First, I have no connection with Harbor Freight. I often see comments
about HF, many times people just writing one line, without any real
experience. I hope this helps someone in their pursuit for creating
nice wood projects.
I have actually two small shops, as I have a summer home with a shop.
Both shops are in the garage. I am an amateur woodworker, but my boss
in my daytime job thinks my work is great. [It's nice to be
appreciated!]. I have a few stationary woodworking tools, and a
collection of powered hand tools. I learned most of my skills from my
dad, who is now legally blind, but still can create wood projects that
put many woodworkers [including me!] to shame.
I have bought a handful of items from Harbor Freight. And, as most
people on the boards say, you get what you pay for. I have found,
overall, the HF tools fit my needs. I have bought tools at the local
store, as well as mail order. As you will notice, I buy almost all
their items on sale. Patience will allow you to save some money. And
any HF buyer will know the trick about the suffixes when doing mail
Here are my short reviews:
Sliding Compound Miter Saw ($100): I am very happy with mine. The
bevel and miter both cut square. The slide is reasonably smooth, I have
done minor work to have the guard slide a bit smoother. I have their
older model with the single slide. I probably would have opted for the
two shaft slide unit if that was available when I bought mine. The
electric brake is only medium and stops the blade at varying rates. I
have owned it for almost 3 years.
Band Saw ($80):
Bought a 3 wheel variable speed band saw about 10 years ago. Actually,
it was a gift. Changed the blade, tweaked in the rollers, and it works
fine. I will probably get a floor unit or a two wheel bench model
before long. I think of this more as a fat scroll saw than a band saw.
Drill Press ($50):
Bought a small table top drill press. Five speed with light and keyless
chuck. Swear they use a sewing machine motor for it. It's fine for
medium duty work. Anything really heavy, and you need to have a very
sharp tool and a tender touch. But I think that is true will all
Air Compressor ($100):
8 gallon 120 PSI. Works like a champ. Not a single leak in the set-up
from the compressor to the final valve. I have one, and am considering
a second unit for the second shop. VERY impressed. Have used it on site
as well as in the shop.
Oh boy, is this a beauty. The only issue is it does not hold 1-1/4 inch
brads. Better check that, now that I think about it. I doesn't hold
the larger size that the Porter Cable did, which may be 1-1/2 inch. But
that has become a minor issue. Very happy with item.
Roofing Nailer ($120)
Junk. Fired no more than 10 nails in a row without jamming. Took it
back, and ended up using a Porter Cable.
Wet Stone Grinder ($40)
First one went back due to broken base. Second one is fine. Wheels
needed dressing, but I expected that.
Mortising Machine ($100)
I just received it. Contrary to complaints on this board, the spindle
and the fence is square to the table, and the plastic handles to lock
the table and hold-down are great. They do NOT get in the way on mine,
as they have a clever design on the lever type handle to lock the handle
in place as needed. They did appear to get in the way, until I figured
out how to install the handles. Only have cut a couple of test mortises
(mortici?). Will keep my chisels sharp and this will work nice.
Air Filter - Regulator - Oiler:
The one I bought was junk. Holds for fittings were tapped at an angle.
Leaks like a sieve. Unfortunately, I had it for almost 3 months before
it was installed. Lesson learned. Out 20 bucks.
Air Coiler/Retractor and hose.
Works fine. Swivel has a small leak. May fix it if I get some time.
One set of crescent style wrenches appeared to move backwards on the
thumb wheel. Screwdrivers set #1 had handles too small, opted for a
different set with bigger handles and am quite satisfied. Wood Handle
Chisels: Love them. Absolutely perfect. Hold an edge long enough for
me. Pliers: Some are okay. Some older ones had trouble loosening up at
the pivot. Clamps: Spring clamps and Pipe clamps. Fine. Get them on
sale. Bench Vise: Needed an inexpensive one for a special project. The
thread did not allow the jaws to move freely. Returned.
I have some biases as there are some brands I like and some I dislike.
I have a Delta contractor saw which I love. I need a new table saw for
the second shop and may end up buying a HF saw. Have not decided yet.
I have a drill press that was bought from an industrial shop company
(Production Tool Supply) about 15 years ago that weighs about 12 tons...
just kidding ... but it is very nice. I have lots of Porter-Cable, all
of which I am very happy with ... Left handed circular saw, selection of
Air Nailers [all very nice], Router and Biscuit Joiner. All very nice,
comfortable, and work hard!
I will admit that I have literally thrown away some tools after I
decided the tool was either useless or dangerous. One was a bench top
Craftsman table saw (unsteady), a Craftsman router (the famous slipping
killer collet), Black and Decker Belt Sander (spent more time trying to
keep the belt on than sanding). I will admit those two Craftsman issues
have turned me 100% against Craftsman, and I will not consider any of
their tools in the future. I still have a Craftsman Radial Arm saw
which served it's purpose. But the Delta Contractors saw with the HF
SCMS make a better combination, so the RAS is collecting dust.
As with all tools, from all companies, always open them up immediately,
and use them. You are part of their quality control program. Remember
when buying any product from overseas, that the steels, especially
castings, may have some opens pores, etc. You need to decided when you
receive the product, whether or not it will suit your needs. I may have
been lucky on some of my purchases, but I think part of it is realizing
that you may get something of inferior quality, and you need a game plan
if that should happen. In addition, you may need to "tweak in" the tool
after purchase. Be prepared for ESL (or third or more) instructions
that have been photocopied many times! I usually download the
instruction manual from their website before purchasing. If you can
live with all these issues, you can be happy with the HF tools.
BTW, I am not planning on responding to flames, crude comments, slams,
or other derogatory statements. If anyone has a specific question, I
would be glad to answer. Please post to newsgroup so all can benefit,
Best of luck to all woodworkers, and please be safe. Alcohol and power
tools do not mix.