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Harbor Freight Tools Answered

Does anybody use Harbor Freight Tools regularly? Somebody on here pointed them out to me, they have a retail store about 20 miles from me, and they have some pretty damn awesome deals. I'm hoping their stuff isn't too good to be true, I was planning on taking a trip up there on Sunday and buy up some stuff I've been wanting. I just don't know about the quality though, so can anybody give me reviews on their products?

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jessyratfink (author)2008-02-09

I haven't been there either - I just want to go in and wander though. Several of my coworkers have told me it's "my kind of store" - whatever that means. Sometimes I wonder if they think I'm a carpenter or something. :P $9 soldering gun sounds good, though. I need to make sure I want to go the electronics route before buying something more expensive!

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westfw (author)jessyratfink2008-02-09

The "soldering gun" is one of those big100+W things aimed at soldering big wire and metal. Not for electronics! I got it when I realized there were some things that my nice Weller temp-controlled iron wasn't up to, or shouldn't be used for. Interestingly, HF doesn't seem to have any bargains in the electronics-soldering space. There are some cheap electronics irons (20-40W) at Fry's; I don't know if they're any good.

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jessyratfink (author)westfw2008-02-11

Ah, gun being the key word, I suppose. ;) I think I'll still go have a look around. I have a little bit of money to play with and I'm curious. I think I just need an electronics kit. Otherwise I'll never get started. :P

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westfw (author)jessyratfink2008-02-11

Yep; I learned to solder putting together Heathkits. (Heathkits were great. Sigh.)
Have you seen Lady Ada's recommendations for tools ? She has some nice kits, too (although I think she overstresses the use of "3rd hand"-like rigs.) I also like the LED Blinkie kits from 2D kits, and they sell a cheap soldering iron too.
(My 9y old daughter assembled a 2dkit 19-led blinkie with direction but little actual assistance. It's not as hard as the multitude of tutorials might imply.)

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killerjackalope (author)westfw2008-02-10

I have a cheap 25W iron from maplins, when I say cheap I mean £3 and it's good too. Also have one of those gun beasts, think about 180W (could be more it obliterated several projects) which was free with over £25 of screwfix stuff, they accidentally sent two and a random knife kit that was great.

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LinuxH4x0r (author)westfw2008-02-10

I bought a 180 watt (1300 degF) for only $7

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LinuxH4x0r (author)2008-02-08

They are great! The only thing I don't like is Pittsburgh - their quality sucks What I got from them: -Drill press($60) -reciprocating saw($15) -Sander(gift) -angle grinder($15) -hammer drill($30) -chisels($2) -wood carving set(gift) -Needle file set($2) -Air compressor($100) -air impact wrench($10), etc And thats just in the last 1/2 year. I am very satisfied, and I have to go 60 miles (120 round trip) just go get there. 20 is nothing.

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Just out of question. what is the shaft size on that impact wrench and has it any stones at all? We have a handheld mini one that cost £90, then again with a couple of dodgey welds on sockets it's now used to force crank the giant old front loader engine over so we can get hyraulic oil out of it (it's dead and sitting rusting so we're being environmentally responsible and saving about 300L of oil and 500L of diesel...)

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yeah I was asking if it had any stones as in metaphor for balls as in dooes it do its job, also there's alot of cheap tools out there that are pretty inaccurate about power, some are 20ft-lbs over/under in industrial tyrefitting that would be a no no, for precise things like new front loaders and the like you need a manual torque wrench and you need to weigh a minimum of ten stone, that gets exactly 500 ft-lbs of torque on the nuts... it's all dead complicated, I wonder if you could make that in to something useful...

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cvxdes (author)LinuxH4x0r2008-02-10
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LinuxH4x0r (author)cvxdes2008-02-10

Thanks 250 ft-lbs, 7000rpm

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westfw (author)2008-02-08

low-ish quality tools at very low prices, which certainly beats the lowish-quality tools at not-so-low prices that a lot of places sell. Most people don't use their tools past the point where low-ish quality is sufficient, anyway. I say if you think you need a tool, buy one from harbor freight. If you use it enough to break it, or discover it's limits, THEN you can think about buying a better quality tool somewhere else. I've got one of their 7x10 metal lathes, the $30 (?) drill press, a $9 soldering gun, cheap pop-rivet tool, and a couple of other things that work just fine for my purposes. And about 3 of their $3 multi-meters, which are great. Everyone who does electronics should have at least two!

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cvxdes (author)westfw2008-02-09

You had me searching for a $30 lathe for half an hour, lol. Did you get yours on sale? Their site says $460 My shopping list did just grow, though :P

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westfw (author)cvxdes2008-02-09

Sorry; the lathe (on sale) was closer to $400. I think the Drill press was this $60 version, which seems to regularly go on sale for half-price. You can/should check out opinions on lists like rec.crafts.metalworking on any particular "major" tool purchase, to get an idea whether it's complete junk, and/or what the limitations are. The mini-lathe is a good example; you can find lots of people bad-mouthing its precision compared tools ranging from 2x to 10x the price (or more), and a fair number of people admitting that there are a lot of useful things you can do with it anyway.

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Austringer (author)westfw2008-02-10

Exactly! The harbor freight $70 miter saw is probably only accurate to within a half-degree or so. It's more that sufficient if you are building a garage or a deck. If you're making picture frames or high end furniture a half-degree is pretty bad, but you don't have to make too many picture frames for a $400 DeWalt miter saw to have paid for itself. Some times you can tune the tool up so that it's performing like the 2x to 10x model. But when you factor in the time and money you put into that effort it might have been cheaper to aim high in the first place.

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Ferrite (author)2008-02-10

I got a decent 14x40 lathe from Harbor Freight and some tools for it and it is working well so far.

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Goodhart (author)2008-02-09

As the others have said: caveat emptor. I bought what appears to be a nice DMM and the price was too good to be true, but I figured, what am I loosing? It works. No frills, and a bit of a learning curve for my $9, but it is not for someone doing field work or pro repairs, for sure. So, depending on you expectations, you may be either disappointed or thrilled :-)

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gmoon (author)2008-02-09

I've got my eye on one of their sheet metal 'brakes.' Cheaply made or not, it will probably last me years...

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NachoMahma (author)2008-02-09

. Ditto what everyone else is saying - great source of low-cost tools for the DIYer, but it's not really professional-quality stuff in a lot of cases.

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trebuchet03 (author)2008-02-08

I love HF... But that said.. It's very cheap stuff - in both price and quality :) I have a $10 angle grinder that I've used the crap out of... $15 18V (Lead acid baby) cordless drill - I've used the crap out of it.... a bunch of other stuff..... Today I bought three rollers with stands that are apparently rated to 100 pounds.... I spent $10/ea - and will be returning them this weekend... Crappy bearings that just won't work for my purposes (making a homemade set of bike rollers).

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Austringer (author)2008-02-08

Harbor Freight is a mixed bag. If you plan on using a tool regularly, I'd aim a little higher than that, but if it's one of those, "This would be handy to have on occasion but I won't use it enough to justify buying a serious tool" kind of things they can be well worth the price of admission. I have their knock-off of a beverly shear, for example. It's not nearly as pleasant to use as the real thing and probably won't last as long, but I only use it occasionally and it only cost me about 1/5 as much. One of their drill presses got a pretty good review from one of the woodworking magazines a while back, which I take as evidence that Adam Smith's invisible hand is pushing in China.

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