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Rebranded import machines: home shop upgrade

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rbmgf7

Aluminum
Joined
Oct 18, 2017
I just work in the basement/garage with a handful of machines and am wanting to look at upgrading my Harbor Freight floor standing drill press and maybe get a horizontal bandsaw.

I know most of these import machines leave the same factory, just with different logos and paint jobs. I can look at the same horizontal bandsaw between four different brands and the price can have a $1000 spread from the HF to the Jet.

I live just down the road from the Springfield, MO Grizzly Industry store and they also carry similar design machines that can be bought from HF and Jet.

So what makes the price range so vast? Just the name on the machine? Anyone know if there is much of a quality difference? Sometimes the finishes are noticeably different as in the HF looks like it's been rough cut and at least the Grizzly and Jet have a finish of some sort.

I have my eyes set on a middle of the line 20" 12 speed Jet step pulley drill press and a 7x12 horizontal band saw.

I mean, I'd love to get an old Clausing drill press and Ellis 1600 but trying to be reasonable on the price for all of it and coming across a Clausing is few far and in between. I'm not full time (yet) but still would like something reliable and better than what I'm dealing with.

Thanks.
 

Ries

Diamond
Joined
Mar 15, 2004
Location
Edison Washington USA
They do not all come out of the same factory, and they are not all the same.
There are something like 40 different Meehanite foundries in China, and almost that many in Taiwan.
Hundreds of different small factories.
Quality always varies.
You have to learn about switches, motors, bearings, castings, scraping, and then you can choose whether you want a Grizzly or a Hardinge.
Never been in a Harbor Freight, myself...
 

beckerkumm

Hot Rolled
Joined
Aug 5, 2014
Location
Wisconsin Rapids WI
Even machines that look the same can have differences in build. Trying to find out what is generally impossible. QC is a difference as is customer service. Because these types of machines have a fairly common problem rate, how the company stands by them and cures the problems can be part of the price differential. Most companies specify a price point and to some extent it is up to the manufacturer to get there. Dave
 

CITIZEN F16

Titanium
Joined
May 2, 2021
I wonder how many different factories the Jet brand has came from over the years? I actually have a Jet 14 x 30 manual lathe made in Taiwan 45 years ago that has been a decent machine. I have seen other Jet equipment that belongs
in a scrap yard.
 

GregSY

Diamond
Joined
Jan 1, 2005
Location
Houston
Generally, the higher priced machines - even if they appear the same - are made by prisoners. The lower end stuff is much more likely to be made by children and dissidents who have little or no experience with the finer aspects of toolmaking.
 

Ries

Diamond
Joined
Mar 15, 2004
Location
Edison Washington USA
I wonder how many different factories the Jet brand has came from over the years? I actually have a Jet 14 x 30 manual lathe made in Taiwan 45 years ago that has been a decent machine. I have seen other Jet equipment that belongs
in a scrap yard.
Jet has sold machines made in Spain, Sweden, France, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and lots from China. Some divisions of Jet- Wilton, and Powermatic, or Edwards Ironworkers,for example, still make some things in the USA.
Yes, Jet owns Wilton, and Edwards, Baleigh, and Powermatic, among others. Some of their stuff is made in their own plants, but, historically, it was almost all bought from small factories globally.

So, I would say, probably hundreds of different factories.
I have a few Jet made in Taiwan machines that are medium quality- my big 18" x 60" lathe, for example.
I have seen other Jet tools that were real crap.

But you can tell the difference, if you can examine them in person.
Taiwan makes good tools, generally.
 

challenger

Stainless
Joined
Mar 6, 2003
Location
Hampstead, NC-S.E. Coast
HF, I get zip ties, tumbling media, and blast media there. I never thought there was such thing as bad sand paper till I bought some there once.
I hate that place. It's the Walmart of manual laborers that possess no regard for quality and too many buy tools there to use and return. A true craftsman wouldn't buy from HF IMO.
Many years ago I bought alum oxide blast media from HF and it is awful. Created way more dust than others I've used.

Sent from my Pixel 5 using Tapatalk
 

CITIZEN F16

Titanium
Joined
May 2, 2021
I hate that place. It's the Walmart of manual laborers that possess no regard for quality and too many buy tools there to use and return. A true craftsman wouldn't buy from HF IMO.
Many years ago I bought alum oxide blast media from HF and it is awful. Created way more dust than others I've used.

Sent from my Pixel 5 using Tapatalk

I use the blast media when I tumble. I use my blast cabinet once in a blue moon.
 

