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Harbor Freight's tools for jewelry making?


#1

Hi everyone

Someone suggested last week I check Harbor Freight 's site for a
dapping block + punches. It turned out to be a very good idea !
Whoever it was, thanks. I looked at their other stuff, and need your
opinion on the following items :

— Ultrasonic cleaner No : 3305-1vga $ 29.99

Will this clean silver ? Can I put jewellry such as pearls or stones
in it ? Could it bring shine to golden horn ?

— Drill press No : 44506-5vga $ 59.99

I’m looking for an inexpensive way to drill larger holes into
natural pearls, and even faux pearls. I tried with the foredom, the
real pearl got very hot, and the glass one broke.

Thank you and have a great day


#2

I may have been the “deviant” that steered you to Harbor Freight. I
cannot speak knowledgeably about the ultra sonic cleaner nor the
drill press. They do have a pretty good return policy, so in that
regard, a “mistake” could be rectified. I know from experience the
value of a good drill press, but I also know more dearly the term
"budget constraint." It seems to be a life long affliction. Good
luck with your endeavors… and as usual, I have no vested interest
in the afore mention company.


#3

silver yes, ultrasonic cleaner is very unsafe for some gem stones
e.g. emerald. best way to clean stones is still soapy water and soft
toothbrush, just time consuming.

john


#4
--- Drill press No : 44506-5vga $ 59.99 

They tend to be variable in quality. If you buy one, check the chuck
runout and take it back if it’s excessive. Try to move the chuck
back and forth. there should be no play.

I'm looking for an inexpensive way to drill larger holes into
natural pearls, and even faux pearls. I tried with the foredom,
the real pearl got very hot, and the glass one broke. 

The advantage the drill press will give you is a slower speed. But
you’ll still need proper technique and cooling lubricant.

Al Balmer
Sun City, AZ


#5

Ah yes, THAT ultrasonic cleaner. Works fine if you take filtered
water and heat it (teapot or microwave), then pour into the
ultrasonic. Then spritz in some degreaser liquid and a drop of
dishwash liquid. Plug it in, push the ‘ON’ button. Wait a cycle, and
while water is still hot, do it twice more. It will get polishing
compound out of your jewelry very nicely. Then take your toothbrush &
follow up with jewelry cleaner. Cleaning out the cleaner is a mess
waiting to be cleaned up.

Is it a retail jewelry store-level device? No way! I have the HF
cleaner at home, the other at work. When my jewelry really needs a
good cleaning, guess where I take it?

OK, not everyone gets to work in a goldsmith shop. But some
industrial-level devices only costs 4-5 times the ‘personal’-level
device. Sounds like a big difference, right? But I’m 50 now; after
all these years, I find I wish I had spent the bigger money for the
better product.

Your mileage may vary.

Kelley


#6
They do have a pretty good return policy, so in that regard, a
"mistake" could be rectified. 

They do indeed have a very good return policy. I had to return a
defective wheeled stool this weekend (the set-screw on the seat
couldn’t be tightened or loosened, it just twirled aimlessly in its
hole), and they exchanged it without question.

They even let me assemble the new one in the store, which was very
handy when the next one turned out to be also defective – on what
would have been the final turn of the wrench, I sheared the set-screw
right off! The assistant manager looked at me a little funny, but
when I swore that I’m not a weight-lifter, they gave me yet another
one without even a whimper.

Third time was the charm. :wink:

I’m wondering about their rolling mill, though. harborfreight.com
Item# 4832 I wonder if it’s decent value, or if I should wait until
I feel ready to spend quite a bit more on one that’s got more
features, more bang, a company with more of a “jewelry” reputation?
I’m sure there are opinions on that out there… :slight_smile:


#7

Hi,

I own the Ultrasonic cleaner No : 3305-1vga $ 29.99. It does a
passable job with the cleaning solution, but for silver, I like
silver cleaning wipes better. I don’t use it on pearls only because
they seem too fragile, and I’ve never tried golden horn. Overall,
it’s an okay machine for the money, but it doesn’t really clean
anything well, just kinda de-grimes and de-tarnishes a little bit.
For drilling holes in glass pearls (or any glass bead) I use a
dremel rotary tool. I submerce the pearl or bead in a TINY amount of
water to keep it cool while drilling, otherwise it breaks under the
heat of the friction. Be careful, though. Use only teeny amounts of
water and a LONG reemer bit, as it’s not good to get an electric
tool wet. As for buying a drill press, I don’t have one from harbor
freight, and personally wouldn’t buy one from them. Their quality is
passable, but for a little more money, you could get something
better. I haven’t ordered from Micromark yet, but I hear their tools
are top of the line and less expensive then buying from a jewelry
tool manufacturer.

Here is an example of one of their drill presses:
http://www.ares-server.com Product #81631

I am planning to buy from them in the future. Also, their tools are
designed for hobbyists and crafters of small parts (modelers) so the
tools are really nicely sized for jewelry hobbyists. Look their
website over: http://www.micromark.com

Augest Derenthal


#8

I buy a fair amount of stuff from Harbor Freight since one of their
stores is close by.

