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Harbor Freight vs. Grizzly

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  • Harbor Freight vs. Grizzly

    What's the general opinion on the difference between Harbor Freight (Central Machine) and Grizzly.


  • #2
    I've done very little business with Grizzly, and none at all with Harbor Freight, so my opinion is based largely on what I've heard from others, and may be out of date as well. My opinion is that Grizzly is a serious machine tool company, although they are clearly not aiming to make the best tools money can buy. Harbor Freight is a scam. Their products are kits at best.


    • #3

      As strange as it may sound, if you want to get 10 "different" opinions on a subject, just wait until you get 10 people to comment..........

      Grizzly may "sell" some good things and some bad things. The same will apply to Harbor Freight.

      Opinions are generally worth "exactly" what one pays for them............



      • #4
        I have dealt with both Harbor Freight and Grizzly. It all depends on what item you are purchasing. I had no problem with Harbor Freight when I had to return an item and also bought some junk from them. Grizzly is a reputable firm to deal with. If an item is on backorder you have a choice of waiting for it at which time you are not billed until it is shipped or reorder at a later date. I'm planning to order a few large items from Grizzly but will drive the 125 miles to pick them up. Shipping is about half as much as the item itself. Try either but be cautious.


        • #5
          "Harbor Freight is a scam. Their products are kits at best. "

          This sort of report, you will notice, is many times from people having no direct experience with a particular vendor or machine. It may be true, then again, it may not. It seems to be reinforced by anecdotal tales of woe that go something like this: " I bought a lathe (mill, tool, etc) from Enco, Harbor Freight, Grizzly...etc and it had this horrible defect or problem that is proof that everything that Enco, HF...etc makes is a POS. Don't ever buy anything from them or you will regret it." On the other hand you do get positive reports on such products or vendors, but, they never seem to have the same impact. No matter what you say that is positive it never seems to counterbalance the negative reports.

          I own several pieces of equipment that have purchased from Harbor Freight which I am quite pleased with. I have also purchased equipment from Grizzly which has served me well. A friend and I were discussing the subject of HF just last night. We both own 12 x 36 HF lathes (33274 models). He made the point that a lot of the stuff in HF's stores is, well, pretty low quality, cheap stuff. However, the 12 x 36 model lathe we own is really a good deal and of a higher quality than much of what you see in their stores. For less than $2k we got a lathe and stand (with sales tax) THAT ARE NOT KITS. They arrived in good condition with everything pretty much adjusted properly and ready to be setup and run. They are accurate (mine shows less than .0002" taper in 5" on a test bar), run smoothly, and make chips without complaint. I would rate my lathe as being a remarkably good deal for a lathe of it's size and capacity.

          I have also owned a Grizzly 3in1 machine. There was nothing really wrong with this machine other than the limitations of a 3in1. I learned a lot about machining, believe it or not, from that machine. I would rate Grizzly a good company to deal with. They respond quickly to problems or with help. They do charge for this indirectly in that their prices are a little higher than an outfit like HF. I chose to buy from HF knowing that they do not have that same level of service. You CAN get help from HF, but, it's not as fast or in some cases as knowledgeable. So far I have not required a great deal of assistance from Harbor Freight.

          Unfortunately, Consumer Reports doesn't do much reporting of machine tools for the home shop machinist. Although there are the occassional reviews of machines in publications like HSM, there is rarely the type of head to head comparison that is done for cars, washing machines, etc. I understand why this is not feasible for such a small market. I just wish there was a better way to evaluate lathes than depending on the offhand comments of non-users.


          • #6
            I have a bunch of both (both stores are only 5 min. apart), Grizzly seems to buy all the "better quality" (a relative term)Chinese stuff, Harbor Freight has a mixture, from the EXACT same part (painted green) to obvious lower quality.

