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Rate the Harbor Freight Tools Thread- Pass or Fail?

coherent

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- I have both of the HF welding carts. The small one and the larger one with the drawers. The larger one with the drawers is very heavy and well made. Thumbs up on both.

- I'll chime in on the auto retract air hose/reel. I have the 50' and never had an issue. Replaced the hand reel type (from them also) after I got tired of reeling it up after use. Thumbs up on both.

- The 16 Ga air nibbler. If you want to use it on 16 ga mild steel, thumbs down. It just doesn't "nibble" through 16ga very well. On lighter ga steel or aluminum it goes through it like butter. Thumbs up for use on 18ga and thinner sheet if that's your purpose. I can't comment on longevity as I've not had it that long, but for about $20 (after the 20% off coupon), it's worth it in my opinion.
 

hman

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- The 16 Ga air nibbler. If you want to use it on 16 ga mild steel, thumbs down. It just doesn't "nibble" through 16ga very well. On lighter ga steel or aluminum it goes through it like butter. Thumbs up for use on 18ga and thinner sheet if that's your purpose. I can't comment on longevity as I've not had it that long, but for about $20 (after the 20% off coupon), it's worth it in my opinion.
I've got one of those myself, and agree it works super fast on thin sheet metal (probably 28-30 gauge in my case).

But I discovered an unexpected hazard - the half-moon shaped chad. Not only are those things are sharp as the dickens, but they LOVE to get caught in your shoe soles and walked into the house!
 

Rockytime

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I have half a dozen electronic calipers. Just as accurate as my Mititoyo's. Just not as smooth and go through batteries quicker. I really prefer dial calipers and have them all over the shop because they are inexpensive. My 9" mini band saw works like a champ for little things pen blanks. I have four small bench vises on my clock benches which work very well. I did get a good deal years ago when MSC still had a seconds or return table to browse through. Their salesman had a leak in his car trunk. He had six Chinese micrometers which had gotten wet. The wooden cases fell apart but the mikes were wrapped in oiled paper and were in good condition. I got all six for $10. Probably one of the better deals I have gotten. Overall I am OK with Hf tools since they get only light use from me. I have their wrench sets all over the shop.
 

JayMcClellan

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I've got one of those (air nibblers) myself, and agree it works super fast on thin sheet metal (probably 28-30 gauge in my case). But I discovered an unexpected hazard - the half-moon shaped chad. Not only are those things are sharp as the dickens, but they LOVE to get caught in your shoe soles and walked into the house!
I managed to put one of those half-moons through my finger right at the inner edge of the fingernail. Somehow it got hooked into the flesh in a way that wouldn't let it just slide out. I was alone at the time and of course it went in my right (dominant) hand so I had to pull it out with my clumsier left hand. I have a low tolerance for pain, so it took a few shots of rum before I was able to pull it out with pliers. That was years ago and I haven't used the nibbler since!
 

woodchucker

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- I have both of the HF welding carts. The small one and the larger one with the drawers. The larger one with the drawers is very heavy and well made. Thumbs up on both.

- I'll chime in on the auto retract air hose/reel. I have the 50' and never had an issue. Replaced the hand reel type (from them also) after I got tired of reeling it up after use. Thumbs up on both.

- The 16 Ga air nibbler. If you want to use it on 16 ga mild steel, thumbs down. It just doesn't "nibble" through 16ga very well. On lighter ga steel or aluminum it goes through it like butter. Thumbs up for use on 18ga and thinner sheet if that's your purpose. I can't comment on longevity as I've not had it that long, but for about $20 (after the 20% off coupon), it's worth it in my opinion.
Does the nibbler consume the 16cfm that they report. I can't see it eating up that much.
 

JayMcClellan

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16 Cut Fingers per Minute? Almost but not quite that many. :) The rating is actually 6 CFM, not 16, and mine ran okay on a pancake-size compressor but I didn't run it continuously.
 

woodchucker

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I didn't realize they changed that. It used to say 16cfm.. which I always thought was a lot. Years ago I had to do some heating duct work and when i saw that I said no freaking way. But I stayed away.
Thanks.
 

wawoodman

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Cut fingers per minute sounds about right to me. I can't even look at sheet metal, without cutting myself.