GregSY

Diamond
Joined
Jan 1, 2005
Location
Houston
I've been in Harbor Freight a handful of times. Once, I saw one (1) hand held, manual trim saw sitting there....so I bought it. A very finely made, in England of all places, saw with a wood handle and brass backbone. To this day I wonder why it was there all by itself....
 

EPAIII

Diamond
Joined
Nov 23, 2003
Location
Beaumont, TX, USA
That's a $36.99 waste of money.

I have a much better stud finder that only cost a few dollars. And it even has the advantage of sticking to the wall so I can hang a plumb string from it. Here they are, in use, when I was installing hand rails in my bathroom.

attachment.php


They are just a small stack of Neo magnets. They will quickly find and STICK to all spots with nails or drywall screws. And a dozen of them costs less than half of what many commercial stud finders do.

attachment.php


This photo shows the plumb lines hanging down into the tub enclosure. They plainly marked the stud locations, even behind the 3/4" thick tub lining. I was able to quickly and accurately install the hand rail and every screw hit solid wood on the first try. It is solid as a rock for years now.

In use they can quickly find the studs by just running them across the area, dropping an inch or two on each pass. It does not take any skill or interpreting of a reading, they just stick to the wall on top of a nail or screw. Oh, and no batteries.

I find the Neo magnets so useful that I keep several dozen in the shop at all times, usually in two or three different sizes. Great stuff!



They sell an excellent USA made stud detector. Best one I know.
Bill D

ProSensor M150 Stud Finder
 

drcoelho

Stainless
Joined
Feb 19, 2017
Location
Los Altos
That's a $36.99 waste of money.

I have a much better stud finder that only cost a few dollars. And it even has the advantage of sticking to the wall so I can hang a plumb string from it. Here they are, in use, when I was installing hand rails in my bathroom.

attachment.php


They are just a small stack of Neo magnets. They will quickly find and STICK to all spots with nails or drywall screws. And a dozen of them costs less than half of what many commercial stud finders do.

attachment.php


This photo shows the plumb lines hanging down into the tub enclosure. They plainly marked the stud locations, even behind the 3/4" thick tub lining. I was able to quickly and accurately install the hand rail and every screw hit solid wood on the first try. It is solid as a rock for years now.

In use they can quickly find the studs by just running them across the area, dropping an inch or two on each pass. It does not take any skill or interpreting of a reading, they just stick to the wall on top of a nail or screw. Oh, and no batteries.

I find the Neo magnets so useful that I keep several dozen in the shop at all times, usually in two or three different sizes. Great stuff!

What a fantastic idea!!! Gonna go buy some magnets RIGHT NOW !
 

steve45

Stainless
Joined
Jan 16, 2012
Location
Midland, Texas
I hate that place. It's the Walmart of manual laborers that possess no regard for quality and too many buy tools there to use and return. A true craftsman wouldn't buy from HF IMO.
Many years ago I bought alum oxide blast media from HF and it is awful. Created way more dust than others I've used.
Harbor Freight tools have improved dramatically over the last 5-10 years.

That said, they sell a lot of American made products (keep in mind that Made In USA is certainly no guarantee of quality!). You'll find products from CRC, Rustoleum, Meguiars, etc. I have several flat-free wheelbarrow tires that I believe are British-made.

I recently bought a HF electric lawnmower for my small mobile home lot at the lake. Works great! Sure beats the gasoline mower I had there for years!
 

GregSY

Diamond
Joined
Jan 1, 2005
Location
Houston
I gotta say, that's one of those Hints from Heloise things that actually doesn't work half the time.

Why? It presumes there will be a screw or nail on the stud you seek. Not always the case. And since strings don't hang upwards, you'd better hope there is a screw/nail ABOVE where you want.

It also presumes the screw/nail is centered on the stud. A crap shoot...it's just as likely to be 1/8" from the edge.

Then, you have to mess with string, too, which is its own PITA.


A stud finder locates the stud's edges/center. It fits in your pocket, no unraveling or winding back up. It works on any wooden stud...even horizontal wood pieces. At the very top, or very bottom, or anywhere in the twixt.


Before I sign off, a couple drops of oil will stop a squeaky hinge from squeaking!


Heloise.
 

EPAIII

Diamond
Joined
Nov 23, 2003
Location
Beaumont, TX, USA
But back to the original question. I guess I am in a good position to provide an answer, having purchased two import, 20" drill presses: one for my last employer and the other for my own shop. Unfortunately neither was a Jet, but they do illustrate what can be found when purchasing imported machines.

For my last employer I purchased a Grizzly 20", floor stand drill press. It is by no means a light weight and after assembling it per the instructions, laying down on the floor, it took several of us to stand it up. It ran OK from the first and I had no problems with it. The cost was about $1200 PLUS tax and shipping. Probably near $1500 total. this was about 15 to 18 years ago so expect more today.

