This is the story about how I bought a couple of Harbor Freight US General roller cabinet tool boxes.
It all happened quite by accident, really, and turned out to be quite the adventure.
Just to prepare you – this is a long post, discussing everything about my Harbor Freight purchasing experience.
I have been organizing my workspace and storage spaces, and have been deliberating about what to buy. I need more storage for tools, parts, supplies, and misc. smaller things.
My tall Proto 540 has grown on me, and I am quite attached to my Beta rolling cabinet. The Proto 540 isn’t available anymore, and I’m not yet ready to buy its larger and pricier replacement.
Here’s an older photo of my Beta roller cabinet, in orange. Aside from a broken key I have yet to replace, it has been great for more than 12 years now.
Beta’s current line roller cabinets are end-of-life. New Beta cabinets came out in Europe in 2021, and their USA launch has been delayed. The new cabinets are supposedly launching next summer.
One of Beta’s few dealers have the older model I would buy, but their pre-sale customer service experience has been terrible.
Plus, even if they were easy to buy right now, the pricing is a bit high – more than $700 each. That might be worth it for a primary tool box I’m in and out of multiple times a day, but not for secondary tool and part storage and organization
I looked at garage storage products, but their pricing is quite steep too. New Age Pro’s 5-drawer unit – two of which I currently have in-use, are now $550 to $649 each, plus shipping.
I started thinking about deeper shelves.
I have industrial tote boxes on 12″ deep wire shelving racks, and also hinged-lid containers on dollies, These are no longer efficient for smaller tools, parts, and doodads, even if I only need them on occasion.
Containers now have mixed contents, things have been moved around… it’s an inefficient mess. Drawers could work, and I started planning out a long-term DIY project involving drawers on the bottom with shelves or cubbies on top.
Given the cost of materials and hardware today, store-bought solutions can be more economical, if I can find the right setup.
On Saturday, I searched for some inspiration online. I searched for woodworking tool cabinets, and voila, a Harbor Freight advertisement popped up, showing their yellow cabinet on sale for 10% off.
Everything over $50 was 10% off this weekend.
I… had not considered this at all. It could work.
I have always wanted a yellow tool box, ever since I saw Craftsman Griplatch cabinets in a Sears catalog maybe 15 years ago. I took the bait.
I have a Craftsman orange top chest – Sunburst Orange, if I recall correctly. I suppose I like bright tool box colors.
Hmm. The US General single bay tool cabinets have 8 drawers, are 26″ wide, 22″ deep, 40.5″ tall, and weigh 175 pounds.
There are 3 shallow drawers, 3 medium drawers, and 2 deep drawers.
While not perfect, that might do the trick for secondary tool and part storage!
I’m shopping for my basement, not my garage. Consumer-strength single bay tool boxes around 26″ to 30″ wide are at the limit of what I can safely get up or down the stairs.
I checked the website – it’s in stock!
Hmm. I figured I would check out the floor sample and maybe buy one. If it works out, I could always buy another.
I drove to my closest Harbor Freight store, checked out the US General floor sample, figuring the larger roller cabinet would indicate the quality level for the entire product line, and grabbed the purchase ticket from the display.
I went to the cashier.
They had one in stock, but it’s a “presale” item, meaning it was sold and waiting for its new owner to pick it up. Bummer.
They had a couple of other colors in stock, but I really wanted it in yellow. They gave me the number for another store in the area. I called them up, and they had one in stock!
I drove a half hour, picked it up, and took it home.
Here’s where I’m impressed with my Harbor Freight shopping experience. They brought the product to the front – it was in good shape – they rang me up, and then helped me load it up.
Sears never did that.
They said it would take 10 minutes to get from the back, as “there was stuff on top of it,” but I only had to wait maybe 5 minutes.
I was worried about damage, but everything was in great condition.
Once home, the top box lifted right off, and this is what it looks like underneath. There was styrofoam on the top and bottom, and the corners were covered with foam on the inside and stiff cardboard on the outside.
I feel I made a great choice with the color – I love it!
My basement is dark in places due to a huge HVAC soffit running down the middle, and bright colors work better than say blue or black. Renovating the basement will be a far-off future project. But, I do plan to add a lighter colored floating floor, which should help brighten things up a little.