The worst was about 30 years ago, when I sliced deep into the side of my thumb. Being young and stupid, I glued it back together with newskin, and went bowling (league night.) Well, it got infected, and they told me I damn near lost the thumb. So now, I stay away from it, as much as I can. :dunno:
 

pashooter

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I have bought quite a bit from HF over the years - most recently some of their roll-around tool storage units that I'm very pleased with. Same with a Viking-branded welder cart I picked up a couple of months back. The biggest "good / bad" experience that stands out in my mind were both with the same tool - an SDS rotary hammer I picked up about 8 years ago (not currently in their catalog). I had just moved into a new house and needed to mount a 100 pound plasma TV on a brick wall in our family room. A big believer in the axiom that if it's worth killing it's worth overkilling, my plan involved about a dozen 1/4" x 6" long Tapcon screws through the brick veneer and into the concrete block behind that. Hey - I wanted to be damned sure my $4k TV didn't come falling down off the wall.

I bought the HF tool because I figured this was a one-off project and didn't justify buying a "name brand" equivalent at many times the price. The "good" part - the tool worked flawlessly and continues to do so to this day. Turned out not to be a "one off" job because once you own a rotary hammer you find all sorts of useful things to do with it. So it's gotten a fair bit of use in the last 8 years and is still going strong. Funny thing - it started leaking grease almost from day one and I'm sure at this point there can't be any left in the gearbox, but that doesn't seem to have hurt anything. Although it's still leaking. There may be some kind of magic Chinese grease creation device in there that just keeps producing more.

The "bad" part? The tool came with an SDS-mount "Jacobs" chuck for use with smaller drill bits. The first time I mounted that up and started drilling a hole the chuck literally exploded into a dozen or more pieces that went flying in all directions. That's why we use our PPE folks... :)
 

benmychree

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A good friend put in perspective for me; he calls HF tools "stage prop tools". Having said that, another friend bought me a set of single end short handled wrenches, and they seem to be of good quality. I have been in the venue perhaps twice and have not yielded to any temptation, perhaps because I lack for near nothing, tool wise.
 

kd4gij

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Has anyone found a better battery for there Chicago Electric cordless tools?
 

Silverbullet

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I have a ton of there tools , some I've used daily for over twenty years. There have been some well made items that when offered you better get them quick. A few years back they sold four drawer parts storage bins in metal with a full assortment of bolts , sae and metric , screws, and other items for $49.95 . They stopped selling almost as soon as they started . Another was a large rolling gray metal shelving unit that was about 6' x 4' x 2' with nice heavy casters. I think they were $59.99 , those items I would have gone back and bought several more. But they were not to be found a few weeks after I got them. I use there 4" + 4 1/2" cut off discs , there older grinding wheels in those sizes I think we're better then now. YUPP I'm not afraid to buy there tools and consumables.
I even have the green mill drill , a hydraulic lift table , jib crane using there truck crane , parts assortment in clear boxes , c clips , roll pins , hair clips , clench pins ,tenerman clips , o ring sets . Garage repair shop full.
 
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richl

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I just picked up a couple roll around tool boxes, Yukon brand,46"wide. I think they will be fine. I also got the us general brand 44" model. While they are not exactly the same quality, they are pretty close in construction, drawer slides and ability to hold tools in the drawers. Saved $100.00 each on the yukons.

Ymmv
Good buy

Rich
 

tq60

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We visited a store yesterday just to look and checked out bench grinders.

Spun the wheels on all of them and every one wobbled...A bunch ...as mush as 1/8 inch on one and just enough to see on others.

I would think they would take the little bit of extra time to be sure the display units were good...but maybe better to show what you get.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I337Z using Tapatalk
 

benmychree

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We visited a store yesterday just to look and checked out bench grinders.

Spun the wheels on all of them and every one wobbled...A bunch ...as mush as 1/8 inch on one and just enough to see on others.

