Several people wrote in about a new line of Harbor Freight Hercules cordless power tools.
The first person who mentioned them said they looked like Dewalt rip-offs. I do see resemblances in the tools, specifically how the handles and battery packs are shaped. There are very strong similarities.
I suppose there shouldn’t be any surprise then, for Harbor Freight to be drawing a comparison between their Hercules cordless drill and Dewakt’s DCD780C2 kit (which is now said to be built in the USA).
As an aside, I’d consider Dewalt’s newer mass market-aimed DCD777, a compact brushless kit to be a more neutral comparison. It’s nearly as fast and powerful as the DCD780. It actually beats the Harbor Freight 20V Hercules drill kit on price too; the Dewalt kit is $99 with (2) battery packs.
What strikes me as odd is that Harbor Freight is calling the Hercules a 20 Volt cordless lineup. Not 20V Max?
What’s also odd is that there are several new or at least new to me 18V-class lineups – Hercules, “Earthquake XT” that looks to be a Milwaukee M18 clone, and a new lower-spec’ed Bauer Hypermax lineup.
For these new Hercules tools, it looks like Harbor Freight duplicated Dewalt’s 20V Max ergonomics and battery pack styling as close as they could. Maybe the battery packs are even physically compatible?
I’d ask someone at Harbor Freight for more information, but I haven’t had any communication with them for several years. They once asked about our review process, and I gave them the usual spiel, about how we test tools objectively and fairly and won’t accept money, and never heard back.
The new cordless drill is said to be on-par with Dewalt’s older DCD780 model. Instead of (2) 1.5Ah batteries that come with that kit, this Hercules drill comes with a single 2.5Ah battery pack.
On paper, the Hercules drill has competitive specs.
- 1/2″ Jacobs chuck
- 0-600/0-2000 RPM max speed
- 550 in-lbs max torque
- All metal gear construction
- 7-3/8″ height
- Weighs 3.6 lbs
- 60 minute charge time for 2.5Ah battery pack
- LED light with delay
Price: $110, on sale for $100
They say it “compares” at $179, but I think that’s a little misleading.
The Dewalt 20V Max brushless DCD777 is currently $99 via Amazon. I’d much sooner buy that Dewalt kit than this Harbor Freight Hercules one.
What about Milwaukee’s seasonal bargain 2606-21L kit? It’s still $99 at Home Depot and comes with a compact cordless drill, worklight, 1 battery, and a charger.
The Hercules drill kit, according to Harbor Freight specs, is a little faster and more powerful. And it comes with a larger battery pack. But the Milwaukee kit costs less.
I’m thinking that they designed their Hercules cordless drill with Dewalt’s DCD780C2 kit in mind for direct comparison. I’d guess that it was a cherry-picked comparison, but given how it looks a lot like Dewalt’s model, the comparison intention could have influenced the product design.
There’s a Hercules cordless hammer drill as well.
And there’s also a Harbor Freight Hercules cordless impact driver, with max torque spec’ed at 1500 in-lbs.
I bet they’re not going to draw any comparisons with Dewalt’s DCF885C1 impact driver kit, which is still at its seasonal price of $99 at Amazon. The Harbor Freight Hercules model costs more – $110 – although it probably goes on sale for $99. It’s said to be a little more powerful, and also comes with a 2.5Ah-rated battery compared to Dewalt’s 1.5Ah. But for the same price, which would you buy, the Dewalt or the Harbor Freight Hercules?
I also spotted new (or new to me) Hercules power tool accessories – drill bits, impact screwdriver bits, and masonry bits. What I found both curious and somewhat ironic, most of the features of the Hercules drill bit set had their own trademarked branding. There’s the BlueBraid titanium coating, StarterPoint tips, and Tri-Flat shanks.
The Hercules drill bit set is said to deliver Legendary Performance.
I don’t have the greatest impression of Harbor Freight, especially in regard to power tools.
But Harbor Freight’s new Hercules cordless tools say all the right things, on paper. There’s also described as being jobsite tough. I’m also seeing legendary performance being thrown around for both the tools and new Hercules power tool accessories.
It’s hard to take these tools seriously, first given Harbor Freight’s reputation of cheap throwaway tools, but second because these look to be heavily copied designs. They’re too similar to Dewalt’s tools to simply be “inspired.” Color the Hercules tools yellow, and I’m sure there would be confusion. The battery pack looks similar enough to where it might be mistaken as Dewalt’s, and the same with the drills and impact driver, based on the shape of the handle.
That wouldn’t be a very good start for the new Hercules cordless tool lineup, but here’s the question that’s nagging me. What if Harbor Freight is seeking to produce jobsite tough tools? What if they’re serious about delivering legendary performance?
The tools look good on paper. I’m curious. If I could forget about the similarities with Dewalt’s styling, I might even be excited.
But something else is holding me back from getting excited. These tools, and the Bauer Hypermax and Earthquake XT tools, look to have been designed to “compare” with higher priced tools. So were they designed to do similar work for less money? If so, is anything about the tools special?
When a professional tool brand comes out with a new tool, thought has gone into each component. Every design aspect results from a deliberate decision.
So when something is copied, some of the “why” can be lost, leading to something that looks similar but is not quite the same. In regard to tools, this can mean compromises in performance, durability, runtime, ergonomics, or overall quality.
What will Harbor Freight do next with their Hercules lineup? More tools, or will they stop here?
And what about the “based on actual product testing” part of their comparison claims? Whose product testing? Because we all know how objective, fair, and balanced tool brands are when comparing their tools against other brands’.
Do you want to learn more about these tools, and if so, what do you want to know?
Thank you to everyone who sent in tips about the new tools!
Harbor Freight potentially having an acceptable line of cordless power tools…Craftsman becoming even more irrelevant…Sears going out of business…
If that doesn’t illustrate how crazy everything is, I don’t know what does.
Either way, though. I buy a lot of throw away junk at Harbor Freight simply because one is close by, and they have all kinds of light duty automotive SST’s that you’ll use maybe 3 times for the life of a vehicle…of which are practically free. What i do notice is that every time i’m in there people are buying a lot of power tools, all of which are laughable rip offs of a more well known brand. A $25 hammer drill when you just need to drill a couple holes in some brick or concrete is hard to ignore for the literally sub-DIY type of person. If I knew I was going to use a tool for one simple short job and most likely never use it again (the exact motivation for some of the automotive crap I need from there), I’d have no problem getting a power tool there and putting a free sign on it as soon as it’s unplugged (and…no longer smoking)
I think there is a market for a ‘disposable’ power tool, but I agree with the post in that this seems to venture into a ‘real’ power tool arena…of which I don’t think many consider Harbor Freight a seller of.
I do not believe you could really compare craftsman to harbor freight. From what I see craftman is a name not a good tool anymore.
Craftsman is chinese made, lack the grip when it comes to some wrenches and ratchets go to pieces easily and are hard to replace. You have to send the damaged piece in to receive considerably inferior piece in its place.
I grew up on Craftsman and lived it. But with the changes I would buy a Harbor Freight over Craftsman today.
What makes this product better is the price of the second and third battery packs. half the price or better for a nice size battery
The charger allows the back up battery to be left on it for longer amounts of time .
So not only is the upfront cost better but the real long term is much better with the battery proces.
For me its all about those extra battery costs.
Dewalt and all the other name brands have batteries that run up to $150 or $159.99.
I cannot wait for a reason to purchase one of the tools. So far the HF tools I have are still working. Those that did not were replaced.
All Harbor Freight power tools and batteries only come with a 90 day warranty. Dewalt is typically 3 years and Milwaukee is 5 years. I still have my very first Dewalt 14.4 volt 1/2 drill which I’ve had for over 18 years and it still works flawlessly. I replaced the original batteries about 2 years ago and have since added many other Dewalt tools to my collection and even have adapters to use 20v batteries on my 18v tools.
Yea, that 90 day warranty worries me. The Pittsburgh sockets and wrenches have lifetime warranties…so far, so good. But almost everytime I am in HF someone is returning a power tool.
Steve NEXTech LLC
Just FYI, the cells in the 2.5 Ah pack from HF are Samsung SDI 25R and they are the same as ones used in other 2.5Ah and 5Ah packs from the leading manufacturers of tools. They are also not separated from the + and – terminals on the outside of the case by Transistors on the inside ( which can be a failure point, Ryobi a prime example of “dead” pack with good cells) which is the same design as DeWalt and Makita. Since there is no circuitry in the charger that will disable the battery (Makita) and there is internal balancing of the cells preventing the charger from denying charge based on cell imbalance (DeWalt) that leads me to believe that these batteries should hold up better and longer than some of the major tool brands. The battery case is also made out of a mixture of plastic and fiberglass making it much stronger than the ABS plastic used in packs such as the DeWalt. Now will all this result in a long-lasting pack, one only knows and I guess we’ll find out in a matter of time. Just my take… I’ll be picking up some of the 5Ah packs for parts, upgrades and repairs with out a doubt.
They have a lifetime warranty if you pay for it. Its only 14.99 and if anything happends to it you bring it back and they replace it i bought a grinder 2 weeks ago and let me say im in the tile business so i put my tools thru hell and i still havent had any problems with it since then
Anyone who says they would buy HF over Craftsman is an utter fool. Surely nobody in their right mind believes there is a minuscule, modicum of comparison. I buy HF tools on occasion. But I will never pick HF over any brand name. I certainly wouldn’t brag about it.
