20 Things DIYers Should Always Buy at Harbor Freight
Long a point of contention for many in the DIY community, Harbor Freight's deep discounts and no-frills equipment have won fans and critics in equal numbers. Here are 20 things that are consistently great deals and perfect for DIYers of all skill levels.
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There’s a lot to be said for building your own tool chest, but sometimes it’s just easier to pick up a store-bought model. The metal tool chests at Harbor Freight are shockingly good, with thicker metal and liners than many “brand name” boxes. There is a wide range of prices and sizes available for a Harbor Freight tool box. This is one item where a little more upfront investment will provide you with a quality tool chest that can last for years.
As any woodworker can tell you, the number of clamps you need for a project is always one more than the number you have in your shop. Whether you’re an old pro or just learning how to use clamps, Harbor Freight has you covered.
Like anything else in life, the quality varies, so be sure to examine the clamps for strength and straightness. Many DIYers find the blue-pad Pittsburgh brand clamps like the one pictured to be a best buy.
Anti-Fatigue Foam Mats
Anti-fatigue mats are perfect for anyone with a shop of any size. Sure, you can always make yours with spare carpet pad. But if there’s any chance your shop or work space will get wet, sooner or later you’ll wish you used something that wasn’t essentially a big sponge.
Besides being easy on the feet and a relief to the lower back, these affordable mats are popular with DIY costumers and makers, who cut and glue them into elaborate costumes and sculptures.
Grinding and Cut-off Wheels
Harbor Freight is a fantastic source for high-use, short-lifespan tools. A great example is cutting and grinding wheels. As anyone who’s used an angle grinder knows, the life expectancy of a cutting wheel is short at best. More expensive cutting wheels last a little longer, but for an average DIYer this gain is almost unnoticeable.
Pick up your cutting discs at Harbor Freight, and over the course of a few projects you’ll see significant savings. This holds true for rotary tool grinding and cutting discs as wells as angle grinder cut-off wheels.
Several of the items on this list are disposable by nature. These simply-built items are often used by the big box hardware stores as profit generators, with big markups compared to other items. But if you don’t expect to get more than one use out of a tool, why pay four or five times the Harbor Freight price?
A chip brush is a perfect example. Designed to be used and thrown away, chip brushes don’t need to be high quality because they’re used for projects like stripping furniture, where it doesn’t matter if their line is ragged or if the brush fibers fall out. There’s no reason to pay a premium for chip brushes, yet big name hardware stores will often charge a dollar or more for a single brush, while savvy DIYers pay a fraction of that at Harbor Freight.
Nine-Piece SAE Combination Wrench Set
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Pittsburgh brand on this list, and for good reason. One of the more reliable brands carried by Harbor Freight, Pittsburgh tools aren’t the cheapest in the store, but they’re often the best bang for the buck.
With quality metal that won’t chip or break easily and a hand-friendly design, this wrench set is worth checking out. Of course, once you pick up these wrenches, you’ll need someplace to store them. Consider grabbing a Harbor Freight tools chest, or build your own wrench storage tote.
Airbrush and Compressor Kit
Perfect for learning the basics of airbrush technique, this no-frills, high-value kit provides a compressor and brush for less than half the cost of many high-end airbrushes alone. This kit is great for trying out an airbrush for DIY hobbies and detail work such as wall stencils.
If you find that you enjoy airbrushing, you may want to upgrade to a brush with finer controls. Even then, you’ll find the compressor runs like a champ.
Even those who aren’t fans of Harbor Freight tools have to admit that their floor jack selection is top-notch. If you’re a DIYer considering buying a floor jack and stands for home car maintenance, do not whip out that credit card until you’ve seen what Harbor Freight has to offer.
Notice that the jack pictured is another Pittsburgh brand product. Once again, this line isn’t at the top or bottom of the price list, but offers solid quality at a reasonable price.
Your First Welding Rig
MIG welding is an intimidating task, but is actually within the grasp of the DIY community. Welding is certainly a skill that requires safety precautions, but you can get started with relatively simple, common-sense procedures. And the most expensive upfront purchase is the welder itself. Whether you’re interested in welding for yourself, or considering a MIG kit as a gift, check out the specs on this Vulcan unit and compare them to the brands at the more expensive stores.
Like many or the great deals at Harbor Freight, if you want to make welding a career, you may want to invest in a more elaborate rig. But for the average DIY enthusiast? The HF balance of price and practicality is just right.
Write-Off or Loaner Tools
In every DIYer’s life, there is at least one friend, relative or co-worker who you know will always call you when they need a tool. Just as anyone with a pickup truck will inevitably get asked to help their friends move, a DIYer with a workshop full of tools will be asked to loan them out.
When you get these requests, make your life easier and your relationships less stressful by reaching for a less expensive tool. If your brother-in-law is careless with a $19 drill, it’s no big deal. But if he drops your $600 Festool circular saw? Well, let’s just say the holidays will be chillier than usual.