I would think they would take the little bit of extra time to be sure the display units were good...but maybe better to show what you get.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I337Z using Tapatalk
I bought one of those grinders, at an estate sale and you are right about the wheel wobble; I replaced the wheels with USA mfg. and the problem persists; the problem seems to be the inner washers that are made of just stamped thin metal. I made new ones the same thickness, machined all over, and not much improvement; what is needed is to make a new set that are longer and extend right up to the bearings, as the old ones just bear against a very narrow shoulder on the shaft. This would make them run straighter, and they could be trued up in place.
 

ACHiPo

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I bought one of those grinders, at an estate sale and you are right about the wheel wobble; I replaced the wheels with USA mfg. and the problem persists; the problem seems to be the inner washers that are made of just stamped thin metal. I made new ones the same thickness, machined all over, and not much improvement; what is needed is to make a new set that are longer and extend right up to the bearings, as the old ones just bear against a very narrow shoulder on the shaft. This would make them run straighter, and they could be trued up in place.
OneWay makes a wheel balancing kit that will make even a cheapo grinder run true with decent wheels. Still cheaper than a Baldor.

https://oneway.ca/products-category/sharpening-grinding-jigs/Balancing Systems


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
 

Rockytime

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I have a HF 6" grinder. Only good thing about it is that it spins, however, wobbly. I turned good stabilized washers and it smoothed out. The problem is that the shafts are so short when using the good washers there are only about four threads left for the mounting nut. Rather dangerous. Obvious FAIL. Otherwise happy with HF.
 

dlane

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Got a HF 1 ton engine hoist used CL add $50. , layed it in my truck and the oil leaked out,
it has a 3 ton cylinder on it , I'm replacing it with a 8 ton cylinder and I'll beef up the frame
to lift a Sheldon 13" lathe off a trailer I hope
 

RandyWilson

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I moved a 2500# Cincinnati mill with a 2 ton HF engine crane. The weak link in my usage was the casters. I didn't plan far enough ahead and ended up skewing the load and overloading one front wheel going up the step from driveway to building floor. It didn't fail, but did bend a bit. Easy fix.
 

Buffalo20

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I've bought numerous composite ratchets, impact socket and extensions, hydraulic equipment, gas engines, scads of air tools and misc shop supplies, from Harbor Freight. I have one stead fast rule, nothing with a cord or that takes a battery.

I have 3 Harbor Freight tools that are electric, a model 981 Central Machinery mill/drill (1986), an original Harbor Freight tool bit grinder (1998) and a 20" drill press (new motor and all new electrics) (1998), I use the DP constantly.
 

682bear

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I had a fabrication job to do last week and needed to do some freehand miter cutting on 2 inch by 1/4 inch angle iron...

So, I went to HF and bought a Bauer deep cut portaband saw on sale... $106 and change out the door.

First, the good... this thing seems to be very solidly built, a little heavy, but handles easily. It cuts great, once you get it to cut... I was surprised how quickly it cuts...

But... the speed control doesn't work like it should... I turned it down to its slowest speed to cut steel, and when I pulled the trigger, the blade barely moved, so I turned it up until it seemed to be moving at about the right speed (judged with a poorly calibrated eye)...

As I started the cut, and the saw began warming up, it started running faster and faster, the warmer it got, the faster it ran... when I stopped and let it cool, it slowed way down again...

If I turn it to its slowest speed, it takes 45 seconds to a minute of holding the trigger until it reaches its speed... if I turn it up one setting, it runs immediately, but within 30 seconds, it is running too fast for steel, IMO...

But it cuts great, otherwise, so I guess pass or fail depends on the users perspective?

I think I will return it and buy a Milwaukee instead...

-Bear
 

woodchucker

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Glad I bought an older milwaukee on ebay. it cuts like butter. I run it mostly at full speed, since it is geared all the way down. I have not needed to dial it down further.
 

hman

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Bear -
What kind of hearing protection did you need with the HF saw? I was in a Home Depot store a while ago, and a friendly sales person let me plug in a Milwaukie and run it for a couple seconds. What a screamer!!!! I've considered buying one of these, but the noise is too much for me.
 

