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Tool Time! Do you do Harbor Freight?
Old 07-14-2007, 07:10 AM   #1
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Tool Time! Do you do Harbor Freight?

So yesterday FedEx (ground) arrives with my quarterly HarborFreight.com fix. It was a big box and I was anxious to get into it so I met the guy in the driveway. Normally this guy is in a rush but this day he says , "Whats with this Harbor Freight? It seems every other box is from them!".

Fifteen minutes later he leaves with my catalog after seeing all the great stuff I got for under a hundred bucks. Warning! HF sells a lot of plain junk mixed in with some fantastic bargains.

My work horse tools are good brands like DeWalt, Dremel, Milwaukee and Makita. But for certain hand tools, air tools, supplies and consumables I like Harbor Freight. Recent purchases are:

Trailer hitch mounted rack
Torque multiplied Lug nut wrench
Leather gloves
steel wool
50' fish tape
wire stripper
10" hardwood clamps, pipe clamps
Air powered cutter
paint brushes
abrasive wheels
lifetime supply of auto fuses

Much of this stuff I'd never buy at retail. Where do you get your shop supplies?
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Old 07-14-2007, 08:42 AM   #2
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Much of this stuff I'd never buy at retail. Where do you get your shop supplies?
Right now, I borrow stuff like that from friends and put the purchase money towards ER. BUT - - once I do retire, I plan to have more discretionary money to spend. At that point, I will want to set up a small work area, so thanks for the tip!
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Old 07-14-2007, 09:32 AM   #3
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I was raised on Craftsman, and started my tool collection with them while I was still in HS (I had to walk past the local Sears store to get home from school so once a week I spent a good portiion of my earnings there).

I buy whatever tools I want where ever I can find them. Usually at a local industrial supply house a couple blocks from home, or at Sears, Farm & Fleet, or Lawson. One of my favorite shopping stops for power tools is a local machine shop supply house that specializes in new and used power tools.

Normally only buy 'name' brands: Craftsman, Snap-On, S&K, Klein pliers, Rigid pipe wrenches, B&D, Delta (the old, heavy-duty ones...not the newer, crappy junk), Skil, Dewalt, Makita, etc. I've busted too many knuckles using the cheap imported junk tools.

As for shop supplies, usually I shop at the local industrial supply houses. The electrical and welding supply houses are here in town, and the plumbing and motor supply houses are about a 20 minute drive. For nut & bolts, and a lot of the miscellaneous odds and ends, I buy from Lawson Products. If all else fails, I buy from McMaster-Carr, Grainger, and USA Blue Book. If one of those places doesn't have what I'm looking for.....nobody probably makes it!!!

I dealt with these outfits for many years while I was still w*rking, know most of the owners and employees, and make almost all of my purchases at wholesale....or cheaper!
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Old 07-14-2007, 10:02 AM   #4
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... Warning! HF sells a lot of plain junk mixed in with some fantastic bargains.

My work horse tools are good brands like DeWalt, Dremel, Milwaukee and Makita. But for certain hand tools, air tools, supplies and consumables I like Harbor Freight. Recent purchases are:

Trailer hitch mounted rack
Torque multiplied Lug nut wrench
Leather gloves
steel wool
50' fish tape
wire stripper
10" hardwood clamps, pipe clamps
Air powered cutter
paint brushes
abrasive wheels
lifetime supply of auto fuses

Much of this stuff I'd never buy at retail. Where do you get your shop supplies?
That's the sort of thing that works at HF for me. If it has a motor or a need for staying together or precision... not so much. We get nitrile gloves there for our apartment cleaner. Did buy a big drillpress, a press, and a metalcutting bandsaw from them for specific projects: if the tool survived the project I figured I got it free. (drilling for copperpipe balusters and narrowing and installing BMW 750 front bushings in my old E28). I've been around enough painting that I like good brushes and care for them.
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Old 07-14-2007, 10:07 AM   #5
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Torque multiplied Lug nut wrench
Much of this stuff I'd never buy at retail. Where do you get your shop supplies?
Hawaii used to be a chain of expensive City Mill stores and a whole lot of ordering from the Mainland (4-6 weeks). Just a simple bathroom plumbing project required a series of specialty plumbing suppliers who really didn't want to deal with retail customers, yet plumbers had too much new-construction work to bother returning calls. Harbor Freight was another link in the Mainland-supply chain.

Home Depot and Lowes have changed all that. City Mill has learned to stop gouging customers on the basics and to stick to their niche products that the big boxes won't carry.

So I get supplies from garage sales and the big boxes. But specialty tools are hard to find locally! Harbor Freight was the best price on a 2HP electric brush chipper... couldn't find that anywhere, including a lot of Mainland websites. It was a cheap way to figure out if I wanted a full-time brush chipper (I didn't).

