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-   -   HARBOR FRIEGHT TOOLS - The "Quality" Issue (http://www.diychatroom.com/f29/harbor-frieght-tools-quality-issue-166562/)

CaptainMarvel 12-15-2012 09:35 PM

HARBOR FRIEGHT TOOLS - The "Quality" Issue
 
Greetings All:

This posting will be a bit lengthy, but I think/hope you'll understand why as you read ...


First of all, this discussion topic has truly been a valuable resource for someone like myself - an absolutely Home Hobbiest level DIY'er. As such, I have no aspirations or intentions whatsoever of becoming any kind of a "contractor" or doing any "professional level" jobs - other than my own "as best I can" personal project goals and such.

In any case - and as with many - discretionary home-hobbiest funds are budgeted and limited. So, consideration for a tool resource such as Harbor Freight is (in my case, anyway) inevitable and - at least on a "cost-benefit-for-purpose" level (if that makes sense). :wink:

Obviously, there is a WIDE variety of opinions and reviews/recommendations concerning HF tools - especially HF power tools. I have been back and forth many times over the last few months with regard to the whole "quality/purpose/value-for-my-dollar" conundrum - including reading/watching dozens upon dozens of resources focusing on both Harbor Freight tools as well as the more "notable" brands of various power tools - while also making several educational/comparison visits to my nearby Harbor Freight, Lowe's and Home Depot store locations.

The other day - after both wrote an email inquiry to the HF Tech Dept and posting a particular question on the HF Facebook page - I received a message from an old Grade/High School friend of mine whose boyfriend, ironically, WORKS for Harbor Freight (he apparently runs the Harbor Freight IT Dept). I was inquiring, specifically, about the new/upgraded HF 12" Sliding Compound Miter Saw.


First, here was the email I wrote to HF Tech Dept:
Quote:

Greetings:

I was visiting your Montclair, CA store this week - specifically to check out your 12" Sliding Compound Miter Saw With Laser Guide
(Chicago Electric Power Tools - Item#98194) - and I noticed that the "display model" that the Montclair store had out looked to be a more recent "update" model (with a number of improvements) from the model I see on your website.

Specifically - on the "new/currently displayed" model - the saw motor is now behind the saw blade casing, as opposed to being mounted on the right side (as pictured in/on the current product image on your website). Also, the laser guide on the "new" model looks much improved from how it was situated/mounted on the previous model. Lastly, the side extensions look to have been improved as well ... as is the miter base itself (with identified detents at various miter positions (whereas the "previous" model did not appear to include such).

So, my question is .... is this "new and improved" 12" Sliding Compound Miter Saw With Laser Guide (Chicago Electric Power Tools - Item#98194) the CURRENT model/version that is available in all of your stores? I ask because the box for the miter saw (which was directly below the display stand) had an image of the "previous" model on it ... so I just want to make certain that when I go to purchase the miter saw, that I will be getting the "new and improved" model. Is there any particular way to tell, other than asking a HF Sales Associate to open the box for me prior to my purchase?

Thank you for your time. I very much look forward to your reply and information
and here is the response I received:
Quote:

Model number 98194 has not been updated and is in the process of being phased out. Model 69684 is the replacement item which I believe you may have seen.

Eric Bodenhamer
Technical Support
Harbor Freight Tools
3491 Mission Oaks Blvd
Camarillo, CA 93012
Office: 1-888-866-5797


Shortly following this, her is the message I wrote to my friend:
Quote:

I've been doing a lot of research on Harbor Freight products - and a lot of their power tools seem to get a bad rap in terms of the issue of quality. I am thinking much of the criticism is coming from more "hardcore" woodworkers and contractors ... which I most definitely am not. I am a complete beginner/novice to the do-it-yourself/home hobby world - and I don't plan on elevating myself any higher than a "home hobby" level.

Nevertheless, I would also be interested to hear your boyfriend's HONEST opinion as to the quality of Harbor Freight tools for someone like me
and here was the response I received:
Quote:

He looks at their tools as really good quality for the price. They actually have a test warehouse where they test them against name brand products and they do really well. In all honesty, between you and me, they actually buy name brand tools and deconstruct them and build them cheaper.


