Old Thread About Tools & Places to Buy Them

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Old Thread About Tools & Places to Buy Them

Post by Zeliard »

Original authors are in bold. Thanks go to Popeye for saving this info.

Edited to remove superfluous comments.

Note: Dollar amounts are from 2004-2005.


I'll start with tool catalogs. Two I couldn't get along without are Harbor Freight, and Victor Machinery Exchange.

http://www.harborfreight.com/ Harbor Freight's website sucks. It could be used as an example of how not to do it. Their catalogs and specials are wonderful. With a caveat. Some of the stuff they sell is garbage. Some of it is really useful. I've been a steady customer of theirs for many years. Get on their mailing list, then ask me what I think of what you're looking at as a potential purchase.


Victor's website is easy to navigate. They are an industrial supplier with a policy of selling very small lots at very good prices. They stock some very arcane machining equipment and supplies. Get their catalog too. It's an education in paperback. Good stuff, good prices.

More later.


I will start with some tools.
We have all discussed the need for good hollow ground screwdrivers, Punches drifts and a hammer. Now for some other helpful tools we should have in the Firearms tool kit.

A small inspection mirror. I dental mirror will do. This will let you see in those little nook and crannies.

A set of picks or scribes. Again dental picks will do nicely. Get an assortment of different tips. Straight, bent, curved, ect.
These will let you clean all those nooks and crannies.

These items can be found cheaply everywhere from auto parts stores the drugstore and many other places.

Once you have used these items a few times you will find many other uses for them besides your firearms.


I agree with Thug's assessment of Harbor Freight--always get an opinion from someone before buying. I have bought hundreds (thousands?) of products, some are a terrific bargain, others are throwing your money down the toilet!

Also try Grizzly. http://www.grizzly.com/

They are like an upscale Harbor Freight. I have had good experiences with them.

Get JL industrial supply's catalog too. It is huge, free, and fun to look through.


Can't comment on previous entries, but that may be because I have used MSC for so many years. They too have the biiig book and are avaiable at MSC http://www1.mscdirect.com/cgi/nnsrhm
They've almost always had any oddball tap or die I've needed, straight reamers, taper reamers, many other useful tools, and choices from "cheap import," to best "American made" on many products. (cheap quick shipping, too)
Found this cool rain guage there, that consists of a little bucket device in the yard and the remote on my bookshelf telling me how much rain I'm gettin. Well, it doesn't talk, but it does have digital readout and "history."


Here's another Homier Mobile Merchants http://www.homier.com/ go into their tool section and check out snop tools. Scroll down to the 5 speed mini drill press. I have that one, but I bought it at a mobile sale locally. they had 'em for $19.95, so I bought five of 'em. Anybody know someone who'd like a drill press for christmas? They're damn good trading stock,too. I sold three out of my garage sale for $50.00 ea.

Homier has these sales all over the country. It's cheaper than a crummy hand drill and capable of decent work if you're careful. Their little "Metal Lathe" at $299.95 is a genuine, dyed in the wool, chromium plated, blue eyed bargain.

You'd be amazed at the stuff I can turn out on this little gem.

Some of their other stuff like drill bit sets are good too. But,as with Harbor freight, Caveat Emptor. Don't expect industrial grade stuff and you won't be disappointed.


Warning!!! Massively long post, all disclaimers for eye strain, heard it already/ no duh! statements, read at you own risk, etc… apply…

Nordic couldn't be more right about Harbor Freight/ other, some of their (and any of the others, it's all coming from the same factories in China fellas) stuff is a great deal, some is a good deal and you'll get the use you paid for, Some of it wasn't worth putting on the boat to get it here. Really, if it looks cheap/ cheesy in a catalog photo…. Turn the page.

Tool kits, sets etc…CAREFULLY read what all is included. FORGET how many pcs there are total, remember those 5 extra hacksaw blades each count as 1 pc. Some are a good mix, but most of the time the combo sets are skipping all sorts of sizes, and are instead loaded with worse than useless tools (i.e. 30 Allen wrenches) Not necessarily bad quality, just useless. This is rampant throughout the industry. (Sears too). It really is more cost effective to buy the individual sets in the long run.

I've gotten dozens of items from Harbor freight, Here's a rundown of a few off the top of my head.

204 pc Ratchet/socket set. $120..4 out of 5 stars for quality, completeness and packaging, only negative, the 1/4 inch sockets didn't have the ball detent so they fall off the ratchet/extension. I used them for over a year in a high volume fleet shop, nothing broke, just had to put a "nick" in the inside of the 1/4" stuff to keep them on the bar.

Other socket sets, stick with the push button type ratchets, (“professional line”) the socket sets for $5 are meant to be given away by B grade professional wrestlers at auto parts store grand openings.