In my experience there are three things you shouldn’t expect from HF
tools: Durability, accuracy and quality. Things like the dapping
block work well (I have one). Things like their needle files work but
won’t last long. Something like a drill press for drilling pearls? I
wouldn’t.

Tool boxes and clamps, yes. An ultrasonic cleaner? Probably not.

RC


#9
I'm looking for an inexpensive way to drill larger holes into
natural pearls, and even faux pearls. I tried with the foredom,
the real pearl got very hot, and the glass one broke. 

I’ve drilled real pearls with my Foredom but I did it under water to
stop them from overheating. Might be worth a try.

Helen
UK


#10
They do indeed have a very good return policy. 

I’m a sucker for the Harbor Freight advertisement every time I get
one in the mail. I bought a small surface grinder once on sale for
$16. How can you turn down a deal like that? It worked for small
homeowner type jobs like sharpening lawn mower blades and such but
when I used it for about an hour on some heavy duty grinding it
burned out in an impressive display of sparks and fire. It was like a
roman candle in my hands. Luckily I was holding on to the plastic
parts so I didn’t get zotted. I was out of the thirty day warranty
period but when I brought my incinerated surface grinder in the
Harbor Freight and laid it on the counter and asked to see the
manager they replaced it without question.

I'm wondering about their rolling mill, though. harborfreight.com
Item# 4832 I wonder if it's decent value, or if I should wait
until I feel ready to spend quite a bit more on one that's got more
features, more bang, a company with more of a "jewelry"
reputation? I'm sure there are opinions on that out there... :) 

Don’t waste your money on the Harbor Freight rolling mill. The
machining is bad and the rollers are of low quality steel.

Now, I’m feeling bored I think I’ll go out and grind something with
my newly replaced Harbor Freight surface grinder for a little
excitement. :slight_smile:

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado
rockymountainwonders.com


#11

I started buying tools in 2002 one tool per month I had 25 dollars
to spend. I am on ssi disability and well lol on a tight budget. I
bought tools from harbor freight such as clearance leather mallets
and dapping blocks a $10 2 inch hitch in a vice for hammering (heh
thanks Orchid). The grinder polisher was a fiasco but at 39 dollars
it lasted long enough to get jewelry polished for one show. I also
went online to feebay and searched jewelers tools and antique tools
and specific tools. Most times I was outbid but sometimes things were
mislisted and just one question to seller offered me a grand deal. I
got a model A foredom (registration number 3489 lol and with new oil
ad shaft grease works just gets ‘tired out fast’)with flex shaft and
buffing wheel and about 5 pounds of gems in various stages of
finishing jaspers etc. all for 50 dollars including shipping. It
takes a mixture of patience, luck and determination.

The early tools worked. The better tools I have started replacing
them make me see that the quality makes the job SO MUCH EASIER and
faster with a lot less stress on my fingers and hands lol I bought
the economy flex shaft from Contenti.com just paste in economy in the
search there a plethera of useable tools. Just a happy customer no
affiliation. It is SO QUIET my cat sleeps near me as I work at my
inside table lol nice nice nice polished 50 pendants yesterday only
took 2 hours. WOOT lol 9 days til the show lol

As I replace earlier antiques and tools I find I do not use I donate
them to other beginners. Pass it on as it were. Because so many
people have helped me in my recovery and return to making a living.

I have only managed to get into a local show it is a big one in
sept,but it makes me a lot of money in 3 days. (to me 2500 dollars
profit is 1/3 of what I get in a year from ssi! and in PA I can sell
3k dollars of personal property and not report it as income though I
do collect state sales tax and pay it ) My goal is next to get a
vehicle so I can call other shows and say I will be a last minute
replacement. If I can get 4 shows a year I can make enough to get off
disability and support myself and spend 8 months in studio creating.
I am also a wildlife artist.(that doesn;t feed me often enough lol)

One step at a time. If you truely love what you do nothing will stop
you. Never give up. There are always alternatives. We are creative
people and applying it to life can give solutions.

Orchid is just a god send for It will be your best
tool. I have managed to donate small tiny sums in past 20 bucks time
to donate after the show :slight_smile: If I can donate EVERYONE should just think
of the work and here. It is priceless thanks all!

Sorry its long but I get passionate about this lol I just LOVE
working. Try not doing it for ten years then all of a sudden work is
VERY VERY COOL. lol

Teri


#12
Things like the dapping block work well (I have one). Things like
their needle files work but won't last long. Something like a drill
press for drilling pearls? I wouldn't.

I agree. Anything with a motor is probably a no-no. I have one of
their dapping sets and like it well. I had to polish the ends of a
couple of the punches, but nothing major. I have actually bought the
needle files for the exclusive purpose of applying patination
solutions to gold. They definitely are a good resource for hand tools
that you can replace with higher-end ones as the funds become
available, and then you have the HF ones as back-ups.