I disagree, I’ve been beating the dogsnot out of my Harbor Freight wrenches, sockets, etc for at least a decade now, and have only broken a handful. I break Craftsman weekly. FYI, the old Craftsman, when they were good, are now branded Husky.
If the warranty, is as good as it says for 2 years why would you buy, a China made Milwaukee or higher price brand. Just use the heck out of and take it back to the store, and get another one.
I started buying from places such as Harbor freight and Northern tool because of the crap sold by Sears and Fastbuck so don’t call anybody a fool for not using that Craftmans Crapola. You’re the one who likes that junk,.
I too have some HF cordless power tools that are still working!!(2 years and counting) Craftsman is just a name and not one of reliability anymore I might add!
I picked up a Hercules 20V Impact Driver this morning and have driven 100 3/8 x 3 1/2 inch lag screws today without pilot holes into telephone poles. It took 2 charged batteries to do this. It drove them tight enough that you had to really bare down with a ratchet to tighten them any more. The Dewalt, Porter Cable and Ryobi drivers we had been using could not drive them as deep without help.
You criticism of dewalt, porter cable, and ryobi is not saying much. Why are you driving into telephone poles? Nobody else has the right to. Utility workers would have company tools and not hercules. Was the dewalt a brushless and newer model as were the others? Porter is now a cheap arm of Dewalt. Ryobi is nothing special anyway. I would not speak highly of dewalt either anyway. If it beat a comparable milwaukee now that would be saying something. The new 12v 1/4 hex impact 2nd gen (3rd gen?) from milwaukee that I just got, rivals or beats most 18v 1/4 hex impacts on the market. Then go to the m18 version. The new m12 3/8 socket impact does 250 ft lbs. (that would be 3000 in inch pounds)
You do know that you can buy utility poles for your own use, right?
Take a closer look at the hammer drill photo and it clearly says Jacobs on the chuck, if nothing else that’s a positive sign of some quality making it’s way into HF.
Wow, didn’t notice that.
Jacobs makes the majority of chucks on the market for professional and DIY drills it really doesn’t mean anything towards the quality of the drills.
I’ve always thought that tools that come to/out of harbor freight are made in the same chinese shops that make __________ (insert nearly any name brand) and the differences is they step down the egronomics of design and use parts that fail the ____ spec test for production.
Ie – Motor should spin 1500 RPM under 300 in/lbs torque while drawing 4.5 amps – but this motor draws 4.7. It fails the ________ test requirement but it goes in the blue bin and it moved over to go in the HF drill. etc etc.
And that’s how they makeup the cost differences but offer comparable tools.
To be fair if you were going to copy a tool brand wouldn’t it be Dewalt, Milwaukee, or Makita – sure it would.
The battery intrigues me though since i have dewalt stuff. Might be a decent replacement some day
Harbor freight may have started that way. But at this point they’ve grown plenty big enough to hire factories to make stuff just for them.
I completely agree with this. They can certainly spec their own stuff…but why not get basically the same thing for a fraction of the price, and return it under their lifetime warrantee if it fails. For the things you use constantly, go high quality/heirloom….for infrequent stuff, get something cheap. Actually, it’ll be a sad day if they ever stop making their tool carts, which are right up there with the professional stuff.
despite popular belief there tends to only be so many companies that make things. Specific things. So no Harbor Freight is not big enough to start up a new electric motor company – vs the cost savings of just picking up from someone else already in the market. Even further – why spec your own specific motor when you can say give me the ____ % rejects of the motors you make for ________.
They might not be taking the rejects – but when Big maker ____ makes millions of tool something. grabbing the failures for your 100,000 tools is a smart plan.
There’s a tool teardown channel on YouTube that recently looked at the HF Hercules grinder; it’s surprisingly well made for HF, apparently.
I was going to post this but you beat me to it. I will say it seems well made. But when u can get an eatablished brand for $10 more it is hard to pull the trigger. Esp with a non existant warranty (only 90 days) once u add in the hf warranty plan it costs more than a small makita/dewalt/bosch. Maybe they are betting on the coupon croud to see the value.
Can’t use the coupons for Hercules or the other new one
Amateur garage hacker
If you get some of the ‘HR coupon apps’ (I think there are like 5 of them out now, plus the 3rd party coupon website for HF, then there is almost always a $10 Hercules one in there. As an aside, those apps rock, they actually save me trips to HF because I no longer feel compelled to go use one before it expires (because the apps topically have multiple coupons for things with progressivly overlapping expiration dates (so effectively perpetual in a lot of things); plus I spend a lot less time looking at printed coupons since I can usually find them faster in the app anyway; and, you never show up at HF having left the coupons at home as long as you have your phone with you. I know, I’m a cheap-ass shopper.
It needs to cost a lot less and then it could be an entry level tool for a DIYer just getting started. Maybe if they put it on sale for $75 and with the extra 20% off coupon it would be a good way to introduce to this niche market.
I was hesitant about Kobalt cordless, but I now own their brushless circ saw and recently got their jigsaw. Their batteries are much cheaper. I like the circular saw a lot, better than my other cordless saws, including dewalt and makita. But I wouldn’t have gotten it if it weren’t on sale for around $70 not including the batteries and charger. Haven’t tried the jigsaw yet, but will soon. Again, trying it at the extremely reduced sale price. Lowe’s had to lower the prices on these tools, so they are more than competitive with DeWalt, Makita, etc is the way to do it. It will take time for word to get out that these have unique and useful features and very reasonably priced on sale.
One thing that Kobalt did better with this was that their new line is well designed and unique. It had features I wanted that the others didn’t have. Different than pretending to be something else. I think that’s a mistake unless the quality is decent and the price is much lower. I have gotten some HF items (though not power tools) that were knockoffs/similar and I’ve been happy with them. I looked at the lists of the “best” and “worst” of HF to find these, though.
Unfortunately the recent 20% and 25% off coupons I’ve gotten from HF exclude the Hercules brand in the fine print.
You will laugh, but I have a Harbor Freight 10.8v Lithium drill that is still going strong, on the original battery, for 10 years. If that battery ever gives out, I’m screwed, but it has been a great tool for me. Other HF electric tools have not lasted 6 months in my shop. Too bad they don’t make this one anymore.
Hard to know what to think until some of these get tested objectively.
I posted about the possibility of battery cross compatibility over on the Community Forum site:
1. Why does Harbor Freight keep coming out with new battery systems? How many do they have at this point, 8 or more? Why would anyone buy into this? Why not just make them all compatible?
2. Can you get a product tour of the Harbor Freight factory like you have for Milwaukee and DeWalt? I’d be interested to find out about what the working conditions are in those Chinese factories.
If I had to guess , HF doesn’t have a factory anywhere. Their parent company (Central Purchasing LLC.) is probably aptly named – and I’d bet they just go out and see what they can buy from whom. They may have changed battery platforms because they changed OEMs. On a larger scale Home Depot, Lowes and Sears before them – all source their tools from different OEM’s who can meet their needs in terms of quantity, price, delivery, specs etc. So if you look at Husky brand tools at HD or Kobalt tools at Lowes or Craftsman tools at Sears you will find that they are produced by several different OEM’s.
1: Because they aren’t designing the batteries/systems. They are buying cheap stock off no-name manufacturers in China. So factory X is building tools for DeWalt, and has spare stock of QC’d components, they copy the battery design as well, and HF has a new line of tools.
1 I think this along with Bauer is their first 18v Lithium line. I can only assume they are cross compatible. I think them and Dewalt are crazy for pushing NiCads as long as they did.
2 It would never happen. Just like we will never see a tour of DeWalt or Milwaukees Chinese factories. It can really only hurt them so they have no interest in doing it.
DeWalt has continued in NiCads for as long as they have because the cold weather performance of Li-Ion wasn’t as good. Yes, it’s a niche, but it was a big enough niche to stay in. Note that DW isn’t bringing any new tools out in NiCads though.
First generation lithium had issues with cold but most power tool companies are on third and even in some cases sixth generation of lithium which outperform NiCad in cold and hot environments. Dewalt continues to produce NiCad batteries do to the fact they still have a huge customer base that hasn’t changed over to lithium.
They actually look decent for harbor freight power tools. Compared to the bulky and toy-like appearance of the Chicago electric, Hercules tools visibly look pleasing. I would be interested in seeing more of these, mostly just to see how they are. However I will forever and always be a dewalt guy. (And Milwaukee m12!)
I would like to see more reviews of HF’s Bauer tools.
On the other hand however, I would thorougly enjoy seeing Dewalt go after HF for design infringement. It seems unlikely but would be entertaining.
How can a brand new product have “legendary performance”. If they’d lay off the hyperbole and let the product stand for itself, I would be more impressed.
We just got a couple of the new Dewalt brushless hammerdrill kits and they are a phenomenal tool. It’s the fastest/hardest-hitting hammerdrill I’ve ever used. We mount lots of equipment on brick and concrete walls and these blow our others away. They are very loud though, you need muffs with them because the hammerdrill part is so shrill.
There actually were Hercules drills — don’t know if Harbor Freight bought the name or not, and they were definitely not “legendary.” They looked a lot like the early Ryobi drills.
The new 20-25% coupons already state that they cannot be used on Bauer, Earthquake, and Hercules. Shame since they would have been a good deal otherwise.
