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Thread: Tools, how good do they need to be?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Bellingham
    Posts
    2,449

    Tools, how good do they need to be?

    A Harbor Freight just opened up here in Bellingham. I have never been to one. I have seen on the internet where some people have waxed poetically about the experience. If I was to write a poem about it, it's tone would be similar to a dirge. I just don't see the appeal of such cheap tools, but I suspect they fill a demand. It got me to wondering when is cheap good enough? In my mind, cheap would only be the choice if I believe it was going to be destroyed or harmed in such a manner that I would be disposing of it after a short use.

    I understand that cheap tools and cheap products have provided more of an opportunity to more people to have such tools or products. The alternative before the advent of such cheap products was fewer purchases as people saved up their money.

    As I get older, and I am not sure it is because of wisdom or senility, I find myself buying quality even if it means doing without until I can afford it. I don't think it is the "right" way, just the right way for me.

    I just want to mention that I went to Harbor Freight a little out of curiosity, but also to procure some Evap-o-rust. It is hard to find around here.

    Now that I have stirred things up, I think I will go down to the shop and make some ash curlies. Have a good day!
    “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” - John Ruskin
    “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” - Oscar Wilde

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Northern Lower Michigan/Troll
    Posts
    196
    Can't argue with that..........

  3. #3
    Chris Hatfield is offline Former Member (by the member's request)
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    380
    I always try to remember that a big price tag doesn't equal big quality or big enjoyment.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Portland, Oregon
    Posts
    1,898
    I have a lot of HF tools that still perform flawlessly after years of service. You'd have a fight on your hands if you'd try to take away My Harbor Freight!
    Jesus was a Woodworker

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
    Posts
    9,076
    An observation; For someone who rarely does certain things like hone an engine block or tile a sink top, a Harbor Freight tool will get them through. It would make more sense to go to a reputable yard and rent a quality tool but, for the shade tree mechanic who will take 2 months to hone all 8 cylinders, this is not a good option. I too have half a dozen noisy, inaccurate HF tools that I picked up to get through a job . . . now they just won't die (although they act like it every time I use them)
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  6. #6
    As we discussed before, some tools are good to get through HF....such as...an angle grinder, dust collector, buffer, bench grinders, etc. But when it comes to tools that get used everyday like a table saw, band saw, etc....I bank on Grizzly, delta, etc

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    NH
    Posts
    4,005
    Cheap tools have a time and a place.
    If I'm 2 hours away from home and forgot my skill saw I need the saw to do the job I just drove 2 hours to do. My options are
    1 Don't do the job until tomorrow and bring the saw with me.
    2 Drive home and get the saw.
    3 Stop and get a cheap saw and hope it lasts long enough to get the job done.
    9 out of 10 I'll pick number 3
    I need a 1/2" wrench 2" long and bent at a 90. My options are
    1 grab the $90 snap-on wrench, heat it up and bend a 90 in it a half inch from the end.
    2 Grab the harbor freight 2 dollar wrench, heat it up and bend a 90 in it.
    Yup going with number 2
    So ya see there is a time and place for those cheap tools.
    It could be worse You could be on fire.
    Stupid hurts.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Posts
    1,448
    Things like an extension cord and an ice pick are hard to screw up. The compressed air fittings are also cheap, and I thought they would be hard to screw up, but after replacing several couplings I bought a good one elsewhere. I bought a knock-off spray gun... the $35 "HF" looked identical to the "real" $100 one but the atomization isn't as good, and the cheap pressure reducer works but is ugly compared to the one from Porter Cable. The $7 HF dial indicator works great for what I need, and when their magnetic holders are on sale, they are hard to beat - I bought several to use as "switchable" magnets on jigs. I bought some HF sandpaper... no worry about how long it lasts, one pass, then discard. I use it as "non-slip" on jigs. The four wheel furniture dollies are regularly the same price as the sale price from the big box, and occasionally go on sale. The furniture blankets are cheap, but be careful... a sharp corner will wear a hole in no time.

    So, do I like Harbor Freight. Yes. Do I expect to get good tools there? No. They are good at returns - probably 20% of what I buy dies fast enough that I take it back for a no-question refund.
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at www.solowoodworker.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Reno NV
    Posts
    13,361
    True, a lot of the stuff there can be junk.

    But there are also some items there that work well.

    Think of the DC that's been a recent topic of conversation here. It works quite well for more than a few folks.

    I've got their variable speed oscillating multi tool. It runs smooth and works like a champ.

    I've bought a cheap sledge and an anvil from them. They work fine.

    I've got a few nail gun tools from them that serve me quite well.

    Heck, I bought my little cement mixer from them. It was on sale for a little over a hundred bucks. I've put several bags through it and it works fine, and when I need it again, it's right here and I don't have to go rent one. I'm sure if I used it everyday it would fall apart, but for as much as I'll use it it's fine.

    I've bought quite a lot of consumables from them as well, from diamond blades for cutting flagstone to things like nitrile gloves.

    Not everyone needs or can afford festool, sawstop, grex, lie-nielsen and the like.

    So I think they have their place. Every couple of months I do a trip where I'll visit the local high end WW store, the local Contractor tool store, and HF.

    I usually pick something up at each of them...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Amherst, New Hampshire
    Posts
    10,604
    Quote Originally Posted by Brent Dowell View Post
    True, a lot of the stuff there can be junk.

    But there are also some items there that work well.

    Think of the DC that's been a recent topic of conversation here. It works quite well for more than a few folks.

    I've got their variable speed oscillating multi tool. It runs smooth and works like a champ.

    I've bought a cheap sledge and an anvil from them. They work fine.

    I've got a few nail gun tools from them that serve me quite well.

    Heck, I bought my little cement mixer from them. It was on sale for a little over a hundred bucks. I've put several bags through it and it works fine, and when I need it again, it's right here and I don't have to go rent one. I'm sure if I used it everyday it would fall apart, but for as much as I'll use it it's fine.

    I've bought quite a lot of consumables from them as well, from diamond blades for cutting flagstone to things like nitrile gloves.

    Not everyone needs or can afford festool, sawstop, grex, lie-nielsen and the like.

    So I think they have their place. Every couple of months I do a trip where I'll visit the local high end WW store, the local Contractor tool store, and HF.

    I usually pick something up at each of them...

    Exactly how I feel
    Faith, Hope & Charity

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