Woodworkers’ Favorite Harbor Freight Tools

The great thing about the Internet, whatever your passion, you can find a slew of guys and gals who share it. Forums abound for everything from cooking to alien sightings to ham radios to ham. One of the most strongly represented tool niche groups online is the woodworkers group. There are dozens of woodworking forums on the ‘net, where they exchange tips and experiences, and as any craftsmen, they’re passionate about their art, their projects, their conventional wisdom… and their tools. So, given the variety of tools and equipment Harbor Freight has– not to mention the prices– you can imagine how many times the discount tool store becomes topic of conversation.

I took a look at one of the more popular forums, Lumberjocks.com (all woodworking, all the time), and compiled a list of what their members said were among their favorite Harbor Freight acquisitions. See if you agree, or have anything to add:

 

The Momentary Power Foot Switch

“How many times when starting your router or your drill press, or other power tool, did you wish you had one more hand to firmly grab on the piece you were ready to machine? Often we present a piece of wood on the router just at right place to route it, and then we need to let go of it to start the router, and then the piece moves. Or we hardly can hold one large piece. We don’t feel safe and then we need to let go of one hand to start the router or the drill press. With the Momentary Power Foot Switch you can feel a lot safer when you start the router, firmly grabbing on the piece to machine with both hands. It greatly improves the safety and control of the execution.”

b2rtch on Lumberjocks

 

10″, 40 Tooth Carbide Tipped Circular Saw Blade With Titanium Nitride Coating

“I’ve been using this blade for a few months now. It’s lived in my miter saw most of that time and I just tried it out on the table saw for rip cuts. I’ve been very pleased with this blade, overall. The titanium nitride coating does seem to reduce friction and give a somewhat cleaner cut. The blade is nice and sharp out of the box. It cuts more easily and cleanly than the Kobalt blades I had been using in the miter saw. And the rip cuts it did were good, too. The saw didn’t bog down as it had with some other blades. The best part is this thing is less than $15 at Harbor Freight. Even less with a 20% off coupon. At that price you can keep a couple of spares around when you need a fresh blade. Note to SawStop owners: The titanium nitride coating does not interfere with the SawStop safety system’s detection or trip the brake.”

Purrmaster on Lumberjocks

 

300 Lb. Capacity Mobile Base

“I own 4 of these bases. Obviously, I like them and think they are a good product. They are well made and glide easily across the shop floor. Assembly with the first one was a bit confusing, but after that the other 3 were easy. I don’t exceed the 300 lbs. but I think they could support more than that. They are thick, heavy and finished well with decent nuts and bolts. The big knobs turn easily, steadies your machine level and don’t move while in use.”

kdc68 on Lumberjocks

 

Cen-Tech Digital Mini Moisture Meter

“Went into a newly opened Harbor Freight store in Florida, and while cruising around, I came across the Cen-Tech Digital Mini Moisture Meter (item 67143). Wasn’t looking for one but when I saw this– and the price– I figured what the heck…go for it. I’m glad I did because it really works, and now I won’t touch a piece of wood for turning until I check the content first. I was actually quite surprised at how high the moisture was in some of my wood. When I go back next spring, I’ll likely get some for friends….can’t go wrong with that price! BTW, it also does it for C or F, has a ‘Hard Material Mode’ and measure ‘Environmental temperature.’ The readout is clear as well.”

Salmo on Lumberjocks

 

Chicago Electric 4 ” Magnesium Belt Sander (Replaced with the 10 Amp 4 in. x 24 in. Variable Speed Professional Belt Sander, item #: 69820)

“Now that I’m semi-retired, I have more time to drift through tool stores, home improvement centers, and the like. In HF the other day, I noticed the 97593 Magnesium 4X24 Belt Sander on sale for $69.99, usually $79.99. With my 20% coupon, walked the last one out of the store for a ridiculous $55.00! Now, I know we all like to think somewhere along the line we graduate from ever using belt sanders ever again, but for some reason their use pops up from time to time, and for me, it always seems like I never have a big enough one to do the job.

