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HF Retail Store Visit

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  • HF Retail Store Visit

    I stopped at the Harbor Freight retail store today. It's like Wal-mart for the tools and machining crowd. It seemed everything in the catalog was in stock there. It's nice to see the stuff before purchacing it. I did pickup a few things. Everyone in the store had at least a few things in their basket.
    Has anyone else on the board been shopping there yet?

  • #2

    [This message has been edited by pgmrdan (edited 03-08-2004).]


    • #3
      Many times. With the marginal quality control on these tools, it is very handy with some items to actually see and check them out in person before purchacing. I have been known to go through a whole box of items to find the best one.
      They don't stock everything shown in the catalog, but they do have a surprising amount of it.
      Location: North Central Texas


      • #4
        They just recently opened a Harbor Freight here in my neighborhood. I stop by there now and then but haven't spent more than about $20.00 and that was stuff my 10 year old wanted. A couple of brushes, some WD-40, etc. He and his buddies like working on their bikes. I agree with others about the quality, however I'm not sure that there is a lot of difference between HF and the other imports. I have in the past purchased some of the Pittsburg Forge brand hand tools just for the heck of it and they seem to be fairly decent. If I am going to buy a hand tool that I intend to use a lot I always buy the best I can afford, but if I think, Oh that set of stubby wrenches might come in handy some day, then I don't mind buying imports if the quality appears acceptable.

        In contrast to Harbor Freight, there is a WoodCraft Store in the neighborhood as well. It is really nice to see that there still are high quality tools being produced in the US and Canada and sold in a retail store. They have a router fence system made in Canada that looks like it belongs in a precision metalworking shop. They also sell a clamping system for cabinet doors that is manufactured here in Green Bay, Wisconsin. So there is hope for quality Good Old American Manufacturing.



        • #5
          I buy a lot from HF. Some good, some not. Most of my air tools are HF or Northern. They've lasted just as long as the IR tools I have. For air wrenches, I go with IR. For air hammers, sanders, riveters, shears, grinders and saws I go with HF.
          I don't much stock in their electric tools but the three 4 1/4" angle grinders I got there have held up well. I've also been through two cartons of 14" cut-off wheels with their machine and it's still going strong.
          My hand tools are all Craftsman and SnapOn. I've been contemplating getting their 3/8 & 1/2" drive long impact sockets but I'm leary of flying shrapnel.


          • #6
            I have purchased a number of items from HF over the past several years. Most of what I got I was pleased with. Some of the better deals from HF:

            12 x 36 lathe and stand (33274 & 33275). They have them on sale for $1699 in the store frequently. They will take less. I paid $1400 plus $100 for the stand. I have had no trouble with this lathe. Everything worked, nothing loose, accurate. Good deal.

            4 x 6 bandsaw (37151) ordered on their website. UPS delivered to my house without a dent or scratch. $139.95 plus $5.50 shipping. Every HSM needs one.

            Mill/drill (33686) It's not a Bridgeport, but for $799 onsale in the stores I still think it's not a bad deal. I use mine alot.

            6" and 8" digital calipers (47257 & 47260). I bought the 6" first ($19.99) and liked it so much I bought the 8" (onsale for $22.99). I don't use my dial caliper much anymore.

            D1-4 6" backplate (47464) $39.95. For a 6" chuck I already owned. Made in India. Very nice casting. Machined beautifully. Very pleased with the backplate and the chuck.

            R-8 collet set. Not sure they still carry these. Won them on the HF auction section of their website for $26 for 13 collets. I use them regularly.

            An item I would leave on the shelf:

            Tap and die set 39391 They are cheap (9.99), but I am not so sure they are even worth that.


            • #7
              I think the HF looks just like "Big Lots". Tools are the same, customers are the same. Quality is the same.

              Not that you can't get good stuff there, but you have to look, hard.

              I like the cheap chip brushes and I seem always to buy a few ammo boxes too.