Here’s what it looks like inside. It’s not perfect, but few brands spend time or effort on areas that aren’t visible during use. There’s just enough of a coating to hopefully help prevent rust and corrosion.
My idea was to remove all the drawers, carry the cabinet into the house and down the basement stairs.
I decided to install the casters first.
The casters are very cheap. But, this is a Harbor Freight US General product – corners are cut in some areas.
The instructions disappointed me.
The side handle is shown to install with a washer, bolt, and spring washer. But nope, there are no washers included, just two bolts. I guess a design change was made, but nobody bothered to update the user manual.
As for the caster installation instructions, take a close look at the diagram.
It shows a bolt, small washer, large washer, and caster plate. The image is correct. The labels are mismatched.
The label for the flat washer is pointing towards the spring washer, and the label for the “spring was” [sic] is pointing to the flat washer. At least the diagram is correct.
I got it down the stairs, although it wasn’t easy. After popping the drawers back in – carefully, I had to install the end caps for the handle pulls. They went in most of the way, and I used a small hammer to gently nudge the caps fully into place.
I was pretty pleased overall.
What’s the load capacity for the ball bearing drawer slides? *shrug* Harbor Freight doesn’t say. All they say is that the single bay cabinet can hold 1000 lbs when “evenly distributed from bottom up.”
Does that mean 100 lbs per drawer, plus 200 lbs for the top? There’s also a top chest with 6 rows of drawers and a top lid compartment. So… 75 lbs per drawer, plus 400 lbs for the top?
Not knowing bugs me a little.
For the money, $360 minus $36 = $324 plus tax, I’m pretty pleased.
I decided I wanted another one. I was off to Harbor Freight again on Sunday!
I called first – yes, that have an orange tool box in stock. They said they could hold it for me until the end of the day.
I went to Harbor Freight, and it was busier than yesterday. Apparently it gets “crazy crowded” on Sundays.
At one point, when I was still waiting in line to make my return, someone abandoned their purchase – a magnetic tool box power strip – due to the long checkout wait. Note to self: avoid Harbor Freight on Sunday afternoons.
I paid, and they brought out the cabinet. This was different from yesterday, where they brought it out first and then rung me up.
One of the corners was mashed in a little, but it didn’t seem like a big deal.
I gave myself a choice – was this worth my driving to the other Harbor Freight ~25-30 minutes away on a busy Sunday to get a more perfect one? No.
I brought it home, unloaded my shiny new orange US General tool box, and… the drawers started sliding out.
The locking mechanism was completely broken somehow. The box had a 2020 date code.
None of the drawers had detents either. With the yellow tool box I bought first, which has a 2022 date code, the drawers close maybe 98% of the way, with the final fraction of an inch requiring extra effort to engage a detent mechanism. This helps with drawer retention.
My brand new orange box apparently didn’t have drawer slide detents, and its lock was completely non-functional, even with all the drawers pushed inside. The lock turned and made some noise, but none of the drawers engaged.
Back to Harbor Freight!
I called first, and was told to come right in. They would help me unload the tool box, do the return, and then I can buy a new one. They have one orange in stock (maybe the one I just bought?) and two in blue.
I have a US General tool cart in blue, and know it to be a bright medium blue, and figured maybe it will work okay in the basement. Okay, I’ll get a replacement cabinet in blue.
I arrived at the store, waited in line, and when the cashier saw my hands were empty, they asked what they could help with.
I told them about the return, and an associate helped me bring the tool cabinet back in.
I was asked to stand to the side until the blue cabinet came out. The cashier said they prefer to have the product on a cart in-hand in front of me – or them – before I could be rung up. Okay, sounds fine. The tool box was brought out.
The associate who retrieved the tool box – maybe the manager? – was about to head outside and down the ramp when the cashier informed them I didn’t pay yet.
“Why not? When it’s this busy, ring them up without delay, we can always reverse it.”
Everyone had treated me well so far, and waiting for them to ring me up after the next customer didn’t take long. Then again, the people in front of me bought all kinds of equipment that took a while to scan. Earlier, when I was paying for the orange box, customers in front of me had carts filled to the brim.
Cashiers and associates looking out for the customer’s convenience? Where was I?