For this kind of disposable tool, almost anything from Harbor Freight is a good buy. This is also one of the areas where you’ll see pros buying in bulk. An especially attractive strategy for contractors with a large number of subs, Harbor Freight provides a low-risk alternative to stocking materials that might walk away with the latest hire. And after all, if your cheap tool does walk away or get damaged, then it’s a good opportunity to add it to your gift wish list, right?
Corded Reciprocating Saw
There is an endless string of excellent uses for reciprocating saws, but all have one thing in common: they don’t require precision. These are tools that rely on amps and a solid build, rather than precision machining. As a result, Harbor Freight’s options get the job done at a price that’s light on your wallet.
The price of Harbor Freight’s corded reciprocating saws make them the perfect tool for tearing into a project. If you only need a Harbor Freight reciprocating saw for light work, they’ll last for quite a while. For full-on demo work they’ll burn up quickly, but not before you get more than your money’s worth.
Reciprocating Saw Blades
And while you’re getting a reciprocating saw, grab some blades for it as well. This may seem obvious, but not all blades are created equally. There are a huge range of factors that make picking the right blade a detailed science. And many of the saw blades you’ll find at Harbor Freight aren’t great choices for precision work. But the Harbor Freight reciprocating saw blades are a good purchase.
The fine finish blades for circular saws or miter saws need to have precisely cut teeth, and a durable body. Quality blades for these saws are expensive, and are often re-sharpened rather than replaced. Reciprocating saw blades, on the other hand, are designed to be used and abused. And Harbor Freight’s selection of blades is more than up to that task.
Nitrile gloves are a must-have for anyone working with chemicals. If you’re working on your car or with caustic cleaners, go ahead and pick up a box of gloves. They’re easy to keep around. And thanks to outlets such as Harbor Freight, they’re more affordable than ever. Here are even more reasons why you should keep nitrile gloves on hand.
Deep-Impact Socket Set
Several items on this list are disposable or cheap, but that’s not always the case. Case in point: this deep impact socket set from Pittsburgh. These are high-quality socket heads, well-built and ready to withstand the wear and tear of an impact wrench.
Gearheads can sit around for hours arguing about the best ways to find the ideal socket set, but ultimately quality and value win out. If you have an impact wrench and are looking for a quality socket set, this is the deal for you.
If you work on sites without electric power, or your equipment keeps tripping breakers inside your home, then you need a portable generator. When it’s time to pick the best power generator for your needs, don’t miss the great deals that Harbor Freight offers on these solid units.
For a contractor who’s paying a five-man crew on site, it may make sense to shell out an extra $1,200 for a generator with identical specs for some peace of mind. But if your only expense is the generator itself, Harbor Freight is a no-brainer.
If you’re hauling materials from the lumber yard or hardware store, a trailer will let you get things done faster and more efficiently. Selecting a trailer hitch involves balancing quality and affordability, as well as an understanding of the kinds of items and trailers you’ll be towing.
If you’re planning on standard towing for a DIYer, be sure to check out this dependable three-ball hitch and see if it’s a good fit for your needs.
Shop vacuums are a near-necessity for most DIYers. When you’re working on projects in our own home, it’s vital to keep the work space clean and free of debris. A wet/dry vac can serve as an everyday vacuum and cleaning tool, as well as an emergency sump pump and even a shop air filter.
But to be a useful emergency tool, one has to be available when you need it. Luckily, at the Harbor Freight price point, these wet/dry vacs are affordable enough to even keep multiple vacuums around the house.
We all know that no matter what kind of job you’re tackling, safety is paramount. But let’s face it: Sometimes it’s just too easy to not grab your safety gear. It’s so easy to tell yourself you’re just going to cut one more plank, or fire a few nails, so why bother running to the other room to grab your safety equipment? Unfortunately, that argument sounds pretty thin when you’re sitting in the emergency room.
Harbor Freight provides safety equipment for DIYers at a price low enough to have it everywhere you DIY. With Harbor Freight, you can always have your equipment at hand. Safety glasses are one affordable and practical safety item to keep around in multiples.
Collapsible Multi-Task Ladder
One of the most common hurdles for a DIY enthusiast is doing a wide variety of chores on your own. Ladders are key tools for many tasks. But for someone working solo, an overly long or bulky ladder can be unwieldy, hard to store and impossible to transport in a smaller vehicle. A foldable and/or collapsible multi-task ladder makes overhead work easier for the DIYer.
Project Kits for Young DIYers
This balsa wood T-Rex skeleton is the kind of puzzle that builds skills and confidence at the same time. These affordably priced models are a great way to get kids started in DIY. The sticker price makes it less painful when the inevitable wreaking ball of youthful enthusiasm meets breakable parts. And the variety of options means that you can match a young person’s interests, from woodworking to electronics.