            I would never buy anything (imported)from HF without the chance to visually inspect it first (or the opportunity to return it at no/low cost). BUT, I have returned stuff to them many times (worn out blow hammers, cheap PVC airhose, a bad elec. motor, cheap batt. drill, etc., some way past warranty time)and they have ALWAYS given me a new one OR my $$ back (w/ reciept), no problems. I have no experience w/ the mail order side, only the retail store.

            With Grizzly, I would not hesitate to order sight unseen, IF I expected a Chinese tool and not something that compares w/ the good quality stuff. It is STILL 1/3 the price of good stuff, and you get what you pay for. If it is the EXACT same part as HF, it is usually 25% higher than thiers, if it is on sale at HF, it is double price.
            On returns, they charge a 10% restocking fee for refunds, no exceptions. They repair defective stuff, if it repairable, not replace it, also.

            If you make a living with your tools, I wouldn't recco any of the import stuff, but I just use mine to prototype stuff, and most of it only gets used 4 or 5 times a month (or less), so it allows me to have tools I otherwise couldn't afford to have. All my tools that get much use, or would really screw something up if it broke down (welder, plasma cutter, air compressor, wrenches, sockets, etc.) I buy good stuff.

            I also wouldn't recco ANY import cutting tools (drills, sawblades, etc,) they are junk.

            My experiences, anyway, HTH.

            NRA Lifetime Member
            NRA Lifetime Member


            • #7
              Philt--I have the Grizzly version of that lathe (12x36), and the HF is IDENTICAL except for the QC toolholder upgrade w/ the Grizzly, I made 5 trips to each store and compared them. I would have bought the HF except they were backordered for 2 months and weren't expecting any in the forseeable future (slow boat from China ).


              [This message has been edited by Hellbender (edited 01-11-2003).]
              NRA Lifetime Member


              • #8
                If I lived where you guys live I would like the oportunity to buy from these companies as they are very reasaonably priced.
                But what I would like to know is there an element of snobbery with some tool purchases.I know some stuff which is cheap is junk but are we capable sometimes if not often of getting caught in the name trap when purchasing.Especially when its an item we won't use every day Alistair
                Please excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease


                • #9

                  Concerning the consumer report, I have learned from my own industry that these guys could not find there behind with both hands. The ratings in every issue that pertains to my industry are so screwed up that I cannot believe it for any other product they rate. I hope I do not offend anyone by that, but if you do not know they charge a healthy fee for a mfg. to advertise as "a CR best buy". It seems like a scam to me. Call me cynical.


                  • #10
                    I bought one of the little 4x7 cut off saws from Harbor Freight back in 1987, and other than replacing a bearing on the driven wheel, have had no problems with it whatsoever. This thing has seen tons of use!


                    • #11
                      Gents: remember the song about gambling? Every hands a winner, every hands a loser? I just the difference is the guy holding the cards and betting his money.

                      Same thing in my opinion with tools. I rather use a pocket knife blade to remove a screw than a fine screwdriver that is 30 miles away . I suspect the cheapest 3 in 1 from Harbor freight in the hands of Forrest, John (stevenson or foster) can beat what I could so on a bridge port or Glidden lewis.
                      Around here (Fla) the people like Craftsmen, Snap on etc. they are good tools but they 99 % of the time are no better than the cheap junk for same jobs.

                      When working for NAvy where they rebulit airplanes and engines I was accosted by a mechanic who was working on a radial engine cylinder. He showed me the torque he had to reach with a crows foot wrench. The jaws spread. He wanted a snap on tool. I went to tool room, told them to gather all the crows foot wrenches of that size (plus other the men complained were not satifactroy) and with a toprque wrench, either meet the torques we needed or put em in a bag and deliver them to me with the torque they failed at listed, quickly. In came a bag of crow foot wrenches, very few had met "specs". Among those meeting specs were various brands. But among those not meeting specs were every well known brand going. So I wnet to material testing lab andreviewed the specs. Mil specs called for less torque than EVERY bad wrench had developed. I should have done this first!!!!! realy felt like a fool!!!. THen to supply and materials labs and weapons systems engineering for a revised spec to get good tools. then out for bids. Now you know where those 600 dollar hammers probably came from. The bids for "high quality " tools were outragous. Cheaper to do what I had done, buy a bunch, test and seperate into those that can do and can't do the job. ONE HELL OF A LOT CHEAPER!!!!!. In my opinion, alistair is right, there is a lot of pride in owning a known good tool. Men quiver with delight to hold and use certain brands, but they dont work betterthan a CAREFULLY selected off brand that has been tested and fits and feels well.