I wouldn’t mind an objective review of the HF Bauer and Hercules tools either. Would be nice to have objective information about whether they are actually meant for work or “one time” use. (Even if it does go against my rule of “don’t buy anything that runs on a battery from HF!”)
If I had to jump on a “low cost” brand I don’t see how you can beat the Ryobi lineup though. Although, I’ve been spoiled by the longevity of my DeWalt XRP tools and will likely replace them with more DeWalt when the batteries finally give up the ghost.
Nothing Harbor Freight does surprises me these days.
Considering they have more than 500 stores and are growing gives them a lot of leverage with tool manufacturers in Asia. Something Craftsman no longer has, as eluded to by jtr165. HF will continue to add stores improve upon their product offering as long as their customers are willing to shell out their hard-earned for tools of “adequate” quality. Most people I know have shopped there for a variety of tools, despite claiming otherwise. I’m guilty too and have been satisfied with the handful of tools I’ve purchased there.
These jobsite tough and legendary performance claims are a bit hard to believe though. This from a company that includes an extra set of motor brushes with their miter saws. In the past they they have offered inferior quality products and made no apologies. At least they are kind enough to include instructions on how to replace those motor brushes when they break or wear out. (I bought for a friend of mine!)
I’ve also noticed a lot of their locations are old Sears Hardware or Hometown store locations. This is pretty smart of HF. I’m sure the properties were cheap and the small store footprint attracts people who don’t want to trek around a 250,000 sq.ft home center to buy tools.
Time will tell how long this new battery platform lasts and what level of performance they delivery. For now, I’ll stick with what I’ve got and keep an eye on Toolguyd for more updates.
I just got a 98179 drill.
Included in the box which has “1 year limited warranty” printed on it, is a set of replacement brushes. The manual reiterates the 1 year warranty, but says brushes must be replaced by a “qualified” technician.
Since the manual has no replacement instructions, “qualified” must mean able to replace the brushes without instructions. 😀
I have several Chicago Electric power tools. I’ve never bought the cheaper Drill Master alternative from HF, and have been happy with the price/performance. I gor them when I had specific immediate projects, they did what I needed, and they paid for themselves vs renting a beat in tool. I don’t see how a light DIYer/homeowner can go wrong if a HF store is nearby.
If I were a professional power tool user I MIGHT feel differently, assuming that a name brand tool maintained replacement parts availability. That has NOT been the case except for top line industrial power tools. It sure isn’t for Craftsman.
The only constant is change.
Sorry. I had to…
I have no doubt that these new Harbor Freight tools are actually made by SBD, using DeWALT designs.
SBD does this for MANY In-House lines here in Canada. Canadian Tire has a house brand called Mastercraft, with variant lines Mastercraft Maximum and another Mastercraft line that they only had a short time, Mastercraft Plus or something like that.
They were, and still are, 100% DeWALT tools, recoloured, with a different logo. The OFFICIAL designs have extra plastic in certain places to suit Mastercraft’s Design Ethic, but the specs are identical to DeWALT, and use all the same features. The Lithium Ion batteries, the chucks, the blade releases, the multi-directional blades, the ergonomic handles (though one or two of the drills have an extra cm or two larger grip area sometimes.)
The only difference here is that Canadian Tire never compares the two companies outright, and they never deny that they had a high-end manufacturer make the line for them. Stanley, Black and Decker, and DeWALT all get recoloured for Mastercraft and Mastercraft Maximum tools. There’s even a couple Mastercraft Maximum Black Edition air compressors that are dead ringers for DeWALT and Campbell Hausfield compressors.
I honestly don’t see a problem with that. If you get it cheap, for some 16 year old, or 8 year old first-time tool user, then it will get used and abused. Then, when they’ve got some experience and comfort level, or you’ve realized they shouldn’t handle tools until they get a bit older, then splurge on the tool that it’s based on, knowing once it’s in their hands, that it will feel familiar and they will be comfortable with them, having killed the recolour long before they got this one.
I buy DeWALT most of the time, but I DO have set of 100+, or more, Stanley-Made Mastercraft-Branded/Coloured MANUAL Screwdrivers that have an extra comfort grip tweak that isn’t on the Stanley model they’re based on. I rarely use them, but I have them just in case. I trust them the same as if I had bought a Stanley set. THAT said, the second they break, snap, or fail me, I’ll buy the Stanley set they’re based on.
Harbor Freight (A name I have trouble typing as a Canadian, with the instinct to add the U in there…) seems to be doing exactly the same thing. These are DeWALT tools, Made for Harbor Freight. Probably the only problem here is that, as some other posters have mentioned, not all their designs are from the same companies. So, there’s not a single system across their entire line, like Canadian Tire did. They had multiple companies throw whatever they could at the wall to see what stuck, and we’ve seen a bunch of confusion out of it. And that’s the worst I can say about it… Plus… The company isn’t in Canada, so it’s not my problem if they do fail at it…
Totally false………SBD/DW did not make these tools for HF period.
How I know? I am a product development engineer at DW
What about MasterCraft. Many in Canada myself included believe dewalt builds all the MasterCraft junk
Can you send me a link of what tools you are referring too?
DW in general do not build anything for MasterCraft
There are thousands of products all resemble SBD products . LIT_Product_Category_PowerTools_MasterctaftDLP_en
Not a computer whiz but this is a link to the power tools section of MasterCraft . They also have a “pro” line they call maximum . Also appears to be Stanley black and Decker derived
Isn’t all this just how China works?
These Hercules tools aren’t ‘made by’ Dewalt, or SBD for that matter…but clearly lifted dimensional design and specs from certain Dewalt cordless tools. They very well could be made in the same Chinese factory, with the same material suppliers, but with varying QC to adjust costs.
I’m saying all this objectively; I’m not one overly concerned about ‘made in China’ anymore, it happened, it’s a reality, and this isn’t a rant. But China in general is notorious for knock offs, and ignoring international patent infringement. I’m just saying ‘made by’ isn’t usually the correct description…
‘A Chinese factory SBD/Dewalt contracted to make power tools also makes eerily similar tools for no-name brands’ isn’t as misleading, as SBD has nothing to do with it otherwise. I bet the allowance for this, in a lot of cases, is built into the contract to begin with. I don’t know the logistics of all these power tool makers, but from what I gathered about nearly anything Chinese related; The parent company never owns the actual factory, they let China compete internally in that regard….but they also accept limited control in terms of replicas.
It’s like that Fox company that makes iPhone’s. Every year a bunch of iPhone knock offs pop up identical to the genuine phones (software, and internal hardware differences aside). Wasn’t Fox the factory a few years ago that got in hot water about ‘subsidiary manufacturing’ occurring on location where iPhone’s were being built, but claiming failed parts were only being ‘researched’ for future tooling purposes? Something like that. From what I remember it ended with a ‘lost in translation’ kind of argument. They were building fake iPhone’s out of iPhone parts, when approached about it by the contracting company said it was ‘to build better future Apple products’, and the Chinese government basically said ‘yeah, this is acceptable’…and the questioning stalled…
They don’t even build the knock offs in different locations any more…and yet it’s still the ‘best’ place to manufacture things and also make money.
Anyway, again, it’s all just China
We live interesting times. Some say this expression derives from an ancient Chinese curse. Whether or not it does, the fact that China has become the superpower of consumer goods production is undeniable. Using another aphorism : every dog has its day – and it seems like its China’s time. On a cute note, however, I heard some time ago that a Chinese knockoff of a Japanese scooter was once popular in China – but folks complained that their scooters had a problem. It turned out that the “copy” had a defect. It then seems that a made in Malaysia knockoff started showing up – with the Chinese defect built in plus a new defect added on.
You’re a product development engineer WHERE though? In the USA, or Canada?
You can walk up to any store manager, write to any Canadian distributor, and even DeWALT Canada head office in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, ask them why the Mastercraft tools look, act, and behave so much like DeWALT tools, and the answer is “We have a contract with Canadian Tire. They pay us a licensing fee for the designs, we send their specs to the factory, out comes a licensed product. They just don’t have the right to be 100% compatible, so their designs usually have some different plastic for the interface.”
So, if Harbor Freight ISN’T doing this… They’re using the Chinese Knockoff method. What I mean by not having any doubt about DeWALT making them is just a trick of my dialect, where I’m from in Canada. I mean, if you told me DeWALT licensed these out to Harbor Freight (You say they haven’t, I believe you.) then I wouldn’t be surprised by that statement. Canadian Tire has a license deal with DeWALT. It’s not an anti-competition license, since Mastercraft, Mastercraft Maximum, and their tools, are a HOUSE Brand. No one sells them except Canadian Tire. Therefore, there IS NO Competition. If you don’t like a DeWALT tool sold at Canadian Tire, you can walk out the store and get the one you DO want, pretty much anywhere that sells DeWALT tools. But if you are buying Mastercraft, there’s only one place to go. Canadian Tire. DeWALT and SBD aren’t the only ones who Canadian Tire has a license with. As I said before, some of their air compressors are dead ringers for Campbell Hausfield models. Ones that aren’t made by SBD or DeWALT brands. Ask Campbell Hausfield about that, and they’ll say something similar. “It’s a licensed product.”
When it comes to warranty, Canadian Tire does it all in-house. Your Mastercraft Doodad broke, but it’s a licensed product from Company X? They ask you if you want to try another one, or switch brands. If you want a new one, if they still have the model, they do a straight swap. If you want, say, a DeWALT that looks to be the basis of the Mastercraft line, they often refund your money, which is never enough to buy the DeWALT/Original product, but now you can go buy it for around the price you paid for the Mastercraft one.
