Quality of Harbor Freight and Chicago Electric tools

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On Mon 22 Nov 2004 08:36:21p, snipped-for-privacy@consult.pretender (Jeffrey J. Kosowsky) wrote in

I bought the recip saw. Actually it was on sale for 25$ when I needed one for a garage project. I figured, if it does this one job it was worth it and if I find myself using it a lot, I'll get a good one. It did the garage job, then another one, then the bathroom remodel, then it helped tear down the neighbor's old shed, and it still goes on and on.
I like having a reciprocating saw around so when it dies I'll upgrade, but I don't feel bad about having bought this one.
I don't know if I'd trust 'em well enough to get something that's supposed to be precise, like a sliding miter saw, though.
Dan
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I have a cheap Chicago $49 router which works good. Great drill press for $39. Lathe for $149 seems adequate since it does indeed spin. But serious woodworkers (if that be you)need serious tools..... casual woodworkers (that be me) can make do. -opinions may vary.

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This is Turtle.
I have tried out their Chicago recept saw. It is a little bitty thing and is not big at all. When cutting 2 -- 2" x 6" at one time it will drag down or jam for second at times if you push it. You just can't push it hard. I have a regular Porter Cable and will cut the 2 2X6 at one time with no effort at all. I've had it about 3 months and have not burned it up yet. I only use it for lite cutting or it being small to reach up in a hole to cut something. It is about 1/2 the size of the regular Porter Cable saw.
They are on sale this week for $19.99 if you need to know.
All the Chicago tools are for lite cutting and not the get it on cutting. If your doing lite cutting they usely work fairly well.
TURTLE
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I tend to shy away from the Chicago Electric brand. I bought a drop light and it fried the first time I plugged it in. Took it back. Second one fried. Bought a heat gun. Fried the first time I plugged it in. Took it back. Second one fried as well. That said, I have their 4" grinder and it seems to do the odd job that I demand of it ok. I tend to think the Central Machinery brand is better (have their floor standing drill press and it works great) and I've been pretty happy with the Central Pneumatic stuff. YMMV of course. Cheers, cc

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I've bought a bunch of stuff from Harbor Fright. Their Pittsburgh wrenches are really sloppy, their flare wrenches are useless. Ended up pitching them out.
Hint: Buy a couple things, and then sit and wait for the catalogs. Most of thier stuff goes on half or third off, if you wait long enough. With some patience, you can save a bundle.
I like their aluminum pipe wrenches. they also had some slip joint pliers for turning pipes and nuts. They are really great. Their little yellow VOM goes on sale now and again for 2.99 and I buy four or so. Not super precice, but fits neatly into tool boxes and small spaces. I've also got some of their Sawzall blades, which go smooth in a hurry. But for what I use, they are OK.
I got two Drill Master drills in 12 volts. When the batteries go, I can wire them to a lighter plug, and use them near the car, or off a 12 volt gel cell jumper pack. Or buy more batteries. The Drill Masters are only 500 RPM, my Makita is 1300 or so. But they are better than just OK for twenty bucks.
--

Christopher A. Young
Learn more about Jesus
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Most of their tools are OK for occasional home use.
I have one of their: Heat gun kit, and I use it a lot and think it's great and recommend. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumberG269
Router, for occasional use, and it's good too. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber3833
Hammer Drill, for occasional use, and it's OK. Would probably buy a better one next time. I use it more as a regular drill so it gets used more often than I intended to use it. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumberE338
Belt Sander, for occasional use, and it's OK. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber045
Jig Saw, for rare use, and would recommend avoiding. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumberF055
HVLP Paint gun, use it a lot and love it. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumberF719
Air Compressor, use it a lot and like it. http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumber385
I also have one or two big wrenches from them that I use on really rare occasions. I agree with previous posters to get better hand tools (I buy Craftsman for that).
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On 23 Nov 2004 07:09:14 -0800, scott snipped-for-privacy@my-deja.com (Childfree Scott) scribbled this interesting note:

I bought one of these once. Paid $12.00 for it brand new from Harbor Freight. The first one did not work at all so I returned it. The second one worked for the length of the job and burned up. I then went to a local surplus store that carries a lot of aircraft tools, router bits, heat shrink (up to stuff that is three inches across and has sealer inside), and bought a very good, used heat gun and paid three times that much. This gun will give years of service, as opposed to the H.F. heat gun.