I’m guessing they like to have products on a cart and in front of the cashier just in case a customer wants to buy something that’s not actually in stock. When I asked about a replacement orange tool box, I was told the one they have in the system might be a floor sample. Or maybe the system didn’t update yet and was showing the one I bought and was returning.
One reason I didn’t mind waiting was because it gave me a chance to see what other customers were buying.
The defective orange roller cabinet was a huge waste of time, but everyone was friendly and helpful.
If you’ve read this far, I hope you’re not too disappointed or distracted by my digressions. I never purchased larger equipment from Harbor Freight before, which made this an adventure in several ways.
I paid for the blue cabinet, we loaded it up, and I brought it home.
I unloaded it, took the drawers out, plopped it on its side, and got to work getting the casters on.
With the first cabinet, I learned that I could only fit a 13mm combination wrench on the fixed casters, although a ratchet and socket worked well on the swivel casters. So, I positioned the cart on its side in a way that let me install the fixed casters on top and swivel casters on the bottom.
It was far easier for me to get the second cabinet down the stairs. If you do not have a way to do this in a safe manner, hire professionals.
The handle pull hardware isn’t flat and square. I didn’t have this issue with the first tool box. The side of the tool box appears to be flat, but the handle mounting brackets are rounded away from the tool box.
That’s kind of janky.
The handle brackets are installed in place with just two socket cap screws, with short pins helping with installation alignment. Needless to say, they’re not going to support a lot of weight.
When taking out the drawers, there was lint on two of the slides. One of the side handle mounting brackets has a hair or fiber of some kind underneath the chrome finish.
Some of the panels had gaps at the seams. This is true for both of my cabinets, but is not entirely unexpected for what seems to be spot-welded construction.
There are some metal splinters at the back of the drawers, but not in any areas most users will ever be expected to touch.
With yesterday’s yellow cabinet, there was scraped-off yellow powder coat on some of the handles, presumably from when the handle pulls were installed at the factory.
Overall though, these are 8-drawer steel tool boxes for under $400.
Let’s think about the price for a moment. Perhaps $120 of the price goes towards the sturdy-feeling main cabinet, $25 goes toward each drawer ($200 total) – including the drawer slides – and the remaining $40 goes towards the casters, lock, side handle, drawer mats, top mat, and labels for the handle pulls.
At this price, for what you get, I can forgive a lot.
I might call Harbor Freight to see if I can get a replacement handle, partly just to test out their customer service.
Oh, and I don’t know if this is typical for Harbor Freight or not, but they helped me load up with this Haul-Master hydraulic table cart. This is the one they sell, and I was told they have a larger one (that they don’t sell) for the bigger tool cabinets.
I didn’t see any of these carts at the other location I visited yesterday. I supposed they have to have something like this on-hand, how else could anyone load a larger tool box into a pickup truck or similar?
As an aside, I don’t have the space for an engine hoist, and definitely not a gantry. I considered getting a hydraulic lift table like this a while back, but didn’t even think about how it can be used to load or unload heavy cargo in and out of my SUV. Maybe this will be my next Harbor Freight purchase.
I might buy more cabinets, although I’m not 100% certain yet.
Maybe I will add a couple along the basement wall, with a long butcher block top added to create a workbench, although I’ll have to figure out how to build a strong-enough leveling base. As the bottom isn’t flat, it complicates the matter just a little.
Just the fact that I’m thinking about this should give you a sense of my satisfaction so far.
I loaded the tool boxes with tools, parts, and equipment previously stored in space-inefficient totes and containers, and I really like the volume of the roller cabinets.
Too bad there aren’t other drawer configuration options, although that’s probably one of the reasons the price can be as low as it is.
Some of the drawers are noticeably sluggish under heavy weight. The casters are usable.
Harbor Freight says this is a “professional quality roller cabinet,” but it most certainly does not feel like one. It’s reasonably well-made given its price tag, and with a little care, I’m sure it will last a very long time.
Even though there are some obvious shortcomings compared to some of the more premium tool storage products I have purchased or used in the past, I feel that I got a lot for the money spent.
Are these as refined as pricey tool cabinets? No. More premium tool storage products will deliver higher quality and a better user experience. But, these deliver more than I expected for under $400 each.
The two tool cabinets helped me empty more plastic tote bins and boxes than I’d like to admit. They’re not very organized right now, but they’re going to be.