Yeah, you may well be in Product Development for DeWALT… but folks like Canadian Tire don’t need you for this process. Especially if you’re not in Canada, where our trade laws for these things are drastically different than the USA. Licensed products still make money for the parent company, under Licensing Fees.
So, you say Harbor Freight ISN’T doing this? Okay. Better call your bosses and see what they say about it. If it’s been hacked up, and proved not to be a licensed product… what are you talking to US for? Get going on the issue!
And while you’re at it… If you REALLY work for DeWALT Product Development… GET YOUR ASS IN GEAR AND RELEASE MORE PRODUCTS!!! WE’RE WAITING AGES FOR THEM!!
Thanks, I was able to look up the website….. nothing is made like that from DW
We own and build almost all of our products in house
Where it all began, Towson, Md USA
Not surprising. Home Depot does this with their Husky brand and Lowes with Kobalt. With Husky and Kobalt the UPC numbers are often the giveaway to who the OEM was. If the UPC prefix is 045564 then that compressor or air fitting was made by Campbell Hausfeld.
Thought I would chime in here. I recall, however not with complete certainty, that some of the mastercraft cordless drills/drivers were manufactured by 909 tools.
There are some clear similarities, but also some differences.
Just a Ontario guy who tries not to buy from CT.
They aren’t direct copies except of cosmetics (not that what they copy from is good.).
Every teardown on Youtube has found many differences in materials and internal components of the tools compared to the name brand ones. The battery packs that appear to be the same, aren’t interchangible, the batteries in them aren’t the same capacities, the regulation and charging circuitry are completely different. Tests of the battery packs prove that they don’t meet their own published specs.
If you buy cordless or corded power tools based on anything except cost of performance within a warranty period, you are kidding yourself. None of them are designed to survive a real world 8 foot drop from a ladder as the corded ones of 20 year ago easily did. Things like fiber reinforced nylon cases are used to contain motors that run excessively hot without melting so they can pass the minimal fire/safety tests of the rating agency.
The only problem with DeWalt is the loverly Yellow colour turns to crap after about a month on a job site…..that’s why most tradies in Australia buy Makita! 🙂
I think that that Harbor Freight saw an opportunity here. Remember that all of the big tool companies are moving to brushless motors. So they come out with a lower priced, brushed motor tool line where everyone else is leaving.
[i]What strikes me as odd is that Harbor Freight is calling the Hercules a 20 Volt cordless lineup. Not 20V Max?[/i]
“20V Max” is a trademark.
As far as whether or not the battery packs are physically compatible with DW’s 20v Max line, even if they are, unless those are quality cells in there, don’t care. IF they are quality cells, THEN I’ll let someone else risk their tools on the electronics in the pack.
For some reason that 20V max moniker has always driven me nuts. Maybe it’s because it feels like false advertising. There is no such thing as 20 volts in power tools. 19.8 V is as close as you can get. Same with the 12v max, it’s 10.8 volts. You know this marketing strategy only works on dumb Americans? That crap doesn’t fly in Europe. So, I wonder how can HF label it a 20 volt tool?
I also wonder what the Germans would think about HF using the “Bauer” name on their new red with black trim (looks a bit like Milwaukee) power tools. My German is kind of rudimentary (I can read a menu and order food – respond to a greeting – ask if someone speaks English – but not much else ) – but isn’t a bauer a farmer?
It’s to denote the line isn’t going the same direction as the 18 Volt XRP line. Yes, it’s market speak, not reality. But the Lithium Ion based batteries behave differently enough to require the Max lines to call themselves something else. Same reason DeWALT puts XR on the Brushless tools, and High-Capacity Batteries.
In Europe, the same thing happens. It’s an 18 Volt XR series. XR instead of XRP. It’s just easier in North America to denote the multiple lines we have. Are you grabbing a 20 Volt Max tool? A 20 Volt Max XR tool? Or a 12 Volt Max, 8 Volt Max, or now FlexVOLT line tool? Since they all work so well together, depending on your industry, having 20/20 XR/FlexVOLT all work together, while accompanied by a 12 Volt Max Thermometer/Imaging Thermometer or Inspection Camera, and holding an 8 Volt Max flashlight… It makes more sense here in North America than in the European territories. Here, our trades are using the tools all together as one family, and the marketing sure seems to be following that.
The 18 Volt XRP, and its baby brother the 10.8 Volt line, weren’t as connected as the Max line is now. For that matter, the 9.6 Volt, 14.4 volt, and 28 and 36 volt lines weren’t compatible either. They tended to be the same line, scaled up or down. The Max line is using different voltages for different applications, but they all compliment eachother. The difference is in the labeling laws in Europe. They have laws against tools not marking themselves as their exact voltage. Here in North America, if a tool company just wants the model line to be called the 20 Volt Max line, that’s okay, because it’s just the name of the line. In Europe, they would take offense to it.
It’s the name of the tool line, the same way Milwaukee calls some of its tools the “Fuel” line, despite the fact that there’s no actual gas or liquid involved in their power source. It’s just a name for a set of designs in a line of tools. There’s nothing to be mad at, really. It’s a trivial difference. Like the difference between calling something a PVR or a DVR. Both record your TV shows digitally and store them. One Acronym means Personal Video Recorder, the other Digital Video Recorder. They’re the same thing. Tomayto, Tomahto. 20 Volt Max, 18 Volt XR.
I’ll bet the fact that TV sizes are rounded up really gets your blood boiling….
Bosch has been moving from 10.8V to 12V in Europe.
I’ve seen instances where it’s not even 12V Max, just 12V.
Yeah, bosch is making a huge campaign over the change from 10.8 to 12 volts.
Their new 40v OPE is actually fairly well regarded.
How long before they’re selling decent cheap cordless tools?
First of all, legendary performance is a phrase every tool company says about their new tools. What legend are they talking about? What tools are they claiming to be legendary to make the comparison to? It’s a brand new line of tools. Legendary doesn’t apply to power tools that are brand new to the market. Thats a poor choice of words by HF or anyone to market their tools. Especially if comparing cordless to corded. Another industry wide phrase I’m confused about is “job site tough”. What does that mean exactly? If I bring a tool from home to a job site it becomes “tough” because its now on the job site? If it gets sawdust or dirt on it its tough cuz I brought it to work with me?
That’s worse than “legendary performance”. As far as durability goes, “job site tough” doesn’t apply to anything made of plastic that drops 10′ or so and breaks the “impact resistant” case. Poorly marketed gimmick if you think about it. On the other hand I found some older Hercules tools on the web that look like they were made in the early 90’s probably from HF & look to be a true POS. Instantaneous trash. Now about the new tools, yeah they straight up jacked dewalts design to the tee. But if you think about it, all drills & impacts are the same in appearance. There’s not much of a difference other than brand & color. I just bought the dcd777 from Lowe’s last night for a hundred & it came with 2 batteries & charger.
Harbor Freight must be doing pretty good overall as I see more and more stores opening.
Not bad for a family-owned company (Central Purchasing LLC) – now almost 40 years old. They seem to have picked their niche and stuck to it.
I have shopped mostly for impact sockets/rachets and usually just random stuff and if it looks/feels quality enough I won’t hesitate buying.
Cheap tool pushers have been around a long time. I remember my gradfather would buy all kinds of cheap tools from somewhere in the ’70’s. Back then he was just like the old timers of today buying all the useless crap that HF sells. Not much changes except the name and it seems the qualith is worse now than ever.
All I got to say is guy he wrote this article should not be writing anything until he goes and tests the Hercules himself. You can’t say it looks like another tool when pretty much that’s what it’s suppose to do. I tell you what I would put my portable cable set up against the top cordless tools out there and will say it will equal or out do. I haven’t purchased there new brushless tools yet and have been so impressed with set I have. This article is bias because he came in with a negative view twords harbor frieghtd. It’s about the tool. I do agree craftsman are no longer good tools. Yes some are good but they are now to me low end tool company who has gone with cheaply made tools. Anyways I looked up the Hercules found this article and thought why doesn’t he test it before opening his mouth? Just check out the porter cable 20v max .
I’d gladly test one. Where can I send you the bill for the purchased tools and test materials?
I never understood why HF doesn’t just sell the lower lines of DeWalt and Milwaukee. We recently got a Nothern Tool in town and it pretty much does this successfully.
Northern Tool is also a family-owned company that looks to be successful
It’s my understanding that the owner of Northern Tool is also the north american distributor for Honda small engines, someone correct me if I’m wrong.
i disagree with joem. i doubt sbd is making them. if they were making them sbd would be smart enough to have a non compete clause preventing them from doing a direct comparison like they are doing
a more likely scenario is that they are a near exact copy, just different enough to avoid breaking any laws.
besides, the boys at the gazette have already hacked and chopped on them enough to find out they are not compatable with dewalt. close but no cigar…….. at least until they come up with a better hack.
That’s a trick of my dialect of English. Up here in Canada, we do use a mix of formal and informal Queen’s English, so some of our phrases are literally “Bastardized Versions”… When I say I have no doubt, I mean it wouldn’t surprise me if they were. I also believe you when you say they’re not. Just… The old phrase “It Doesn’t Surprise Me” is often filtered through local slang here as “No Doubt”… I apologize for the miscommunication.
