Harbor Fright - Are you just a cheapskate? Tool Snob?

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OK, Its been awhile but after read some recent post about the high quality of HF tools I think we need to re-visit this from a different point of view. Do you just try to buy the cheapest tools you can find? Does this mean your work is solely based on how cheap you can make it? Are the two correlative? Personally, I find nothing more frustrating than fussing with a tool that won't hold up to the rigors of life in my hands. Underpowered, noisy pieces of cheap junk that fail to do the job asked of them.
Yes, I am a tool snob. But not from arrogance but from experience. Twenty years + as a mechanic and 40 + years as a (hobbiest) funiture builder have taught me a very important lesson. You can't make money or enjoy using cheap tools. Yes, the Snap-On tools I have cost too much, however, I still have all of them and they still work as advertised.
My father, grandfather, great grandfather were all cabinet and furniture makers or lumber men. The tools they passed down to me along the way are all surprisingly high quality or hand made. I hope one day that I can pass to my son and grandson's tools I'm proud of. Somehow I don't think anything HF makes will make the list.
Just ranting after a long visit to Lie-Nielsen to buy their new socket chisel set. I don't really need them but as I said, I love a quality tool(s)!
Dave
--
Today's mighty oak is just yesterday's nut that held its ground.



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Did you read a post here that referred to Harbor Freight as "high quality" tools? I sure never saw such a thing. What I've seen universally have been statements that there are some good values there and you have to watch out for some stuff. The general rule of thumb (perhaps a bit tongue in cheek) is that if it has a motor, don't buy it. That still leaves a good amount of stuff that is well worth buying.
I've bought some stuff with a motor as well - not much, but some. I've posted here before that in a moment of need I bought a $19 grinder there. I've put it through all sorts of abuses and it's still running strong. I imagine it will break at some point but so did the $120 Snap On grinder that preceeded it. Right when I needed it the most.

A lot of us have equal or more experience with a lot of tools as well and some of us even hold as honorable that thing called a tool snob. I do. I'm not one, but I sure don't think ill of a guy who is one. I've got a mixed bag of tools. Most are good to very good quality. There's a ton of stuff out there that is very good. It sure does not have to say Snap On to be very good. I won't pay the money for Snap On tools. Don't need to.

I buy my tools to use them and to use them reliably. If my kids end up getting them, then fine. Right now I'm happier that they get use out of them. I don't care what happens to them later on. In reality though - I have no reason to doubt that my non-Snap On tools will pass down just nicely. My Snap On grinder won't - it's in the landfill.

Cool. A good rant goes right along with the right and privilege to be a tool snob. Just be careful what you suggest about those who don't buy what you choose to buy. Remember - there's a lot of very good tools out there. They come from a lot of places.
--

-Mike-
snipped-for-privacy@alltel.net
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Grandfather Richard Newell would say "its a poor workman that blames his tools."
RIP

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two years for 5 minutes. If the HF tool will do the job for half the price, then it is a good buy. I wouldn't consider buying a HF tool that I was going to used constantly. It will either wear out early, or perform poorly; either is a bad buy. But for something that is rarely used, they are fine.
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I made no characterization of its quality but in the last day or so I referred to a $16.00 dial indicator I picked up at Harbor Freight. While it neither as accurate nor as rugged as a $75.00 tool available elsewhere, it is more than adequate for its purpose...that is, setting up my woodworking tools. With it, I can get much more accuracy than a brass screw and a feeler gauge. For that reason, I consider it good value for the money.
I'd love to be a tool snob but I don't have the money. However, I can do fine work -- .affordably -- with careful restoration of old, used machines and the addition of some good aftermarket accessories.
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I have many HF tools, geeze where should I start, Lets see, the air tools the angle die grinder is nice. The air drill-horrible. The wrenches -A JOKE, measure them with a caliper they are no where near the measurment they should be! The migwire, well I have no complaints there. Sometimes there are good deals on the tools at HF, but I rely on my Craftsman hand tools, I have yet to break a Craftsman ratchet or socket. I have no motor tools from HF. And I sure as I'm standing here not going to spend my hard earned money on SNAP_ON just so the snap on man can go to Cancun on my dime. You think your paying high dollar for them tools, not hardly. I have a friend who makes 70% on those tools. Hmmmm, makes me wonder, If I break a Craftsman ratchet and a Snap on ratchet. I can take my sears brand run to sears and have a new one in about 20 min, the snap on well I have to wait until the next time he comes around. I think not. BTW, the friend that has a SO business, yeah he owns 25 acres 3 boats 3 vehicles a plethera of hunting/fishing equipment and 4wheelers 5 of them! He has one truck that he runs and one that he leases out. THATS IT BOYS! we're in the wrong business. We need to drive around and sell screwdrivers for 30 bucks a shot. Boy I can feel the heat from this post already!
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I used Craftsman tools when I started out as a mechanic in the 60's. But after I started making weekly trips to Sears to have broken and worn out tools replaced, I started buying Snap-On and MAC tools. Eventually, all but a scant few tools were replaced.
One final straw was a Craftsman 1/2" breaker bar. While pulling hard on it, the drive end twisted off and I fell backwards against the corner of a workbench hitting me square in the middle of my back! Ouch! I borrowed a Proto bar from a co-worker and it too twisted off. The Snap-On guy came in, I bought a 1/2" bar from him, slipped a 4' pipe over the end for more leverage and CRACK, the nut was loose and the Snap-On bar was not phased.
Upon returning it to Sears, I was told that Craftsman tools were not under warranty when used by the professional mechanic. I don't know if that true today but it cured me. I do however, recommend them for the home mechanic. For the limited use they receive in a hobbyist environment, they are fine.
In addtion, I could care less if my Snap-On (or other tool seller) makes a fine profit from me. If I'm getting what I want, good for him.
Dave
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I wish I had something better to say then why are you so hard on your tools? I have yet to break a craftsman tool, and it can't be because I work any less than you. There is a proper tool for each and every job. If you use a 3/8 ratchet on something that should get a 1/2 then you are asking for breakage.
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1/2" breaker bar. 4 foot pipe. Tells me loads about him.