So, given all of the above, I am curious as to thoughts constructive comments about the whole scenario - especially with regard to the response I received from my friend.


Looking forward to an informative discussion to follow. :thumbup1:



P.S. (If this is the wrong discussion thread in which to post this whole thing, please do forgive me - and advise where I should post this).



TOM

joecaption 12-15-2012 10:07 PM

Everyone of the three differant power tools I've bought there were loud, vibrated, chucks would not hold tight. All where in the trash within in a year.
The routers collet holder was usless, my hands vibrated for a 1/2 hour after using it. The hammer drill broke the same day I bought it.
I replaced it with a Porta Cable, what a huge differance.
The Bosch Bull dog Hammer drill I bought is still going strong 5 years later.
A tool is not cheap if it will not do the job, can not get parts for it or it just out right fails.

bbo 12-15-2012 10:25 PM

typically the harbor freight stuff I get now would only be disposable or single use stuff. or thinkgs that are not likely to break due to stress.

I avoid their cordless power tools as I had bad luck with them in the past. no power, battery short life, etc.
I do have a corded angle grinder I bought for 10$, that thing has lasted a long time through some tough use.
I will buy the nitrile or vinyl gloves for uses like changing oil, painting, working on messy projects.
If I need an odd sized socket or weird tool or tool set, I'll get it there. i.e. brake piston compressor tool set has paid for itself.
I've had a few torque wrenches get the head twisted off well before torquing properly, next torque wrenches I but will be the $$ ones elsewhere.

I have a sliding compound mitre saw I bought from there. It does the job, just not as precise as a more reputable name would be.

my budget does dictate what brand I buy. lately I've been opting for searching online for better name brands for just a tad more $.

woodworkbykirk 12-15-2012 11:23 PM

i invest a lot of money into my tools.. as i need them to earn a living working as a proffesional in the renovation and new construction game.. this being said i cant afford to buy cheap tools.. there is far too much downtime and aggrevation using cheap tools that cant be relied on to do a job. there are specific tools i go to for different tasks that occur regularly so i buy pro grade tools such as bosch and makita..

now if theres something im just playing around with in the shop on my own time and requires some new tool that i dont already own i will buy a cheap version just to see if it will do the task. if the task becomes a regular thing i will go out and buy the pro grade version of it

Mort 12-15-2012 11:28 PM

I had a HF circular saw that, after about a year of VERY occasional use, started smoking out the motor area when in use. I have an orbital buffer I've used once, can't remember how we'll it works. Also have a hi-speed buffer that shakes me apart whenever I use it. There are better alternatives for not much more money, and they'd be worth every penny, even to the hobbyist.

CaptainMarvel 12-15-2012 11:51 PM

Not to discount ANYTHING any have said or insight/advice offered thus far, but (ironically) someone just brought the following article to my attention ...

Popular Hot Rodding Harbor Freight Article

A very informative article - and one I had not yet seen.

An except from that very article ... seems to corroborate what was conveyed to me from my friend:

Quote:

I learned something today that I have to let you in on. Harbor Freight Tools isn’t “just” an importer of cheap, off-shore tools for guys down on bucks. While Harbor Freight Tools could certainly motor on through life as the leader in Chinese-built tools, this California-based company has a surprising mission statement: they want to be a quality leader while maintaining the really low prices they’ve become famous for. Yeah, that’s a statement you might expect, and we’d brush it off as pure hype if we hadn’t visited Harbor Freight’s Quality Assurance Lab in Calabasas, CA for a few hours today. Harbor Freight has built a state-of-the-art testing facility where they test both their own products (future and current) side-by-side with competitive products. And by competitive, I mean segment-leading products by name-brand manufacturers, not discount store private-label products.

As I toured Harbor Freight’s modern and spacious facility and watched various products being torqued, hammered, pounded, sprayed, immersed, squashed, smashed, radiated, and generally tortured, it dawned on me that Harbor Freight Tools were not only “adequate,” but even preferable.