I sometimes forget just how different the Canadian and American dialects end up. I’m from Ontario, so it’s said we’re the ones closest to American in Dialect, with French or Gaelic being mixed in to the East, and either Country Slang or Foreign Accents altering the language to the West, Ontario is said to be speaking the Queen’s English, Bastardized like the Americans.
I think we’ve learned otherwise from this. Ontario Canadian, even if I am from just outside Multi-Cultural Toronto, still means I don’t speak the same dialect as my fellow Tool Users. I’m sorry about that.
Thank you for that clarification. I’m an amateur student of anthropology and language and find this stuff fascinating.
I ran into this around the usage of the phrase “pretty good” – where one group thought, when applied to an item. that the meaning was that the item was not at the top of its class but very (pretty) close. Others thought that the modifier “pretty” was actually being used to deride the quality – meaning that the item was not good – only pretty good.
Regarding the King’s or Queen’s English – I heard that when the old (1950’s) hit song called Slow Poke – was about to be released in the UK – they had to re-record it as “Slow Bloke” – since a slow poke had a, then, obscene meaning in Britain.
They won’t touch Dewalt for service. I work for an independent power tool distributor. I’ve seen tools go in that were taken apart by users and missing parts that Dewalt fixed under warranty. I’m a Makita guy and I’m impressed.
The only thing I’ve ever seen dewalt turn down is a 10 year old radio charger. Out of warranty stuff they have a max repair cost, which comes with a new tool warranty, or offer to sell a new tool at a discount.
Dewalt parts other than fields, gearcases and armatures are cheap. Bet you can’t even get brushes or triggers for a year old IF tool.
When it comes to Harbor Fright, the thing I’m most interested in is how the tools smell. If it has that signature Harbor Fright rubber stench, forget it, I wouldn’t take it if it were free. That smell is in a lot of their stuff, especially the tools that have rubber, but some of the plastics are pretty stinky, too. It’s the kind of stench that gets into fabrics and penetrates wood and other porous materials, so your vehicle will smell like the tool from now on, just from the trip home, and the garage or shop will smell like the tool for many years after it has stopped working and was thrown away.
I guess if you have a lot of HF stuff you might not be able to tell one stench from another or it just all mixes together.
I’ll stick with the major name brands in power tools, it’s worth paying more not only for quality, but so I can breathe easy
I had not thought about the smell – but now that you mention it, I have noticed it when I’ve gone into the store. I do like their cheap (especially with a 20% off coupon) nitrile gloves and chip brushes -and always seem to get a new LED pocket flashlight that comes with a free coupon.
Like Ave says they are exporting cancer. The place stinks to high heaven of that Chinesium crap. I hate going in there. Even a quick in, grab what you need, and get out requires a shower and wash of clothes. I do feel bad the workers being exposed to it though. Who knows what effects that place will have on their health.
As a Canadian I have never been to a harbour freight . However I am an nra member so I see there adds every month in rifleman . I want a usgeneral roll cart and a tool box .
Hearing you guys talk of the stench . Is it really that bad . I mean we have princess auto and Canadian tire here . They sell loads of junk too . I have not noticed a specific smell … Love the chinesium comment made me laugh .
Canadian Tire and Princess Auto tend to smell of machine oil. Despite their “Cheap Stuff” there, they don’t have the “Burnt Rubber” they’re talking about. I’ve smelled that smell, and the stuff from our Canadian versions of Harbor Freight don’t have that smell. I’ve smelled the “Burnt Rubber” before, at Walmart.
And, to be perfectly honest with you Americans… If you’re going to Harbor Freight for anything other than cheap storage or shelving, you’re probably going to run into problems no matter what. And by problems, I mean things like that “Burnt Rubber” smell that makes your nose itch, or your stomach turn. Stuff that doesn’t perform QUITE to spec as you’d like. Though, it’s very difficult to screw up a shelving unit in a box, that you assemble at home.
We honestly don’t have anything close to Harbor Freight up North here. Even our worst retailers for cheap stuff have standards. Reading this thread alone makes me feel really bad for you guys. They sound like such an awful company to buy from. How you guys put up with that, I don’t know. But you have my sympathies. We Canadians must be spoiled brats in your eyes. We’ve got some bad import places, but they’re usually in the China/Asia Town quarters of our major cities. Basically where Chinese, Korean, and Japanese immigrants have gathered together, started businesses, and basically just imported their retail product from their home countries. That’s the closest we get to the horror stories you guys have over Harbor Freight, and that’s rare here in Canada. Well… When you only really have about 12 major cities in the whole country, EVERY instance of this is technically rare… but still! The sentiment is there!
And yet HF is successful. I guess the bigger market in the more populous places in the US means that we still have a variety of retailers catering to all sorts of buyers. Nobody forces you to shop at any of these places – but I think its nice to have the option and choice.
For me, I live in a village that still has nearly as many horses as people – but some of the surrounding area is more populous suburbia. The nearest Wal-Mart and Target stores are about 3 miles away and the Nieman Marcus and Nordstrom’s are about 4 miles away. Rather different shopping experiences at these. A Home Depot and Lowes are also about 3 miles off – but there is a Harbor Freight about 6 miles away.
What we do lack in my area is a decent full-service industrial tool store – which became a bit more scarce in the US after Home Depot, then the Internet drove some of them and most of the small hardware stores out of business. In some ways I’m glad that one of my favorites is not close enough by to tempt to shop for stuff I don’t need:
Funny you say that, just got the US General roll cart last week, my garage still smells. Good product but every time I open the drawers I can smell it
I’m curious to see a thorough review on this – still I wouldn’t get it. I love the “accessories” marketing: a couple of screw and drill bits, Wooo! I can’t stand only having one battery, so that’s a kit killer for me if I’m going into a new platform. I’d take Stuart’s recommendation of the DeWalt 777 kit over this any day, and for the same price. Always a deal to be found over the course of the year…
There is some chatter on reddit about how long HF have been working on this line of products.(like 2-3 years and have been focused tested a lot at their labs)
They actually have people that use to work for bigger power tool companies help pick innards and design these even if they are knock offs.
There is a tear down of the Hercules grinder and all the innards are from well known part manufacturer’s in china,Europe. Very good quality.
I see these coming down a little in price soon. Wouldn’t be surprised after reviews prices settle a little bit better. I just bought the Hercules 45-piece bit set and I find it a better set than Milwaukee. Because of what it gives you instead of throwing random drill bits in like Milwaukee does.
I think a lot of tool reviewers make blanket assumptions about harbor freight because of reputation, and they have a big backlog of name brand tools to look at. I don’t fault you for that Stuart, it’s just reality. It takes some work and research to buy stuff there, you need to read the online reviews before buying to find the good ones and what to run away from. For me it’s worth it because I’ve found some great tools, and saved money that I can spend on higher end tools when I want to.
For the corded power tools they usually have a lower red model which is junk, and I higher blue model which tends to be on par with the box store brands
I’m not sure I could ever trust anything battery operated from them, but I guess I’ll wait for the reviews
Just avoid Drillmaster. Good for about 1 minute of hard use.
I do buy a few expendable items from HF – they are good for those sorts of things – since most of the other crap in other stores in made in china too why pay markup.
What I don’t buy is anything that is meant to be size specific. IE I’d never buy wrenches, sockets, drill bits, etc there. I’ve done it a few times before and been burnt every time. However I might actually try a set of the hercules bits if the price is cheap enough.
I would never, ever buy another Harbor Freight bit. I bought a 29 piece set of bits once and they all appeared to be sharpened by Stevie Wonder with help from Michael J. Fox. The 1/2″ bit was bent. Not the small bits, but the one bit that has no excuse to be bent was bent. I resharpened a few of them and tried them out and they dulled drilling into some soft pine after a couple holes.
I’m just curious, do the batteries have a fuel meter like Dewalt?
Yes. It has a battery charge gauge.
I don’t imagine these will be on par with Dewalt, Milwaukee, Bosch or Makita but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is more on par with Porter Cable, Ridgid or Kobalt. As much crap as HF gets for their…crap…their tools that are closer to regular retail cost aren’t bad at all. You really do get what you pay for, of course their power tools that are 1/10th the cost of other brands are garbage.
Did you see their e-ad today, featuring their Earthquake XT Air Impact Wrench compared to a Snap-On?
IMHO, they lose all credibility (or at least my respect) with one line of the comparison, saying that the HFT tool has “Pro Composite” and the Snap-On doesn’t.
I can hear the marketing staff meeting now: “Soooo… the Snap-On is made from a quality metal casting, and ours is a cheap plastic housing, but if we give the plastic a cool name maybe we can fool suckers into thinking that our inferior material is actually superior!”
Eathquake seems to actually have a good reputation as far as I can tell.
Everyone bags on Craftsman not being “Made in USA” anymore…by giving HF tools this much attention, there are a lot of hypocrites out there.
