Tools and accessories to buy from HF

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There are certain circumstances that I have found HF to be quite handy. For years I sneered at their quality, the origin of their tools, and the lack of support for their products. What a difference a few years make. Now nearly every tool I see anywhere is made in China, or from sourced parts from there so I am buying Chinese whether I like it or not.
I thought it would be fun to see what TO buy, and what NOT to buy from everyone based on personal experience. Not a Googled experience, but hands on.
So, here's few from me on the "buy list". Their multitool kicks ass. I have absolutely used the snot out of mine for about three years now, and it is still a very stout machine that works as well as it did when I bought it. I have found the blades to be >nearly< the quality of the Fein blades, which was a shocker. I have bought them and given them away as gifts and all the owners have had the same experience as mine.
Their 4 1/2" grinder. This tool was bought as an emergency to replace a Bosch grind that crapped out on the job. This one can't be killed. I have had it for about 6-8 years now, and use it to grind metal for finishing, grind off bolts and screws on burglar bars when painting, and use the masonry blades on it to cut bricks, pavers, stone, and to inlet flashings into masonry chimneys. Paid $13 for this tool.
Halogen light bulbs for my stand lights. Everywhere else, these bulbs are 6 - 10 bucks each. When they have a door buster, I buy them for 99 cents. Last better in the lamps than the more expensive offerings.
Foam sanding blocks. These are $6 for ten, not one for $6. They have worked every bit as well as the 3M offerings for me, and now I only use them when I need a foam block to conform to an irregular shape. I used these by the bucket when I was doing a lot of refinishing.
Nitrile gloves. You can get 100 5 mil gloves for what you pay for a set or two from the paint store. I use 3 mil, 5 mil, and for using caustic materials (like MEK, etc.) I use their 7 mil. I mix and spray, take the gloves off and toss them. I may use ten sets of gloves a day, which means it costs me a little over a buck. Best of all, the gloves work great for me. And if I tear one from material handling, I have so many in the box I just get another. It isn't a tragedy as it is when using the paint store gloves that are sold as two to three pairs in a $10 pack.
HVLP guns. I only used these to try out new finishes and experiment with mixes, but after I screwed up my expensive finish gun I was forced to use my practice guns on the job. What a bone head... if it was good enough for me to determine my mixes and be satisfied with the end results, why wouldn't I like it on the job? I have had several of these guns, and the only thing to consider is the build quality can be spotty.
Paint gun stuff. They have great prices on HVLP gun filters, material filters, inline moisture removal filters and cup liners. Literally, their prices are about 1/10 of Sherwin Williams. This is a big deal for me because as is he case with sand paper, these are all consumables for the guys that do it for a living. Being extremely affordable means I am in the habit of changing gun filters every job, changing line filters every job and always having cup liner on hand at a whopping ten cents a piece.
Woodworking hammers. Good stuff, and while I use my Plumb (made in China of course), these are great hammers for helpers or for certain tasks like roofing where you don't want tar and gunk on your wood working tools.
Bulk drill bits. NOT the crap in the indexes, not in the special sets. But once upon a time they had bits from manufacturing that had been reground. They were all different lengths and sizes and were sold by the pound. I tried a pound, and while I have little idea or concern exactly what size they are (for me bits are almost exclusively for pilot holes or rivets) these bits have out lasted my Blue Mol and Bosch bits by a pretty long stroke. Sadly, they are in store only and it is catch as catch can. The bits are something like $5 a pound, and I look for the bags that have the 1/8" and similar sizes in them. You get a lot of 1/8" bits in a pound.
So some things NOT to buy there. First, they used to have a line of air nailers that were perfect back up guns. No longer so. Blew a seal on my Bostitch brad nailer, and since the seals weren't in stock I bought their 18 ga. It was OK for base and some other work, but marked up the wood unless you got it just right. The gun would drive a 2" brad into white oak with no problems. It crapped out before the job was finished. Three weeks ago, same scenario with my 16 ga straight nailer. Piston bumper in the gun broke and it is special order. Bought the 16 ga at HF on sale for $39, and it wasn't worth 39 cents. It jammed up solid after about 1/2 clip of nails. The guns are junk and they cost me a lot of down time.
Squeeze clamps. At $2 for a 12" clamp, I couldn't resist. I bought four. Two work and two don't. They wouldn't clamp a sock on the clothesline. HF told me they had problems with them and they were changing manufacturers.
Screwdrivers. Forget it.
Most drill bits. Forget them, too.
Chisels of any type. Cold, or for wood or anything else, a no go.
Hand saws. Nope.
Measuring tapes. No way, they break in minutes.
OK, that's my take on HF after waaay too much coffee and a 3 hour long session in the waiting room of the doctor's office typing this out with nothing else to do.
Any thoughts?
Robert
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