I did once buy one of the HVLP paint guns with the two quart cup. This one, to be specific: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Displayitem.taf?itemnumbery02 It was stolen out of a house I was working on...along with about a thousand dollars of other tools. But while I was using it I was happy with the results.

The problem with this kind of Made in China compressor is, if it ever needs any kind of servicing you may as well toss it on the curb as no one seems to carry the parts for them. This tool, like most of the H.F. Made in China tools are disposable.
This kind of air compressor, while much more expensive, will not only give decades of good, daily service (and in fact, I've been told, are rated to last 10,000 hours of use before needing service-that's eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, for five years) but are inexpensive to have serviced and usually only need a new piston and cylinder, which costs about a hundred dollars. http://www.bobstools.net/Store/Thomas.html We recently took in a small collection of these compressors, including one that is an antique (or at least about 25 years old) for service. Each of them were repaired and the average cost per unit for repairs was indeed about one hundred dollars. That compares favorably against the revenue generated by using this kind of dependable equipment. Even the stuff sold by Home Depot isn't of a very high quality when compared to this kind of compressor. We did a kind of experiment one time wherein we bought a Stanley-Bostich compressor. It lasted a month or two before beginning to fail. Thomas compressors give years of service. This is why we went back to Thomas. I still have a Stanley-Bostich compressor. I keep it at home and use it to air up car tires. It leaks down fast, leaks oil, has poor cfm, and really is kind of useless for anything but airing up car tires!:~)
Oh, and why did we have a small collection of Thomas compressors to have repaired? Because we've been using them for decades and oftentimes didn't have time to take one in for repair and instead just bought one or two new ones. When we had a good amount of slack time after the damage from some unusually heavy hail storms had been cleared away, we took all of them in for service. Now it is like we have lots of new compressors to choose from.
It is up to the end user to decide which is more inexpensive...I know which direction I incline to...

The best hand tool for the job depends on the job. Sometimes a disposable wrench or other tool is exactly what the job calls for.
My mantra these days...You have to know which pennies to pinch!:~)
-- John Willis (Remove the Primes before e-mailing me)
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I bought a HF clone of a Bosch 1581 jigsaw for $59 USD,and have been very satisfied with it. A Bosch would have cost me ~$100 more.
I compared it to one in my local Home Depot,it's exactly like the Bosch 1581.
The 1581 is just like the 1587 without the quick blade change;you need a screwdriver instead.Variable speed,roller guide,uses Bosch blades,has the air blower and the 4 position orbital control.
--
Jim Yanik
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Hence my comment about Harbor Freight tools being OK for occasional home use. If you need tools for a business don't get them from Harbor Freight.
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I've had one really bad experience with Harbor Freight tools. I got
"great deal" on a 15 piece, 1/4 inch shank router bit set - about $2 or $30. I was using one of the bits to cut a pattern, and a piece o carbide came zinging off the bit. I chucked another bit from the set and the same thing happened. I promptly took the remaining bit outside and put them in the trash. Lesson learned, no more chea router bits.
However, I've had good luck with other tools they sell that are onl for occasional use: heat gun, laminate router trimmer, 4" angl grinder, 4'x8' utility trailer (was a pain to assemble, but is a grea value), and lots of hand tools (hammers, files, etc.).
I just bought a 7" benchtop tile cutter that I haven't used yet, bu postings on other forums said it was a good value.
Also, two years ago I bought one of their General Machine brand woo lathes. I love it. The castings are identical to Jet's lathe tha costs 4 times more, the quality of finish is good (the castings ar actually cleaner than many Jet's I have seen), there is almost n vibration when it runs (you can stand a nickle on edge on the rails) and it was affordable. I did, however, go top-quality on my turnin tools, and ended up spending more on a set of gouges than I did on th lathe
-- makesawdust
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Just curious, which HVLP Paint gun did you buy from Harbor Freight? I'm thiinking of buying one of their turbine type sprayers (no air compressor needed).
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On Tue, 23 Nov 2004 02:36:21 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@consult.pretender (Jeffrey J. Kosowsky) wrote:

