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Rate the Harbor Freight Tools Thread- Pass or Fail?

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Ken from ontario

Active Member
Active Member
Dec 26, 2016
As I started the cut, and the saw began warming up, it started running faster and faster, the warmer it got, the faster it ran... when I stopped and let it cool, it slowed way down again...

If I turn it to its slowest speed, it takes 45 seconds to a minute of holding the trigger until it reaches its speed... if I turn it up one setting, it runs immediately, but within 30 seconds, it is running too fast for steel, IMO...

But it cuts great, otherwise, so I guess pass or fail depends on the users perspective?

I think I will return it and buy a Milwaukee instead...

I would return it ,the speed control is likely not working properly, I like your idea of buying a Milwaukee instead,even a good used one will be alright .


Active User
Active Member
Feb 7, 2011
The little black 4 drawer rolling carts are good and handy. Fantastic if you wait to get them on sale for $99. I have two of them. I keep thinking I have three, but I can never find the third one. LOL. PASS

The little 4x6 bandsaw will severe metal, but it needs a lot of work to be a decent saw. I don't think it can reasonably be made into a "good" saw for less than it costs to buy a good saw. Mine arrived partially assembled with the pulley cover off, one pulley chipped out on the side, and stuck on so I was afraid to take it off so I just don't use that speed. PASS just barely.

Drill presses. Well. I have three of them. All different sizes, and I use all of them. One floor model has wobble and runout to make you cry, but once you learn how to use a drill press properly it still makes passably accurate holes. My two small drill presses both have tapping heads on them. They both also seem to have a lot less wobble and runout. I use all three of them every week, so while the one is not great, and I have to say PASS. Just barely for the big one.

I've got a very old mill drill. No longer offered. Really more of a positional drilling machine than a mill drill. Its actually pretty good as a drill. Much better than any of the drill presses. Its only a mediocre mill, but I have to give it a PASS.

Tile saw. I've got a little table saw style tile saw that's pretty hold. It does ok, and you can cut straight with it, but its sooooooo slooooooow. PASS and FAIL. (I might have got that from Home Depot. I'm not sure. LOL)

I had an RF-30 mill drill with a Harbor Freight label on it. It was not a great mill. I could hack out metal, but except for being faster the quality wasn't much better than I could do with a hacksaw and a grinder. Still I did use it to make a couple parts before I sold it. PASS and FAIL with a slight leaning towards FAIL.

Harbor Freight Chinese wood routers. I got six of them to get one that didn't have visible runout. FAIL. I bought one from a vendor on Ebay that was identical except a different color plastic and it was fine.

4-1/2 Inch angle grinders. The older ones were awesome when they would have them on sale. I've got two along with DeWalt, Milwaukee, Makita, Bosch and Porter Cable ones. They all have different wheels or brushes and they all get used. I don't even cringe when I reach for the HF ones. PASS. The 4" was a FAIL though.

Rotary Hand Piece. The no longer have these, but I have two of their old flex shaft rotary hand piece tools with the tiny little 5/32 Jacobs style chuck. They are awesome. I've worn out the motor brushes on both motors once and one of them twice. At one time I had the hand pieces clamped up as dual spindles on a mini cnc mill so I could cut identical parts two at a time. I still have them and the bearings are still ok. I have several Foredom handpieces as well and I use them all pretty much interchangeably. They are tighter than the regular Foredom handpieces with fairly low runout. Only the high price high precision heavy duty Foredom was better. It cost 3 times as much for just the hand piece as the HF units cost for the hand piece and drive. PASS.

Bar clamps. I have a dozen or some little 6 or 12 inch ones. They aren't Bessey, but I have had fewer problems than I did with Irwin bar clamps. I use them all the time to clamp molds closed when I am injecting plastic. They get a lot of use. I actually have over 30 bar clamps of various makes and I use the cheap dark blue HF ones more than any of the rest. They are light, but they are also cheap. PASS.

7 x 10 mini lathe. FAIL. Sorry. I used it and I learned how to fix it, and I am even now converting it to CNC, but as it came it was really barely a machine. The motor is weak. Has poor RPM holding under load. The motor controller is mediocre at best, and well the rest of the machine kind of speaks for itself. As weak as the motor is if you have it in a low gear and load up the cutter it will strip the plastic gears like wiping mud off a window. I have all metal gears in mine now. Well hanging on the wall since it going to have no gears soon. Not even the plastic two speed transmission gears in the head. You have to do a lot of work on it to have a fair mini machine. I know. I've done most of that work. I still have a soft spot in my heart (or maybe that's in my head) because my wife gave me that machine for Christmas one year, so just in case she ever sees this I guess I have to change my vote to PASS.

