There are some great tools at Harbor Freight… if you know where to look! To help Harbor Freight shoppers get the most for the money we assembled this HUMONGOUS list of those Chinese gems and stinkers from the tool store we all love to hate! To find these tools I looked in forums where metal workers, woodworkers, farmers, gardeners and mechanics discussed the quality of items that they’ve bought from Harbor Freight. I read well over 1000 individual forum posts to harvest out the good enough, the bad and the abysmal tools and materials from Harbor Freight.

Update: additions to the list from June, 2009.

Do you have a favorite tool from Harbor Freight? Is there a tool or product you think STINKS? Tell everyone in the comments!

Even though there are more than 150 tools in the “good enough” section below you have to remember – BUYER BEWARE! You always get what you pay for, especially at Harbor Freight.

Hey… Got Harbor Freight Buying Guide?

Sections of this article:
1) Developing Your Harbor Freight Shopper Philosophy
2) Top Ten Things NOT to Buy at Harbor Freight (Humor)
3) Derogatory yet Slightly Loving Harbor Freight Nicknames
4) My Harbor Freight Prediction: Prices Way Up Soon… End of the HF?
5) The List: Good Enough, the Bad, and the Abysmal
6) Harbor Freight Tips and Tidbits
7) Harbor Freight Resources Used in this Article

1) Developing Your Harbor Freight Shopper Philosophy
I did an article on woodworking with pallets. Salvaging pallet wood takes patience and diligence and yields small slats best suited for small projects. You have to have the “pallet mentality”. Shopping at Harbor Freight requires a certain mentality too. It definitely helps if you’re the type who enjoys fixing/tinkering with your tools. Also, familiarize yourself with The Harbor Freight Return Policy.

To best capture the spirit of shopping at Harbor Freight I thought I’d offer some quotes I found while scrounging around through over 1000 individual forum posts (not threads…). If you’ve never shopped at Harbor Freight these will prepare you with the proper philosophy. If you have, you’ll probably start nodding your head. As always, I’m quoting the collected opinions of others so your mileage may vary.

“‘if your life or income depends on it, don’t buy it ay harbor freight’.”
I read these sentiments over and over. That said, there are lots of pros who buy stuff at Harbor Freight, especially consumables like gloves and blades… and for cheap tools they can lend out at jobsites with no expectation of return.

“if I use the tool enough to wear it out or break it, I use it enough to buy a better brand as a replacement.”
Some people use HF purchases to help them decide whether it makes sense to invest more money in a higher quality tool. If they use it enough to break it, then go for it. If not, then they saved the cost of the more expensive name brand. This can be pricey, but… if you buy TOO MUCH tool then you’ve wasted money also.

“tools require the usual harbor freight break in”
You will find yourself having to repair/replace/rebuild Harbor Freight tools right out of the box. For regular HF customers this is standard operating procedure. HF has an excellent return policy though, with very few to no questions asked. Also they have a life time trade in policy on hand tools.

“Overall, I try and stick to things without moving parts”
For folks who concentrate on the consumables this was a common sentiment.

“If you need a CHEAP tool that you will only use once or twice then go to Harbor Freight.”
Why pay for more tool than you really need?

And for every guy who swears against buying anything from Harbor Freight with a battery there’s at least one of these: “I really like their 14 volt series of cordless tools. It seems like the best price/performance ratio. Anytime I buy one I buy at least one extra battery. They’re cheap enough that I keep one drill with a drill bit in a keyed chuck and another with a screwdriver bit in a keyless chuck. That really speeds up assembly.”

2) Top Ten Things NOT to Buy at Harbor Freight (Humor)
I can’t resist things lists like this. This one comes from DetroitTom in Tractorbynet forum

10 Things I Wouldn’t Buy from Harbor Freight:
1) Parachutes
2) Fire Extinguishers
3) Pacemakers
4) Vaccines
5) Birth control devices
6) Elevators
7) Bullet proof vests
8) Trigger locks
9) Pitons (I didn’t know what this was either…)
10) Scuba Gear

3) Derogatory yet Slightly Loving Harbor Freight Nicknames
Unfortunately I can only remember/find one: “horror freight.” I know there was another one I saw out there… I think it was “hardly freight…” Update… here are some nicknames from the comments on this article and in recent forum threads:

  • Harbor Fright
  • Bottom of the Harbor Freight
  • Harbor Hate
  • The Chinese Cheesecake Factory
  • For their inexpensive, thrice-yearly-use Chinese air tools, we call them, “INGERSOLL-CHAN.”
  • I thought that I would tell you what my wife calls HF; we speak Russian at home, and she calls it vonuchka, or “little stinker.” She hates that HF smell of uncured rubber.
  • “Harbor Sheight” (…Shite)
  • China Fright
  • 4) My Harbor Freight Prediction: Prices Way Up Soon… End of the HF?
    I know Grizzly’s prices are going up due to the price of iron and, I assume, shipping. Grizzly’s made overseas, as are most (all?) of the tools sold at Harbor Freight. Because of rising material and shipping costs, HF may have to raise it’s prices, or even shut its doors. They may have been a little to aggressive with building their business model around unsustainable advantages! I’d love to hear input or insight into my armchair economist opinions ;)

    Containership Preparing Harbor Freight for Your Next Shopping Spree…

    5) The List: Good Enough, the Bad, and the Abysmal
    Here goes, the feature attraction. I went through and identified all the good, bad and abysmal tools as described by woodworkers, metal workers, mechanics, farmers, DIYers, gardeners and even pond tenders. Keep in mind that an abysmal band saw for a woodworker may just be a good band saw for a farmer. When possible I included the item number. When I couldn’t find it or there were multiple variations of a tool I just left the tool as described in the forum I found it.

    Good (Enough) Tools From Harbor Freight
    These are tools and other items that got at least one favorable mention. I broke the multiple mention tools out for you and put them on top – I’m assuming these will give you the most “miles per gallon.” Also, before you dig in, a quote regarding “consumables,” from someone who I believe works with metal: “All of their consumables such as cotter pins, grease fittings, roll pins, O-rings, Internal and External lock clips, 12″ sanding disks, 12″ cutting wheels, 3″, 4″, 4-1/2″ grinding wheels are OK too.”

    The guys at WoodworersZone compiled a list from WoodNet called “Harbor Freight Gems.” I not only copied their list for this post (in addition to many other sources of course), but borrowed their format of #item number followed by the name of the tool. I put any relevant quotes in parenthesis.

    HF Clamps (on most of my HF clamps I’ve got more than my money’s worth.): 26

    #36649 16 Piece 1/2″ SAE Deep Wall Impact Socket Set: 10

    #37052 Pack of 100 X-Large Nitrile Gloves: 8

    #95578 4-1/2″ ANGLE GRINDER (i buy from harbor freight a angle grinder for $17.00 works great): 6

    #47257 Harbor Freight 6″ Digital Caliper: 6

    #93440 18 Volt 3/8″ Drill with Keyless Chuck: 5



    the welding magnets : 4 (mentioned several times, did not specify type…)

    #97513 28° FRAMING NAILER: 4

    Every compressor I’ve purchased from HF has worked like a champ.: 4

    #38142 Heavy Duty 16 Speed Bench Drill Press: 4

    #38160 Oscillating Spindle Sander: 4

    #32208 14″ 4 Speed Woodworking Bandsaw: 4

    #41983 3-in-1, 1″ SDS Rotary Hammer: 3

    #54878 90 Amp Flux Wire Welder: 3

    #93762 4″x6″ horizontal/vertical metal-cutting Band Saw: 3 (Harbor Freight metal bandsaw review – great review, will help you get started if you decide on the band saw)

    #46320 50 Ft. Auto Rewind Hose Reel with 3/8″ Hose: 3

    #97572 1/2″ Crown Air Stapler: 3

    #97869 2 HP INDUSTRIAL 5 MICRON DUST COLLECTOR (A true bargin): 3


    #41796 1LB. Dead Blow Hammer: 3

    #00623 1″ Travel Machinist’s Dial Indicator: 3

    #96308 Digital Clamp Meter: 3

    #4312 1/2” TITANIUM IMPACT WRENCH: 3

    #46309 18 Gauge 3/8″ to 2″ Air Brad Nailer: 3
    -18 ga nailer. People really rip on this one. It was jamming on me for a while. I kept trying to oil up the hammer, but it would jam again. I finally removed the entire piston assembly (allen bolts through the exhaust vent cap) and oiled it up well and it’s worked great ever since. $15 nailer!!!