“The Harbor Freight Chicago Tool 4X24 Magnesium Belt Sander is one of those tools that I think you would use to sand the paint off that old picnic table, or take down 8-10 coats of whatever off any larger piece of wood you need cleaned. This thing is just a flat-out HORSE. Even with the magnesium frame, it still weighs. Mine was the last one my store had, and did not have a manual, (have to download it), but the website says it puts 1640 feet of sandpaper per minute on the wood, pulls 10 amps, and weighs somewhere around 15 lbs. I believe it all, having hogged down a piece of 2 ft. by 5” wide solid piece of oak from rough mill cut to smooth in less than two minutes. Mine tracked perfectly out of the box, and I love the little handle on the side to loosen the belt, rather than have to do the “front roller dance” pushing it back and hoping it catches, change the belt, then hope you can get it to snap back and re-tighten by running the tracking knob back and forth. None of that with this sander. Simply loosen the handle on the side, change the belt, snap the handle back in place, and keep going.

“I really went into HF to look at driveway sensors for my wife, and the lathe tools recently reviewed here. I ended up buying the sensors and this hog, and I’m really glad I did. I don’t use a belt sander much anymore, but when I do, I want a large surface belt, and for $55 compared to a smaller PC for $169, this was a no-brainer.”

Tennessee on Lumberjocks

 

Chicago Electric 10″ Sliding Compound Miter Saw

“This saw has a 15-amp motor that sliced through everything I threw at it with no issues. The action of the slide and is very smooth. Though I used it only for 90 degree cuts, the table movement and compound movement were very smooth and didn’t move at all when set and tightened. First thing I did after setting up the saw was to build some 3’ extension wings on both sides out of 3/4” pine with 1/4 hard board across for my zero clearance backing. I couldn’t be happier. I was able to do the final trim on about 60 shelves and sides (3 cuts per board) in maybe 2 hours. Everything came out great, true and square – no issues.”

SchottFamily on Lumberjocks

 

Drill Master Portable Pocket Hole Jig Kit

“I’ve always called Harbor Freight “God’s gift to men,” and since there’s been a bit of hubbub about this tool paradise on this site recently I thought I’d post some reviews of my favorite HF Gems…

“This one I just bought TODAY and I already can see that it is among the best tools in the store! For one thing, this thing is extremely well made! If you had this jig sitting alongside the Kreig version, I guarantee you’d pick this one up to examine first. Why? Because it really looks great. While the $100 Krieg jig is mostly plastic, this is all aluminum. And I don’t mean that crappy cast aluminum. This is precision machined aluminum.

“The design is also very well executed. The heart of it is the guide holes, of course. There are two sets of two, so you can drill a pair side by side in your piece. One set is at a steep angle for 1/2″-to-1” thick material, the other set of guide holes is at a lower angle for thicker material. You can move the hole guides to adjust how far apart you want them using nicely etched measuring marks so no ruler is needed. Lock them in place with the knob and use the very nice, heavy duty hold down clamp to secure your piece and you’re ready to drill. The bit is included as are a bunch of screws. Another nice feature is that you can remove the hole guide assembly from the stand and clamp it to large parts that the stand won’t accommodate.

“Bottom line is- this jig is WELL worth the price… and may even be better in many ways than the twice as expensive Krieg jig.

“That’s my two cents…”

StumpyNubs on Lumberjocks

 

Central Machinery 2 HP Industrial 5 Micron Dust Collector

Finally… it seems like the single-most talked about Harbor Freight tool– by far— in the woodworking world is the Central Machinery 2 HP Industrial 5 Micron Dust Collector. Mentions about this thing just come up over and over, again.

“A year ago, when I was building my shop, I was shopping around for a dust collector to be the heart of my system. I looked at General, Jet, Grizzly, etc. But then I read several really postive reviews on the HF 2 HP model. I had a coupon for 169.00 for it so I figured, why not? Let me tell you, this thing is at least the equal of all of those others! I actually got a chance to examine a Jet, and a Grizzly….and they are almost identical. My longest run is 45 feet and I’ve had no trouble running one tool there and another 25 feet in the other direction, at the same time. It gets it all. Now I make a lot of dust here in my shop so this has gotten a workout in the last year, and I’m not disappointed. This is one of those rare Harbor Freight gems.”