682bear

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The HF saw is not loud at all... its actually pretty quite... I didn't wear any hearing protection while using it, and didn't see any need to... I could hear the cooling fan on my Miller MIG over it...
 

bearbon

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Here is a HF tool that I use constantly, it's a little abrasive cutoff saw I have set up as a dedicated bolt and machine screw cutter. I took a bit of angle and drilled and tapped various sized holes and mounted it in the vise. The sheet metal box keeps the bench clean. I've cut hundreds of bolts and am still on the original blade. Cheers, Bill View attachment 106826 View attachment 106825
I wish I'd seen this sooner. What a brilliant idea. I use my cutoff bandsaw a lot but always cut bolts with a hacksaw by hand. This will be a real time and work saver. Thanks for posting it!
 
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woodchucker

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Bear -
What kind of hearing protection did you need with the HF saw? I was in a Home Depot store a while ago, and a friendly sales person let me plug in a Milwaukie and run it for a couple seconds. What a screamer!!!! I've considered buying one of these, but the noise is too much for me.
Look on EBAY for the older one. It is not loud. The newer ones are 11amps, while the older are 6. I think the diff is gearing and how fast the motor spins. I don't find it loud.
http://imgur.com/a/WE6dW is the table I made for the unit. I have a 6230.
 

Bob La Londe

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The little black 4 drawer rolling carts are good and handy. Fantastic if you wait to get them on sale for $99. I have two of them. I keep thinking I have three, but I can never find the third one. LOL. PASS

The little 4x6 bandsaw will severe metal, but it needs a lot of work to be a decent saw. I don't think it can reasonably be made into a "good" saw for less than it costs to buy a good saw. Mine arrived partially assembled with the pulley cover off, one pulley chipped out on the side, and stuck on so I was afraid to take it off so I just don't use that speed. PASS just barely.

Drill presses. Well. I have three of them. All different sizes, and I use all of them. One floor model has wobble and runout to make you cry, but once you learn how to use a drill press properly it still makes passably accurate holes. My two small drill presses both have tapping heads on them. They both also seem to have a lot less wobble and runout. I use all three of them every week, so while the one is not great, and I have to say PASS. Just barely for the big one.

I've got a very old mill drill. No longer offered. Really more of a positional drilling machine than a mill drill. Its actually pretty good as a drill. Much better than any of the drill presses. Its only a mediocre mill, but I have to give it a PASS.

Tile saw. I've got a little table saw style tile saw that's pretty hold. It does ok, and you can cut straight with it, but its sooooooo slooooooow. PASS and FAIL. (I might have got that from Home Depot. I'm not sure. LOL)

I had an RF-30 mill drill with a Harbor Freight label on it. It was not a great mill. I could hack out metal, but except for being faster the quality wasn't much better than I could do with a hacksaw and a grinder. Still I did use it to make a couple parts before I sold it. PASS and FAIL with a slight leaning towards FAIL.

Harbor Freight Chinese wood routers. I got six of them to get one that didn't have visible runout. FAIL. I bought one from a vendor on Ebay that was identical except a different color plastic and it was fine.

4-1/2 Inch angle grinders. The older ones were awesome when they would have them on sale. I've got two along with DeWalt, Milwaukee, Makita, Bosch and Porter Cable ones. They all have different wheels or brushes and they all get used. I don't even cringe when I reach for the HF ones. PASS. The 4" was a FAIL though.

Rotary Hand Piece. The no longer have these, but I have two of their old flex shaft rotary hand piece tools with the tiny little 5/32 Jacobs style chuck. They are awesome. I've worn out the motor brushes on both motors once and one of them twice. At one time I had the hand pieces clamped up as dual spindles on a mini cnc mill so I could cut identical parts two at a time. I still have them and the bearings are still ok. I have several Foredom handpieces as well and I use them all pretty much interchangeably. They are tighter than the regular Foredom handpieces with fairly low runout. Only the high price high precision heavy duty Foredom was better. It cost 3 times as much for just the hand piece as the HF units cost for the hand piece and drive. PASS.