    #91039 3000 Lb. Capacity Lightweight Aluminum Racing Jack: 3

    #41150 36” Bolt Cutters (their huge cheap bolt cutter worked fine): 2

    #45276 14″ x 40″ Lathe with 6″ Sander (I bought the HF wood lathe. It’s definately nothing like what “Norm” has, but I have no plans to replace it in the near future.): 2



    #32879 20 TON SHOP PRESS: 2


    #44094 Benchtop Bar and Rod Bender: 2


    #30289 6″ Industrial Rabbeting Jointer (I took a chance on a 6″ jointer (Not the base model) and so far it has worked like a champ.): 2


    #03629 7 Piece Forstner Bit Set (Good starter set): 2

    #93656 1/2″ TO 1″, 23 GAUGE AIR PIN NAILER: 2


    #05645 Multipositional Magnetic Base with Fine Adjustment: 2


    #44566 Stacked Dado Set: 2 (A good first set)

    #35837 29 Piece Brad Point Wood Drill Bit Set: 2

    #36221 9″ Drill Press Locking Clamp: 2

    #37861 10 Piece T-Handle Hex Key Set: 2

    #90007 3 Piece SAE Ratcheting Wrench Set: 2

    #90008 3 Piece Metric Ratcheting Wrench Set: 2

    #42305 9 Piece Metric Wrench Set: 2

    #00659 Magnetic Parts Holder: 2

    #42288 Magnetic Pick-Up Tool: 2


    #37793 2-1/2 HP Plunge Router: 2

    Other “Good” Tools (Note some of these are on the Bad list too…)
    #93212 7″x10″ metal-cutting mini-lathe

    #91129 Harbor Freight 500 AMP CARBON PILE LOAD TESTER (This battery tester got a decent recommendation in the Rigid Forum.)

    #97418 Garden Wagon (nice wire mesh garden wagon at Harbor Freight for a really good price. I’ve been happy with it.)

    #94076 12V ROTARY TOOL SET WITH 30 ACCESSORIES (for the accessories, found for $7)


    #97337 2″ x 20 Ft. Heavy Duty Tow and Recovery Strap (used my HF tow strap to tow a UPS truck out of a ditch by my house, no problems)

    #1753 10″ Straight Jaw Locking Pliers

    Harbor Freight 2.5 HP, 8 GALLON, 120 PSI AIR COMPRESSOR (“I bought one like that last year on sale for $99 and it was the best $99 I ever spent. It is used almost daily to air up tires and works great with my nailer and sprayer.”)

    REAR AXLE BEARING PULLER SET (Threads on slide approximately 50+% depth of attaching axle/ bearing accessories and stripped after moderate usage. Recommend rethreading and using graded nut.)

    #94081 Harbor Freight INDUSTRIAL POCKET BLOW GUN

    #47779 Harbor Freight WALL-MOUNT HANG-ALL

    #43468 Harbor Freight 12″ Direct Drive Bench Top Disc Sander

    #95385 2.5 Horsepower 10″ Industrial Tile/Brick Saw

    #95129 4 Lb. Sledge Hammer with Hickory Handle


    #36383 2 TON PALLET JACK


    #95028 3″ Composite Air Cut-Off Tool

    -paint brushes

    #91907 1-1/4 CUBIC FT. MINI CEMENT MIXER

    #47872 16 Oz. Claw Hammer with Fiberglass Handle


    #93458 3/16″ AIR HYDRAULIC RIVETER




    #3994 21 Piece SAE 3/4″ Heavy Duty Socket Set

    #93784 50 Amp 6V/12V Battery Load Tester

    #38444 T-Post Lifter

    #41577 Two Piece Foldable Saw Horse Set

    #90899 7 Function Digital Multitester



    #47257 6″ Digital Caliper (A true bargin)

    #42304 9 Piece SAE Wrench Set

    #43430 High Volume Low Pressure Gravity Feed Spray Gun

    #46719 HVLP Detail Spray Gun



    #07528 1/2″ Air Drill

    #00113 HIGH SPEED AIR BODY SAW (cut up a whole pickup with this little gem)


    #35570 MORTISING MACHINE (Put XY vise on it and its just a piece of cake to use)

    #32222 3-1/4” ELECTRIC PLANER (used it for several doors now, works fine)

    #44914 1/4″ Trim Router (Base isn’t much but works fine. similar to Ryobi, lots cheaper)

    #02957 3/4” INDUSTRIAL ROTARY HAMMER (These things are cool!! lots better than a hammer and chisle)

    #44768 1.5 WATT SOLAR BATTERY CHARGER (use them to keep the batteries in the lawn mowers up, over the winter)

    #04486 2″ Mini Lathe Chuck with MT-2 Shank

    #03577 28 Piece Transfer Punch Set

    #1210 45 PC. THREADED INSERT RIVETER KIT (last seen for $13.99)

    #5889 29 Piece Titanium Nitride Drill Bit Set (I think their twist drills are a great deal when they’re on sale for $10 for a full set of fractional sizes)

    #92956 – 3/8″ Close Quarter Drill

    #04182 – 2″ Industrial Grade Chip Brushes



    #45690 230 Volt Spot Welder (you gotta be FAST on the trigger, or you’ll blow a hole)

    #96997 Compact Air Needle Scaler


    #94098 3/8″ to 2″ Ratcheting Pipe Threader Set

    #92148 Harbor Freight 18 Gauge Sheet Metal Shears (“I found these metal shears to work good. I only needed them for one project.”)