I have never bought from H. F. simply because there is not one nearby. I have a distant friend who says their stuff is not top quality, but swears their stuff holds up pretty well, for the price.
I HAVE purchased from another company called Homier Distributors. They are mobile merchants and set up a sale in a tent in different towns. I have never been so dissatisfied with any other purchases. Their stuff is total junk, and once they got your money, forget about getting any help or being able to return defective items, or even having an email returned. This is the worst company I have ever dealt with. However, this same friend has also bought from Homier and says he has gotten a few deals from them. Of course too, he just putters around. I tend to really use tools, and those homier tools have all broken within one day or less.
I might consider buying from Harbor Freight if I have access. I will NEVER buy from Homier again.
I probably did not really answer your question, but this is just some personal experience.
Mark
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snipped-for-privacy@UNLISTED.com wrote:

I bought a sliding Miter Saw from them to replace the one I had stolen off the back of my truck. It's a knock off of the Makita but not built as well, but it only cost $99.00. I only use it off the back of my truck. Matter of fact it's chained to the back of my truck now. If it's stolen its not a big deal. The one I had stolen was a Dewalt. I replace it with another higher end Dewalt but it stays in the shop. The saw so far has worked ok but a little gutless. I spent 1/2 as much for a blade ( 50.00 Frued) for the saw which helps. I too bought their cheap tile saw and it's worked pretty good. I didnt expect to use it for long since I dont do tile everyday.
The tools I use everyday are: Porter Cable 14.4 cordless drill and their combo brad and finish nailer with compressor, a Milwaukee sawzall and corded 1/2 drill, Mikata grinder, and a old Craftsman circular saw. I would never even think about replacing these with a HF for the obvious reasons. I USE THEM EVERYDAY!!! I'm really impressed with the grinder, it only cost $60.00 and it's really powerful and the Sawzall for $125.00 on sale.
Rich
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I have purchased hand tools from both Harbor Freight and Homier with decent results. I also bought a 1/2" drill from Homier a few years back and it quit the first time I used it. Unlike Marks experience, I had no problem getting it replaced and the new one they sent is still working fine, although still not top quality. I also bought a air compressor from Homier that ran for about a year and quit. I got so used to having it around that I just went and bought a better quality one, but I did get my money's worth out of the cheaper one. I am still using the air tools I got from Homier with no problems. I can't remember any power tools that I have bought from HF, but I do get their fliers and I see their prices.
Bobby
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Tools are freedom. Good ones open up possibilities and can last a lifetime.
$29.95 is better spent on a good steak, cooked to your preference, with a tall glass of ale.
Dave

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I like the steak idea. This is great advice. !!
I think we can all agree that tools are dangerous. Lower grade tools make the jobs we do even more dangerous. For example, I would never consider a lower grade saw. If you think about it as simply a safety issue, I think the extra money is worth it to keep us out of the emergency room.
If you really need to a decent tool, and don't want to pay the money for it, then rent a high-quality tool to do the job.

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I have a dangerous circular saw. It's a Skil. The damn spring vanished that pulls the blade guard down. I have set that saw down several times and the blade hit the floor, and it cut the cord once. This is the 3rd Skil saw that developed this problem. I finally just made a little "stool" out of 4x4's and plywood. I just set the saw over the groove where the blade sets in.
Yeah, I know, I should replace the spring (if I could find one).
Mark

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Chicago Electric, Ive heard they are Crap
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After the second, you could be su re my third would not be a Skil. Unless you are getting them free.
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scribbled this interesting note:

Buying the wrong Skil. Try the worm drive version. I've never worn one out. And some parts interchange from older to newer units. I believe the part number is HD-77. And yes, I know Bosch makes them these days since that's where I have to go for the occasional new handle.
-- John Willis (Remove the Primes before e-mailing me)
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