1/2" right angle drill $80...first one I got wouldn't go into low gear, exchanged it (very easy) and the other one works fine, about 60-70% power of a real "hole hawg", but less than half the cost.

7000watt Vanguard 11hp "name brand" generator. $425 turned out to be a "DAYTON elec motor co." brand. It doesn't have all the frills of most other generators its size, but it's produced allot of trouble free electricity on job sites for me, at half the purchase cost.

1/4" trim router...$19....this is a steal! If you want to trim laminate, or do door mortise work, even other lite routing jobs...

12pk carpenters pencils (red ones), .99, absolute crap!

8 to 10 gauge CP framing nail gun, (the grey one) $99, can't beat it! It's recently been on the cover and front web page, I've had it for 2 years, works great, it's basically a copy of the old Bostich gun, (and takes the less expensive 28degree gun nails), works good on regular 2-5hp elec. compressors too.

7 N 1 needle nose pliers, $7, like any “combo” tool, it doesn’t do any 1 thing better than the individual tool, but it’s gets a bunch of odd jobs “done”, when the tool kit has to be compact and light.

22 pc combo metric/sae wrench set $16 (China/India wrenches in general) While the older “buffalo” branded stuff seemed to be made of some kind of lead alloy , the drop forged “raised panel” type you can get everywhere under MANY (Companion, Pittsburgh, Popular Mechanics, Benchtop, Thorsen) names ain’t bad at all. They will slowly bend if you pound on them with a 3+ lb sledge to break free those slightly over tightened bolts, but in everyday, and standard mech use, they hold up well. Just be warned, buy the biggest set you can the first time, to get all the sizes, you’ll end up spending more to fill in the missing ones buying equiv. type from local retailers….except 18mm, you’ll have to spring for that one individually…for some reason, none of the sets seem to include this one, (and it doesn’t have a sae brother), despite it being not uncommon in modern autos. The real crap wrenches are made in Malaysia now.

“Crescent” wrenches, $8-15, not bad, but they still have the “looser” jaws. Really, since it is an “adjustable” wrench, you’re just asking to round the bolt off anyway, but these are up to the usual tasks asked of them.

4pc pry bar set $9. Surprisingly tough, though they flex too much for the really big jobs (read cheater pipe), you really can’t go wrong with these.

Screwdrivers, $8-15, Joe hobby guy will be fine with the “professional” ones, mainly good to have for the random custom tool base stock. There really is no substitute for “good” screwdrivers though. (NOT the STD craftsman ones either)

Digital multi-meter, $5. What can I say, it works, I’ve seen them for a little as $3.

Misc pliers, $5-10, the rubber handle covers sometimes work off, but all in all, a solid buy.

3 bolt pulley puller $8, other misc pullers. The jack screws tend to be brittle (chunks of threads chip off), but they do the job, and cost little.

Chinese copy of Stanley utility knife, a poor copy of a proven design. They’re good for the back side of the blade working it’s way out under hard cuts, this is a handy feature if you like the sight of your own blood.

Hammer sets, Forget the 5pc sets, the 8-12-24oz just don’t get used. You need a 16oz & 32-48oz Ball peen, a 3-4lb drilling, a 2 lb dead blow, 2-3lb brass, and an 8-10lb sledge. For nails a STD 16oz smooth face claw, and if you frame a lot, a 22 oz waffle face. Quality is fine, go with fiberglass handles. The heads get loose easily on the wood ones.

File set $5…wood handles are cheap/small, and you only get 2, vinyl pouch will fall apart immediately. Files work fine. Knock a handle off one of those cheap screwdrivers and you’re good to go.

Ryobi Quick link trimmer (recon), $50…I’ve been using it for 6 years now good/versatile tool, only thing, they had the on/off switch wired backwards, that or they printed the sticker backwards

Chicago Electric Auto darkening welding helmet $59… Excellent buy! You’ll never go back to fixed shades, and at $100+ less in cost. Solar powered, auto off, extra cover lens.

Milwaukee screw shooter (recon) $49 Looked band new ‘cept for the “R” stamped on the housing, still driving screws 4 houses worth of sheetrock later.

Punches/chisels Buy the cheapies, they’re a little softer, but you always end up grinding new edges no matter what brand you buy.

Auto adjust wire stripper $8, I haven’t been able to find the wire size it auto adjusts to strip. Young children like the sound and action it makes though.

Nut/Pin/washer/spring/clip sets...$4-$10 they come in the small divider cases, and are quite handy to have around, I think I have all of them. I wouldn’t get the larger Nut and Bolt sets or assortments, Lots of the small useless pcs, few of the larger ones. Elec Connector Assortment. Pass it up, Lots of the small useless pcs, few of the commonly used ones.