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"CW"

Yeah, like you've never had to do that!
Dave
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That's true, but somewhat naive. You can't carry every "proper tool for each and every job" with you everywhere you go. Try reparing a bent lower control arm on a one ton truck 150 miles into Mexico.
Dave
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Hummmm might be why I stepped up to a Laguna band saw.
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wrote:

Is the only factor in the quality of what you make how much you spent on the tools? You can somewhat make up for a lack of skill, but not craftsmanship or originality or anything else with expensive tools. You CAN compensate for lower quality tools most of the time.

That is a perfectly valid opinion.

That is bullshit. Maybe YOU can't, but I have and do. Some of my cheap tools have paid for my expensive tools. I have a Ryobi 9" band saw that's made me more than 10 times what it cost, and it's still in the shop in the shadow of its new bigger brother, which would still be considered a cheap tool by many even though it cost 5 times as much.

And guess what. They had a bunch of crappy tools that served them well enough at the time too. They just didn't get passed down. Everything isn't an heirloom.
Should everyone learn how to sharpen on a $50 chisel? Should I reach for that chisel when I need to get some dried glue off my bench?
I know a lot of people feel like they wasted money on cheap tools, and they try to keep newbies from what they feel like was a mistake they made. But there is a lot to learn, and postponing the beginning of that learning while they save up for the unisaw and the aircraft carrier of a jointer and the stationary planer and the $2000 band saw doesn't do you any good. The best tool is the one in the shop being used, not sitting at the store. There's plenty of time to buy better tools, there's limited time to learn a lifetime's worth of things that go into making great work. The months or years of extra experience is worth a lot more in the long run than a couple hundred bucks we 'wasted'.
-Leuf
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I've only got one thing to say now, AMEN BROTHER!
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Leuf wrote:

Absolutely agree. Bought a $3 digital VOM when most places sold them for not less than $20. Still use it nearly every day after 3? years. Bought a 12 V drill and wonder why I didn't buy one a long time ago. Bought a $40 drill press and greatly appreciate it when I need to drill a precise hole. I really enjoy using them. Got some older fine quality hand tools and I enjoy them too.

> -Leuf
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On the flip side of that coin, a 9" Ryobi band saw is really over kill considering that you certainly can use a coping saw or Craftsman Jig Saw to do the same thing.
I think that the need of better tools is all relative to the quantity you produce. With few exceptions better tools will speed production.
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On Tue, 11 Apr 2006 02:56:04 GMT, "Leon"

I have my grandfather's coping saw, but I wouldn't exactly call it an heirloom ;) I wonder does anyone even make a super deluxe coping saw? It's gotta have nickel plating and a quick blade tension lever.

Yep. And if you feel like you are being held back by the tool by all means go for the super deluxe version if you can afford it. But that doesn't mean the previous tool wasn't worth having just because you outgrew it. Until it breaks or I run out of space, that old Ryobi is going to stay in the shop and reduce the number of times I have to change blades on the new one, and use less electricity for the small jobs. When you've got yer Laguna all set up for resawing and you need to make one curved cut I bet you wish your old one was still around :)
-Leuf
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better tools will speed production.
When you've got yer Laguna all set up for resawing and you need

Actually my old one was such a hassle to use that I pulled out the Milwaukee jig saw as the tool of preference if it could do the job. I'll probably not leave the Laguna in resaw mode and probably leave a 1/2" blade on it most of the time. With that in mind, a strong reason for upgrading was to be able to enjoy faster blade changes. The Laguna now uses thumb screws for the side and thrust ceramic adjustments. No long reaches in to cramped areas with hex wrenches any more.
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snip

I'm not talking about the tools I consider consumable. The cheap putty knifes, glue removers, saw blades for cutting nail imbedded wood, screwdrivers used for everything except driving screws, etc. We all have these and will continue to buy them as needed.
I'm talking about tools you love to use. Tools that make a difference when used. Just try to plane a piece of curly maple with the $25 Chinese plane, then grab the Lie-Nielson or the Knight smother. The whole point will all become quite clear.
Dave
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wrote:

When you ask a tool to do a job it wasn't intended to do, guess what, it doesn't perform well. If you take a cheap a tool to an expensive piece of wood and wreck it you're an idiot, not for buying the tool but for having happen exactly what you'd expect to happen and then blaming the tool. If you feel like your tools are holding you back then by all means get a better tool for the task at hand. But don't insinuate that anyone who doesn't spend as much on tools as you doesn't care about the quality of their work as much as you do.
-Leuf
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