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Warning! HF sells a lot of plain junk mixed in with some fantastic bargains.
One caveat-- if you don't want junk mail, don't order from these guys. They don't listen to "DO NOT MAIL" requests and the catalogs were coming every other week... it took over a year and a litigation threat to finally shut off the firehose.
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Old 07-14-2007, 10:11 AM   #6
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I LOOOOOOOVE HF!!!

I agree though, stay away from most of the motor-driven stuff, opr things that need to be precise.

That said, I own a bench grinder that has held up for the last 6 months...so thats good.


I find that HF is THE authority on tarps...blue, green, or otherwise...they have the right size, ever size, and they are cheap!! I saved 14 bucks on a nice 16x16 tarp VS. home depot or lowes

I like their work gloves, rubber gloves, zip ties, cheap rain suits, hand tools (i look at screwrivers, vice grips, etc as disposables because i misplace soooo many things), driver bits (i use/lose a lot at work), sockets, impact tools work well, bungees and tie downs, etc


Man, im getting all worked up...
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Old 07-14-2007, 10:31 AM   #7
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I have a lot of tools I use a couple of times a year, but they're dang handy to have. For those, I get them from HF or their local B&M equivalent, the Tractor Supply Company. Anything i'm going to use regularly I go with Dewalt and Craftsman, although craftsman isnt what they used to be. I was amused to buy a hunk of air compressor hose from them and a hunk from home depot a week later. Same exact hose, same exact lettering on the hose advising on the pressure limit. "made in taiwan" on the HD version, not on the sears version. So sears was selling cheap made in china stuff but didnt want their customers to know it.

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It was a cheap way to figure out if I wanted a full-time brush chipper (I didn't).
I did, but electric isnt the way to go. The sucker jams so much I'm ready to remove the 5 spring loaded safety screws, disable the safety switch, and install some velcro to keep the housing stuck together. I went this route when I discovered that the local waste processing center wanted me to pay them $20 a load to drop off green waste, which they ground into mulch and sold back to the town to lay in the parks and play areas. Grrr. I dont pay people to give them raw materials they can cheaply use to make money.


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it took over a year and a litigation threat to finally shut off the firehose.
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Old 07-14-2007, 10:46 AM   #8
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I did, but electric isnt the way to go. The sucker jams so much I'm ready to remove the 5 spring loaded safety screws, disable the safety switch, and install some velcro to keep the housing stuck together. I went this route when I discovered that the local waste processing center wanted me to pay them $20 a load to drop off green waste, which they ground into mulch and sold back to the town to lay in the parks and play areas. Grrr. I dont pay people to give them raw materials they can cheaply use to make money.
We were in the same situation but I can't easily put a gas or diesel chipper (let alone a trailer-mounted version) down the hill behind our house. That little one let me learn whether or not I'd enjoy the lifestyle. I didn't.

Even if 2 HP could've kept up with the volume, the plastic feed hopper didn't last long in Hawaii sunshine. Luckily the city revived their green waste program and the neighbors let us borrow their containers on pickup day, so I've stopped chipping and I'm letting what's left of the chipper finish its own decomposition process...
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Old 07-14-2007, 11:11 AM   #9
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Harbor Freight was the best price on a 2HP electric brush chipper... couldn't find that anywhere, including a lot of Mainland websites. It was a cheap way to figure out if I wanted a full-time brush chipper (I didn't).
I've had a couple of gas powered blower/vacs that shred leaves, but I'd been wanting a "real" chipper/shredder. It wasn't an issue while I was still w*rking, because I had a company truck and a place to haul my yard debris and branches. Now to get rid of it I'd have to find a way to get it to the seldom held 'drop-offs'.

I ended up getting a 7.5hp gas powered chipper by Craftsman, that takes up to 2" branches. Man, does it make a short job of tree and shrub branches, and leaves! I did a lot of trimming/pruning a couple of weeks ago, and had enough to fill a pick-up truck. The chipper got it down to ONE 32 gallon trash can...mostly finger nail size or smaller. I took it back and dumped it on the compost pile.
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Old 07-14-2007, 11:14 AM   #10
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We were in the same situation but I can't easily put a gas or diesel chipper (let alone a trailer-mounted version) down the hill behind our house. That little one let me learn whether or not I'd enjoy the lifestyle. I didn't.
Yeah, taking this one down a hill wouldn't be a lot of fun. It's pretty heavy and awkward. (but at least the feed hopper is steel )
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Old 07-14-2007, 11:25 AM   #11
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I looked at that model but couldnt cough up the $500-600 for it. I just didnt hate the trash company that much.

Of course, a month after I get the wretched electric one, sears had a returned/refurbed gas unit which looked like a vacuum leaf mower (which it was) which had a hopper for up to 1.5" branches...$180. I hate it when that happens. And had I known that I was about to buy a large property with about 35 trees, all of which shed their leaves in the winter...I'd have snapped it up.