What if I need more?
When looking at Harbor Freight’s website, store pickup isn’t an option if I want a couple in a specific color. I can order online for delivery, with freight fees tacked on for each roller cabinet, and presumably lift gate charges as well. I suppose I’d have to visit my local store to buy more via “presale.” I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
I’d be hesitant about delivery, though, as I have seen how severe freight handlers can damage or even demolish far sturdier and better-packaged tool boxes.
I visited Harbor Freight stores four times in two days, which is about the same number of visits I made in the previous five years combined.
This has turned out to be a very surprising weekend. I hadn’t anticipated buying a US General tool cabinet, let alone two. Well, technically I bought three, but returned one due to internal defects. There might be additional purchases in my future.
The style cabinet you bought is their Series 2, and they’re clearing store room to make way for their Series 3. Those are set to come out this summer. There are some good deals to be had for clearing out the stores to make room for more inventory.
That being said, I bought a much larger set of that generation for my garage when I moved about 2 years ago, and it’s held up great. I’ve got a sticky drawer, but I think if I can ever be bothered to adjust it, I could fix it.
Having had to shop HF for school theatre departments over the years, I have to say I think HF is trying to move up to a decent quality. I don’t think they have ambitions to become a top-tier brand, but they offer a much more worthwhile cost-vs-longevity value than they used to. I think internet Alibaba style sites forced them to be a better brand than they used to.
They have only been clearing out the 72” Series 2 to make room for Series 3.
We don’t know if the 26” boxes will change at all, or how, or when they will be available. I’d consider waiting on a primary use 72” box, but not on these.
Huh I thought since they were going to be backwards compatible, they were going to change up the whole production line. I wouldn’t think they’d run two different production lines.
Yes the 72 inch boxes are currently on clearance because bthey are large items and take up a lot of room and they are trying get rid of them before the Series 3 release. I spoke to several stores in my area and they all said the Series 3, 72 inch are scheduled for a May 1st release. They also said that smaller tool cabinets will eventually be going on clearance to make room for the rest of the series 3 line, but they don’t know the sale date yet.
I just purchased the 72” series two top and bottom box. Great boxes for the price. There were a few minor items but I called customer service and they sent everything that was needed to me within a week at no charge. Their customer service is terrific. I highly recommend these boxes. They work well in a home garage environment which is where mine are being used.
Something that’s been in the back of my mind for a while is using tool cabinets as base cabinets in the kitchen. A 36″ wide cabinet with 2.5″ – 5″ deep drawers, in the right color, and withou tits wheels, would serve to replace a 36″ base cabinet and provide lots of drawer space for the various kitchen implements and gadgets that confict with each other in 2-3 “standard” drawers.
Think: shallow top drawer for spice containers lying on their sides, deep (8″) bottom drawer for electric hand mixers, food processors, etc.
If the Medical Industrial Complex can routinely use wheeled tool cabinets for medical supplies and equipment, why can’t cooks?
I regularly hear about larger wood- topped rolling tool cabinets being used for kitchen islands and similar. Husky roller cabinets seem to be quite popular for this, especially in white.
Bought 2 black series 2 when they first came out for $240. Each. Held up really well as I grease the draws yearly.
As I see it for the average person you can either have super premium cabinets or more tools I’ll take the tools.
I did however buy an inexpensive wood top for a husky cabinet at the depot and cut it to size. for one of the units.
Even Young doctors starting out buy the white series 2 so it is not a stretch to use a white one for a kitchen island
Commercial kitchens do often have large wheeled cabinets. But usually in stainless steel rather than painted or powder-coated.
The Husky wood-topped 52″ rolling tool cabinet is available in stainless steel. https://www.homedepot.com/p/Husky-52-in-W-x-25-in-D-Standard-Duty-5-Drawer-1-Door-Mobile-Workbench-Tool-Chest-with-Solid-Wood-Top-in-Stainless-Steel-HOTC5205JX2M/312145944
Make even more sense as outdoor kitchen cabinets, which are ridiculous $ and poorly designed and built. Metal kitchen cabinets used to be a thing. I wonder if it makes sense to go back to metal again, given the reference for drawers, built in power outlets, illumination, etc.