All the testing at Harbor Freight’s Quality Assurance Lab is done for a reason. As a global-sourcing importer, the only way HFT can maintain and improve quality is to make the off-shore factories accountable for quality. The constant barrage of testing at HFT’s Calabasas lab gives their inventory buyers and executives the ammunition they need to enforce and improve quality on an on-going basis, while at the same time conducting comparative testing on benchmark products by makers like Snap-On, Bosch, Chicago Pneumatic, Honda, Warn, Binks, Ingersol Rand, Milwaukee, and Craftsman. The US General tool cart was only one of dozens of products I got to sample side-by-side with benchmark brand-name products, and the quality/price comparisons on those were equally astounding.


That article was posted in May 2011. The response from my friend's boyfriend - referenced in the initial post - was from this past Monday (Dec 10, 2012). Do you think it's possible that Harbor Freight has stepped up quality control over the last couple of years?

I will say this ... the "new model" 12" Compound Sliding Miter Saw (apparently, model 69684) did look like there were several "detail" improvements over the previous model - as I looked at them both in person at my local HF store ... such as (as I mentioned previously) the saw motor now situated behind the saw blade casing, as opposed to being mounted on the right side - thus an improvement (insofar as I can tell) allowing for less potential motor-to-workpiece interference. Also, the laser guide on the "new" model looks much improved from how it was situated/mounted on the previous model. Lastly, the side extensions look to have been improved as well ... as is the miter base itself (with identified detents at various miter positions (whereas the "previous" model did not appear to include any detents at all).


Again, please do not interpret my further response here as somehow arguing or debating against the thoughts, comments and insight provided thus far. I guess I've always been an over zealous "due diligence" kind of guy when it comes to researching items/issues of interest before I invest in something.


Thank you for being patient and tolerant of me thus far. :)

jeffsw6 12-16-2012 12:00 AM

HF power tools have a 90 day warranty. That's it for me. If a company can't even stand behind their tools for one year, I'm not buying it. I don't know why anyone buys their junk.

It's not just the power tools. It's the whole way they run their business. The employees at the HF here are not knowledgeable about tools. They have basically low-wage cashiers and usually no one in the store who is really familiar with their products. It's not like they have much selection anyway, but go to Home Depot or Lowes and ask for help choosing a saw and you will end up talking to someone who both cares and has knowledge of the products they sell.

Look at their tool boxes. They don't even sell a nice tool box. No ball bearing slides and cheap thin metal. I am a DIY guy and it's not like I need SnapOn or MAC tool chests, but at least Kobalt, Husky, Craftsman, etc. are durable enough to last a long time.

If you want an inexpensive tool, there are PLENTY of medium-grade choices. Not at HF, though.

My $0.02.

jeffsw6 12-16-2012 12:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by CaptainMarvel (Post 1073840)
A very informative article - and one I had not yet seen.

That is a magazine supported by advertisers. It is not professional journalism.

I can't believe they specifically mention the U.S. GENERAL tool storage products as an exemplary product. They are junk. You don't have to take my word for it. Go to HF and buy one. I went there to check one out when there was a coupon in the paper one week. When I saw the thing I turned right around and left the store.

Saying the U.S. GENERAL tool storage products are in any way comparable to SnapOn is flat-out idiotic. I'm sure you probably haven't actually looked at them carefully or actually pulled a drawer out at the store so it's understandable that you would re-post that, but seriously, go look at one. It will change your mind.

Comparing their air compressors and air tools to Ingersol-Rand is crazy, too. That "Central Pneumatic" garbage doesn't even compare to Husky or Kobalt. Look at the reviews on Harbor Freight's own web site! Review after review of "it's good for the price" or "mine burned up after not much use" or "didn't hold air right out of the box."

HF compared to Bosch? Again, that is insane.

If you ask a Husky rep or a Home Depot salesman if their tool chests are as good as SnapOn, they are not going to exaggerate. They'll tell you, SnapOn is very expensive and it is intended for professionals who are using their tool chest daily to earn a living. Husky chests are pretty good for the money but they are like $400 for 41" chests, which would cost you THOUSANDS from SnapOn.

