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Harbor Freight Tools

jmat1980's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 123

12-26-08, 05:50 PM   #1 (permalink)  
Harbor Freight Tools

Im in the market for some wood working power tools to do small jobs (build work bench, small cabinets for garage, etc...)

I was looking at some table saws, joint planers and surface plainers at lowes and HD and I figure id spend about $1200. At Harboe Freight I can get the same three tools (obviously different brand) for alot less (about $500). The brand at Harbor Freight is Central Machinery...

I just wanted to get some feed back on this brand from Harbor Freight. I am in no way a professional and these tools will get light use (especially the planers-for these I really cant justify $800 combined)


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spdavid's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 1,959

12-26-08, 07:10 PM   #2 (permalink)  
It is likely the tools you saw are the same as a wide variety of various labeled tools made in China.Although I have never worked where the specific tools you looked at are sold,I have some experience with the drills,jig saws and circular saws of the same type.The reviews on these have been generally negative.We have had a number of returns even when used for home owner light duty.

You can tell,when you are in retail,what the distributer expects by the return policy.It is what is known as "policy A" at Ace stores which is basically take them back,replace with free no questions asked credit from the distributer and toss the bad one.No power tool manufacturer of better grade tools uses policy A for returns.

For light home use these types of tools are cheap and can be adequate.The problems with them seems to be sporadic so you might have good luck.For heavier use I'd stick with consumer level brand names like Black and Decker,Skil,Makita etc.

marksr's Avatar
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12-27-08, 05:26 AM   #3 (permalink)  
I've bought a number of tools from harbor freight over the last 25 yrs or so. Only a few were used professionally. For the most part, I've been satisfied considering price paid.

I have a HF 10" wood thickness planer that I bought 15 or so yrs ago. It still works fine but occasionally it will eat the drive belt. Because the belt is an odd size, it can only be purchaced thru their parts dept. When they quit caring parts for that model, I had to modify the drive to accomdate a slightly longer belt so I could continue to use the planer.

retired painter/contractor avid DIYer

mango man's Avatar

Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 2,122

12-27-08, 06:46 AM   #4 (permalink)  
on the whole Ive been happy with the harbor fright tools Ive purchased

if I had 1200 to spend on tools like you do I would be shopping , Craig s list , eBay and classified ads for used top Quality tools rather than spending it on new mediocre quality

this is a good time to buy used , with the economy as it is I'm seeing lots of good deals on used tools

Last edited by mango man; 12-27-08 at 07:07 AM.
jmat1980's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 123

12-27-08, 09:41 AM   #5 (permalink)  
I found a Grizzly Duty Z table saw online (used) for $225...

It says it is in good working condition...

Anyone know if this is good...
Are these saws 220V, the seller says it is 110V but I was confused about what I researched online...I was finding some that are 220V

mango man's Avatar

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12-27-08, 10:40 AM   #6 (permalink)  
Are these saws 220V, the seller says it is 110V but I was confused about what I researched online...I was finding some that are 220V
can be either , I believe a lot of the motors can be wired either way

I would prefer the grizzly to the harbor freight from what Ive read online

heres a good wood working forum , you may want to ask opnions here

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bulldog8b's Avatar

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12-27-08, 12:08 PM   #7 (permalink)  
It's just like w/ anything else, you get what you pay for. However, if you are just going to use these tools very lightly and infrequently, I don't think buying the the HF brands would be a bad idea. If you were going to use them in a heavy duty, professional application, obviously it would be a no go. But for your applications, why not? Like somebody else said, the problems are probably going to be sporadic, w/ individual units, so most likely you will be ok.

However, I would look for better quality, used tools. Better quality tools, in addition to lasting longer, just work better and are more precise. Look on Craigslist, Ebay or at pawn shops. Pawn shops usually have a large selection of tools and like somebody else said, w/ the economy going to crap and construction slowing down, lots of people are going to be trying to sell tools. So, that is the route I would go, although buying at HF would probably be OK as long as it is only light, infrequent use.

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12-27-08, 03:06 PM   #8 (permalink)  
I have purchased HF tools, too, but none with motors. Mostly hand tools, measuring devices, etc. I heard stories such as the one Marksr related regarding the belt size. Brush size, arbor runout, other small things would keep me away.

DL-2000's Avatar

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01-01-09, 12:02 PM   #9 (permalink)  
I have purchased many tools from HF including the larger power tools, hand-held power tools as well as all kinds of hand tools.
I work all phases of construction as well as welding so I have a wide variety of tools.
There have been a few of the tools I bought that were pure junk.
Most I have bought work quite well as long as they are not abused. Some I use on a daily basis for my trade/work and have had no problems with at all.

As mentioned, considering the price most will do well for light duty/occasional work. If I can get a tool that I know I am going to destroy on a job for 1/10th or even 1/3 the price of what the same brand name tool costs, I'll get the HF one.

Most of the machinery is adequate for most general applications but will probably not be as precise as better quality units. Most of the power tools are ok and some actually work well if not abused. Most of the hand-held electric drills should be left on the store shelves. The gears either strip out or on the more heavy duty versions, the case will break and it will fall apart. (personal experience)

The big key to keeping power tools going is to first know how to properly use the tool. And second, stop if you feel the tool starting to overheat. For tools such as angle grinders,
I purchase 3 or 4 of them and when one gets hot I put it down and let it cool off and pick up another to keep working. Some I have had for several years and have worked just as hard as any name brand unit. For the price of one name brand grinder I can buy as many as 6 or 8 (if not more) of the HF ones.

I usually try to buy the tools when on sale so the price is almost nothing compared to buying the name brands.
Most of the HF tools can't take heavy abuse or throwing around but if you handle them gently and let them do the work they should last you long enough to make them well worth buying.

I would rather have some cheap tools that helps me finish the job than no tool at all. I've worked for company owners who refuse to buy the cheaper tools yet they lose time and money because their employees lose or steal tools on a weekly basis. When out in the middle of some far-away development I've found that I didn't have the tool I needed to complete a job because some other employee lost it. Then all work stops and I sit and wait for someone to bring me the tool I need. It makes no sense to me. I've told the guys I've worked for to load up on the HF hand-tools and extra power tools and keep them on the truck. If they get lost, it's doesn't set you back near as much as having to leave the job unfinished and return later.

When you can get a HF recipricating saw (AKA sawzall) for only $20, it will pay for itself the first time you use it.

in conclusion: buy the quality tools you can afford or will use for hard/frequent jobs. Most HF tools are fine and worth buying at such cheap prices if you don't abuse them.

One other thing: I've got a sears Craftsman bandsaw that I can't find blades for because it's an odd size. Unlike the earlier HF tools, most of them now are direct copies of name brand tools and uses the same sizes for arbors, blades, ect.. these days.


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Join Date: Oct 2005
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01-04-09, 06:40 AM   #10 (permalink)  
Harbor freight are mostly home owner type tools and you might be in for a ride if you try to get parts for them later. Professionals usually use the more costly name brands. I would think with construction employment just about at a stand still you could pick up some really good used tools pretty cheap.
I am not bad mouthing HF tools as I have a bunch of them. You get what you pay for even with them. They have really good extended warranty on just about any power tool you buy so if your planning on a large project where the tool will be put thru hell that might be a good idea.

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