njcraftsman on Lumberjocks

“There isn’t much this little thingie can’t handle. Cabinet saw, no problem. 12 inch Planer, same same. 6-inch jointer, 6 x 48 flat belt, compound miter saw, nada. Moderate-sized drum sander, no problem-o. Don’t expect this rig to evacuate a 52-inch double wide belt sander though, but for most small shop cabinet men, chair makers and burl workers this will execute without hesitation. I’ve got mine in a room adjacent to my shop running through a bulkhead fitting; all you hear is the quiet screaming of the sawdust as it is slurped off to the Great Beyond. A metal trash can will fit nicely under the bag within the frame, which eases the unloading of poor, dead tree powder and other assorted shop waste. Don’t think you can run a 100-ft hose from your shop to your neighbor’s basement though; any DC system can only handle X amount of hose, especially if it is corrugated or has numerous 180′ turns. All in all, very pleased with this item, it can run with the big dogs all day long (going on 6 years) as long as you keep good duct work and hoses in the equation and mind your housekeeping regarding the top bags cleanliness.”

R. E. Parks on Dakota Heirloom Woodworking

“At the end of the day, is this thing worth it? Heck yeah! I don’t think there’s anything that’s comparable for the price. As I stated, I don’t have a lot of personal experience with dust collectors, but I have no idea what a more expensive single stage dust collector could do that this one can’t. This product comes with a high recommendation from me, and it’s a pretty big improvement over my old shop vac based system.”

haugerm on Woodworking Talk

Firebird Restoration Tools: Harbor Freight vs. the Competition – Pt. 2

Engine Removal Tools

Last week I started a series illustrating how much could be saved buying products from Harbor Freight Tools— as opposed to the competition– for the ’67 Firebird Restoration project. Breaking it down phase by phase, we’re comparing the prices of tools used in the project with similar (if not exact) products that the competitors advertise. The competitors I chose were Craftsman, Northern Tool, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Grainger. It should be noted that exact matches weren’t always found, so I substituted the closest comparison available. As I suggested last week, I don’t think this compromises the test because we’re only talking about differences in size and shape, not function. It should also be pointed out that not all the listed competitors carry all the tools used in the project.

In the first segment, we looked at Harbor Freight’s tools used in the vehicle’s disassembly video. This week we’ll be exploring price differences on the engine removal phase:

 

This powerful shop crane delivers the lifting power you need to easily hoist engines and transmissions, move heavy machinery and load equipment. And when you’re done, it just folds vertically up against the wall or in a corner, taking up very little space. Made of heavy-duty steel, Harbor Freight’s rock solid and sturdy shop crane is an invaluable, cost-effective addition to the garage.

  • Sears – Dragway Tools 2-Ton Engine Motor Hoist Cherry Picker Shop Crane Lift – $279.99
  • Northern Tool – Torin Big Red Folding Shop Crane – $279.99
  • Home Depot – N/A
  • Lowe’s – N/A
  • Grainger – Shop Crane, 4400 lb. Cap. – $517.50

 

An excellent addition to your home or shop, this all-steel stand employs an “I”-shaped design to keep even complete big block engines from tipping. Heavy-duty casters enable you to move the engine around easily and smoothly, and its four adjustable arms allow you to easily mount the engine. Check out the reviews and see why Harbor Freight Tools customers love this engine stand!
  • Sears – Black Bull 1000 lb. Four Wheel Engine Stand – $69.99
  • Northern Tool – Torin Big Red 1250 lb. Engine Stand – $109.99
  • Home Depot – 750 lb. Engine Stand – $104.16
  • Lowe’s – N/A
  • Grainger – Automotive Engine Stand 750 lb. – $186.25

 

This industrial-quality impact wrench is a must for the home garage or shop. The twin hammer delivers a max torque of 425 ft. lbs. and the impact wrench features a forward/reverse regulator with five speeds, allowing you total control. With a free speed of 6,500 RPM, this impact wrench is a powerhouse for tightening or loosening nuts and bolts!
  • Sears – Eastwood 1/2″ Drive Twin Hammer Air Impact Wrench – $59.99
  • Northern Tool – Wel-Bilt Air Twin Impact Wrench – $79.99
  • Home Depot – PowRyte 1/2″ Heavy Duty Air Impact Wrench – $69.99
  • Lowe’s – Kobalt 1/2″ 500 ft.-lbs. Air Impact Wrench – $79.94
  • Grainger – Chicago Pneumatic Impact Wrench 1/2″ Drive – $334.25

Check out The Video to see the tools in action during the engine removal process!