8.5 x 18 small lathe. Its got a lot wrong with it, but atleast its a little heavier and has a motor that in the words of Doug Marcaida "it will cut." It's not a lot better than the mini, but I've never stripped a gear even when I have stalled the motor. Speaking of the motor. You have to be doing something wrong to stall the motor. Its a single speed AC induction motor. The only way to change speeds it to change pulleys, but it has decent torque. It might not snap off a high speed steel lathe bit, if you stuff it up, but it will sure break the edge off. Its also no longer offered by HF. I still use this machine (single purpose now) several times a week to radius one end of stainless steel dowel pins. I may not have all the gears, but I was never able to find a gear setup that would reach that would cut whatever thread I needed. I made a set of die drives for it instead. I have the gears it says on the chart, but they don't reach. LOL. Still its a useable tool. PASS marginally.

Wrenches, screwdrivers, assorted hand tool. Most are passable. I have a lot of old Challenger (before Proto ruined them), Proto (from before Proto ruined themselves), and Master Mechanic from when True Value still had them made in the USA. I've got SK and older American Made Vise Grip tools. They are all better than the Central Machine hand tools, but to be honest unless you are locking them together for leverage or putting cheater bars on breaker bars you aren't likely to break one. I've broken Proto sockets so... They will wear out and get sloppy though. You can round out a socket or a box end wrench with sloppy technique over time. I know how much it takes to break one too. If I have to lock up two wrenches or use a cheater bar I start with my HF tools so I don't break a good tool. They will never be American Steel from the 70s and early 80s and they will never be German steel from the 90s, but for the most part I have to give them a grudging PASS.

I do have to FAIL most of their T-handle hex drivers though. I got one set of ball end that was pretty awesome. I've snapped the ball off a few of them, but they are hard. I just grind the end flat on the bench sander and put them back in the rack. I've wiped the edges off a couple, but I was using them for much harder bolt remove than they should have ever faced. I just grind the end down and put them back in the rack. Overall I was pretty happy with that set. I wanted to buy a couple more of that set to put have one on each work bench so I wasn't always trying to remember where I used it last. Every single one I bought afterwards was so soft I could almost twist them removing bolts that had been hand tightened. To be fair. They list a set on their website that looks like the one I own, but they don't stock it int he stores. The ones in the store will bend if you look at them. Inspite of one good set I have to say FAIL.

Central Pneumatic Tools. BIG FAT FAIL. Die grinders work but don't last. Impacts work but don't last. Ratchet wrenches work, but don't last. Air nailers work for about half a box of nails at best. Went through 4 clip head framing nailers on a single project. Just kept taking them back. Finally got my money back and got a Ridgid round head from Home Depot. Been using it for almost ten years now. My Porter Cable is 3 or 4 years old. Both still work just fine.

It occurs to me I should stop writing as it reveals I have way to many cheap Harbor Freight tool. LOL

They still have the flex shaft tool, it is just hard to find on there website.



Global Moderator
Staff member
Feb 8, 2014
Somebody at Harbor Freight is going to be fired for this one. :grin:

I decided to use my set of Harbor Freight 1/4 inch insert lathe tool bits for my radius turner. https://www.harborfreight.com/5-piece-indexable-carbide-tool-set-39931.html

I bought this set years ago and have only used them occasionally because the carbide inserts are of rather poor quality. But I figured I had enough edges left to get through 12 parts. Well I didn't quite make it with the original inserts, turning 8-18 stainless. Came up 4 parts short and no more inserts left. So look online to try to find new inserts, at best I'm a week out on getting some and they are expensive. So back to Harbor Freight this morning, to buy another set because I need to get this job done.

I was pleasantly surprised, somebody accidentally packaged the tool set with high quality inserts. :confused: Not only that, the fit and finish on the new holders is also high quality. :encourage: The $25 at Harbor Freight is actually cheaper than buying the inserts + shipping. I'll be buying a couple more sets (with a 20% off coupon of course :p) just to have the spare inserts.

I'm going to give this one a pass. :) The down side is the HF does not sell replacement inserts, but I can live with that.


Grumpy Old Man
H-M Supporter-Premium Member
Jan 9, 2013
Hey Jim, how do you rotate the tool? and Is that a homemade tool holder or something available from somewhere else. If so where? o_O
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