                      Just one mans opinion! Now fuss at me!!!


                      • #12
                        Many of the items are made in the same factory, or were designed by the same group. Customer service is where it's at. I live ten minutes from the local HF store. The manager and the sales staff have been good to me. I seem to have problems with their drill sharpeners, they give me a new one every time. I do have a Drill Doc, but I save that for serious sharpening.

                        Many of the HF tools that I buy are on the basis that they are disposible. One company that I know buys all of there field folks HF tools, because they seem to loose them a lot.

                        Plus things like cable cutters, not many people know how to sharpen them, so buying a new set is generally much easier.



                        • #13
                          I have been in a Harbour Freight store several times (we have one), and used grizzly and Jet stuff, at least the older stuff.

                          Most of the smaller HF stuff like hand tools is about the same as Big Lots. Works, but is not the best, or even maybe average. Usable, though, good for the "lend the bro-in-law" box, at least.

                          The Air tools are variable, good and bad, as far as I know. Used a couple, were "ok".

                          If the more complex machines are like what is in our store, I would run. I wouldn't buy one, they looked badly assembled, and some had obvious problems.

                          I would consider one of their lifts, but I would derate it by 2x. There you can visually inspect most everything. You can discount the marketing crap about capacity easily.

                          I think the HF folks are basically just lacking in QC. You may get a goodie, maybe a POS, luck of the draw. Some problems, like bad calibrations on dials are fixable.

                          I don't think they know machines at all, they may buy leftovers or whatever nobody else buys. Just basically they don't know a goodie from a baddie, so its your nickel.

                          Grizzly has less of the "surplus store" approach, on average probably has better QC, and seems to at least try. Same for Jet. Probably they are the ones you should look at more seriously.

                          Everything I have seen or used of Grizzly's was credible, and worked ok. Same for Jet. The design of some things, like the 8 x 20 lathes is deficient compared to "real" machines, but that is out in the open , like threading range, lowest speed, etc.

                          At those prices you need not expect hand scraping and fitting, any more than you would have expected it on cheap American goods like Atlas or Logan.
                          If that sounds like I am lumping them together, you are correct. They are most similar to Atlas and Logan. Made to sell at a price. That isn't BAD, just a fact.

                          [This message has been edited by Oso (edited 01-12-2003).]


                          • #14
                            Steve, Alistair

                            I agree with you. Carefull selection is the key. Not all my tools are name brand, and some are from "china" but they do the job I ask of them for a price I am willing to pay - that is all that matters to me.

                            I do stick to certain brands because of quality in build and materials - i.e. I prefer makita 4-1/2" angle grinders because of features and the power switch.


                            • #15
                              Hey I can tell you as with a lot of companies out there its all in the service(you know that thing you used to get but seldom ever do anymore)I have several things I have bought from both companies with Grizzly being my clear favorite.I bought a tablesaw from Grizzly and upon arrival the truck company had tipped it over and bent one of the hand crank shafts, called them up two days later I had a new shaft no problems. Another thing I noticed is that the grizzly machines I have all of them have s.a.e. fasteners and good manuals.Hf however is nearly impossible to get good service from.On any import tool though the quality is the same as it is here (depends on price range)if the tool is bottom of the line it is bottom of the line period.

                              [This message has been edited by wierdscience (edited 01-13-2003).]
                              I just need one more tool,just one!