In the next installment, we’ll take a look at the tools used for stripping and priming the car, and compare them to the competition’s. Until then!

Here Comes Honey Chip Chip

Now that fall is here and winter in the not-too-distant future, death is all around us: dead leaves, dead branches, and all other sorts of recently-deceased debris– a virtual backyard apocalypse. Make disposing the remains easy on yourself with a powerful chipper/shredder or leaf eater/shredder from Harbor Freight. Choose from these high-performance models:

Quickly reduce piles of leaves and small branches into useful mulch. Mulch is a standard form of winter protection for many shallow-rooted plant, acting as insulation for the soil and plant roots. This powerful 14 amp electric chipper-shredder can handle limbs up to 1-1/2″ in diameter and its rugged polypropylene hopper won’t rust or dent. Also, it maneuvers easily through the yard on smooth-rolling 6″ wheels.

 

This gas-powered dynamo is an essential tool for landscapers or anyone cleaning up their yard. The chipper-shredder handles limbs up to 1-1/4″ thick and features a four-chipper-blade design to quickly turn limbs, twigs and small branches into mulch, perfect for flower beds and vegetable gardens. Easy on gas, tough on branches, this little chipper eats brush like it’s nothing.

 

The Godzilla of the group! Easily decimate tree branches, leaves and vines with this wide-mouthed, 11 horsepower gas-powered chipper-shredder. The wood chipper chute handles branches and vines up to 2-7/8″ in diameter while the leaf-hopper shreds leaves and grass clippings up to 3/8″ in diameter. This dynamic chipper/compost shredder features a dual-blade design with both a chipper blade and impeller blade. Even though it’s a tree-thrashing brute, it moves and maneuvers easily on smooth-rolling pneumatic tires.

 

When life hands you thousands of dead leaves, make mulch! This efficient, economical, and ecological electric shredder makes it simple to get rid of leaves by breaking them down into serviceable mulch or compost for your yard and garden. No more laborious bagging of yard waste! Choose between fine, medium and coarse shredding levels.

Shop Harbor Freight for the right heavy-duty chipper and/or shredder for your needs. As always, you’ll find great performance at incredibly low prices!

 

’67 Firebird Restoration Project: Part 3 – Engine Removal!

Welcome to the third installment of the Harbor Freight Tools 1967 Firebird Restoration Project.

For first-time readers: HFT invited Jeff Tann— car enthusiast and former Rod & Custom editor — to fully restore the legendary muscle car using only discount tools from Harbor Freight. The car is all original, with a 400/325-hp V8 engine, so he’s basically tackling the project “from scratch.”

In Part 1, we were given a tour of the original vehicle, inside and out, and presented Jeff’s challenge. In Part 2, we followed the body-dismantling process and introduced the U.S. General 700 lb. Capacity 5-Drawer Rolling Tool Cart, which housed the Pittsburgh Professional 301-Piece Mechanic’s Tool Kit. Also in this segment, we saw how Jeff made quick business of the job with a Central Pneumatic 3/8″ Professional Air Ratchet and 1/4″ Mini Air Ratchet Wrench.

This time we follow Jeff as he lifts the engine, using a 2-Ton Capacity Foldable Shop Crane. It’s probably the first time the 45-year-old engine’s been taken out since it was on the assembly line, so it’s not gonna be pretty. Jeff then removes the tranny from the engine with a Central Pneumatic 1/2″ Twin Hammer Air Impact Wrench before he mounts it on the Central Machinery 1000 Lb. Engine Stand, and proceeds to take it apart.

Cleaning Brass: Tumbler, Ultrasonic, or… Concrete Mixer?

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I like going to the shooting range whenever I have the time. Unfortunately, two of my favorite guns—a .custom 358 Win. rifle and a .327 Ruger single-action revolver—use hard-to-find ammo, and I spend hours online looking for new sources when the others dry up. This usually results in a lot of special ordering, backordering and premium prices. So I’ve recently decided to take up another hobby– reloading.

