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The Magic Cafe Forum Index ╗ ╗ The workshop ╗ ╗ Harbor Freight (2 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Michael J. Douglas
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Inner circle
WV, USA
1649 Posts

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My Lowe's, Home Depot, and Sears are pretty much right next to each other, and I've usually found whatever I've needed at one of those. But, I recently found we had a Harbor Freight come in locally and decided to check it out. It looks like they have a nice selection and low prices, but it's all off-brand. From what I've read online, people don't have the best opinion of their products that use electronics or battery packs. There's only been a few posts here that have mentioned a product or two. Anyone have an opinion on the store or their wares, good or bad?
Michael J.
´┐ŻBelieve then, if you please, that I can do strange things.´┐Ż --from Shakespeare´┐Żs ´┐ŻAs You Like It´┐Ż
EsnRedshirt
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Newark, CA
895 Posts

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Great disposable hardware! Seriously, if you need a tool for just occasional use, it's a good place to get it. If it's something you plan to be using a lot, you might want to stick with a better known brand.

I get most of my clamps from Harbor Freight. They're the cheapest deal in town, and, really, when you need a lot of clamps (and who doesn't?) it's good to buy them cheap. They aren't the best quality- I've had a few break on me- but when you've got a lot, you'll always have another one to replace the broken one.
Self-proclaimed Jack-of-all-trades and google expert*.

* = Take any advice from this person with a grain of salt.
Michael Baker
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Eternal Order
Near a river in the Midwest
11160 Posts

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My first HF tool was a 14" x 40" wood lathe with tools and a stand. It has served me very well, but there are some things it cannot do. It does not have capabilities for end boring. Also, the thread pitch on the arbor is unlike anything on Earth. It was a challenge to figure out how to adapt it, so I could use a jaw chuck with it. All of the wands, pedestals, bases, etc., that you can see on my website were done on this lathe.

I then bought, online, a 12" slip roller. This is a wonderful tool to have, obviously for forming metal tubes. It has allowed me to tackle several projects that, without the Slip roller, I would not have been able to do.

Most recently, I bought a small bending brake. This does the job, but the clamping bar is just a long separate bar of steel that must be lined up, and secured with "C" clamps. That's a big waste of time, and accurate alignments can be challenging. Advantage is that other sizes of steel could be used to make specialty bending jigs that a fixed long bar could not do, like the multiple bends needed to make Die Box shells.

I have had my eye on their spot welders, thinking that would allow me to fabricate some things that soldering with a propane torch would not.

I suspect a number of smaller hand tools, clamps, etc., that I have inherited probably came from HF. Most are ok.
~michael baker
The Magic Company
Bill Hegbli
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Eternal Order
Fort Wayne, Indiana
22771 Posts

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I love Harbor Freight. When all I want to do is one thing and will probably not use it again, this is the place. Prices are great for what you get. They also have things that normal shops/stores just don't carry.
George Ledo
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Magic CafÚ Columnist
SF Bay Area
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I decided a few years ago that I'd buy some of the inexpensive stuff at HF, like smaller hand tools and such. Power tools, air tools, and such, no way. Which is a shame because I've really been wanting to get a small metal lathe, and their price is really good. On the other hand, I read somewhere that their metal lathe is made at the same factory in China that makes the one for Grizzly and another dealer.
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gimpy2
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I shop at Harbor freight every week. It's a great place for hand tools, paint brushes, spring clamps and extension cords.

I have tried some of the air tools.... All junk. Even tried a heavy duty staple gun that had no safety... shot myself before the job was over.

They also have trouble with anything with an electric motor. Bought a palm sander that broke in less than an hour.

Don't even think of buying the battery powered junk. Save up your cash and buy a Bosch.

Gimpy
Michael J. Douglas
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Inner circle
WV, USA
1649 Posts

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Thanks, guys. A lot of what you're saying confirms what I've read elsewhere. Bummer on some of it. I was going to try one of their pneumatic nailer/staplers, but I'd rather it not quit on me after two shots. It's so cheap, though, I may have to try it anyway!

