Harbor Freight Wood Tools

A Woodworkers Guide to Harbor Freight Wood Tools

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With over 1000 stores around the US it’s likely a Harbor Freight is within a hundred miles of you. And these stores offer budget friendly tools great for new woodworkers. In this article learn what Harbor Freight wood working tools are great finds and what you should consider buying elsewhere.

Whenever you can add to your woodworking tool collection it’s a good day. 

And, if you can buy a lesser-known brand from a merchant like Harbor Freight (and not sacrifice features) it’s an even better day.

From wood chisels to clamps and router bits Harbor Freight is a reliable source of woodworking and many other tools.

In this article you’ll discover a comprehensive breakdown of all Harbor Freight wood tools, with purchasing advice on:

  • Price
  • Key features
  • “Buy or Caution” advice for each tool
  • Harbor Freight brands
  • Amazon alternative generics
  • Brand names for each type of tool (eg. Dewalt)

What if I don’t have a Harbor Freight near me? Well, they offer online purchases. 

What Makes Harbor Freight Special

Habor Freight Discount Tools

So what’s the big deal with Harbor Freight? 

Aren’t they just a knock-off to the big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot?

Actually, they are. While the mainstream stores stick with mainstream brands, you’ll find Harbor Freight has lesser known brands bought from the same manufacturers that build name brand tools.

And that means savings passed on to…you.

Harbor Freight Brands

While you might be familiar with standard brands like Dewalt, Makita and Milwaukee – the popular woodworking brands from Harbor Freight include:

  • Bauer
  • Chicago Electric
  • Drill Master
  • Portland
  • Central Machinery
  • Hercules
  • Warrior
  • …and a variety of others

So how do I know if the tool is junk or worth the spend?

Reviews. 

And a lot of them, as similar to Amazon, you’ll find a wealth of user feedback on the Harbor Freight tools.

Harbor Freight Wood Tools

First, in order to help you decide what’s a great deal at Harbor Freight vs. what can (or should) be bought elsewhere this tool listing includes Amazon generic and brand name alternatives.

After 25+ years woodworking there’s always room for value tools. But cheap at the cost of missing needed features is never a good investment.

So, feel free to compare brands and then decide if the Harbor Freight wood tools on this list are something you’ll want to consider:

1. Harbor Freight Jigsaws

Harbor Freight

Amazon

Amazon Tacklife jigsaw

Amazon has multiple generics like this TACKLIFE with similar capability and price.

Key Features of a JIgsaw

In my experience, most woodworkers will turn to a jigsaw only occasionally. But, when you do, the following features are crucial:

  • Adjustable speed for harder or softer material
  • Oscillating blade to adjust how much “bite” the blade takes
  • Tool-free blade change 
  • Smooth bottom, large base plate

Harbor Freight Jigsaws

So let’s start off with introducing you to one of Harbor Freights (HF) more popular corded and cordless brands in the: Bauer 6.5 Amp Laser Line Jigsaw.

As a HF premier brand, Bauer tools represent a wide swath of Harbor Freight power tools. 

And this unit is HIGHLY reviewed as exceeding it’s entry-level pricing. It also checks the box on all the key features AND offers a laser guide light (in my experience, more gimmick than necessity…).

2. Wood Pipe Clamps

Harbor Freight

Amazon

Amazon Tacklife jigsaw

Amazon offers Pony, Bessey and Rockler pipe clamps that are comparable in quality.

Key Features of a Pipe Clamp

You can learn more in our woodworking clamp guide, but here’s what I look for in pipe clamps:

  • Wide base that won’t tip when you’re gluing wood panels
  • Tall stance to allow the handle to be operated OVER the bench without hitting
  • 3/4″ pipe since the smaller 1/2″ pipe will bend

Harbor Freight Pipe Clamps

Because pipe clamps have one job (glue wood together) there’s only a few variations in their design. 

And HF carries a pretty good selection:

  • 1/2″ and 3/4″ pipe
  • Professional-grade tall and wide stance
  • Entry-grade 3/4″ (these are cheaper and lack the “feet” found on the pro versions)

3. Harbor Freight Wood Routers

Harbor Freight

Amazon

WEN plunge router - Harbor Freight Wood router alternative

Amazon offers all the top brands, and budget friendly brands like WEN.

Key Features of a Router

Looking back over my tool purchases I’ve leaned towards high power plunge routers for my router table and Porter Cable fixed base routers. And mostly because I use them heavily for cabinet making and need features like:

  • Variable speed to control large raised panel bits
  • Micro-adjustment to make cabinet door rails and stiles
  • High HP for hours of continuous duty without stressing the router

Harbor Freight Routers

While HF offers a good selection of plunge, fixed base and trim routers I’d make a purchase decision based on:

  • If you are just starting out and won’t make cabinets or furniture, go for it. 
  • However, if you plan on making dovetail drawers, install the router in a router table or other complex projects then look elsewhere.