I knew I’d be going this direction for some time, and have been saving all my spent brass. Now, as I go about assembling my little ammo-making factory, I have to decide how I want to clean it. After initially looking around, I soon realized there are 1,005 different mickey-mouse ways people clean their brass, all of them involving washing and drying (warning: don’t dry your brass in the oven), nasty chemicals, labor-intensive manual putzing, or a combination of these. One approach I found interesting was putting bullet casings in old socks and tossing them in the washer with a little soap. If you and your wife aren’t concerned about getting toxic primer residue in your underwear, then have at it. Also, the idea of feeling “accomplished” by hand-cleaning your own brass gets old real fast. The time, vapors, cleaning up after the chemicals… forget it.

In the end, I narrowed my options down to three of the more endorsed methods: tumbler, ultrasonic washer and cement mixer.

The tumbler actually falls into two categories: rotary & vibrating. Both work well and have strong followings, although there are distinct differences. The rotary tumbler, originally created for polishing rocks, turns a barrel in which the cleaning media (such as walnut shell or corn cob) clean and polish the brass as they tumble together. Because the drum is water-tight, a cleaning solution or polish can also be added. A favorite method of cleaning in a rotary tumbler is throwing the brass in a tumbler with stainless steel media and some dish soap, liquid detergent or a specially-made cleaner. More so than some other methods, with stainless steel the cartridges turn “like-new” bright & shiny, inside and out. Reloaders who have tried this method claim that they’ll never go back to walnut or corn cob media again. The downside is that stainless steel is a lot more expensive, about $50 for 5 lbs. compared to $23 for 25 lbs. It should be noted, though. the stainless steel does last longer, too.

Two examples of rotary tumblers are:

 

 

 

…the Chicago Electric 3 lb. Rotary Rock Tumbler

 

 

 

 

…and the Chicago Electric Dual Drum Rotary Rock Tumbler.

 

Rotary tumblers are generally less expensive and run quieter than the vibrating models. Also, FWIW, they create less dust than the vibrating models. However, they’re vastly slower and there’s also extra time invested in separating the brass from the media.

The vibrating tumbler, as was already mentioned, is a lot faster—even by several hours—so you can get through a lot more brass in the same amount of time Also, it’s a dry-cleaning process, so you don’t have to worry that the brass is thoroughly dry. A downside to consider, though, is the vibratory tumbler doesn’t get the inside of the casings as clean as the rotary. This isn’t really considered a problem; it doesn’t affect the performance of the ammo, or have any adverse affect on the gun, if the inside of the shell isn’t as clean and bright as the outside. Just be aware, that will be the result. Two tumblers you can find at great prices are:

 

 

 

 

the 5 lb. Metal Vibrator/Tumbler and…

 

 

 

 

the 18 lb. Vibratory Bowl with Liquid Drain Hose.

 

The foremost praise given to the ultrasonic cleaner is how fast it works. Plus, it will clean the entire case, inside and out, including the primer pocket, without getting media stuck in the flash holes (as with other methods, when they need to be picked out). You also don’t get the dust all over the casings like with the other methods, and you’re spared having to breathe the lead dust when separating the brass from the cob or walnut media. The downsides are, it cleans but doesn’t polish the brass, you have to dry the cases after you clean them, and the hardware is slightly more expensive. That being said, Harbor Freight has one at a great price.

 

 

 

Chicago Electric 2.5 Liter Ultrasonic Cleaner

 

Which leads me to most out-there, but surprisingly popular method of cleaning brass: the cement mixer. This is the go-to device when you’ve got a lot of brass to clean– like thousands of casings. Indeed, a number of reloaders point to Harbor Freight’s cement mixers as the “ultimate wet or dry tumblers,” not only for their effectiveness, but also their cheap prices and reliability. In order to make their cement mixer work as a “tumbler,” they leave out the paddles when assembling it, leaving the round tub empty. To keep the brass from banging against the steel tub, some spray the interior with a rubber coating, but that’s more for the noise than any concern for the brass getting dinged. All sorts of media can be used in them, but crushed walnut seems to be a favorite, with possibly a brass polish additive. Harbor Freight carries two models made by Central Machinery, both of them used by reloaders:

 

 

 

1-1/4 Cubic Ft. Cement Mixer

 

 

 

 

 

 

3-1/2 Cubic Ft. Cement Mixer

By sharing all these methods, it’s not my intent to try to sway you in any direction. Everyone’s needs and preferences are different. Before you do make a decision, though, google terms like “tumbler vs. ultrasonic cleaner” and “cleaning brass cement mixer,” and see what they’re saying in the blogs and forums– and ask questions! I think you’ll find the methods I’ve listed here are the best.

