HF the good, the bad and the ugly. Post up your experience

g-man

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HF just came to town near me. I was and still am somewhat excited. Their U.S. General tool boxes have good reviews and for prices less than other big box stores looks like you get a no frills somewhat commercial grade box. Last week I went in armed with my 50.00 off coupon and picked up a 44" rolling chest. My wife was with me and although I wanted to go down each isle looking for a bunch of goodies I knew she would be as excited about that as me going shoe shopping with her. So I resolved to go back this week on my own and pick up some smaller goodies. I've been in HF's Richmond store before so I know there are deals to be had. I also know that some of their Chinese junk is a waste of money so you have to know what's good and what to pass on.

Yesterday I went back and loaded up on some smaller items. A few notes:

the 9mil gloves seem really good and I don't see a broken finger condom with these.

I picked up a Hercules 7amp small grinder. Seems pretty beefy and reviews are good. I passed on the 3yr warranty plan.


Some of the corded tools are cheap and have very cheap parts, some of the air tools are made very cheap with poor quality parts

The C clamps seem to be made out of some kind of composite metal. The just didn't feel heavy enough to me to hold up. I felt like if you really cranked down on one of them they would break or bend. I passed.

I did pick up the braun led rechargeable light that spike strip mentioned in another thread.

Bought some welding consumables, grinder flappers and cutting discs

a pair of 11 inch needle nose for $4 ...hard to beat. I use these to fish nuts, washers and dropped tools out of an engine when a magnet won't do the trick.

A bench brush for a couple bucks. Similar to a fox tail.

(edit) Bauer 17 piece titanium drill bits,

and more stuff I can't remember. When I got to the check out I asked to clerk if they would help me know what was on sale with the coupons and They DO NOT help you with that. So you have to do your homework and have the coupons ready if you want the discount.

Please post up what you think is a deal and what in your experience is total garbage in Harbor Freight and any videos of reviews.
 
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Their wrenches and particularly sockets are pretty good these days. I'm not a pro but weekend warrior so not paying for Snap On. I don't see the need to buy Craftsman over HF latest offerings. (There's still junk - like the 3/4" drive socket set. It's like Chinese tools were 20 years ago. I think I bought it just for one socket or to use the sockets as seal drivers or something.)

Agree on C-Clamps. Bought a ton when I was making my Kayak for light duty stuff. But I think they are cast pot metal not forged steel. Push them they bend.

Drill bits - I bought the index of common sized for $5 year ago Black Friday. Thought they would be junk. They have held up surprisingly well except for a couple that had the tips ground incorrectly.

I have the high end 1/2" cordless impact. Not cheap at $230 but it certainly does the job, has been tested by AVE and South Main Auto and is the real deal. May not hold up to daily use like a Milwaukee but I think SMA got a year out of his daily use, lugs on 1-ton trucks, etc.

Air tools - functional and disposable. But for $10 for an angle grinder - I keep 3 set up with dedicated tools.

I don't care what anyone says - the $10 purple spray gun works. I spray epoxy and sandable primer, drill the orifice to whatever you want. Wouldn't use them on finish coats.

Chip brushes worth their weight for slathering on POR15 which ruins the brush.

I have beat the tar out of a couple 5" bench vises including pressing bearings in before I had my shop press. There is actually putty on the body to make it look pretty I guess that will fall out. But they remain functional and you can't beat the price.

Used a 15% OFF coupon no restrictions to buy the gas air compressor. Nothing but good to say about that for $900 or whatever.

Buyer beware but the store allows me to do more and have more tools that I could otherwise.
 

e9999

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many many vids on YT about best and worst buys at HF
 

PAToyota

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They've been stepping up their game lately. Their older Pittsburgh, Central Pneumatic, and such are still sort of the "disposable" lines, but the newer lines are at least comparable to what you get at the other "big box" stores. As noted in other threads, the tool storage is a pretty good bang for the buck. You're going to spend much more elsewhere to get better stuff most of the time.

For power tools, I'd still go for Milwaukee, DeWalt, Makita, or such. But I think the HF brands are at least as good or somewhat better than Craftsman, Black & Decker, Husky, and such.

I recently picked up a set of the Icon snap ring pliers with the 20% coupon. So far I'm impressed with the quality. We'll see how they are in a year or so.
 
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I try not buy anything my life depends on, or with more than 4 moving parts,
This... I bought Pittsburgh Jack stands which I take the blame on this one. I overlooked it but they have no pin that can be inserted to lock it in place. I had them set up and ready to rest my truck on. Luckily I bumped it before this and the stand fell to the ground. I did not even attempt to use them after that. Definitely not worth saving money when it comes to safety. Buy stuff you can trust.

