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Old 02-11-2006, 01:19 AM
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Default Harbor Freight Portaband

Welp, here is look at a another cheap-like-me hobbyist grade tool from HF.
I have a little bit of scrap I have been wanting to clean up but none of the cutting processes I had available were capable of doing a decent job because of th eodd angles at which the pieces are welded together. Sure, I could have torched it & could have plasma cut it but that would have caused more waste and then I still would have wanted to cut it again. Oh well yeah, that sounds a little bit lame to me too. I have been wanting a portaband for a good while. Older men than me keep urging me to get one - aw crap - I really bought it because I wanted to, so there.

So I printed out the 20% off coupon & betook myself down to 34th & A. I could not find the saw, finally had to nail a clerk to bring one out from the back; they need more floor space. I sat down & read the side of the box but there was no more information there than in the flyer & the only thing I learned from it was I figured out that the variable speed is controlled by the little knob built into the trigger. I also bought a box of three Morse bimetal blades for $19.95. The saw was priced "on sale" for $69.95. I used the 20% coupon for another $14 off. The total cost of the saw, blades and sales tax came to $80.08.



I took this picture just to show you what comes in the box with the saw: you get one allen wrench. a set of spare brushes, the "blade guide" and a little plastic triangle, for pete's sake. I was happy to see the brushes because they seemed to express an optimistic belief that the saw will mechanically outlast the first set of brushes.



The lever on the left side of the bow is the tensioning control. You will be able to see the inside view later. The lever is in the "relaxed" position & the factory blade was pretty much dropped in behind the blade cover & not installed on the wheels, so the first step was to remove the cover.
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Old 02-11-2006, 01:45 AM
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So I pullled the cover; this amounts to removing 4 screws.
Rut roh, those really are plastic wheels - with rubber tires. Oh well, I had expected pot metal wheels & who know, this plastic may outlast metal ones, considering what that metal might have been.



Now it is a Chinese saw and it does have a drive gear and it is noisy so I figured that the next step was to pull the wheels & grease the gears. That's what the allen wrench is for, by the way. I was right, they were nearly dry. I smeared them with white lithium because that's what I had on hand. I also figured the next thing to do might be to order a replacement wheel - just in case, you know?



The I noticed that the bushing was not seated all the way to the shoulder so I used an 1 1/2 inch oak dowell and tapped it into place. The image on the left shows before & the right one shows the after.



Then I installed the drive wheel and removed the idler. well, well - guess what? They use the same wheel, gears & all on the idler side so there is my spare drive wheel in case I strip the plastic teeth off the drive side. So I drove the bushing flush, greased it up & re-installed it. By the way, you can also see how the blade tensioning arrangement works. The lever pulls the wheel into the blade band & the springs provide some relief against binding, etc. It seems to work surprisingly well.

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Old 02-11-2006, 01:46 AM
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Cutter, my 4.5" angle grinder from them came with brushes too. I think that was wasted money (on their part) since I can't stand using it after 2 months and the spindle lock nearly twisted out of it the last cutting wheel change I did.

Having said that - a lot of their stuff is hit or miss. Some things are good, and others are crap. I'll be curious to see how this shapes up for you over the long haul.
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Old 02-11-2006, 02:06 AM
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While I had the blade & cover removed I took a picture of the blade guide bearings. They are the 3-part configuration & seem to work fairly well.



Other details that might be of interest:
The motor is rated at 6 amps, the power cord is 8 feet long and the saw is advertised as a 4 1/2 x 4 1/2. The blade speed is supposed to be "0-230 fpm". It uses a standard 44 7/8ths x 1/2 inch blade; the factory blade is a 14 tpi high speed steel. The Morse blades I bought (& installed) are 10-14 bimetal.

I have only made a couple of cuts so far & it seemed to work pretty well on some thick wall 1 1/4" tubing (didn't gauge it, about 3/16ths, I think). The saw sliced through it without any noticeable laboring and no stalling. This is the first ugly orange HF power tool I have bought. It is homely, it is cheaply built, but dang it, it was cheap. After all, this whole thing costs about as much as one good cold saw blade. For the price, I feel ok about it.
I will update as I get more experience with it.
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Old 02-11-2006, 02:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JT Metalworks
Cutter, my 4.5" angle grinder from them came with brushes too. I think that was wasted money (on their part) since I can't stand using it after 2 months and the spindle lock nearly twisted out of it the last cutting wheel change I did.

Having said that - a lot of their stuff is hit or miss. Some things are good, and others are crap. I'll be curious to see how this shapes up for you over the long haul.
Yep, that's my take too, Jim. Several other guys have mentioned that they are satisfied with theirs, all things considered. I preached against HF for several years but now most of the American companies are having their tools made across the oceans anyway. "Buy American" is just about impossible for me to justify anymore. Now, if I owned a production-type shop it would probably be different; I relish owning & using the few good old US made tools that I have managed to snag along the way, but these days us backyard types are pretty much reduced to yard sale purchases or the Chinese tool wars. When I buy something like this I try to post as much about it as I can learn for everyone else to benefit from - and that's another damned thing that bothers me - we can't even hold one in our hands before we buy it in a lot of cases, let alone hear how it sounds when you pull the trigger. We just have to buy it in the box & hope it works when we get it home. That's irritating to me so I like to read as many reviews & opinions as I can and I try to pay back by posting my own experiences when I can. I really can't justify paying $300 - $400 for a name brand portaband, no more than I would use it.
Maybe with a little care I can get my money's worth out of this thing.