We have a Milwaukee in the bathroom and the kitchen as “temporary” until they’re renovated – they’re amazing and the price of cabinets is so high I’m tempted to leave them
The only problem is the “stainless steel” used in the majority tool boxs/cabinets is not commercial grade stainless used in professional kitchen and hospitals so the have far less corrosion resistance. I’ve had a similar idea of modifying one into a storage/gas cook top for a out door kitchen.
Enjoyed this. Long time reader, first time post.
Appreciate the detailed shareout of the experience. I have been impressed overall by the recent focus on Quality made by HF. They had a huge presence at the SEMA show and their Product Developers and Buyers knew their stuff (Welding Equipment, similar industry). Nice to see that the store associates have agency in making decisions to help the customers, and are not hiding behind rules/policies…high agency often means they love what they do.
Thank you, I appreciate that!
Although my last visit was a few years ago, I remember chatting with the associates at one local store. Their sense of pride, product familiarity, and enjoyment were obvious and memorable. It seemed uncharacteristic for an average retail store. My recent shopping experience adds to that.
Years ago, when I was a kid, my parents took my to Toys R Us to buy a bike. When they brought out the box after we paid, there a huge hole in the packaging. It looked like some parts could be missing, everything was dirty, and there was a loose ball in the box. How could anyone think it would okay to give a product in such condition to a customer? We rejected it and the brought out another.
With the cabinets, the associates already had an answer for any cardboard damage, reassuring me the underlying packaging was intact and only the outer superficial layer was affected. They had checked and would have opened the box if they suspected further damage. I was encouraged to check for damage in the parking lot, and we peeked inside to see there were no obvious dents or similar.
As a second instance of highly caring and prideful store associates a few years after experiences at a different store, it’s more looking to be a trend.
Purchases like this make me nervous. What condition will the tool box be on? How will I get it back? How easy is the return process? I know a lot of first-time buyers might feel similarly hesitant, prompting this mostly unfiltered writeup.
These tool cabinets seem ideal if not intending to be used every single day. I could see no reason why they wouldn’t last many years with occasional weekend/evening use, especially if they’re used more for less frequently used items. They look great.
They could also be used daily for users on a limited budget.
Given my experience with my epiq and my harbor freight and working out of them everyday i would take the HF over and over again.
they already work absolutely fine for everyday use. Especially the 56/72″ models which are built to a much better standard than the 26/44s (which they sort of have to be). Series 3 will probably only be better yet.
Curious what happened is you pulled the the US General plate off the front. I have a very nice full stainless 52″ husky box that I use in the house. Pulling the big husky plate just left just 2 small holes which bother me much less than the name plate. I suppose I could fill the holes with a screw head if they did bother me.
I tried to poke around behind the badge and couldn’t feel any holes or protrusions – it might just be a stick-on plate. Things like that don’t bother me on tool boxes.
Have this same 26″ and pulled the badge off – all adhesive, very easy to do.
Good to know, thanks!
That HF lift table is an awesome buy. We have had one for going on 4 years. Originally bought so I could remove and install the 3 person seat in my sprinter van by myself.
After buying a bigger sprinter it saw use for moving custom dog crates in and out of the new sprinter and the cayenne. It’s also helped unload sanders, drill presses, tool boxes. It’s been a great tool. I encourage anyone who is in their mid to late 30’s to really consider tools that help you lift and move heavy items. The table and my used $40 pallet jack are 2 tools that don’t get used everyday but are worth the real-estate they take up and will always have a home.
Alternative/next step are those manual lift/stacker/forklift. I have one and found more use out of it than I expected. It is my extra set of hand/ buddy.
That little cart is great – use it as a cart and it can lift when you need it.
This fits with my general experience of Harbor Freight. Minimal QC/QA, but good customer service and return policy to make up for it. I’ve been pretty happy with everything I own from HF, with the usual caveats because of the price point, but now that I live farther away from one i doubt I’ll buy much from them as I can’t trust that the product I get delivered won’t need to be returned.
My barbershop uses black ones for each chair, was the first time I saw and thought about using them for something other than tools.
Chris T Thompson
One in my town does too. Big Kobalt ones. They seem to work well.
My friend took one of the 4 drawer tech carts and made it into a baby changing table as a gift for his mechanic son that had a baby. Then when he’s done with it, it can go into the garage.