              Whenever I look for a "real" tool there, my fingers start to feel funny and keep it up until I leave.
              Kinda the feeling you get when you think about the damage your knuckles will get if the wrench breaks as you reef on it. Or if you have to work a little too close to the spinnig saw.....


              • #8
                This thread is topical for me.

                Monday I had my first (and most likely last) visit to a HF store. Junk everywhere I looked. I got a chance to check out tools that are mentioned on the forums, like when someone asks if they should buy HF or Grizzly, yikes!!

                The clerks were all grade school dropouts, most of the customers also. It was kind of scarey to see these people loading up their baskets with merchandise.

                At this point I'm relieved, after so much talk of HF I thought I was missing something great, now I know there's nothing there for me.


                • #9
                  DR & Oso, I'm with you guys. Been there a couple of times, don't go any more. Wife goes to the sewing store in the same mall, I wait in truck and read. I look at the quality of items, the skill level of the help, and the condition of the items on display. Some of them are broken or falling apart already. I also do not like the smell of the preservative used on most of the tools.
                  Good place to go if you want to buy a bunch of shiny stuff to put on your workbench to impress the neighbors. Not to buy anything you intend to use however.
                  Jim H.


                  • #10
                    I live near HF so I can visit frequently. Some of the stuff is OK quality, a lot is marginal, but adequate for occasional use around the home shop. And, yes, some of it is crap, but you don't have to buy it, now do you? Just be aware that virtually everything goes on sale at some point. For months I went every couple of weeks and always bought something, rarely paying more than half price. By now I've gotten nearly everything they sell that I might have a use for, so now I go infrequently, and usually for something specific (on sale of course), unless I just happen to be driving by with a few minutes to kill.


                    • #11
                      I stop by my local HF store about every 2 months. I feel most of the stuff is far below the quality I am willing to except.

                      However, there are exceptions. I bought a set of Pittsburg combination wrenches 1/4" to 1-1/4" on sale for going to the U Pull It wrecking yards. I don't to lose my better wrenches and I have a box of tools ready to go. I cannot believe the torture and abuse these wrenches have taken. Typically there are several fasteners on those junkers that are cross threaded, overtightened or really rusted. Usally it the last ones holding the part I want. Yet the $19.99 wrenches have withstood many violent assaults with the 3lb hammer and haven't broke or stripped out.



                      • #12
                        You have to be careful but there are fabulous deals to be had. For example the digital calipers at $20 - work great, never use my B&S dial anymore. The HF ripoff Besttest dial indicator works as well as the B&S - $20 on sale!!
                        I rrecently bought a small blast cabinet for $70 which is OK and their Powder coat setup for $59 which works great.
                        Their Tap and die and a lot of their hanttools are only fit for road fill. However I did buy a set of the "Pittsburgh Professional" stubby AF wrenches which are every bit as nice as the SK I usually buy but 1/5 the price. The non "Professional" wrenches however are pure junk.


                        • #13
                          My problem with HF I guess is that I can buy the GOOD stuff at way below the HF prices.....I get too spoiled to buy from HF.

                          So can you, if you don't tell anyone else, and you live in town...

                          It's called an estate sale. Any good sized town has them.

                          (Sorry, Evan, the bears don't ever seem to sell anything)

                          I just got a perfect 12" mitutoyo dial caliper that checks out fine against standards, for $40.

                          Wrenches of good US make are seldom over $1 or $2....I have stocked a shop that way.. disadvantage is it takes longer, of course.

                          Oh, yeah, good electric motors, TEFC or other, 3/4HP for $5, you get the picture.


                          • #14
                            Yup, keeps the money on this side of the Pacific, and gives it to people who can use it, not CEOs.
                            Farm & estate auctions work the same way.
                            Jim H.


                            • #15
                              Oso, Jc,

                              Yeah, I'm with you guys on this, I love estate sales. But, guess what??? It won't be long before you'll go to sales advertised as grandpa's large collection of tools and find that he'd been shopping a HF. I'm already starting to see this.