Discussion in 'Workshop Tips and Secrets / Tools' started by proppastie, Jul 10, 2015.
Tragedy of the Commons.
Exactly. Naked self-interest. Nothing wrong with it on a level playing field. But the concept of a level playing field is only a theoretical construct
That is not the point. Think about it.
There are tools that are complete garbage from Harbor Freight, and some that are decent. Sometimes they sell both versions of the same tool - They have a set of decent impact sockets I've had for years, and the even cheaper set that is painted instead of hardened.
Although they may be inferior, there is a definite advantage to cheap tools as long as they are serviceable - it is much better to have an inferior tool you can buy that will get the job done than it is to not have a superior tool that will last longer but you can't afford at all. Many people will never use the cheap tool enough that it matters. There are also a lot of HF tools that work great if you make a few small modifications, if you have more time than money.
There's a couple of great threads over at Weldingweb.com about Harbor Freight (they actually have a whole forum about HF):
Harbor Freight Tools that don't suck
Harbor Freight Tools that suck
Some tools from HF are total crap. Others are surprisingly well-made considering the price. It just depends on the tool. I've had very good luck with most of the stuff I bought from them, including:
Bench-top drill press
14" chop saw
HVLP spray gun
Blind rivet puller
3-in-1 framing nailer
Free tape measures
Step drills/unibits (and normally I stay away from their consumables!)
It all depends on what you're doing with the tool and how long you need it to last. I know the $100 nailgun might not last as long as the $300+ name-brand one, but I only really needed it for the framing portion of my workshop build. That phase is over now and it's still working, even after being left out in the rain once, so I saved myself $200. I use the HVLP gun for shooting primer, and it works just fine--the poor paint job is the user's fault. Would I buy these if my livelihood depended on them? Probably not. But for most of the rarely-used items, their useful life still probably exceeds my total lifetime utilization of them.
Go in with realistic expectations.
Yep -- agreed ! Like many who spend time in a home shop, I have Snap-On, Lincoln, Wilton, Mac (you name it) envy – sometimes even Craftsman (although there I think I’m cured). I’ve had a few (very few) disappointments in the budget tools, but they do happen… My shop is equipped with all sorts of tools from the budget venders (including Walmart) as well as garage sales, eBay – you name it… as they say, an informed consumer… If I truly need an A/C grade I’ll buy Clecos brand or straight from Avery, etc., but for the run of the mill tools that do the bulk of the heaving-lifting at the shop, they all came from HF, the aviation section of Home Depot or whatnot… I don’t think I’d make a universal statement that one brand is always superior (have had Craftsman sockets blow out – never a HF, and the Lowes screwdriver set seems vastly superior to the Sears set I bought with high-expectation; a gift to myself ,that I eventually gave to my wife for her kitchen tool set… ),nor that one brand is universally inferior – have had both HF and Bosch saber-saws fail, and have a thirty-something year old 3/8” drill sold by Pennys that just keeps going and going…
I’d say shop wisely, and then I’m just happy I have a shop to play in – no sense in wondering what I’d do if I were in the business professionally because it’ll never happen…
If you don't mind buying used stuff I'd watch for a Vidmar or a Lista thats been surplused. They pop up on local Craigs list now and then.
You might have to paint them if you want red or black as they are us
ually gray or tan. Get 2 and set them side by side on a cart with big casters.
You can get them with different combinations of drawers. That being said, a used Snap-on that someone has already eaten the markup on might
be found. The Vidmar and Lista are very high quality and very heavy duty.
stanley vidmar cabinets I'm including a couple of pictures of some shorter ones that I painted blue and use for
my aero tools. You can sometimes get them for $400/$500 if you look around. I'm also including a picture of the tool rack for some of my
air tools.........seems that mud dobbers have an affinity for filling up round holes....no problems since I made this. Notice the
lip just above the open end of the air tool.
I had some check stub cabinets like those Vidmars. They were deep and locked well. The slides were strong. Like an idiot I got rid of them when I did not have room.
Duplicate posting deleted
Agree 100% on the Vidmar cabinets. I have one that I purchased surplus, but finding one in reasonbly good shape with mostly the thin drawers for tools has been a challenge, and the new pones are too expensive for me.
Sometimes top quality tools are nice even if they don't work any better. I have some 1980s vintage Snap-On wrenches and a socket set that are just a pleasure to use compared to even comparable Craftsman or S-K tools. Though I doubt I would have paid Snap-On prices, I got them for free (long story).
Aside from the tools I inherited from my "tool junkie" father (he always bought the best), I have a lot of top quality tools that I bought used at flea markets. I have an ancient Craftsman 1/2" ratchet that laughs at the 3' pipe I slip over the handle when I need more leverage. Used toolboxes, too... a Kennedy toolbox from an estate sale (filled with unused reamers and other stuff) that just needed some cleaning up and paint (ended up so nice my wife lets me keep it in the living room at our cabin), and a classic 1960s vintage promotional rollaround box with the "STP" logo in a raised oval pad that deserved new paint and a NOS STP sticker from ebay (the Craftsman boxes in the background were Dad's, better than the current vintage, but the STP box is much more solid). The STP box was $50 filled with tools, some good, some junk. Back in the late 60s every self respecting American boy had an STP sticker somewhere (mine was on the seat of my Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle, another thing every boy had or wanted).