I have a Milwaukee doing this – the additional height is a GODSEND if you’re above average height.
And infinite drawers and they lock!
I am baffled by the poor packaging/handling. It’s brother me that manufacturers/retailers accept this lost (via insurance) than addresses the issues. Years ago I bought a top of the Honda mower online. Had to return two before accepted the third one. All have damaged/bend handles due to flimsy cardboard box. I just too tired and accepted the third one. I have no idea how the retailer can absorb the return shipping cost. I recently ordered a Makita 8 foot guide rail, and nervously waiting for it. It arrived unscathed in an wood/partical create. My respect for Makita just went up a bit more.
The packaging was sufficient for in-store pickup.
1 of 3 had extremely minor damage. That’s not why it went back – I took back the orange box because the locking system was completely defective and unusable.
Products like this always make me nervous due to the number of bad experiences I’ve had with freight deliveries.
They calculate the packaging pretty exactly – and sell off the damaged as scratch and dent for a few bucks less. It all works out for them.
Notice that things like refrigerators that will be visible in the home get packaged much much better.
I agree it seems like a waste but it is usually a calculated cost of doing business.
As others have mentioned they can generally sell them off and recoup the cost during scratch and dent sales. Freight carrier sometimes shoulder the burden of damaged goods but sometimes not and any cost is generally passed on to the consumer.
Any space the cardboard/packaging takes up for padding is space lost for shipping product. As shipping costs have skyrocketed this has become even more important.
Also, to your point about waste, sustainability has also entered the equation. Just because it’s cheaper to ship it in crummy packaging and throw away the waste is that being a good environmental steward? Does our customer base care about that?
PS. Big fan of the value proposition on the US General boxes. Certainly get your moneys worth and then some on these boxes.
Interesting and informative to read your Saga. The US General branded boxes seem to get many more positive reviews than some other items sold at HF – and its interesting to get a perspective from a trustworthy source.
As a piece of history: US General was once a chain of retail stores selling tools and tooling. They once carried a variety of professional and DIY tools for building trades and industrial users. You could see brands like Skil and Porter Cable at one side of the store – or Starrett and Mitutoyo at the other. The Store that I recall was down the road from the Grumman Aviation facility that built the LEM. When the Aerospace/Moon Missions ground down – apparently so did US General. They were acquired by Harbor Freight.
I feel the same way. I’m not in the USA so I won’t be buying US General products specifically, but it’s useful to see someone critique the small stuff. I’ve also seen rave reviews for the brand and it was interesting to get a more neutral assessment.
I can hardly believe all the trouble Stuart has buying tool boxes. I’ve only bought tool boxes three times and steel garage cabinets once, but none of them had any damage. Seems like I was crazy lucky. I don’t know that it would have occurred to me to watch out for if I didn’t read about the issues here.
It just takes one mistake at a warehouse or during freight handling to severely mess up a product.
I received a mangled band saw once, and RTA workbenches that had holes everywhere with parts sticking out.
I paid $30 extra for threshold delivery on my Home Depot freight order today, to ensure that they can’t drop off my new rolling tool lockers without my being able to inspect and refuse them.
I purchased a Dewalt Certified Refurbished 110v 20gal standing portable compressor a few years ago for an insane price. When I received it it was packaged in the factory box with no padding or box inserts! I couldn’t believe they would ship these UPS across the country rattling loose in those boxes! Anyhow the compressor itself was fine, worked fine but the intake filter had broken off along with the motor cover that was cracked in 2 -3 places with plastic parts in the bottom of the box. Company they sold it said Dewalt would fix it free and Dewalt said no they wouldn’t so after pricing out the broken parts it would have cost close to a brand new compressor! I sent it back.
In the past 10 years, I have bought 3 lower boxes, and 2 upper cabinets. That makes 5 total. Of the 5, 3 were damaged enough that I returned them immediately. They looked like they had been dropped from a great height. One was slightly dented, but I kept it anyway. Only 1 out of 5 came out of the box in perfect condition. These were bought from Lowes and Home Depot, and the local stores were always good about returning the damaged items.
The next time, I am going to open the box in the parking lot, before I leave the store. I can always tape the box up with duct tape for the ride home. I really don’t like spending a lot of money for something that is screwed up because somewhere, somebody didn’t give a (insert your favorite word here).