The things I have or have had that come to mind...
lathe, $240? - works fine, had it now for about 10 years. Drive belt broke about a year ago, easy to order new one from HF
hammer drill, $32 - works fine but the chuck rusts easily
4 1/2" grinder, $15 (now 9.95) - I have a better one too but I bought this because it had an accessory shoe (like a saw) and I needed to cut a lot of slots in concrete to the same depth with a diamond blade; it works fine but gets pretty warm and the slide switch has gotten hard to slide. I suspect disassembly and cleaning out the concrete dust would free it up. OTOH, I can buy another for $9.95 :)
7" tub tile saw, <$100 - nothing wrong with the saw but I was cutting Saltillo which makes a lot of mud. In short order the mud would gum up the slides so the table was very hard to move. Gave the saw to a contractor friend who was doing some work for me.
7" radial tile saw, about $100 - it replaced the above and I have used the hell out of it. My only complaints... 1. only about 3/4" from table to motor bottom, wish there were more 2. it is steel, steel rusts 3. the water tray is also steel, don't care if it rusts, but it is hard to get to and once there it is hard to remove for cleaning
12" bar clamps, $1.99 each - they clamp well. Only complaint, a couple of the rivets holfing handle to screw had rough heads. A moment with a file fixed it.
18" bar clamps, $2.99 each, same as above. I also have some smaller German ones, don't like them as they have no clutch and the teeth on the bar are so fine that a spot of dried glue makes them inoperable.
assorted hand screws, dont recall the cost but not more than half that of Jorgensons
assorted pipe clamps, both 1/2" with a toggle and 3/4" with a crank handle. I prefer the 1/2". Again, don't recall the price but less than $5.00 each. Probably less than $4.00.
chip brushes by the bundle, great for epoxy, polyester and contact cement
nitrile gloves
Probably other things but that's what I recall off the top of my head. I've been buying things from HF for 30 years or a bit more, never understood why it was so popular to beat them up. True, the finish of some items is not as great as on more expensive ones but you are paying much less, what is expected? And, IME, the *utility* of their offerings has been just fine. The same holds true for Chinese goods in general and I'm sure it will improve with time; better hope so, the Chinese hegemony is a-coming...
--

dadiOH
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Link belt. About $25 for 5' last I knew. Cheaper than anywhere else, and works quite well too. *snip*
Puckdropper
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On 2/15/2013 6:23 AM, Puckdropper wrote:

Excellent! I be getting one soon. Seems I need just over 4' and typically 4' is $20~$30.
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On 2/15/2013 9:08 AM, Leon wrote:

Ok! I bought that $25 link belt, made it into two belts and replaced the slightly used ones on my DP. No more vibration so to speak unless I crank it up to 2700 RPM. I am sure the pulleys are to blame for that. Any way running at about 400 RPM the belt guard no longer vibrates like crazy, not even at 2700 RPM.
Bought the 5 mil XL Nitril gloves too. Finally a throw away glove that fits my hand.
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On 2/15/2013 2:01 PM, Leon wrote:

OBTY link belts are directional and the Harbor Freight Accu-Link belts are Italian.
http://www.jasonindustrial.com/Products/index.cfm?ID=6&Type=Product
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I look for the sale prices and/or coupons of course...
Chip brushes 1", 2", and 3"
Acid brushes for glueups
Foam sanding blocks (only have used the coarse grit)
cheap work gloves
metric combo wrenches to keep in the vehicle.
Air compressor accessories (good prices on the Milton couplers)
$20 dado blade set
4-1/2 diamond angle grinder blade sets
14" metal chop saw blades
The list seems endless.....
-Bruce
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On 2/16/13 9:08 AM, Bruce wrote:

Were they flat? I got those and returned them because the chippers were off in diameter by at least a 32nd.
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-MIKE-

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On Sat, 16 Feb 2013 10:39:29 -0700, MIKE- wrote