Planning to move to advanced woodworking projects? Due to limited features like adjustable speed (adapters required) on the Harbor Freight wood routers you’ll encounter issues down the road.

4. Drill Press

Harbor Freight

Amazon

Shop fox drill press - Harbor Freight Wood drill press alternative

Amazon brands range from Shop Fox to industry leaders like JET

Key Features of a Drill Press

While most woodworking uses a drill press infrequently, a few mortise and tenon or cabinet door drilling heavy projects will rely on it.

So, what should you look for? Well, to future-proof this drill consider:

  • Variable speeds for large to small drill bits
  • Easy to adjust table
  • Support for x-and-y axis vises
  • Maximum work-piece size (table to chuck)

Harbor Freight Drill Presses

Unless you projects will include machining metal or precision layouts, there just isn’t enough difference between brands to warrant the extra expense.

But, if you’re a fan of JET (it’s my table saw of 20 years) then you can always make a purchase decision on brand.

5. Pocket Hole Jigs

Harbor Freight

Amazon

Kreg pocket hole jig - Harbor Freight Wood pocket hole alternative

Amazon has ALL the variations of the popular Kreg jig and a cheaper generic

Key Features of a Pocket HOle Jig

First, if you are new to woodworking and DON’T own a pocket hole jig then it’s something you’ll want to add to your list.

Or, check out our pocket hole jig guide and start opening doors on a whole new world of projects.

Key features:

  • Drills holes at a precise angle and depth for installation of pocket holes in wood assembly
  • Depth control for varying thickness of wood
  • Clamps to hold wood in place

Harbor Freight Pocket Hole Jig

As a discount versus the Kreg system, the Harbor Freight wood pocket hole jig offers a cheaper entry point in an all aluminum body.

The catch? You’ll likely STILL be buying Kreg’s screws and clamps; and if you want to venture into their mini-size jigs it’s best to stick with Kreg to start.

6. Harbor Freight Scroll Saw

Harbor Freight

Amazon

WEN scroll saw - Harbor Freight Wood scroll saw alternative

For about the same money, Amazon will offer a generic WEN scroll saw.

Key Features of a Scroll Saw

First, of all the woodworking saws there isn’t a simpler or easier to use saw. And, for small, intricate cuts it’s a great way to start off woodworking.

Key features:

  • Deep throat to accommodate wide work pieces
  • Air blower to keep chips and sawdust away from the cut lines
  • Variable speed for cutting in a variety of woods
  • Smooth table that won’t scratch work pieces

Harbor Freight Scroll Saw Features

As a discount versus the Kreg system, the Harbor Freight version offers a cheaper entry point in an all aluminum body.

The catch? You’ll likely STILL be buying Kreg’s screws and clamps; and if you want to venture into their mini-size jigs it’s best to stick with Kreg to start.

7. Harbor Freight Planer

Harbor Freight

Amazon

Dewalt planer - Harbor Freight Wood planer alternative

Amazon carries the top selling Dewalt two speed - you don't know you need 2 speeds until you use it...

Key Features of a Planer

For many a planer is a big ticket purchase much like a table saw.

And you don’t want to replace it after a few years use.

So what’s the features you may regret not getting? Well, consider:

  • Two speed input speed to allow you to SLOW THE FEED RATE for smoother cuts. And less risk of knot blowout, snipe and wood chipping.
  • Three  cutter knifes not two for smoother cuts and more contact with the wood (less vibration)
  • Long feed tables to reduce snipe at the ends of the boards

Harbor Freight Planer

While I recommend the Dewalt for it’s enhanced performance, in the field of off-brand planers the Bauer from Harbor Freight will work. 

But, if you have more ambitious woodworking plans then invest extra few hundred in the Dewalt DW735x 

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Harbor Freight tools good quality?

Harbor Freight carries many brands and pride themselves in lower cost tools vs. brand name alternatives. Through an eliminate-the-middleman approach they advertise tools made by the same manufacturers that supply well known brands.

Are Harbor Freight tools made in China?

The brands and manufacturers that Harbor Freight uses are frequently made in China. But does that mean they are lower quality than the (also made in China) well known brands? Well, Harbor Freight has been around a long time and expects the same quality of the tools they sell as the brands that order from similar overseas manufacturers.

Harbor Freight Return Policy

While not unexpected as they compete with big box store policies, Harbor Freight has a generous 90-day return policy

The only catch? Unlike Amazon their online returns aren’t as seamless (or free).

And the store manager has some say in accepting a return (while I haven’t tested it out, think damaged goods…).

Summary

Hopefully this article was helpful in helping you discover and decide what Harbor Freight wood working tools are worth investing in.

Keep in mind Harbor Freight has a strong brand to protect and their tools reflect that quality. But similar to cars and trucks there are just higher priced tools on the market with MORE features you may not always need.

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