I have two of those 26″ boxes, orange and green. My son works out of a black one. All three have held up well for the two years we have had them. On all three purchases, the HF employee brought them out on that hydraulic cart and helped me load them. I have zero complaints about the customer service I get at HF, and I am there several times a year.
Got one of these in black to keep inside for smaller tools, so I don’t have to keep running to the garage for things. Stripped the badge off, and the extrusions on the handles. The extrusions left some marring where they came off, but it’s not too noticeable. Goal was to just make it less visually obtrusive, and I think it comes out well. Just a big black box in the corner.
Agreed that the casters are crap. I roll it around my house a bit, but wouldn’t want to roll it around a facility every day on these. Locks are hard to engage, and I just don’t have a lot of faith in the wheels handling much abuse. Great for the house and especially for the price.
Drawers are fine. My old craftsman box in the garage is a little smoother and has the latching handles. Also cost a bit more than this, even 20 years ago. Not a huge fan of these detents at first, but they’ve loosened up enough to not be annoying. I had one drawer that was just too stiff and was able to pry the rails open a bit so it doesn’t have as much “grab” on the bumpers.
All in all a really great box. Love the massive amount of shallow drawers. Might not be for everyone, but this box is mostly screwdrivers and pliers and things of that general shape and size. Still enough drawers to cover deep sockets and the bottom two can handle big mallets and power tools etc.
The HF 6 compartment organizer also just happens to fill the width of these drawers perfectly.
I enjoyed reading this- I’ve never been to a HF, this kind of makes me want to.
I believe I’ve said this before- I’d love to see a workshop tour. I imagine you have an enormous amount of tools and I think it would be interesting to see the various iterations of your quest to organize.
Save your money and buy better quality tools. In my experience and I’ve been in this trade for the last 40 years and as much as possible I buy American made products. These Harbor Freight tool chests are Chinese made junk; I’d highly recommend USA made Proto as I’ve owned many over the decades and even just bought one this year and the quality is top notch. Sure it’s not cheap but I know I don’t have time to be dealing with damaged product that will either take hours to fix or isn’t even possible to fix without costing more than it’s worth.
In the 40 years I’ve been in the trade you don’t have time or money to waste on garbage. We’ve all been there and with how cut throat the industry has always been (was much better decades ago though), you don’t have much room for margin of error.
The closest USA-made option is $1,000 more.
You’re very wrong, Glen. You obviously have never looked at a US General tool box in person. They are not junk, in fact they are made quite well. Far better than any other big box store offerings—I have looked at and inspected ALL of them. I have been using a 26″ and a 44″ since the release of the Series 2 and they look and perform like brand new. The quality is better than any other store-bought tool chest I have seen.
I recently had the opportunity to walk the shop floor at Joe Gibbs Racing and spotted more than a few US General Series 2 boxes and work carts. Don’t get so wrapped up in where something is made—there is plenty of stuff being poorly made in the US.
And the last time I looked, there aren’t any stores anywhere where you can walk in and buy a Proto tool or toolbox, unless overpaying at Grainger is your idea of fun.
Jeez, I got mine maybe 4 years ago for $250 and I love mine. I of course didn’t expect too much from it but it has been a really good box so far. I think for the price and the quality, they’re great boxes. I have mine about overloaded and while the drawer slides aren’t buttery smooth, they still open with a tad extra effort.
Im pretty surprised at how good it’s been. I’d recommend one without hesitation to anyone needing a box that won’t see an industrial setting aside from parts storage or occasionally used tools.
I suppose i would buy another if I needed one. But Ould much prefer to consolidate all my tools to a single box.
Alexander M Carrillo
They are selling here in california for 499 member only deal what’s this other deal you got?
Are you referring to the full bank service car? https://toolguyd.com/harbor-freight-us-general-service-cart-tool-box/
This is the single bay tool cabinet – it’s a lot smaller.
It’s still made in China. I hate to say but, being on a fixed income I bought one of these from harbor freight. I got a five drawer tool box cart with storage on the bottom half. For the cost it’s good enough, I just don’t like to buy China products anymore than I have to.
