The HF Syndrome Lives On......

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Forum topic by poopiekat posted 10-15-2012 11:35 PM 3546 views 0 times favorited 84 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4389 posts in 3940 days

10-15-2012 11:35 PM

I still haven’t figured it out….If you have elected to own the cheeziest tools imaginable, yeah, HF would be a pretty darn good place to shop, in my opinion. Hmm, now, let’s see. What possible reason could there be for buying tools from the retailer of the worst possible tools on the market? Did you just want to be cheep, or is there another reason?
When I was 15, I bought a 1950’s Craftsman table saw, with a 1/2” arbor and 8” capacity blade, at a neighbor’s yard sale for $10. It was about as old as me. Rusty and worn though it was, I used it for quite a few years. In the 70’s, I bought a used Delta-Rockwell contractor’s saw for $75, and $75 for a genuine holz-her stock feeder attachment. It was my user saw for yet another 15 years, when the motor burned out. I then bought an utter piece of crap, a Ryobi BT3000. It was near new, with all the bells and whistles, but it wouldn’t keep a setting, and I wasted about as much stock due to that hideous lack of repeatability that I was accustomed to, working in commercial shops. So.. it went to an auction, at which I came home with a much better Delta, for $150. The Ryobi went on to its new owner for $85 after I paid nearly $200 for it. The Delta got traded off eventually, when I bought my King Canada cabinet saw, and occaisionally still use my ancient Powr Kraft (?) as a dado saw, two heavy cast iron work horses. I paid about $200 for the pair. Granted, I often put myself at the very end of the life-cycle of the saws that still gave good service in their declining years…
Okay, now back to this ‘Cheep’ thing. Dollar for dollar, a used machine of good quality is always a better bargain than some new piece of crud. Just because a HF TS, bandsaw, or other tool “looks” just like other mfr’s product, don’t be fooled. That 14” bandsaw may have the same casting or stampings, but the machines are tailor-made to specifications put forth by the retailer, so the bandsaw guides may be ball-bearings in one brand, and graphite glides in the other, for example.
To be a more effective woodworker, scout out the true bargains in the used-tool market. Learn how to spot gently used machines. Pay less for them that the prices listed in the HF catalog. Outfit your shop with well-chosen vintage tools and work with pride.

-- 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!!

84 replies so far

View Nicky's profile


695 posts in 4297 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


512 posts in 3286 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


5552 posts in 3868 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 2492 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


8166 posts in 3003 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 ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Billy E's profile

Billy E

162 posts in 2285 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


2148 posts in 2834 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 3314 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 2442 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 3589 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 2302 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 2266 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


8154 posts in 3581 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 2895 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


4389 posts in 3940 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!!

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