Now we're talking! I had a "kickback" Sting-Ray (it had a two-speed rear hub that you shifted by pedalling backward slightly, but still allowed use of the Bendix coaster brake). Metal-flake blue that shone like iridescent purple in the glow of the street lights. Ooops--time to go inside! I later moved up to a Schwinn Varsity ten speed--I'll bet it weighed 60 lbs, but it put up with years of hauling me and my newspapers on my route. If olympic cyclists trained on a bike like that, they'd set all kinds of record when the got on their 10lb graphite speedy bikes for the race.
Good tools: My dad left me a Craftsman "vise-grip" that is better than any I've ever used. The adjustment knob is silky smooth, and the chrome plating is still in good shape.
On the Harbour Frt. stuff, I have their impact wrenches....I abuse them, just got finished filling two shipping containers that had machines which we lag bolted to the floor. Think I have had this one around 8 years, managed to kill my last one by dropping a 100 HP vacuum turbine on it. (5-6K lbs). I will probably take the busted one and the one I'm currently using and rebuild it as the busted one has few hrs on it. Quality seems to be quite high, I was surprised. "Course, I have bought junk there as well. But most of the basic tools seem to hang in there.
Yard sales net me my best deals...a couple of years ago, went by one, bought 4-5 5 gal buckets for $5 ea, all filled with tools, sockets (Snap-on and Craftsman), as well as 3 pairs of new Vise Grips (the US made ones). I threw all my junk stuff into a box and repopulated my toolbox with the good stuff... Also snagged a nice Craftsman 8 dr. tool box for a few bucks at one...repainted and now it looks good.
The sweet spot in tools is often times the older stuff. Old Stanley tools are great, as were the S&K. New Stanley is garbage. People say Harbor Freight is so bad but it's not any worse than most of the garbage Menards or Hime Depot sells.
I love my Snap On stuff, but honestly the older Stanley or S&K wrenches are top quality. Tractor Supply is just a well marketed Harbor Freight. Ace Hardware carries the low end craftsman tools which are not even remotely the same as the Craftsman tools I have from the 60's.
For my business I own about all the Pittsburgh Pro tools HF sells and they're as good as Craftsman and a great bargain. Only the Pro versions though- they're the ones that passed "product testing" over the years by HF customers.
And HF's industrial roller toolboxes (US General Pro- the red ones) are a fantastic value. Work as good as the really expensive ones but significantly cheaper.
My best 1/2" drive rachet is a Craftsman that was in a box of about 500 that was marked REBUILT at Sears for $3 back in 1962. I started buying tools when I had the money at 14 years old, and still use the first ones that I bought.
I don't need any more tool boxes, but I looked at the Harbor Freight ones a while back and they looked and worked good. I see Snap On toolboxes on Craigslist constantly for rediculous prices. Personally I think the average mechanic is foolish to pay the prices Snap On wants for a lot of their tools. Guy traded me a Snap On plasma cutter once and it was made by Century. Century is not a top of the line product. Snap On has lots of tools made by other companies that just put a Snap On Logo on them.
I have one of the middle HF tool boxes at home. Picked it over all the equal priced boxes no matter size. What makes cheap stuff bad works in reverse on tool boxes. I have one of the small Snap-On boxes with others at work and it is great but I got a deal on it. As for high end wrenches, I usually use the Craftsman and Gearwrenches, but have Snap-On sets too. When you need a Snap-On, you need a Snap-On. 99% of the times you dont. A friend bought a giant Cornwall box and top box off ebay for a tenth of what they cost new.
I built myself 3 tool boxes when I worked in a fab shop back about 40 years ago. Made from 11 gauge steel and the front corners and sides and back were folded up on a press brake. Each is 4' wide and about 2' deep and 4' high on large HD castors. Very heavy and strong. All drawers on rollers, etc. One has 1/4" top for rough work.
Also made a heavy duty creeper from 11 gauge with nice leather padding. A heavy seat with tool holders on castors to set on while welding. A 12" HD shear, and 12" HD brake.
Honestly I've never seen a bolt that was capable of being loosened without heat that my Craftsman wrenches wouldn't work. If I need more leverage I just hook the box end of another wrench onto the open end of the wrench I was using. Or, I go get a socket and strong arm and maybe a length of pipe, but the tools always do the job. I've got sets of wrenches of every type except Snap On, Mac, Cornwell etc. I'm happy with Craftsman,Kobalt and Stanley for the most part. The Stanley wrenches are longer and polished. I have lots of other brands too, probably 15-20 sets and a lot of orphans thrown in. Virtually all of them do what I need them to do. I even bought a set of Sears "Companion" wrenches just to have some decent cheepos to heat and twist when I need to get into a special crevice. I'm very satisfied with Craftsman sockets and have no complaints about them. Rachel quality, especially the 1/4" has deteriorated but no complaints on the 3/8 or 1/2". Impact sockets, my Harbor Freight ones work just as well as any others. I even have a set of 1 in drive sockets that I bought years ago when I owned a single axle dump truck and a backhoe. I don't use them much any more, some off brand I don't recall (Allied ???). Cheap and never a problem. I can remember using a 4' cheater pipe on the strong arm and jumping on it. Nut never came loose, but it didn't break either. I have a lot of expensive tools, and I don't mind spending for something really need (really want), but I have never been able to justify the cost of Snap On tools in my mind. That's just me, and I respect the fact that others see it differently. Different strokes for different folks.
Separate names with a comma.