Oh well...
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Old 07-14-2007, 12:19 PM   #12
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CFB you can always use the string trimmer in the garbage can trick to mulch your 35 trees worth of leafs this fall. Fill a plastic garbage can 75% full of raked leafs ,start trimmer insert into can until leafs are ground up. Repeat as needed. Use the ground up leafs as ground cover for plants etc.
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Old 07-14-2007, 12:36 PM   #13
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+1 on the above craftsman comments...it isnt what it used to be...thats for sure. crapsman, as i like to call it, leaves a lot to be desired, especially at the prices some of their tools fetch

most dissapointing:

1) 42" riding mower with 18.5hp briggs...crap...returned the first within a week second one has seen many repairs

2) rechargable 16v drill..sucks in general, slow, low rpm, bad charge holding ability, takes 14 hrs to charge etc

3)rechargable screwdriver: bit hold stripped, charge stinks, no torque

sorry for the rant...back to your regularly scheduled program....
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Old 07-14-2007, 02:41 PM   #14
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I LOVE my Harbor Freight Mailings. Especially those that include a 15% off coupon.
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Old 07-14-2007, 05:02 PM   #15
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Yeah, taking this one down a hill wouldn't be a lot of fun. It's pretty heavy and awkward. (but at least the feed hopper is steel )
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Old 07-14-2007, 05:36 PM   #16
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CFB you can always use the string trimmer in the garbage can trick to mulch your 35 trees worth of leafs this fall. Fill a plastic garbage can 75% full of raked leafs ,start trimmer insert into can until leafs are ground up. Repeat as needed. Use the ground up leafs as ground cover for plants etc.
I love mulch and use it extensively.

Problem I have is picking up the leaves. Half the yard is grass but half of it is chip and mulch. Makes it tough to rake, blow or mow.

This little thing I saw looked like a mower but had a suction bar along the front. By changing the throttle you could adjust the suction...to just enough for leaf extraction but not enough to pull up the slightly heavier bark and whatnot.

Seems like every yard I own has some serious annual challenge. My last one had huge shrubs that needed to be cut back. This one's going to have a buttload of leave
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Old 07-15-2007, 01:03 AM   #17
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So sears was selling cheap made in china stuff but didnt want their customers to know it.
I've cut out the middleman in a lot of cases. Here in Dallas, and probably in your area, there are some retailers named (or variations of) China Tools Importers. Same items you see at HF, Northern, Sears, and others, but honestly named as from China. All caveats already mentioned re: motors/precision apply, but for the majority of hand tools, tarps, tapes, gloves, bolt cutters, drill presses, etc., their prices are about 30-40% below HF or Northern. For small items, often requires buying bulk (10 rolls of tape, three pliers, etc.), but it's usually only small tools and consumables that are like that. Certainly helps to round out that well stocked garage.
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Old 07-15-2007, 05:10 PM   #18
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Ugh, no catalog necessary here, there's a $$Harbor Freight$$ store in our town! HF was one of our biggest budget busters for awhile until I totaled up the purchases via Quicken and asked my husband if he thought it was worth the $$$ he was spending there. He had no idea it was costing so much! It was just $30 here and $50 there but he had made a habit of swinging by on a regular basis to browse (and buy) the inventory and it really added up fast. He still goes occasionally but takes a lot more care in what he buys.
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Old 07-15-2007, 07:06 PM   #19
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HF is great! No, they aren't heirloom quality tools to be passed down through the generations, and I wouldn't use their tools to make my living, but they sell a lot of things worth having. The blue disposable nitrile gloves are a great buy (100 for $6 is the best price I've seen for them). I bought a pneumatic framing nailer that worked well to drive hundreds of nails and is still going strong (powered by a HF compressor). The hammer drill I bought there for less than $40 has already paid for itself several times over in drilling 1" holes through cement and cinderblock, etc. for plumbing. For a lot of jobs it s cheaper to buy the tools there and have them for use later than to rent a specialized tool for a couple of days.

My best purchase from HF was the 8' x 4' fold-up flatbed trailer. It can carry over a thousand pounds and folds in half for storage (it occupies about 2' by 5' of floor space). I use mine all the the time for hauling supplies home from the hardware store, hauling branches to be chipped by the county, picking up the free mulch from the county, etc. In many ways, the trailer is more useful to me than a pickup truck would be.

One minor gripe: It can be hard to find a particular item on the store shelves.
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Old 07-15-2007, 10:22 PM   #20
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There's a HF 1 mile from where I live. It is pretty cool for low tech stuff. My other low-cost resource is the local pawn shops, but its sorta sad when someone has to hock thier tools. Another cool mail-order spot is northerntools.com.
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