Sunday, December 05, 2010

Miscellany: Harbor Freight Tools

If you're the least bit worried about the massive trade imbalance between the U.S. and China, walking into a "Harbor Freight Tools" location is like stepping into a nightmare. The walls are lined with Chinese-made tools fresh off some shipping container from Taizhou, and everything is geared towards being as cheap as possible - just check out their marketing:

In a rather outlandish display of cynicism, the majority of Harbor Freight's products are branded with names intended to sound American, like "Chicago Electric" or "Pittsburgh Tools," as if they could fool people into thinking the tools actually come from Chicago or Pittsburgh.

Now, I realize most of the stuff in the average Home Depot is foreign-made, too, but the tools I've bought from Harbor Freight are even more crudely finished and unrefined then the big box stores, so they don't even use the good Chinese factories to make their stuff. My Lyman-branded digital calipers, for example, are tighter and more reliable then the Harbor Freight digital calipers. My Mexican-made Stanley Prybar has better fit and finish than the generic chunks of metal on sale at Harbor Freight.

Does that mean everything in there is junk? No; there are some decent tools on sale if you search the web. IMO, though, if you're going to outsource our manufacturing, at least do it right.


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