ever made in the history of mankind is now online!)

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

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