Priced a tool box for my trailer from HF.Few days later they had 20% off any one item.So back to HF to get box,it was marked up $24.00 and with discount it cost 14.00 more.Bought anyway but don’t go to sales anymore
I have purchased about 16 of these over the last year for my technicians in a semiconductor manufacturing facility. If anyone is familiar with the industry, my team and I maintain 15 ion implanters in the building where we are using these. Ion implanters are pretty dirty machines to take care of and can be hard on tools.
As far as the tool boxes go, I have noticed that there are two different versions of them with slightly different builds. They get moved around a 20,000 sqft area and see a lot of use. I still work on the equipment myself from time to time so I have one of these toolboxes as well and both my employees and I are happy with them so far.
Very enjoyable thorough write-up on what I would consider a semi-typical HF experience. I’m young enough to have been around when Sears/Craftsman was the go-to for the weekend DIY’er mechanic. As Sears slowly made it more difficult to shop their stores, Harbor Freight showed up, albeit few & far between locations. Some tool quality was sub-par at best, however that all changed. More stores & much better quality tools, recognizable tool lines that held up. I still use a full set of Pittsburgh Pro Cr-mo impact sockets I purchased, about 10 yrs ago now, full sets deep & shallow, have yet to replace 1 socket w/it’s Lifetime warranty, that I use on my Milwaukee high-torque 1/2″ impact & Ridgid 3/8″ & 1/2″ mid-torque impacts. They are just as nice as my 3/8″ full set of Grey Pneumatics impacts I paid way more for. My orange Daytona 3-ton low-profile jack has yet to skip a beat. I easily have as many HF tools collected over past 10+ years as other name brand tools. Harbor Freight found out customer service & decent quality tools is a sustainable model. Sure they still have the “entry level” or single-user stuff you can buy for a job you don’t want to mess up your good tools on, but the tool boxes they have are as good or better than established name-brand ones more recognizable. Great article & good insight from someone who was not a HF regular that sees what many of us on a budget have known for years
Thank you, I appreciate it!
How did you get this down the stairs alone?
I have a similar situation in that I need tool cabinets in the basement, but it’s just me and I cant move 175 pounds by myself.
I passed on the recent Husky sales because I cant get these big boxes up in the house, then down the basement stairs. (have a 36″ x 36″ landing)
For both, I removed the drawers first. I sometimes leave the casters off of cabinets too.
The first cabinet wasn’t easy.
For the second, I thought about it more and essentially created a sled – a ramp that moved with it, with some safety stops, and controlled its decent. I had my wife available as a spotter if needed.
It’s a lot easier – and safer – with two people and proper equipment. If you’re not careful about the size or weight, it can easily crush you.
Make a cardboard mock-up and plan your maneuvers before you buy it, to get a feel for how you might bring it down.
There are few resources for learning how to move a cabinet down stairs, but plenty about similarly-shaped (but taller) refrigerators.
Good ideas. Thanks for the input.
Never thought about the cardboard mock up. Have thought about renting an appliance dolly.
If you’re looking at renting an appliance dolly, also contact your local junk removal company for a quote. Mine just started offering in-home labor by the hour, and that might be cheaper. There’s also neighborhood handyman services and similar.
Defects require a markdown. Unacceptable. Seriously check out masterforce cabinets. Not much more in price. Ship to store, reject if damaged or defective. Rent pick up truck for $20 to take home.
There’s no Menards anywhere near me, and 2 Harbor Freights within 20 minutes.
Their even cheaper Performax brand is decent for the money. Here is mine – https://www.menards.com/main/tools/tool-storage/tool-chests/performax-reg-41-x-18-black-12-drawer-rolling-tool-chest-cabinet/2907518mml/p-105479368593-c-9188.htm
My shop is narrow, and all my shelving/racking is 18″ deep so this was a perfect fit. I also really liked that the rolling cabinet has full width drawers. Oftentimes on 41″ cabinets they will have a 2/3 width drawer and 1/3 width drawer – similar to how the top chest is on this guy.
Being a 3 hour drive, I have never been in a HF store.
I have read on many forums that US General is quite respected for their boxes. Yes, some will harp on where they are made, and where they are sold (HF), but the vast majority, including pros that use them daily to make a living, are quite please with them.
For the same money you pay on a US General, you get much inferior quality with other cheap brands.