Esn, I never seem to have enough clamps. I got a flyer yesterday that had a coupon for 12" Quick-grip style clamps for $1.99 ea. Unbelievable! Too bad there's a limit of 4.

Michael, glad to know you've gotten some things that have worked out for you. I've always had a mini-lathe on my list of wants. The only one they had was about the price of some I've seen elsewhere ($499), but it had a sign on it that said, "Does not work. So don't sell it!" And right next by, they had a wheelchair for sale! Smile
Michael J.
´┐ŻBelieve then, if you please, that I can do strange things.´┐Ż --from Shakespeare´┐Żs ´┐ŻAs You Like It´┐Ż
MentalistCreationLab
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HF is a great place to buy consumables. You know, stuff like sandpaper, rags, gloves. The best tools for imports are UL listed. If you have a choice between UL or non UL, take the UL Listed. The working quality is better. Learned this from a high end tool dealer. He has never told me bad info. I bought a couple of UL Listed import tools and never had a single problem. The metal band saw from HF is a different story all together. Buy KAMA if you need one. It's the only way to go. 6" round stainless steel cut in 15 minutes and within 20th top to bottom. HF 2.5 days and off over a half inch. Need I say more?
Michael Baker
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Eternal Order
Near a river in the Midwest
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The quick grip style clamps are never a good deal when cheap. I have had many break. It's always a spring in the ratchet that breaks.

I have found a similar clamp that is cheap and works great. I found them at Big Lots, and they work very much like a caulk gun but without the cradle. They are all steel except for the pads. They hold securely, and I have yet to break a single one. Downside is the grip range is limited, but I make smaller stuff anyway, so no biggie.

If you are in the market for a mini lathe, Woodcraft has this
Rikon on sale.
~michael baker
The Magic Company
tabman
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USA
5946 Posts

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Just got an email from HF. They're having a "BIG SALE" and now prices are much more in line with their quality. I always look the sales over. I once bought one of their $295 router tables for $109 with free shipping, but that's about what it turned out to be worth. I would have been better off bolting a $76 Craftsman router to a piece of 3/4" plywood with a little round hole in it. I used one like that for many years and made a lot of beautiful table molding on it.

http://www.harborfreight22.com/r2/r4.asp......de=0000&
...Your professional woodworking and "tender" loving care in the products you make, make the wait worthwhile. Thanks for all you do...

http://Sefalaljia.com
EsnRedshirt
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Newark, CA
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Michael, the nice thing about those clamps is they're on sale in practically every HF flyer. So buy four, then go back a week later and buy another four. Eventually, you'll have a bunch of clamps.

(Imagine, though, if there wasn't a limit on how many clamps you could buy? The first person there would buy out their entire stock, and nobody else would get any till they got their next shipment.)

I should mention I also bought a tile cutter there when I redid my bathroom. Cost around $20 and was a lot cheaper than if I'd gotten it anywhere else. It could even handle big 12" tiles.
Self-proclaimed Jack-of-all-trades and google expert*.

* = Take any advice from this person with a grain of salt.
Regan
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U.S.A.
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I also think Harbor Freight is good for the price. I buy certain things from them. I have used one of their aluminum cases for a long time. Of course their are better cases on the market, but their case suited my needs, and for the price I paid for it, I think it is an excellent value.

I also purchase rubber/latex gloves from there sometimes. I bought a car jack that I've had for about 2 years, and a clamping vise that I am very happy with.

It depends on what you need and what you are going to do with it, but sometimes you can find some real bargains there.
Mister Mystery
Michael Baker
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Eternal Order
Near a river in the Midwest
11160 Posts

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These are very close to the clamps I have. look here
~michael baker
The Magic Company
Michael J. Douglas
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WV, USA
1649 Posts

Profile of Michael J. Douglas
That's an interesting clamp. I'll have to check out my Big Lots sometime. I got a handy socket set in there once, but I haven't been to one in years. It's about 1/2 hour away, but it's near where they put in the HF. They've had some nice spring clamps and things from time to time, too. Thanks for the reminder.
Michael J.
´┐ŻBelieve then, if you please, that I can do strange things.´┐Ż --from Shakespeare´┐Żs ´┐ŻAs You Like It´┐Ż
ClintonMagus
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Southwestern Southeast
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I would really like to have one of these:

http://www.harborfreight.com/30-inch-she......907.html

Image
Things are more like they are today than they've ever been before...
raywitko
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western Pa
527 Posts

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Quote:
On 2010-08-31 08:38, ClintonMagus wrote:
I would really like to have one of these:

http://www.harborfreight.com/30-inch-she......907.html


No, you wouldn't. Got one and it fell apart on me. Pretty heavy also.
Ray
Sometimes it seems there are more than one of me.