I think I have 8 Chinese grinders out there in the shop. The four 6amp models are pretty durned good, 2 others are burned out, the 2 Homier 4 1/2" grinders are 3 amp jokes but I only have $5 invested in the pair. I also have a little 3 or 4 amp Skil older model that isn't much better than the Homiers.
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Old 02-11-2006, 02:54 AM
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I hear ya. I have a Northern Tool 17" 1.5HP drill press on order (Pre-paid: should be here in another week) and it was $305 after tax. That's 1/3 what it would cost to get me into a very old, very used rockwell or clausing of the same size and capacity. I wanted an arboga, but it was beat to snot, drilled to swiss cheese, and too much risk for the same price - $300. I figure if I can make some money with the Northern machine, it will pay for my better upgrade. If it's not true and square, then it will go back and I'll plunk more money down on an old one. I see it as a calculated risk really. I'm risking waiting 2 weeks of not having my $300 to spend on something else for the possibility of getting a decent chinese made machine. Wilton and Delta's current offerings look an awful lot like the smaller presses Northern has on display. They don't stock the larger one in any of their stores here or I would've dialed it out and seen how good it was. Who knows, maybe I'll get the same machine for a fraction of the cost? They are notably different than HF's big presses. Home Depot's Rigid line is also a nice contender in the china drill category, but they don't even offer anything over a 15" with 3/4HP. I need the bigger capacity for my routine work (HP, not throat), so that wasn't even an option.

Something of extreme interest in my process with Northern Tool, was I saw their cost on the machine I bought: $215! That's 306# shipped half way around the world for pennies on the pound over it's cost in scrap here... Unreal! No wonder ALL manufacturers have migrated east. Like you said, it's not about country of origin anymore. You need to evaluate the machine before you, not just what country it came from. We have a lot of inbred white trash I wouldn't want assembling my hedge shears - I'm sure china has some pretty fantastic machinists too.
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Old 02-11-2006, 03:48 AM
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Default TOo lOng of qOute

Quote:
Originally Posted by cutter
<snip> impossible for me to justify anymore. Now, if I owned a production-type shop it would probably be different; I relish owning & using the few good old US made tools that I have managed to snag along the way, but these days us backyard types are pretty much reduced to yard sale purchases or the Chinese tool wars. <snip> I like to read as many reviews & opinions as I can and I try to pay back by posting my own experiences when I can. I really can't justify paying $300 - $400 for a name brand portaband, no more than I would use it.
<snip>


Cutter,I appreciate posts like this and I believe it is also the key to Hobart welding talks success. Keep those reviews coming afiac


I have come to the conclusion that because I don't do this stuff for a living or production-type shop is part of why it is rewarding. Another part is the available time to 'do it' is minute and thus becomes special by virtue of rarity.
Another part is I too relish owning & using the few good tools that I have

That above is a good portion of my own justification for doing (buying) the things that I do. Of course none of the above is an excuse for driving the household into bankruptcy or consuming without regard for other family/life responsibilitys. But when the head accountant (Wifey) gives the thumbs up, then hell yeah game on! :evil:
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Last edited by X-ray; 02-11-2006 at 12:28 PM.
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Old 02-11-2006, 04:36 AM
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[COLOR=Black]
Quote:
Originally Posted by X-ray
Cutter,I appreciate posts like this and I believe it is also the key to Hobart welding talks success. Keep those reviews coming afiac
Thank you Ray. I also want to urge eveyone to post more reviews of their tools & trials. I have felt from the beginning that such tool reviews are helpful to us all & I can show by the hit counts that folks like to read them.
I also think there is a considerable market for this hobby grade equipment because so may of our members and lurkers are youngsters & guys just trying to put their tools together; they can't usually justify or afford high priced stuff so they like to know what's out there & what to expect if & when they commit to the next purchase.

Quote:
Originally Posted by X-ray
I have come to the conclusion that because I don't do this stuff for a living or production-type shop is part of why it is rewarding. Another part is the available time to 'do it' is minute and thus becomes special by virtue of rarity.
Another part is I too relish owning & using the few good tools that I have

That above is a good portion of my own justification for doing (buying) the things that I do. Of course none of the above is an excuse for driving the household into bankruptcy or consuming without regard for other family/life responsibilitys. But when the head accountant (Wifey) gives the thumbs up, then hell yeah game on! :evil:
Given the choice, I would go with old machinery every time. There are so many things more satisfying about those good old heavy machines. I get such a kick out of powering up my converter & running the old 3phase drill press that I usually use it even when the little Buffalo press might be better suited to a small job. Of course, part of that is the feeling that I have of "sticking it to the man" because the power company offered to charge me $1200 just to install the 3phase transformers in my alley and the total cost of bringing it into my building would have been about $3500; it cost me about $150 to build the converter & another $50 or $60 to run the cable into the shop to the press. Running the compressor off the same converter is like a bonus.

This little portaband is a different matter; I haven't run across a Milwaukee or an old PorterCable that I felt was a good risk even as a salvage project. It seems to me that a portaband of any quality is apt to have suffered from being tossed around too much & from bouncing around in a service truck to be a good candidate after too many years. Any respectable old saw with possibilities would cost me more than this and probably would need some tlc. Now I admit it's hard to feel too positive about plastic drive gears but I will probably cut less in a year than a pro might do in a busy week, so who knows? We will see.
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Old 02-11-2006, 04:44 AM
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Yes, it has tires. Pretty thick ones, too.

edit: lol Hey! Gimme a chance here, don't be deleting the question before I can answer it.
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  #10  
Old 02-11-2006, 08:05 AM
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Hay cutter do you think a person can adapt the saw to an old cheep chop saw table? and make a home made portable chop saw. Then you could use it for good straight cuts or remove it for mobile use.
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