Don’t forget to look the whole catalog thru, I’ve found the same item (with different #) for 3 different prices in the same catalog. I also only order with the catalog key number from the ones with the “free shipping” and “$5.00” off, and then use the item number with the lowest price from that or another catalog. Harbor Freight does have a 1 yr low price deal, if they sell the same item for less within a year, they will credit your card that amount. I’ve done this a couple of times. Just keep your packing receipt, and when you see that it’s $10 less in the next catalog, call them up and ask.

……….well that’s my 2.5¢…for what it’s worth…


I finished my workbench yesterday so I figure the next thing I need to buy is a vise. I visited Harbor Freight today and looked at what they had. My first time in there and man do they have low prices! Do you think a 3-1/2' home shop vise would suffice? I believe that would be big enough to hold rifles like a Mauser or Mosin Nagant. It is only $8.99 which put a smile on my face. The only thing I am worried about are the jaws. Wouldn't I need to put some padded on them so the rifle stock would not get damaged. Any thoughts?


I have the 3 1/2" one that I got at a local home center (Menard's). Identical. It's a little small for this task, but you can get a stock in the jaws, but the protective wood/plastic can't be very thick. The overall height of the vise off the bunch isn't much either, you need to mount it on a block up off the top a bit.

I guess If I were only going to have one vise, I'd bump up to the $30-40 range and get a 5-6" with the pipe jaws.

I think I paid $6 for the 3 1/2" one I have. For less than $10, you really can't go far wrong. It has served me well enough. If you have one of those discount tool places around you can see them first hand.


For my vises, I took masonite and cut a square notch that fits down over the vise bolt, and trimmed the exterior to match the width of the vise. Then I glued horse stall rubber matting to the masonite. It works very well. Two panels to the vise, rubber facing in.
I saw a really nice vise attachment last week. It might not be easy to describe, but I will try. The owner took the top surface of the vise, where the jaws are, off flat. He then drilled 3/4 inch holes into the flat surfaces. He then took angle iron and welded 3/4 inch rod to it. The rod fits into the holes and will swivel the angle iron to match angled surfaces. He had rubber glued to the faces of the angle iron. I can see another vise coming my way. This was a very slick set up. Mike.


Don't waste money on a cheesy $8 vise, it will never give good service and will break when it will cause the most damage. Get a good one, "Record" brand is one of the best and cheap at around $40. 3 1/2" is a good size, 4" is better, anything larger is gravy.

The Chinese made ones are (how shall I put this?) CRAP. All of them.

Wilton also makes a second line home shop vise that will last eons. Keep a contant eye out for a good vise at swap meets and second hand stores, too. My $300.00 Wilton Machinist's vise cost me $10 at a swap meet because the screw was frozen. It took less than ten minutes to get it freed up and working perfectly.

Like Mike said, Masonite vise jaws are wonderful. Try to find 1/4" oil tempered masonite. If you come across a piece of sheet copper, it's been "industry standard" for vise jaw pads for 300 years.


As for inexpensive bench vises, Record (English) is very good, as is Bison (Polish) and there's another one from Austrailia that's inexpensive and well made, but I can't remember the name. All will run about $40.00 retail at Lowe's or Home Depot. Get one with minimum 4" jaws. If it swivels that's gravy, but not necessary.

I wouldn't use a mainland Chinese vise as a paperweight if it was free.


I've got a set of Record chisels and a Record smoothing plane. I love 'em.


Vises, got one with 6" jaws and opens at least 8". Took two pieces of 2x6 pine and cut out the bottoms to straddle the screw. Covered with carpeting and use it when doing work on stocks, barrels, ect. If you can swing it buy the biggest one you can afford, you won't regret it. Sandpaper, i buy the contractor's packs like those sold at lowe's or home depot. Sure beats running out when doing a job. Save the silicon carbide paper in the finer grits for finish sanding.Especially when doing a really cruddy stock. Screwdrivers, yes you can save a few bucks getting the cheaper ones, but then you get what you pay for. Catalogs, MSC #1 in my book great for oddball taps and dies. Enco, McMaster-Carr, Grizzly. Get as many of each as you can. Can compare prices and get better deals. Travers Tool also has a great catalog. Woodworkers specialty catalogs, you can sometimes get good deals on specialty woods and scraps. Some of them make great forend tips instead of those plastic ones. I could go on and on but you get the idea. Hope this helps. Frank
Proud alumni of Transylvanian Polygnostic University. "Know enough to be afraid."

"Vertroue in God en die Mauser".-Faith in God and the Mauser.

"Send lawyers, guns and money." -Warren Zevon

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