This is part of the problem. We say that we want to support manufacturing jobs in our respective countries. Depending on where we live that might be the USA, Canada, UK/Europe, Australia or elsewhere. But the success of Harbor Freight suggests that many folks within the US shop by price alone. That fact was the basis for HF and was not lost on other successful merchandisers like Wal-Mart – and others. This has, over the years, been translated to them (and us consumers) putting pressure on manufacturers to move production to low cost locales (mostly China and Taiwan – but once in a while, South Korea, Mexico or Malaysia gets thrown in the mix.) We may have noticed it first with consumer electronics and clothing – but it quickly expanded to all consumer goods. It happened in Britain (once a big supplier of quality woodworking tools) and seems to be creeping into shifts to Asian production for some Bosch and other tools once produced in the EU. So it would be nice to think (as example and depending on where we live) that lots of tool production will come back to the US, or that Veritas (Lee Valley) will start making quality power tools in Canada, Metabo ( reinvigorated by its being bought out LOL) will start producing a lot more in Germany, Triton will move production to Australia, and so on. The realist in me says that none of this is likely to happen. As Pogo said: “we have met the enemy and he is us” – a more modern interpretation of “The Fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves”
Walt Kelly was most famous for two lines and I think that your quote (both credited to his creation Pogo) fits modern America and the First World in general perfectly. The other being a close second.
Hope this image “works” from my iPhone.
Of more importance to me is the fact that the DeWalt 777 is the same price, but has a brush less motor, meaning it will last longer due to less friction and heat on the motor and more efficient.
I’ve made jumps to cheap tools from HF, and outside of a pneumatic trim nailer I gave $15 for I’ve regretted every one.
Just because something is brushless doesn’t mean it will actually last longer. With a brushed motor you can always replace the brushes so maybe less overall maintenance but there’s no guarantee it will last longer. I do like the thought of brushless and the longer run time is awesome.
this guy did what we’re all thinking about.
Harbor Freight deserves some love for giving us much more tool buying options and there are many local stores. There’s been many times when I need something today I’ve been able to just drive there after visiting Lowes, Home Depot, Tractor Supply, Auto Parts Stores and get what I needed to finish a job. It’s just nice to have them around where I live as an option.
Not seeing the value in these Hercules tools, when for less money I can run to Lowes and get the brushed Porter Cable 20v drill and impact drivers for less, along with the SBD backed warranty and support network. Hell, you can even get the brushless PC drill now for $100…
I just want to add a little reality check when we start comparing the Canadian companies that are the equivalent of Harbor Freight here. Canadian Tire and Princess Auto are every bit sources of temporary, in the moment tools and supplies, just like Harbor Freight. But, the REALITY is… Canada only has a population hovering around 36 MILLION people. The United States has a population hovering around 322 MILLION people. The margin for error safety in the USA for Harbor Freight is ten times higher than in Canada. Which means, the Canadian companies need to do more work toward quality control for their customers, or they go bust ten times faster.
Let’s say, for a moment, that we put the Hercules set and the Mastercraft equivalent up for sale. Of the Americans going to Harbor Freight, let’s say 0.1% of their total country-wide population buys the Hercules. That’s 322 thousand units sold, at $100 each. Do the same 0.1% for Canada, and that’s only 36 thousand units sold, at $100 CANADIAN, which is about $75 American per unit.
Compare the two net profits. The Harbour Freight: $32.2 Million US. Canadian Tire/Mastercraft: $2.7 Million US.
To keep that meager amount going on the world market, to attract, AND KEEP, investors… The quality NEEDS to be there in Canada. Or Princess Auto or Canadian Tire rapidly slip. That decimal point moves on them fast. 0.1% of the population rapidly tips from 0.1% to 0.05% when they screw up, and right on up to 0.5% when they do right, which attracts investors.
Harbor Freight can make so much money, even on their screw ups, all down to the total populace of their market. So, yes… Sometimes you have the “Burnt Rubber” garbage products… but even if they blow them up, they still make a mint on them. If they can sell enough things like tool carts, shelving, and other impossible-to-get-wrong, they have a real chance for growth. The Canadian companies can’t make that claim. They have to sell enough really good quality stuff to remain viable businesses. So, no… you won’t go into Canadian Tire or Princess Auto, and burn your throat on the cheap chemical smell. (If they literally burn a tire at Princess Auto, you will, but that isn’t normal there.) But you will smell tools, and packing oil to keep them from rusting. You won’t smell QUALITY, but you won’t suffer like you do at Harbor Freight.
I’m just getting this off my brain here. I think I may have come off as arrogant, or bragging that being Canadian is somehow better for these cheap tools than it is for Americans. I didn’t mean to come off that way, and I apologize if I did.
I saw the Hercules line over the weekend while shopping at HF. I wasn’t interested, but do enjoy visiting HF, and find having a store close by to be extremely convenient. For the DIY mechanic, they are awesome. Things I’ve bought there recently:
– Ball joint separator tool, that was invaluable when changing out control arms and tie rods. I did the job years ago with a pickle fork, and will never go back again. It looks like the same tool can be found online, but I haven’t found any other stores nearby that stock it.
– Inner tie rod tool that comes with 7 different crows feet, and allowed me to properly torque my new inner tie rods (with a torque wrench). Many amateur mechanics just use an adjustable wrench or pipe wrench, but the HF tool allows the job to be done properly.
– Pittsburgh pro impact sockets. We’ll see if I have any issues down the line, but I’ve found their sockets to be fine, and have never stripped one.
– Random stuff like wire wheels to remove corrosion from hubs. Significantly cheaper than Home Depot for what looks like the exact same thing.
– A 10 gallon 5.4cfm @ 90 psi oiled compressor. This one makes me a little nervous, but I bought it to blow out my sprinkler system. So far no issues, but we’ll see.
I’m planning on heading over there next weekend to buy a slide hammer to remove my CV joints from the axle to repair a torn boot.
Are their slide hammers really much less expensive than an OTC which comes with the fork:
My nephew’s friend has never broken any HF impact sockets, or hadn’t last I heard, and he can break anything. Better quality and more clearly marked than NAPA Truecraft.
I admit I started going to harbor freight when I started to notice nearly everything tool wise I picked up at lowes or homedepot was made in china. once it got down to expendable things or even some not so expendable – if the only other name branded supposed quality thing I picked up was made in china – I gave a run across to harbor freight
i think i may give these a try I’m due for a new driver and drill combo anyway. Truth be told I’ve pretty much had it with big box marketing. Its getting so all the quality and R&D has been pretty much stripped out of any brand name that was ever any good. The only money left being put into products is in flashy packaging and clever advertising. I lost faith long long ago in DeWalt anyways, bought a buffer/grinder from theirs because it felt heavy duty and “looked” well made . . . . that lasted about two years before the brushes smoked. Consequently i have a Makita buffer/grinder that is about the same age same use and has relentlessly withstood some pretty rough service in my fiberglass repair shop and shows no signs of giving up after twelve years. Hate to say it but anymore with the state how big business is done with big brands I might as well by China stuff almost direct at HF and cut out a few wallet sniffing middle men that most likely have no idea what there company sells let alone how to use it . . . . . .
The author makes the claim “When a professional tool brand comes out with a new tool, thought has gone into each component. Every design aspect results from a deliberate decision.” This simply is not true. name brands do not start off with a blank sheet of paper each time they launch a new product, they simply add a feature or two and use those new features as the rational on why you should put away your perfectly operation product and buy a new one. Apple and Samsung do that every year – iPhone 8 this year, next year 8+ – there is nothing materially different between the 2, just a few new features and clearly folks are willing to replace a perfectly good product few the latest thing.
It is fascinating to me that the author asks the question ” These tools, and the Bauer Hypermax and Earthquake XT tools, look to have been designed to “compare” with higher priced tools. So were they designed to do similar work for less money? If so, is anything about the tools special?” The answer is the cost is what is special. Seriously, I can not be the only person who thinks if 2 products perform the same, cost gets the nod.
It could be they were designed to look similar and cost less. If they were designed to compare with the higher-priced tools on a serious level, in terms of performance, wouldn’t Harbor Freight have designed their own battery pack?
If thought going into the designs, why the lookalike gimmick?
Just because Harbor Freight says that their tools perform comparatively to name-brand tools, doesn’t mean it’s true. What about reliability? The choice, suitability, and durability of individual components, such as the trigger switch? What about replacement parts? Service?
Apple and Samsung adapt and adopt from each other, which is what all the lawsuits have been about. But appropriated features are thoughtfully integrated into new products.
But the differences between Apple and Samsung aren’t immaterial if you consider generational and comparative differences between iOS and Android. There are some very big differences there, differences that can result in very different user experiences independent of hardware.
I need more information to make any judgement different from what I can based on what’s in front of me.
“Our tool is cheaper than theirs!” is meaningless without knowing more. Sometimes you can have comparable performance and features at lower pricing.
As for saying that products are not blank slates, while it’s true some products are evolutionary, there are considerable differences between different generations of products. Have you ever looked at iFixit breakdowns or x-ray imagery of electronic devices? Every aspect needs to be thoughtfully decided on. If a new camera module is larger than a previous year’s model, that can affect the shape of the battery, size and shape of the main board.
With power tools, one change can lead to a cascade of new considerations and design choices. Add a higher power motor, and you need a larger case, new balance and ergonomics considerations, different gearing, more robust shafting, maybe a bigger internal cooling fan, possibly more robust wiring, possibly different placement for the motor controller, etc.
I’ve talked with tool engineers and product managers. If I ask them WHY about any detail, I’ll get a very detailed and unrehearsed explanation.
Ask someone at Harbor Freight, and what will they say? “Oh, we wanted our tool to look like Dewalt’s”? That possible answer is helping to fuel my skepticism. I’d love to know more, but there’s no one at Harbor Fright to talk to or ask.
I try to be open-minded, and would be thrilled if anyone can show me that my assumptions and opinions are wrong.