See you at the range!

 

 

 

That’s the Gift That Keeps on Giving the Whole Year, Clark

Once again, we see how Harbor Freight is a favorite toy store for tool heads.

Recently on The Garage Journal forum, a member wrote how his boss gave him a $200 Harbor Freight gift card for his birthday, and asked what he should get with it. The replies, of course, were all over the place: 44” rolling cabinet, swivel-head ratchet, composite ratchet, and other Pittsburgh PRO ratchets, 1” belt & 5″ disc combination sander, 2-ton engine hoist, 20-ton shop press, 4”x6” horizontal/vertical metal-cutting band saw, blast cabinet3/8″ Central Pneumatic Earthquake air ratchet, cutoff discs, grinding wheels, welding gloves, dead blow hammers, cable ties, sandpaper, rip and claw hammers, magnetic LED palm-sized light, shrink tubing

It reminded me of when my Aunt Anita sent me $5 and the guys were all telling me how to blow it (“Hot Wheels!” “GI Joe!” “Silly Putty!”).

The lucky birthday boy ended up getting the US General 700 Lbs. Capacity Five Drawer Tool Cart–which has a 4.5-star rating with 112 reviews and, by the way, costs exactly $199.99! Then he created a dead-serious custom welder cart with it (and did a damn fine job)!

How would you spend YOUR $200 Harbor Freight gift card?

 

Harbor Freight Gets Prepper Props

In this country’s growing Survivalist Nation there’s a tribe known as the “Urbivalists”– or “urban survivalists”—preppers who live in towns and cities, and have adapted their survivalist skills to more metro environments. One such urbivalist is Dan, a “self-proclaimed tenderfoot and city kid” who runs a survival-themed blog called The Daily Prep. Recently, Dan posted a video of a shopping trip he made to Harbor Freight–

–which included a tour of some of his favorite products.  “It’s a man mall!” he proclaimed.

It’s no wonder HFT is popular with those who take survival preparation seriously. A renowned purveyor of hard-to-find and odd hardware– plus, a huge selection of essential tools and supplies at extremely low prices– it’s a no-brainer. (Brains? Zombies? Apocalypse? Harbor Freight!)

So, what were some of the products Dan thought fellow preppers should look into? The video does a good job showcasing generators, welders, tarps, car battery jump starters, jerry cans, rope, axes & hatchets, duct tape (“of every kind!”), magnesium fire starters, solar panel kits, knives, slingshots, safes, winches, flashlights and batteries— and Harbor Freight’s low prices make preparation a lot more doable.

FYI, for those looking to prep their home for the garden variety emergency, HFT also carries towing supplies, trailer hitches, alarms & security products, jack stands, engines, head lamps, cast iron frying pans, face masks, space saver vacuum bags, air compressors… you get the point. Harbor Freight is the “go-to store” for your doomsday prepper needs.

The Daily Prep isn’t alone when it comes to survivalist forums swapping favorite HFT products that they keep in their arsenals. Surf the ‘net and you’ll find tons of great ideas. And while you’re at it, why don’t you share yours with us?

 

A Pipe/Tubing Notcher That’s a Notch Above the Competition

Pipe Notcher and Tubing Notcher

Cut round holes into tubing or pipes with the pipe notcher! (Central Machinery 42324)

This amazing Central Machinery Pipe Tubing Notcher (SKU 42324) from Harbor Freight Tools teams up with your electric drill or drill press to make round cuts in pipes and tubing of various shapes at any angle up to 60 degrees.  With precision settings from 0 to 60 degrees in 1 degree increments, you’ll get the quality cut you need while the sturdy and durable steel frame holds your workpiece firmly during operation.

Works With Any Standard Drill Press

The pipe notcher and tubing notcher is adaptable to a large variety of round cutters, hole saws, and milling bits and is especially suited to be mounted on drill press tables.  The pipe holder and base are also fully adjustable which makes cutting compound notch angles easier.  You can make precise joints for clean secure welds on just about any structure.  Even with this level of versatility, it’s still half the cost of other pipe notchers for sale!

If you’re looking for pipe notchers and tubing notchers for sale, pick up a pipe notcher machine you can count on from Harbor Freight Tools today!