20200217_150505.jpg
 

e9999

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^ mmm, whereas I agree with your general premise to be careful about such thing and that a safety pin would be good, I'm not sure I understand your mentioned specific beef with the jack. If anything like mine, those are designed to lock up tighter when under load, thanks to the shape of the teeth and pawl, I believe. So, yes, if you bump the handle when unloaded, the sliding support can fall down. Not so when under load if the tooth is engaged properly. I'd be more concerned about the quality of the steel and welds.
 
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@e9999 maybe it was user error, but when that Jack stand dropped from bumping the actual stand and not the handle right before I was going to rest the weight of the vehicle on it, that scared me enough to not use them.
 

gregnash

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Yeah they are great for their general consumables. I have used them for lots of stuff like wire wheels, flap discs, etc. and never had issues. They also sell some of the overstock type stuff from bigger brands like Meguiar's, WD40, etc. so do some looking around. Most of there tools that are electrical or pneumatic I treat as a one or two usage purchase, some do not disappoint and some are exceptional. I have had their 1500w heat gun for about 8yrs now and it has been great, same thing with their die grinder with deadman switch. But I have snapped some of their ratchet extensions or adapters in the past. They are getting better with some stuff but again, focus more on the location being some place you go for consumables. If you are interested in a specific moving part (electrical or pneumatic) do your research on it to see what other people have found.

I used their Purple HVLP gun to paint my 60 a couple years ago and it did a great job. At $15 for the kit I tossed it once I was done instead of wasting money on trying to clean it.
 
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HF is great for consumables, agreed. I visited Miami from Canada last month, and picked up a few HF tools, some that were on sale. I was careful, and had them jotted down on my order sheet for months.

Getting back home, I priced them on Amazon or Aliexpress. I didn't really save anything. HF was kind of pointless over online sites for Chinese shippable tools.

Anything bigger, like jack or jackstands, HF is ok, especially if you need them that morning.

Their ICON line of toolboxes are amazing, but expensive. Most HF power and cordless tools are junk.

You're best buying what you WANT online, or thumbing through the monthly NAPA catalogue here, and picking up the specials. Buy what you NEED at HF, when you need it.
 

Zjohnsonua

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Don't use the HF cut off wheels, or any grinding wheels, they shatter and throw material everywhere. I had several cut off wheels come apart on me during my rebuild on my 40. They sucked ass.
And if the cutoff wheels don't fly apart then they wear down 2 (or 3):1 compared to the ol' reliables. The flapper wheels lasted long enough to make a set of set up bearings, so I'd give them another go.
 

e9999

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I'm tempted to say that in general abrasive components are not great at HF. It's just too easy to reduce quality on those. They just don't do a great job or don't last long. (But I have not had either a HF cutting wheel or a grinding wheel shatter on me.)
 

g-man

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Glad to see this thread is staying alive and that members are posting up their experiences with items from HF. I did check out some YT videos. May have to go back and look for the "F" style welding clamp. Looks like it would work well for olding metal patches and spanning across my 60 frame.
 

KLF

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Do not buy ANY of their magnetic welding holding jigs. They are terrible. Magnets are weak, and they get even weaker with a few heat passes.
 

g-man

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Do not buy ANY of their magnetic welding holding jigs. They are terrible. Magnets are weak, and they get even weaker with a few heat passes.
i bought some of the small red magnets and agree they are very weak. Now trying some of the larger and more powerful yellow Berger magnets I hope they do better
 

gregnash

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I bought the Braun thin bar light that was linked in another thread and have had it for over a year. Still kicking and absolutely love it. Plenty of light in either mode (bright or dim) and the magnet is nice and strong.

When I was in there this weekend to grab some more vinyl gloves for garage work I was wandering around to see what new stuff they had and came across the next version of the Braun thin bar light. This one now comes in a "detachable" variety pack that has multiple heads!

May have to grab myself one of these in the near future as I can see the flex light coming in handy for pin-pointing light in certain areas while under my truck.
 

e9999

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I looked at that 3 in 1 light. I thought it was not a great buy. The flex light is weak, and you can get a decent 500 lumens -more power- flashlight for under $10 nowadays. If the light body goes bad you lose all 3.
 
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Don't use the HF cut off wheels, or any grinding wheels, they shatter and throw material everywhere. I had several cut off wheels come apart on me during my rebuild on my 40. They sucked ass.
Just used some Bauer branded cut off wheels from HF to slice off some upper shock nuts. One disc, 4 nuts. Not too bad, but I am not stupid and had a welder jacket, face hood, and gloves.

I've used the piss out of HF tools for the last decade or so, there is one a few miles down the road from me. My black, deep well 22mm Pittsburgh impact socket just split on me the other day. That's after a decade of hard hard use. If my lively hood relied on the tools I bought, it would be a different story, but overall HF is pretty solid in my book.
 

e9999

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Overall, I think the good with HF is many of the prices. The bad, many of the tools.
To paraphrase, maybe something like: "Price, performance, reliability. Pick one of the 3." ? :)
 
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