Generally I’m not a fan of the box store chains. Which is odd–because I am a fan of having more money in my wallet. Or my significant other’s wallet. These places definitely have the advantage of having lower prices. Cruising by Harbor Freight the other day, I took a good 45 minute walk through to check out their claim of “Quality Tools at Ridiculously Low Prices”. To be entirely honest I do not know a lot about Harbor Freight Tools other than they opened a store here last month in Missoula and they have tools. You could probably open a store that sold French Literature, Sandra Bullock movies, “Precious Moments” figures, and tools–I would still probably check out the tools. Mostly–I wanted to check out Harbor Freight Tools for an item that I have been after for a little while. An airbrush compressor. Right–I know, I can hear the peals of laughter from here–and no I am not making awesome airbrushed eagle decals or anything like that. I had a need to paint some wood without the ugly brush strokes–so there ya go. Since I am not a professional artist, do not have a jacked up truck, or have any item I would ever airbrush eagles on–I had two basic requirements for my purchase:
It had to work.
It had to be cheap.
Check(ish) and check. Installing the filter and hoses on the airbrush compressor I cracked the housing where the airbrush screws into the fitting on the compressor. Ugh. It was leaking air like an ignited Hindenburg–and I figured since I broke it–I was out my 40 bucks. This is where I give Harbor Freight high marks. I walked back into the store–told them what happened, and in under 3 minutes had a new compressor and was out the door. Nice. I like good service, and I like no hassle returns/exchanges. All of this I encountered at my local Harbor Freight.
I’ve used the compressor multiple times–and it works just fine. I’m not even sure it has a “brand” name–but I think the simplified Chinese is: ????. And that is the rub with Harbor Freight–don’t expect (I found this to be true with power tools especially) to find brand names you recognize. But–they do have a wildly diverse selection of things that you won’t find in other places. I found everything from a great selection of clamps to a knock off version of my dog’s Chuck-It. (They have a pet section oddly enough).
I also suspect that Harbor Freight Tools gets things in from time to time that they don’t plan on stocking, or get a deal on a shipment–or steal it–I really don’t care–but I found bottles of Gorilla Brand wood glue for a ridiculously low price–so I snatched up a few 18 oz. bottles. Finding the glue was unexpected, and I think I may have experienced the near euphoria that consumes my wife when she finds a shoe sale. (Don’t tell her–I love shoes too. I freaking loooove shoes).
From a pro carpenter’s standpoint: You try to save money on tools where you can–but I’ve always found it to be better in the long run to own quality tools that you care for with proper maintenance. I would be remiss to offer a long-term judgment on the compressor I bought, but I wouldn’t go to Harbor Freight for a tool I would be using day in and day out. Having said that–my needs and demands on a tool might be vastly different than yours–and who knows? Maybe you can find your Holy Gorilla for your next Home Fixation.