    #07535 1/4″ Air Hose Swivel Connector with Regulator

    #41891 Tire Inflator/Gauge

    #37862 10 Piece Color Coded T-Handle Metric Hex Key Set

    #1903 7 Piece, 3/8″ Shank, 1/4″ to 1″ Titanium Nitride Coated Forstner Bit Set

    #33279 Push Stick

    #41338 36 Piece 1/2″ Horsehair Bristle Acid Shop Brushes

    #43768 Industrial Ear Muffs

    #46086 Adjustable Roller Stand

    #46752 Pack of 10 Medium Grade Aluminum Oxide Sanding Sponges

    #91525 3/8″ x 25 Ft. PVC Air Hose

    #94024 4 Piece Solid Brass Quick Coupler Set

    #39721 1/4″ Socket Rail (all sizes of rails)

    #96035 2.5 Horsepower Industrial Breaker Hammer Kit

    #91995 10″ Compound Miter Saw

    #39662 Leather Work Gloves

    #93085 Utility Blades, 10 Pack

    #65330 20 Ton Air/Hydraulic Shop Press with Oil Filter Crusher

    #93983 Non-Contact Pocket Thermometer

    #40706 Sta-Lube Air Tool Oil

    #93290 Fluid Siphon Pump

    #34924 12 Ton Jack Stands

    #92623 7″ Variable Speed Polisher/Sander

    #97759 Wheel Hub/Stud Resurfacing Kit

    #66098 1600 Watt Heavy Duty Dual Temperature Heat Gun

    #43468 12″ Direct Drive Bench Top Disc Sander

    I bought some ratcheting wrenches a few years ago that I’ll put up against anything out there.

    US General tool boxes and chests

    #90154 1195 Lb. Capacity 48″ x 96″ Heavy Duty Foldable Utility Trailer

    #95189 5.5 HP, 2400 Watts Max/2200 Watts Rated Generator Set

    #65324 2″ 235 GPM Dirty Water Pump

    #42202 Abrasive Blast Cabinet (with mods and fixes)

    #65685 600 Lb. Capacity Appliance Hand Truck

    #33795 2 Ton Air One-End Frame Lift

    #1694 8 Piece Heavy Duty Screwdriver Set

    #95987 Blind Hole Bearing Puller

    #95121 2 Piece Valve Lapper Tool

    #42292 Automatic Battery Float Charger

    #45338 1/2″ Variable Speed Reversible Hammer Drill

    #93004 3 Pocket Cotton Apron

    Bad Tools That Don’t Suck Bad Enough to Not Get Them
    These are the tools that suck but still work well enough to justify the purchase (there will be some people who’d suggest that all the tools in the “Good” category would actually fit here). They are bad tools, but if you know what to expect then they’re ok. One guy called this category “tolerable.”

    -long locking welding pliers
    -chainsaw sharpener
    -bar clamps and c-clamps
    -HF log splitter
    -Drill Bits are pretty bad.
    -12 speed 10″ bench top drill press for $89
    -8 Piece Silver and Deming Drill Bit Set
    -The cheap (especially on sale) HF blades do not last as long as “BRAND” blades but are the best price/performance ratio by quite a margin. Changing blades is trivial and quick so if I use 5 HF blades instead of 2-3 DeWalt blades I am way ahead on $.
    -the Harbor freight roller stands
    8″ 3/4hp (yeah right) grinder
    3 piece ‘large’ locking C-clamp set
    8 ton comealong
    -If you want a cheep 18 gauge nail gun for a weekend woodworker, buy HF and tweak it to work well …
    -Pittsburgh wrenches: Wouldnt recommend. Just junk wrenches you dont mind abusing. Chrome on your arms if you wrench too hard. Good warranty though.
    -Hand operated well pump
    -HF biscuit joiner
    -stationary power tools

    Abysmal/Broken-In-The-Box/Don’t Bother
    Steer clear of these… though it became clear to me that one man’s broken is another man’s good. To give you a sense of abysmal, read this: Harbor Freight 18-Gauge Brad Nailer/Stapler. It’s a review by Tom Hintz. I’ve read lots of his reviews – they have great pictures and he works hard to be fair and scientific. To my knowledge this is the only tool he destroyed with a 10 pound sledge hammer after completing his review.