Very very poor review – I get it – you do not like Harbor Freight. Why not actually do a comparison test of what the tools can do instead of “your” opinion. I want facts not opinions.
I never said this was a review.
Nor did you say it was a “Review”.
And it’s kinda hard to “review” an inconsistent product “line”.
I agree, that is one of the reasons (there are many others too) that tool reviews can be tough to do and possibly not so useful. With the name brands a new model tool seems to get introduced and usually stays in production and is offered for sale over a period of time, While a manufacturer might tweak a tool and not change the part number or GTIN that seems to happen infrequently. But with some retailers, particularly those buying odd lots or those that often shift suppliers / OEMs there is more uncertainty about how long a tool will continue to be offered for sale in its current form after an initial production run.
That doesn’t mean however, that some objective tests – our better yet some side-by-side comparisons (to comparably-priced or similarly-featured name brand tools) of a Hercules tool would not be interesting. Maybe HF is really trying to step up their game – and if they have that would be nice to know and start to track how well the new line is doing.
BTW I’m also inclined to give Stuart and his team of contributors) some slack on their ability to provide us with full-blown field testing of tools. To do that, I suspect that their resources and experiential-base would need some considerable expansion. To be really objective, multiple samples of tools and their competitive counterparts – all randomly purchased form different sources, would need to be consistently tested side-by-side in various DIY and commercial situations, by many different well-experienced users over an extended period of time. Even then there would be human and other factors that might skew results.
In my past life, when we started having a small set of power tools (say drills) coming to the end of their useful life, we’d buy a few of what we hoped would be our next generation to try out by passing around among the crews. With the (still anecdotal) evidence in hand we’d then make a decision about buying more – maybe 10 or more at a time. I can say that we were not so fast to change out tools with every new iteration released by the manufacturers. If an old tool was working, the expense of a new purchase could only be justified if the calculated payback in increased productivity was truly compelling or if the new tool provided some new capability or safety improvemet that we really needed (not just it would be nice to have) .
But as a non professional tool user (at least these kinds of “tools” I really want to buy because “it’s just nice to have”!
Head-to-head tests are very challenging, if they are to be fair.
I’ve seen some reviewers and monetarily-influenced “reviewers” throw data at readers or viewers, and it looks good on the surface but falls apart with experienced scrutiny.
It’s like running a scientific experiment. There are some simplifications, assumptions, you look at certain parameters, and everything should be done with certain controls and protocols.
Unfortunate cases are when a reviewer is irresponsible in their setup, or they draw the wrong conclusions.
The worst cases are when things are manipulated to direct people towards an intentionally biased conclusion.
If I do review one of these Hercules tools, comparative testing would be light, unless it was built to competitive standards, in which case a comparison might actually be fun. I don’t know what the outcome would be, and that’s the fun part.
Right now, all my judgements are based on the information put out there my Harbor Freight, and the severe lack of the usual information that accompanies other brands’ tool releases.
Even the best experiments need to take into account the potential for random and systematic error. Consumer’s Union has been working at automobile testing over many years – and has probably got it down as much to a “science” as any. But their reviews and conclusions sometimes differ from what you might see in Car and Driver, Motor Trend or the PBS show Motor Week. They all bring with them their own perspectives – and dare I say “biases”.
When you buy a fleet of cars or tools – you may start to see some things like early failures (like infant mortality) on some samples, then how the bulk fare during continued use (bottom of the bathtub curve) then the onset of old-age wear out. When you test only 1 or 2 examples (cars or tools) – it hard to be sure. Maybe you got a lemon or (if coming as a sample from the manufacturer) a hand picked gold-star tune-up item.
When you run only 1 set of tests – with one user/tester – you have the possibility for consistency based on the single user – but lose the perspective that you might get from having different (different experience levels, different trades, different hand size or other body features, etc.) users do multiple tests and compare results. If you set up some automated testing , it might be consistent – but you lose the human perspective. If you try to think of all the pertinent tests you might possible do and ho bet to do them, you will still likely miss some that may be key to some specialized user.
Then when it comes to making sense out of test results – boiling them down into recommendations – I’m reminded of the old saw that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” No matter how, thorough your tests are, no matter how you couch your recommendations, there will be some that will disagree based on their own needs and perspectives.
Sorry for my prevarications – and I hope that they don’t suggest that I’m recommending that you give up on doing more real tool testing – because I’m not. I think you should keep up the good work that ToolGuyd does informing us about what’s new and interesting and giving us a place to “argue” about how and if any of this matters.
I didn’t see your words in any negative way. I used them as a springboard from which to add in thoughts that had come to mind recently.
There has been some recent drama between 2 YouTubers over one of Harbor Freight’s new tools, one of whom I don’t care for at all due to his hostility, backstabbing nature, and extremely condemning practices – and that’s not even talking about all the rumors, and the other tends to use his educated and experiential insights to focus on “parts” rather than “the whole,” sometimes leading to judgements that might not be fair.
I don’t like head to head comparisons because I see faults in most of them. And I don’t like doing them a lot of times because they lead to limited information that can be misconstrued.
It’s been my goal from the start to provide information. With so many people using tools for all kinds of different things, my intent is to help readers steer their own purchasing decisions, armed with what they might want or need to know. And for regular readers who enjoy talking about tools but aren’t actively buying, I love kicking off discussions that I often learn from.
With these new Harbor Freight tools, I poured my mind into the post, hoping to kick-start a discussion, rather than for it to be considered as a “review.”
There are complex reasons for my hesitations for the product, stemming from its clone-like appearance, and perhaps I didn’t explain them fully, but I tried.
After more than 8 and a half years of working on ToolGuyd, I have gut feelings about a lot of things, and it’s hard to explore the experience and insights that go into it.
My gut feelings can be wrong or biased.
Harbor Freight reached out yesterday, and I’m going to take the opportunity to learn as much as I can about the new tools.
Part me is hopeful that Harbor Freight has its sights on “upping their game,” and that the new Dewalt-look-alikes were to give them a running start. That would be more forgivable than say wanting to foster the idea that they’re made by Dewalt or at the same Dewalt factories.
As far as I know, Stanley Black & Decker does NOT manufacture tools for other brands, with very specific exceptions. Some of their tools are made by external OEMs at non-SBD factories, but it would be inaccurate to draw conclusions from that. Where a product is made is not as important as the parts selection that goes into the products.
Take Foxconn, for example. Their motherboards were for many years considered to be budget boards, and many enthusiasts steered clear of them. Even today, I wouldn’t consider a Foxconn motherboard for a PC build, due to reading too many horror stories. But they make a lot of Apple’s hardware, and to great reliability in my understanding.
I recently spoke with one of the Harbor Freight corporate management types at the grand opening of a local HF store. They are replacing their ENTIRE hand tool and power tool inventory with tools from new suppliers, stuff designed to compete with the big brands…no more throw-away stuff he said. Noticed those “everything must go” banners hanging on HF stores? The new stuff is going to be phased in as the old stuff sells out. As far as the HERCULES power tools are concerned, the exec eluded my question about who built the Hercules line. Here was the decider for ME: the Hercules 2.5 AH battery is $29.99, the 5 AH battery is $49.99, and extra chargers are $29.99. go ahead…price out the same equipment with the DEWALT name on it…but careful, you might be surprised! I intend to test out MY Hercules 1/4″ impact driver on a deck-build this weekend, driving around 1500 deck screws over 2 days. If it holds up, I will be thrilled. If it doesn’t, it is under warranty and they will give me NEW one. Either way, I will end up happy. WIN! If it survives, I will be convinced that DEWALT built this line for HF. THEY SURE LOOK ODDLY SIMILAR.
How did the 1500 deck screws work out with the impact driver?
The biggest problem with HF’s new line up of tools is simply that they now have 3 platforms with 3 different batteries. It makes no sense to have Hercules, Bauer, and Earthquake with different batteries. Stupid move HF…
I am not a mechanic, but would fall myself a diy avid car fanatic. I bought the 1/4″ bauer driver for $70 with a 1/4 hex to 1/2″, 3/8″, and 1/4″ drive adapter after seeing someone effortlessly remove lug nuts. I was sure the lug nuts were either loose or free of any rusty threads.
I walked straight out to my car, tires haven’t been off since last winter, and removed a lug nut in about 5 seconds. I was impressed. Obviously this is a brushed tool, no replaceable brushes, so it will not last long term.
I used to a be a traveling cable tv lineman. I traveled throughout the states and used cordless 18v drills to drill 3/4″ holes through telephone poles. I was unimpressed with my first few dewalt brushed drills. I ended up with the very first brushless and lithium ion drill sold, a Makita. The difference was night and day.
If you hit a large knot or a staple/screw, it would turn your wrist. After about 5 years of daily abuse, including getting dropped, batteries stopped charging. By this time i owned quite a few tools and was really disappointed.
Now im a bit older and after a few work related accidents and seeing how slow 40 year old lineman move, i decided for a change. Just to give a bit of back ground.
This little bauer drill feels good. People have ripped them open and found samsung cells. Same ones thst were in my makita. No computer interference and least in the battery. They will also expand the line. There was a new add in the mail this week with “coming soon” under the bauer brand. A sawsall, 1/2″ impact gun and a few other things. At $20 a battery, this will be my first set of lithium ion junk since my Makita.
If the drill and later sawsall come even close to the quality of a nicad brushed dewalt for half the price, im all over it, personally.