Tabman USA
magicdmv
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ClintonMagus
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Southwestern Southeast
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Quote:
On 2010-08-31 09:46, raywitko wrote:
Quote:
On 2010-08-31 08:38, ClintonMagus wrote:
I would really like to have one of these:

http://www.harborfreight.com/30-inch-she......907.html


No, you wouldn't. Got one and it fell apart on me. Pretty heavy also.
Ray


Great! Thank you...
Things are more like they are today than they've ever been before...
Michael Baker
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Eternal Order
Near a river in the Midwest
11160 Posts

Profile of Michael Baker
I have a small shear that was destined for the dumpster. The magic shop I worked at also had a trophy shop in the same building. They were buying a new shear because their current one had a broken mount casting. I fixed it with some modified hardware and have used it now for over 20 years. It will only handle 12" widths and 22 gauge steel is about the limit for tough metal, but you can't beat free!

The small 12" HF slip roll I have was only about $125. It is large enough to make tubes for any of the stuff I make. Most are plain tubes for things like the Confetti to Silks outfits, but I have a Phantom Tube partially done now, too. One thing I like about it is, once the tube is formed, I can keep it locked in the slip roll, add a couple small clamps to secure the ends, and solder a nice joint.
~michael baker
The Magic Company
AGMagic
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Cailf.
775 Posts

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There was a time when I bought lots of HF stuff. I only have a few pieces left. Most of it convinced me that the particular type of tool (nailer, palm sander, air ratchet wrench) was a good idea but their execution of the tool was not. Some can be made to work well with some filing and lubrication but many are not salvageable.

I have found that while you may not always get what you pay for, especially with tools, you almost never get more than you pay for. If you are outfitting a shop, don't be in too much of a hurry. Know what tools you want to own. Keep your eyes open for sales on better tools and buy them when they are on sale. They are often nearly the same price as the HF tool and soon you will have a complete shop of quality tools that will last a lifetime.

Used (not abused) tools are also often a good deal. You may have to disassemble them to clean and lubricate them or to replace brushes, but these are simple tasks.

In my experience, cheap tools are usually quite expensive when you factor in replacement cost, lost time, damaged materials and potential hazards to the operator.

My last experience with a HF tool was last week. I had used one of their 2-1/2 ton floor jacks to lift the rear end of my Explorer to look for a leak. I was reaching for a jack stand to put under the axle when the floor jack blew a seal and the car came down with authority! A few seconds later and I would have been placing the stand under the axle and might well have been seriously injured. As someone said they make disposable tools. Use it once, but then be sure to discard it!
Tim Silver - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Magic-Woodshop/122578214436546

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tabman
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Inner circle
USA
5946 Posts

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Quote:
On 2010-09-06 17:08, AGMagic wrote:....My last experience with a HF tool was last week. I had used one of their 2-1/2 ton floor jacks to lift the rear end of my Explorer to look for a leak. I was reaching for a jack stand to put under the axle when the floor jack blew a seal and the car came down with authority! A few seconds later and I would have been placing the stand under the axle and might well have been seriously injured. As someone said they make disposable tools. Use it once, but then be sure to discard it!


Holey Smokes. And I was thinking about writing about the cheap plastic HF rachet clamps I bought a box full of and how I add a steel bolt and nut in place of the plastic rachet pin to make them work more than a few times. All in all, still a decent deal at 25% of the price of better clamps.

I am so glad you didn't get hurt. What a story. That's the "way too cheap" theory in real life.
...Your professional woodworking and "tender" loving care in the products you make, make the wait worthwhile. Thanks for all you do...

http://Sefalaljia.com
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