For my own shop I had to go a more economical route so I purchased the more or less same 20" floor stand drill press from the local HF store. They had one on display which I could examine so I did know some of the differences between it and the Grizzly. Again, it had about the same weight and it took three of us to stand it up after assembly. My cost with one of HF's discounts was only about $450 plus tax (8% here). About $485 or a bit more total. This was around 7 or 8 years ago. It was delivered to the local HF store where I picked it up with my truck so there was no shipping charger. Grizzly and some others could learn something here.

The exercises in lifting both of these similar DPs to the vertical position does illustrate that they have very similar amounts of CI. There is no major difference in the castings.

One thing I did not like about the HF was the chuck. It had a 5/8"+ chuck which sounds nice, but it was too big to grab the drill bits from 1/16" up to about 1/8". So I immediately purchased a 1/2", Rhom chuck which is the one that I used almost all the time.

Chuck comparison: I did not run any tests on the Chinese chuck which came with the Grizzly, but it worked well. I did take runout readings on the Chinese and Rhom chucks on the HF. The 5/8" chuck which came with the HF DP had surprising good runout, IIRC, under 0.002" both near the jaws and at about 1.5" or 2" out from them. The Rhom chuck, again surprisingly, actually had about twice that runout or about 0.004" or 0.005" when measured in the same manner. These numbers were checked with two or three different diameter rods and they were consistent. I even ran the numbers at two different orientations of the chuck in the spindle and they still tracked. So they seem to be due to the chucks themselves.

Both DPs had 1.5HP, 115/230 Volt motors and 12 speeds; if memory serves, the actual numbers were very similar. Both ran OK from first assembly but I believe the Grizzly did run with less vibration. I did purchase a new set of belts for the HF and that improved, but did not stop all the vibration. The HF motor seems to run very quiet with the belts disconnected so I suspect the pulleys are a bit out of balance. Both machines have exactly the same motor mount and are equally easy or difficult for changing the belt positions for different speeds. I do actually use different speeds for my work. I can't remember what the Grizzly had, but the HF has a nice speed chart inside the belt cover which I use all the time. I even made a magnetic pointer to let me see which speed it is currently set up for at a glance.

One feature I like and use almost constantly on a DP is the depth stop. Blind holes, counter sinks, counter bores, chamfering, etc. I find the depth stop very useful. The Grizzly has a vertical, threaded rod with a double nut style of depth stop while the HF came with one on the hand wheel which is adjusted by loosening a thumb screw and rotating it. The threaded rod style permits more accurate adjustments while the collar on the hand wheel of the HF is faster to use but it's scale has much to be desired. Frankly I do not like either style and I had modified the Grizzly with a push button nut on the threaded rod. No changes were needed on the Grizzly for this mod, just exchange the nuts and the result is it is both fast to use and easy to adjust to within a few thousandths of a desired depth. I have a push button nut, a spindle bracket, and some threaded rod for the HF and plan to modify it as soon as I can. One advantage of the HF here is it will have two depth stops after the mod and the original, hand wheel stop can be easily used to hold the spindle DOWN as is sometimes desired. At that point both of the depth stops will operate at the same time and that can save time if a large number of parts are being drilled or chamfered.

Beyond those observations, I have found only one other major feature that is different. The Grizzly has a larger spindle which probably means larger bearings. I discovered this when I wanted to get the bracket that attaches to the quill for the threaded rod style depth stop. The HF DP simply did not have this part so I went to Grizzly where I knew I could get it. When it arrived I found that it had an opening that was about 1/2" to 3/4" bigger than the HF DP. I kept it as it will be easy to shim to the smaller diameter.

So, are different imported machines different in quality? I would definitely say YES. The Grizzly definitely ran smoother from the get-go. And it did not need a new chuck to grip small drills. The threaded rod depth stop is better in my opinion and definitely better after adding the push button nut. But is the Grizzly worth close to $1000 more? When I was spending my own money, not my employer's, my answer was a definite NO. Even if I had lived closer to a Grizzly showroom and could have picked it up to save shipping charges, I do not know if I would have chosen the Grizzly.

That being said, I will say this. I have purchased other machines from Grizzly. I do believe they have better QC (quality control) than many of the other importers. And knowing that I was buying an import, Chinese made machine, I was never disappointed with a Grizzly purchase. I got my personal milling machine from them, taking advantage of a low, introductory price. Even with the shipping it was a good deal. One must just do these things with their eyes open.

While I can't say anything about Jet, I hope this helps.
 
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