Mine were fine for the garage shelves I was/am building and other 'non-furniture' use. Claims on this news group are that quality varies. My Freud super-dado set produces a nice clean cut, the HF set? great for utility use but quality comes at a cost.
-Bruce
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wrote:

I bought one $20 set, found them to be too off, bought a second set, and I was able to pick and choose a good set between them, total cost $40.
Would I do it again? Maybe. The dado bottom is still a bit rough but I can clean that up quickly with a router plane.
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*snip*

The multimeters are great. At less than $10, you get a multimeter that hits the most important functions and is cheap enough that you don't have to worry too much about it. Beware readings taken with a weak battery. I've got 4, but need a few more. (With as much as they cost--especially on sale--there's no reason not to have one within easy reach... Even if just to check batteries.)
I bought one of their more expensive ones that read capacitance, temperature, and frequency, but it was still less than $20. Try finding a capacitance meter elsewhere for that price. There are some negatives to this one, though. The temperature bottoms out at 0C (32F), so it's useless for cold measurements, and the capacitance function requires you to stick the capacitor in two slots instead of reading it with probes.
The multitool was loud, noisy, and vibrated a lot. I upgraded to the Bosch version, and "donated" the old one to my local model railroad club. Believe it or not, I've actually used the old one more recently than the Bosch.
The 13-Drawer tool chest is a winner. It's built extremely well, with a good solid feel and drawers that slide nicely. Apparently, it was a Snap-on design that they acquired the rights to and gave the plans to a manufacturer and said "build this."
Not sure if that's what really happened, but the only thing low quality about it was the packaging. The packaging was absolutely horrible. It was the cheapest of the cheap, the junkiest of the junk. It did protect the tool chest enough to get it home, but practically fell apart on the way. (It's only notable because it's so bad.)
Look for a coupon. (I found one in Motortrend.) The "regular" price seems to have gone up quite a bit recently.
Avoid the 12V window heater. Don't even pick it up, it's not worth it. By the time it makes any difference at all, the car engine is warm enough to defrost the windows and start warming the cabin. The employee at the store told me it was one of their most returned items and it wasn't any good. I thought it'd be good enough to start defrosting windows while waiting for the car to warm up enough to do so, but it wasn't.
Their mini chop saw is a pretty decent tool. I'd rather see a traditional fence setup like a CMS instead of that little clamp that doesn't sit flush with the base, but that's only a minor issue. I should look in to getting better replacement blades somewhere, though. (I wonder if I can get abrasive cut off wheels instead... Might work better for small tubing.)
Avoid the cheap little hobby airbrushes. I bought one a few years ago for less than $10, and it was useless out of the package. The only nice thing about it was the flask.
Their lead-acid battery float chargers seem ok. I can't say it's harmed the battery, and it's probably helped delay the purchase of a new one for that machine.
I've had pretty good luck with their acid brushes, but they do drop the occasional bristle. Fortunately, it's easy to see against the yellow background of the glue.
That's all I can think of at the moment...
Puckdropper
--
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Double sided tape, and 18 ga brads.
--
www.ewoodshop.com (Mobile)

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On Fri, 15 Feb 2013 02:06:58 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Finish nailer multitool nitrile gloves some clamps small tires(chinese have somehow learned to make tires from cat shit)
No problems from any of the above, most all the small hand tools are near junk, IMO.
Even though HF has a good return policy, I live so far away from them that it is moot. If a 20 dollar item doesn't work, I'm just out 20 bucks, I am cautious buying anything that may not work out.
Online ordering and returns aren't practical, Fedex and UPS think I am on the Dark Side of The Moon.
basilisk
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On 2/15/2013 7:06 AM, basilisk wrote:

Following the pack...
nitrile gloves acid brushes chip brush and others - I HATE cleaning brushes other miscellaneous consumables digital micrometers
Many things that they have on sale as doorbusters (I'll have to give those drill bits and halogen bulbs a check next time...)
I'd also recommend some of their tools (on a case by case basis where you can at least do a hands on inspection) that will be used once and then sit on a shelf collecting dust. I had a kitchen and bath job to do and so needed a tile saw. Bought the cheapest one they had - on sale, no less - for about $30 -$35 and used it for those jobs and one other. It performed as good as I needed and it's still like brand new. I could not have rented one for that kind of money. One of these days I'll get around to posting it on Craigslist and I'll recoup at least part of the cost - maybe buy another box or two of chip brushes<g>
So, consider doing the same with one of their tools that fits your shop for a "special project" and not much else. Compare buying something that, with luck, will carry you through that project and maybe not much else vs. renting the same thing. Frankly, I'd just as soon spend $100 on such a tool at HF than to rent one for, say, $45/day but with the latter, having a "gun to my head" to finish the job in one day.
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On Fri, 15 Feb 2013 06:06:30 -0700, basilisk wrote