Bar clamps. I have a dozen or some little 6 or 12 inch ones. They aren't Bessey, but I have had fewer problems than I did with Irwin bar clamps. I use them all the time to clamp molds closed when I am injecting plastic. They get a lot of use. I actually have over 30 bar clamps of various makes and I use the cheap dark blue HF ones more than any of the rest. They are light, but they are also cheap. PASS.

7 x 10 mini lathe. FAIL. Sorry. I used it and I learned how to fix it, and I am even now converting it to CNC, but as it came it was really barely a machine. The motor is weak. Has poor RPM holding under load. The motor controller is mediocre at best, and well the rest of the machine kind of speaks for itself. As weak as the motor is if you have it in a low gear and load up the cutter it will strip the plastic gears like wiping mud off a window. I have all metal gears in mine now. Well hanging on the wall since it going to have no gears soon. Not even the plastic two speed transmission gears in the head. You have to do a lot of work on it to have a fair mini machine. I know. I've done most of that work. I still have a soft spot in my heart (or maybe that's in my head) because my wife gave me that machine for Christmas one year, so just in case she ever sees this I guess I have to change my vote to PASS.

8.5 x 18 small lathe. Its got a lot wrong with it, but atleast its a little heavier and has a motor that in the words of Doug Marcaida "it will cut." It's not a lot better than the mini, but I've never stripped a gear even when I have stalled the motor. Speaking of the motor. You have to be doing something wrong to stall the motor. Its a single speed AC induction motor. The only way to change speeds it to change pulleys, but it has decent torque. It might not snap off a high speed steel lathe bit, if you stuff it up, but it will sure break the edge off. Its also no longer offered by HF. I still use this machine (single purpose now) several times a week to radius one end of stainless steel dowel pins. I may not have all the gears, but I was never able to find a gear setup that would reach that would cut whatever thread I needed. I made a set of die drives for it instead. I have the gears it says on the chart, but they don't reach. LOL. Still its a useable tool. PASS marginally.

Wrenches, screwdrivers, assorted hand tool. Most are passable. I have a lot of old Challenger (before Proto ruined them), Proto (from before Proto ruined themselves), and Master Mechanic from when True Value still had them made in the USA. I've got SK and older American Made Vise Grip tools. They are all better than the Central Machine hand tools, but to be honest unless you are locking them together for leverage or putting cheater bars on breaker bars you aren't likely to break one. I've broken Proto sockets so... They will wear out and get sloppy though. You can round out a socket or a box end wrench with sloppy technique over time. I know how much it takes to break one too. If I have to lock up two wrenches or use a cheater bar I start with my HF tools so I don't break a good tool. They will never be American Steel from the 70s and early 80s and they will never be German steel from the 90s, but for the most part I have to give them a grudging PASS.

I do have to FAIL most of their T-handle hex drivers though. I got one set of ball end that was pretty awesome. I've snapped the ball off a few of them, but they are hard. I just grind the end flat on the bench sander and put them back in the rack. I've wiped the edges off a couple, but I was using them for much harder bolt remove than they should have ever faced. I just grind the end down and put them back in the rack. Overall I was pretty happy with that set. I wanted to buy a couple more of that set to put have one on each work bench so I wasn't always trying to remember where I used it last. Every single one I bought afterwards was so soft I could almost twist them removing bolts that had been hand tightened. To be fair. They list a set on their website that looks like the one I own, but they don't stock it int he stores. The ones in the store will bend if you look at them. Inspite of one good set I have to say FAIL.

Central Pneumatic Tools. BIG FAT FAIL. Die grinders work but don't last. Impacts work but don't last. Ratchet wrenches work, but don't last. Air nailers work for about half a box of nails at best. Went through 4 clip head framing nailers on a single project. Just kept taking them back. Finally got my money back and got a Ridgid round head from Home Depot. Been using it for almost ten years now. My Porter Cable is 3 or 4 years old. Both still work just fine.

It occurs to me I should stop writing as it reveals I have way to many cheap Harbor Freight tool. LOL
 
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