HD or Lowes is not afraid to lose a tool storage sale to SnapOn. I am sure HD would prefer HF tools didn't sell cheaper competing tool storage products, but HF is not even on SnapOn's radar. To say otherwise is just foolish, plain and simple.

No actual journalist would ever write the opinion in that magazine article. Doing pieces like that destroys a journalist's credibility. It would be like going to McDonald's and taking a look around the kitchen, and declaring that McDonald's makes hamburgers that are just as good as the best restaurants in the world, without even tasting a Big Mac or visiting another restaurant. Then run that article in an issue of your paper with a full-page McDonald's ad on the back.

toolaholic 12-16-2012 06:16 AM

I like there Pittsburgh pro ratchets. They have rarchets not readily available at lowes. Home Depot or sears. I have the double flex ( head and a joint in the body) 3/8 ratchet. Bought two and turned one into a stubby flex head 3/8. When they get them in stock, I want the 1/2 drive ratchet with indexing head.

oh'mike 12-16-2012 07:00 AM

I've always thought the few tools I have bought there were good value for the money---

I picked up a 4" diamond cutting circular saw for cutting durrock---that lasted for years before the cord wore out ---

I have several of their small angle grinders---only killed one---at $15 each I am okay with that.

I have one of their multi-tools--also a good value-----tough useful tool for $40--

I need a top quality tool for most tasks---my compressors and drills---miter saws and table saws--all top brands---but to try out some new gadget like the multi tool? Harbor freight for me--

retired guy 60 12-16-2012 12:26 PM

I have a 4 1/2 inch HF angle grinder that has held up but for the most part you get what you pay for. Some HF tools are meant for very light use and the purchaser only wants them for one job and is not thinking of future repeated use. The economy is not in great shape and people are trying to stretch their dollars. One way to do this is to buy cheap tools even though in the long run it may turn out to be false economy. If it is all you can afford it is probably better than nothing. HF has created a great niche for itself and my local store is doing a thriving business.
I do have an all plastic rolling tool cart that I highly recommend so HF products are not all bad. You have to use good judgement when shopping there.

itguy08 12-16-2012 12:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jeffsw6 (Post 1073848)
.

I can't believe they specifically mention the U.S. GENERAL tool storage products as an exemplary product. They are junk. You don't have to take my word for it. Go to HF and buy one. I went there to check one out when there was a coupon in the paper one week. When I saw the thing I turned right around and left the store.

Saying the U.S. GENERAL tool storage products are in any way comparable to SnapOn is flat-out idiotic. I'm sure you probably haven't actually looked at them carefully or actually pulled a drawer out at the store so it's understandable that you would re-post that, but seriously, go look at one. It will change your mind.

Do you have a SnapOn Bias or something? What you write about the HF chests is not totally accurate. It's well known that the 44" US General boxes are of great quality and almost as good as a SnapOn for a fraction of the price. Good high quality steel and ball bearing drawers. At 1/10th the price ($500 vs $5000 for SnapOn), I could buy 10 of the US Generals and still be out ahead. It's not me - read up on Garage Journal and there ar many that love the bigger HF chests.

I'm talking about this series:
http://www.harborfreight.com/roller-...ity-68784.html

Heck, when I upgrade from my el-chaepo Craftsman it will be the HF Chest.

Yes, their power tools are nowhere nears as good as a name brand but if you need something for 1 porject or job it may be cheaper than renting if the store is close.

Their engines are well regarded in go-kart circles and as general replacements for Honda engines in OPE. We've had good luck with our HF generator - starts right away and provides good voltage.

I've had good luck with their hand tools. Not as good as a SnapOn, Matco, or MAC but for the price and being a DIY type of person they are good value. Now that Craftsman is also made in China you may as well save some $$ and get the same tool at HF with a lifetime warranty too.

jeffsw6 12-16-2012 04:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by itguy08 (Post 1074086)
Do you have a SnapOn Bias or something?

I'm pretty sure I am not the one with the bias here. The reason I used SnapOn as an example is because that's what the magazine used in their claim.