No shit! (pun intended) I've replaced my hand truck wheels due to goat head punctures and the HF work great..
Their large 5-6" castors are aok -Bruce

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On 2/16/2013 9:14 AM, Bruce wrote:

I've bought a few rubber tires from HF and it generally takes about two years out in the elements for the smell of that tire cat shit to subside.
Definitely don't want to keep them in the same space you live/operate.
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Bought a 50' 3/8" hose retractable reel. I had to leave it in the equipment shed over 2 weeks before I could install it in the shop.
Mike M
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On 02/15/2013 03:06 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I have quite a bit of their stuff including most of what "works" for you.
The one I really like is the infrared non-contact thermometer. I use it at every stop while towing the 5th wheel to shoot all the hubs and drums, which was prompted after losing a wheel a few years ago. I also have their small pancake compressor that was about $40 after coupons. It has been used quite a bit to air up tires while traveling and will even run off the 1000W inverter in the 5th wheel.
Their auto compressor drain has worked fine on my shop compressor for about 10 years after replacing the plastic tubing with copper.
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gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery"
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On Fri, 15 Feb 2013 07:11:25 -0700, Doug Winterburn

Unless you spend 40x prices for a Cherman Festool, you're right.

Their latex, leather (roping), jersey, and other gloves are really great, too.

I've had mixed luck with those. The newer ones aren't fitted, the handles are hacked to standard size and the heads epoxied on. Some last forever, while others break within minutes.

I've had good luck with the Pittsburgh 7pc set in my backup kit.

I break more (due to hard handling) than I wear out.

I've had excellent luck with their transfer punches, hollow punches, nail sets, and 4T porta-power set. I tried re-hardening some of their chisels but the steel just isn't there. They must be made from rebar remelts. =:0

I think I've bought a dozen there (some freebies) in the last decade and I'm down to 3 or 4 now. They seem to last as well as other brands I've bought.

Ditto, guys. I've been buying there since the early Seventies, so I've had most of their worthwhile stuff. I'm still beating the crap out of their 5" swivel vise. Their bar and pipe clamps work well if not flawlessly. I often use one of their wood clamps to hold work vertical while I repair it.

I had their little pocket job for years but it died and I didn't replace it. I'll buy a pistol grip next time.
Another thing to avoid is their metal panel punch set. I later eBayed a Greenlee and the difference was night and day. The wee HF beastie stripped before I could -blink-. If you see the number 91201 knockout punch set at HF, RUN AWAY! They're truly ghastly. I tried 3 other sets in the store that day before getting my money back.
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On 2/15/2013 5:06 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I've only bought a few things from HF, but this was the item that made me swear off anything else that looked "too good to be true". I use Quick Grip clamps all the time. They don't have high clamping power, but they are so convenient that I find myself reaching for a couple on practically every job I do around the house. Working alone, I love when I don't have to devote three or four of my two hands to the task of keeping something in place while I work on it.
I had a bunch of the 6" Quick Grips, but sometimes something a little longer would really have been handy. Along came an HF ad for 12" no-brand clamps with the Hallowe'en color scheme. I think they might have been $4 each. I bought two.
I broke the orange handle on the first one within minutes of getting the clamp out of the package. Damn near put a gash in my finger doing it too. I had simply squeezed the clamp in the usual way around a 2x4 to test it. I used one hand; one regular, normal hand not known for its exceptional grip.
It wasn't worth my time to ship the units back, so I kept the second one. I thought it might be of some use if I babied" it. Hey, maybe the first one was a fluke. Nope. The first time I found a need for a longer one-handed clamp, I applied it very gingerly to the task. Same result: a jagged shard of orange plastic broke off.
Having said that, I may take your advice on one or two of your "tested" items. I could us a cheap grinder, for instance. BTW, HD had 12" Quick Grips on sale 4 for $25 around the holidays.
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