    -260fp impact wrench
    -3″ red vice
    -My small drill press broke the top gear spindle. I used liquid steel to fix it.
    -Some of the small sanders don’t hold the sand paper.
    -The sand paper does not have the grit glued on at all. (+1)
    -3 ton hydraulic floor jack – leaks, sucks (…also on do-buy list)
    -thumb ratchets
    -battery charger
    -Do NOT however buy the bi-metal hole saw bits
    -Garden Tractor Cart/Trailer
    -don’t recommend the cement hammer bits
    -One was the flatbar (16″ prybar) that bent
    anything with an integrated blade
    anything with rechargeable batteries
    any of their 2% duty cycle welders
    any of their pot-metal vises
    -I’ve had bought for me a lot of items in the hand tool category like end wrenches, ratchets and such. Those all fall in the total failure group.
    -But I will only give my Worst HF purchase…. that 50$ CRAP chop saw! It’s like trying to cut a knife with butter. (…with a good blade this saw gets high marks)
    -the mini die grinder (also showed up in the “Good” list above…)
    -carving knives
    -Chicago Electric close quarters drill #92956
    -the plastic wire ties.
    -NEVER buy the bunjee (tie-down) cords!!
    -The 4? jointer (65673-1VGA) is useless, mainly because of the poor quality fence.
    -Nitrile Gloves: NOT “I’m not a chemist but sodium hydroxide,(paint remover) ate through HF Blue Nitrile gloves.”
    -bench drill press (…often recommended)
    -3/8? Corded drill.
    -I got a small benchtop blasting cabinet. I HATE IT!!
    -black bar w/ orange grip bar clamps. (clamps are #1 recommended item at HF… beware though :)

    6) Harbor Freight Tips and Tidbits
    These little bits and pieces needed to get out there, but they didn’t have theme that suggested a solid category. So they’re here.

    In-store no-hassle replacement policy:
    “One tip is that Harbor Freight offers an in-store no-hassle replacement policy for a few bucks. I use it when I know I’m going to be using a product hard. For example, I bought a clear water pump (less than $40) and even with the proper pre-filter, the motor seized after three months. I walked in with the pump and the guarantee, showed the melted motor fan, picked up a replacement and walked out. It was that simple. The new one has worked fine.”

    Company Reviews for Harbor Freight Tools from Employees Here’s a peek at what the managers have to deal with.

    Harbor Freight at Wikipedia:
    “Harbor Freight Tools is a retail tool and hardware company that started in 1968, primarily selling through its mail order catalog, which still exists today. The Camarillo, California-based company offers more than 7,000 varieties of tools on its web site, mail order catalog, and retail stores. Harbor Freight Tools has over 314 retail store locations nationwide.”

    7) Harbor Freight Resources Used in this Article
    Here are my sources.
    Harbor Freight Tools that don’t suck (Best overall thread on finding good values at HF… this is from a Farmers’ forum.)
    Sunday trials and tribulations at Harbor Freight.
    Mark the time please, I am done with single use cheap tools
    Harbor Freight
    Anyone shop at Harbor Freight Tools?
    Harbor Freight roller stand
    HF Drill Press Table
    Harbor Freight Tools…good or bad?
    Harbor Freight Sewing Machine Any Good?
    Harbor Freight: Good Prices, POOR Inventory Control, Ok Products (a really good epinions review)
    The scoop on ‘Harbor Freight (’ (a review of the harbor freight green house from Dave’s Garden)
    Harbor Freight vs. Beverly for a throatless shear
    Harbor Freight Angle Grinders
    HF tools that don’t suck
    HF tools that suck
    Review: Harbor Freight Folding Shop Crane
    Harbor Freight Digital Caliper Review
    Harbor Freight 7×10 Mini Lathe
    Band Saw Review – Harbor Freight/Central Machinery
    Harbor Freight Portable Air Compressor Review
    Harbor Freight 1/2″ Bandfile Belt Sander
    Harbor Freight Log Splitter Review
    Harbor Freight vs Costco Portable 12v Air Compressor – In Depth Review w/ Pictures
    Harbor Freight 3×21″ belt sander (short review)
    Harbor Freight Plate Joiner
    More Harbor Freight Sucks…. (fish pond enthusiasts having problems with Harbor Freight)

    06/05/09 Resource Update:
    And Yet Another HF Gem
    Another Harbor Freight Gem?
    HF Oscillating Spindle Sander & Biscuit Joiner….GemS??
    Your favorite Harbor Freight (HF) Bargain?