Tools at harbor freight have come a long way in recent years. Huge difference in quality and performance. There are still cheap one time use tools, but for the last 5 years i havent broken a single socket or wrench. It won’t make a believer out of everyone, but harbor freight will be a game changer in the next few years.
I’ll say it again…WHY A 90 DAY WARRANTY???
And internal product reliability anyalsis?
I wish I could post pictures here. I stopped in to my local Harbor Freight and took pictures of the 20 V battery, then took pictures of the 20/60 V Dewalt. They’re almost identical.
From my experience with using HB tools on the job, I prefer them for the most part. For example: Framing nailer, Finish trim nailer, Hardwood floor nailer, Compressor, Corded hammer drill, Corded medal cutter, Jackhammer, etc.
For on-the-job performance, their cordless drills have not been the best, but fine for home use.
I am considering trying the new Bauer, especially with the additional tools compatible with their batteries.
Any talk of cordless nailers like the Porter Cable line.
The AvE guy did a deep dive review of the Hercules drill. Built to fail outside of the 3 month warranty. Other manufacturers have 1-3 year warraties. 90 days is a joke.
I am suprised that Dewalt seems to be the benchmark in the drill world. Where I work most of the power tools we use are Dewalt. Out of the 20 drills or so the crews have there are very few that have a key less chuck that will hold a drill bit. This leaves you with a box full of chewed up bit shanks with bit sizes that can’t be read. Compare Dewalts chuck with Rigid or Makita and Dewalt falls far short. Now the purpose of the keyless chuck was to be ease of use, but if you have to use a pair Channellocks to keep the chuck tight, that purpose is moot. Another point is all the new battery technology that seems to be ever occurring . New batteries are lighter and promise to be better and last longer than their predecessors but the old batteries are still a staple in most of our tool bags. So in summary, maybe the Dewalt is a good comparison the Harbor Freight drill.
I’ve recently been spending a lot of time in HFT as well as following a lot of the reviews and teardowns lately and I’ll freely admit that their Drill Master line and even a lot of the Chicago Electric is not for a serrious crafts person. Throw away is an apt term.
Their newer high end lines seem to have a lot of thought put into them. Yep they are designed to look and have similar specs to some of the big brands. Once you get inside them they are better in some places then the lower end of the big brands and not so much in others. None the less they are pretty comparable and when on sale you save a bunch of money as well.
Even the big brands don’t make tools that last forever anymore and even if the tool itself isn’t made in China, most of the components are. Quality just isn’t what it use to be. So save a few bucks where ever you can. As long as the tool can do the job you need it too why spend more for a name?
Maybe the words “pride of ownership”? ;-)~
I own the Hercules impact, had it since the day they put it on the shelve. I just happened to be in there getting a gas powered compressor and they were stocking it, I paid 99 dollars for it comes with two batteries and a charger. I am a contractor so I use a lot of different tools, now I have to say it was well worth the money it has tons of power I even took the lug nuts off of my 2006 f250 super duty with it, to do the brakes. So you know from personal experience I like it better than Dewalt and ryobi and husky and porter cable. It is a powerful tool and doesn’t break under pressure. And it is HF it don’t matter if you don’t have a warranty all you have to do is take it back in and say it doesn’t work they will give you another one even if it works but it is 2 years old lol. So in my opinion if you are looking for a nice impact buy it for being HF it will blow your mind
Carpenter by trade. Bought the 20 V drill, loved it. Good torque. Balanced. Light.
Switch went out after two months.
Not convenient, but sometimes in a mass production environment a crappy switch gets installed, just happened to be the one I bought. Took the receipt, the tool and some of my free time down to the store. Walked out with a brand new replacement.
Two months later (today) I was assembling casework, everything had been dry fit, then pre-drilled and glued …. the first two and a half of nine screws were in, literally four minutes from cleaning up for the day ….. and the switch stopped working. Exactly as before, worked fine and then bam, never worked again. Had to back out screws by hand, dis-assemble and clean all the glue off.
I will undoubtedly have some hand sanding to do tomorrow.
Added between an hour to an hour and thirty to my day.
That time does not include the now required trip to HF.
Or account for a job that should have finished todays, will not be finished until tomorrow.
The two events are not a large enough sample to be of statistical significance, however, anecdotally, it is huge, largely because the two identical failures happened to a single user.
I am going to return it and buy a different brand, which, because I really like this drill, sucks.
But the same failure twice ? Thats more than bad luck, its QC issue.
I just wish to comment that these powerful 1/2 inch li-ion drills need a side handle due to their power. I bought the Hercules to use with an augur planting flower bulbs. After about 20 or so holes, I hit a rock and the augur stopped cold. I think I cracked a bone in my forearm. Its healing, but slowly. With the side handle it would never have happened. How would I contact the manufacturer to suggest that. I would think it would also be an advertising success. The drill so powerful it needs a side handle.
I paid 150 for a dewalt drill and impact driver set a month ago or so. Came with some free bits. Same set is on Amazon for 150 without bits. If they really wanted Hercules drills to compete with dewalt they need to be priced way less.
So, in 1994 I bought a top of the line Windows computer with all the bells and whistles. A year later that $3,000 computer was worth $300. At the same time I bought a top of the line Makita 9.6V cordless drill/driver and two batteries. I believe it cost me about $250. 2 years later the 12V came out and I dropped another $200 on it. I refused to upgrade for about 5 years as the voltage and torque and everything else increased.
Now I spend about a $100/yr for the latest disposable upgrade tool for about everything battery operated and stopped looking at “top of the line”. Just like computers everything is evolving too fast and longevity is really not an issue to me.
Just my two cents worth.
But as an Apple guy for decades I can very safely say the slightly higher priced Macs hold their value and their ability to be useful far longer. Far longer. Same with the resale (I’ve sold maybe eight past iPhones for exactly what I paid. After the next model came out).
I try to apply this to tool purchases as well. Though I did give away my Makita 9.6v collection and my first Dewalt 18v (both from the nicad era) roughly 18-20 years after first buying them. And all but two batteries still worked.
Now Bosch, Hilti and Milwaukee. And except for the fit and finish of Red they all (being brushless) should last as long. As if I will. Hmmm.
Harbor Freight has no problem exaggerating every aspect of their product to the point of possibly illegal statements and comparisons.
1. How can the Hercules tool be “Legendary” when it has only been in existence for about a year or so.
“Legendary” are things that have stood the test of LOTS OF TIME!!! Decades at least.
But let’s look at another comparison that really irks me.
Their drill bits. . Harbor Freight claims that there drill bits compares to DeWalt. HA! BS. Harbor Freight dill bits are considerably more brittle and break very easily.
Harbor Freight drill bits have the most atrocious point grind on them that makes most of the bits in the box completely useless. Many of the bits have a backward angle on what is supposed to be the back-rake clearance that makes the cutting edge contact the material surface first. But a lot of HF bits have this angle backward and the heal touches the surface first. You can’t drill a hole with the heal of the bit.
The other thing is the width of the web at the point. Maybe that is on purpose because they know that the steel is not up to par,so the thick web makes it a little stronger, OR more llikley, it’s just plain really sloppy workmanship.
The web is where the two flutes (chip groves) meet at the point.
If it is wide it make it necessary to push on the bit a lot harder that you should have to to get the thing going into the work. Very little extra width adds up to a lot of extra force required real quick. Makes it even easier to break the bit. And last but not least: The cutting edge lengths have to be exactly the same so the web point is exactly in the center of the diameter so the hole is the right size. To put it simple, there NOT the same length on most of the pieces in the box.
Other that that, which is 100% of what a drill bit is about, they are OK. That leave nothing % good.
I have been a machinist for over 50 years. I tried them and I don’t recommend them, never, ever, total waste of money. For something to be a good deal, it has to work an cost less. If it cost less and doesn’t work, it’s not a deal.
They are unadulterated junk. Should have not been compared to Dewalt in the first place. Their marketing is a lie.
Here’s close to 3/4 hour video of take apart, breakdown and testing.
Charles W Evans
Yes Harbor Freight has a reputation, but and I’m just throwing this out there but I stand by Harbor Freight because even though people call their power tools throw away tools it’s hard to argue with my own personal experience with their tools and the low end ones at that. I purchased a power drill flash light combo kit with two batteries and a charger for about 25 dollars and yes I had to charge the batteries on it perhaps a little more often than other brands but I just finished framing out two bedrooms and a bathroom with that power drill and it never gave me a single problem. The only thing I will say is it had a tendency to want to over torque and pop out of the screw head sometimes but it always performed. So I would suggest giving them a chance if your on a budget and are trying to build out your own workshop for the first time I don’t think you will be disappointed.
I have bought a lot of hand tools and power tools over the years. Craftsman (the old good stuff), Dewalt, Black & Decker Matrix, Harbor Freight … And I beat the tar out of my power tools, taking them to the limit. I have yet to have any of them fail on me. I used a HF belt sander to sand down my aging deck and it never failed. Same thing with my HF reciprocating saw, heat gun and multi-tool. And I buy the cheap Warrior / drill master / chicago electric stuff, not their higher priced versions. Again no failures from any brand. That’s why I don’t buy the extended warranties, I just self-insure myself. Some of these tools I’ve had for 40+ years. I read reviews from people who plug in a power tool and it smokes after 5 minutes, so I know I’m very lucky. The only problem I have had is finding a replacement T-Handle chuck key for my el-cheapo hammer drill https://www.harborfreight.com/12-in-45a-hammer-drill-64119.html