You need to understand that hobbyist and trade magazines are funded by their advertisers. Sometimes they are directly compensated for writing an article that presents their products in a positive way. This is not honest journalism but you can't expect that from a magazine -- it's hard even for newspapers and TV news programs to be unbiased anymore, when it comes to their coverage of consumer goods and services.

Yes, you can buy a lot more U.S. GENERAL tool boxes for the price of a SnapOn. You can buy a lot of Husky, Kobalt, or Craftsman, too.

No one who has used these products would take seriously a comparison of Husky to SnapOn. The same us true of HFT / U.S. GENERAL tool storage. Yes, people understand there is a huge difference in price. There is also a huge difference in materials, build quality, and longevity.

If you want to compare Husky to U.S. GENERAL, go right ahead. Maybe the Husky is more than some people need and the money they save is worth buying the less expensive box.

If you want to point out that the huge majority of DIYers don't need a SnapOn tool chest, that's true, too!

But what is absolutely laughable, is a statement that the HFT tool boxes are comparable to SnapOn. If they were, Home Depot, Lowes, and Sears might as well stop selling tool boxes all together, because Harbor Freight would immediately dominate the market. Since there are still tool boxes for sale at HD I'm pretty sure there hasn't been an earth-moving change in the tool storage market.

woodworkbykirk 12-16-2012 07:04 PM

for mechanics tools no... but for trademan in the construction industry theres a european tool storage system by Thanos known as "systainers" they are interlocking toolboxes that are customizable on the inside.. you set them up to what you want to carry in it.. be it hand tools. drills.. bits.. fasteners.. more and more tool companies are copying the design now and getting away from molded plastic boxes.. bosch and dewalt just released their versions this year in north america

itguy08 12-17-2012 08:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jeffsw6 (Post 1074181)
I'm pretty sure I am not the one with the bias here. The reason I used SnapOn as an example is because that's what the magazine used in their claim.

You need to understand that hobbyist and trade magazines are funded by their advertisers. Sometimes they are directly compensated for writing an article that presents their products in a positive way. This is not honest journalism but you can't expect that from a magazine -- it's hard even for newspapers and TV news programs to be unbiased anymore, when it comes to their coverage of consumer goods and services.

Yes, always take what magazines say with a grain of salt. But when the concensus on other tool boards (Garage Journal in particular) is that the US General boxes are of good quality and built really well I'll stand by that. Granted, I've never seen one up close as I'm not in the market for one as my cheap Craftsman one works for me now. Pretty much every review on the US General boxes has been good. This is from boards, websites, magazines, etc. They say they are an excellent value and very well made.


Quote:

No one who has used these products would take seriously a comparison of Husky to SnapOn. The same us true of HFT / U.S. GENERAL tool storage. Yes, people understand there is a huge difference in price. There is also a huge difference in materials, build quality, and longevity.
And few that use these products would take a Home Depot Store Brand (Husky) or a Lowes Store Brand (Kobalt) up against SnapOn. Even Sears' Store Brand (Craftsman) doesn't compare in many areas.

And outside of a broken rail, which can easily be replaced regardless of the manufacturer, if you are actually breaking your toolbox perhaps you should learn to treat things more carefully.

While this guy may be an outlier, he got his start with 100% Harbor Freight tools:
http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/s...ad.php?t=67850

So yes their hand tools and boxes are of high quality. Yes, he's "graduated" to tool truck brands but for 2 years he was using his HF stuff in a professional setting.

Now that Craftsman is getting sourced in China, as is Kobalt, Husky and many of the other more affordable lines I'm soing to be doing more tool shopping at HF. They all have a lifetime warranty, all are made in China, and the HF hand tools seem to be well made.

Not so sure on their power tools as they still seem quite chintzy but that may well change. Although I'm "migrating" from C3 (sue to Sears' abandoning the line) to Milwukee M12/M18 I'll probably never be able to comment on the HF power tools.

I personally don't care where anyone buys tools or such but to dismiss everything HF sells as junk is realy narrow minded. Yes, a lot of it is price point stuff of dubious quality but the majority of things they sell work fine. If not they wouldn't be in business since the 60's.


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