#13
Something like a drill press for drilling pearls? I wouldn't. 

An understandable attitude. I’ve bought some things from HF that
turned out to be pretty useless (a set of crescent wrenches comes to
mind). But, FWIW, the first thing I ever bought from them was a drill
press. It was $60 and no shipping charge. It’s huge, and seriously
ugly. It makes a wampa-wampa noise when it runs. But, astonishingly,
it has no run-out, and holds my tiniest drillbits, so it is very
functional. I don’t use it all that much, but I’m happy to have it!
Noel


#14

Hi, we have bought from HF the dual barrel tumbler, the small
ultrasonic cleaner, the dapping set, a propane torch and a lot of
many other items like the magnetic holder and so on, we have a small
jewelry school and we really use most of the tools on a daily base
and we just changed once and recently the tumbler belt, we think the
relation between quality/price is excellent. By the way Rio Grande
also sells the same ultrasonic cleaner with a higher price and the
only difference is the tag that says Rio.We have also bought the
economy flexshaft from Contenti, it is an excellent piece, we also
bought the #30 hand piece and a replacement shaft just for having it
in case the provided with the equipment fails, no need until now.So
sometimes the “you get what you pay is not true”.

Thor Hedderich
Orfebreria Los Naranjos


#15

Kelley

Ya got to be kidding, feed an ultrasonic filtered water :-). The
machines are meant to remove and collect dirt. If you have to scratch
stuff with a tooth brush it isn’t yet clean. Another few minutes and
maybe you still need a steamer.

I’m just using a domestic grade US and my steamer was designed to
make coffee. Both feeble cheap machines but still capable of doing
damage. Real professional grade tools are faster but can do major
damage while your back is turned.

Jeff
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#16

I have one of HF’s single barrel tumblers. The belt keeps breaking
after a few hours of use. Not a success IMHO. Perhaps the
double-barrel model uses a different belt. I hope so.

As for the ultrasonic cleaner, don’t be too sure that the on Rio
Grande is selling is the same. They may look the same, but the
Chinese (which is where HF gets most of its stuff) are notorious for
producing externally identical products in several grades at
different price points.


#17

Teri,

I congratulate you. In these day’s when so many are promoting an
expansion of welfare (under a variety of different terms) you are a
sterling example of old fashioned American self-reliance.

Congratulations on overcoming your obstacles and sincere
complements.

Dr. Mac


#18
I have one of HF's single barrel tumblers. The belt keeps breaking
after a few hours of use. Not a success IMHO. Perhaps the
double-barrel model uses a different belt. I hope so. 

I have heard if you adjust the belt tension to where it’s just tight
enough to keep turning the belt will last longer. Also, I can’t
remember who but someone here on Orchid said the heavy weight pony
tail elastics without the metal clasp work well for HF belts. It’s
definitely a design flaw plus the plastic fan breaks easily. But the
barrels are good. I have heard from people into tumbling that they
buy the HF tumbler on sale and use the barrels on their Lortone or
Thumlers tumblers. The opposite is the case on the HF vibratory
tumbler. The bowl is crap but the motor is quite good with a few
adjustments to the off center weight. Of course there is always the
quandary do you want to tumble or do you want to tinker. I like to
tinker and tumble. :slight_smile:

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado
rockymountainwonders.com


#19
...HF's single barrel tumblers. The belt keeps breaking after a
few hours of use... 

I originally purchased HF’s dual barrel tumbler - it had a V belt
which broke after 2 days. I took just the belt back and they gave me
a new belt. That one broke within a couple days. I returned the
tumbler and got a new one about the time I started receiving replies
here on Orchid. The most helpful suggestions weRe: to "do the belt
adjustment mentioned in the manual before… using it. " and to not
overload the barrel. I found that I had to loosen the tension on the
belt until it slipped and then tighten until it just caught. It also
broke after a couple weeks - by then I had purchased a single barrel
tumbler which had a round belt. I took the dual barrel tumbler back
and exchanged it for 2 single barrel ones. I also ordered some
replacement belts from Mama’s Minerals getting the medium Lortone
belts so I have spares if they break again.

I have purchased a number of items from HF and have been satisfied
with them for what they are, I just don’t expect too much. I have
been most satisfied with the $14 digital calipers which appeared to
be identical with the much higher priced ones purchased from a more
traditional supplier - identical packaging and item. Buyer beware
and use common sense when purchasing from HF.

jeanette


#20
I have been most satisfied with the $14 digital calipers which
appeared to be identical with the much higher priced ones
purchased from a more traditional supplier - identical packaging
and item 

I am happy to hear that the cheap calipers are working out for you.
My experience has been the opposite. All the calipers I have bought
have looked exactly the same, but I worked my way from $10 to $40
before I got one that held its measurement. What I mean is, on the
cheap ones, you start at zero, take a measurement, close the caliper
and it no longer says zero. This means the measurement is not
reliable. If you are setting faceted stones, you need an exact,
consistent caliper. Sadly, the cheap ones only look the same.

Noel