Plans, projects and how-to's for home machinists

My Opinion About Harbor Freight’s Inside Track Club

I no longer have a positive opinion of Harbor Freight Inside Track Club.  Read the comments below to find out why.

I waited a long time before joining the Harbor Freight Inside Track Club because I couldn’t find out if it was worth $30 a year.  Now I think I can answer that question and my short answer is that it is — IF you regularly buy a variety of tools from them.  And even if you spend a modest amount you’ll probably save enough to at least pay for the cost of your membership.  And if you fall short it probably won’t be by much.  So, I don’t think there’s much risk in giving it a try.  Especially if join now, while they’re still giving away a $10 gift card with each new membership or renewal.  They had the same offer at this time last year and it’s why I joined.  [Shipping is free if you purchase your membership on their web site.]

What You Get With Your Membership

  • You’ll get at least 150 Inside Track Club coupons in the monthly retail flyer they mail to your house.  You can also view and print them from the Harbor Freight web site.
  • More ITC coupons will be emailed to you at least once a week.  I think there’s also a daily coupon that you have to get from the Harbor Freight web site.
  • You’ll get access to private member-only sales in the stores that are held every 2 or 3 months.  They’re for 2 hours and the ones at my nearby store have been on Sunday nights from 6-8 PM, which is right after it normally closes.  Although, the last one was from 4-6 PM.  I’ve been to at least 3 of them and I the only customer in the store except for one.  And that one only had a couple of other customers.  You’ll get additional coupons for the private sales and they even put out free snacks and soft drinks.  Sometimes you’ll get an additional 10% off your entire purchase.

Some Examples

Here are some examples from the February 2012 retail flyer

12-speed Bench Top Drill Press #44836
Normally $170 and on sale for $150.  ITC member price is $100.

1×30-inch Belt Sander #2485
Normally $50 and on sale for $45.  ITC member price is $30.

36 pc SAE/Metric Hex Key Set #94725
Normally $15 and on sale for $10.  ITC member price is $5

18-volt Magnesium Drill/Hammer Drill #65949
Normally $60 and on sale for $55.  ITC member price is $40

29 pc Split Point Cobalt Drill Bit Set #36891
Normally $55 and it’s NOT on sale in the retail flyer.  ITC member price is $45

The Deals Aren’t Always Great

I included the last two examples to show that you don’t always save much by being an Inside Track Club member.  Anyone could have used one of Harbor’s Freight’s easy-to-find 20%-off almost anything coupons to buy the Cobalt Drill Bit Set for about a dollar less than the ITC price.  And they could have used a coupon to buy the drill for only about $4 more.

I keep an envelope full of the coupons in my car.  I get at least one new one every week from our Sunday newspaper and they’re in all kinds of magazines that I either subscribe to or can get from our library’s free magazine exchange.  I’ve seen them in Family Handyman, Field and Stream, Sports Illustrated, Boat US, Flying, Popular Science, Digital Machinist and many more.  You can only use one coupon per trip and you can’t use them to buy air compressors, tool chests, welders and one or two other things.  They also can‘t be used with other coupons, including the Inside Track Club coupons.

By the way, there’s always a coupon for a free item next to the 20%-off coupon.  So now I have a large assortment of flashlights, tape measures, screwdriver sets, voltmeters and work gloves.  I don’t spend that much at Harbor Freight anymore because I have nearly everything I want and I’m running out of storage room in my workshop.  But I get to their store fairly frequently because I’m often very near it.

And Finally

As I said before, I don’t think you have much to lose by joining the club unless you just don’t spend very much money at Harbor Freight, or you buy just some very specific things.  I’ve saved quite a bit, although I also probably spent more than I might have by making some impulsive purchases because the savings were too good to pass up.

Good Deal: Free $10 gift card with a Harbor Freight Inside Track Club membership

I stopped at my local Harbor Freight store and learned that for “the rest of the month” you can get a $10 gift card when you join their Inside Track Club, which costs $29.99.  The deal is available both online and in their stores.  You may want to tell your store cashier that you want to join and get the gift card because you may not get it automatically.  At least that was the case in my the store.  They had to void my purchase and ring it up a different way so they could give me the card.  There won’t be any confusion if you buy it online and it looks like they’ll ship it for free if that’s the only item you buy.

I’ve been wondering for a long time if the Inside Track Club is worth $30 a year.  I guess I’m going to finally find out and so will you, because I’ll let you know.  There was a time when I was spending so much money at Harbor Freight that I’m sure it would have more than paid for itself.  But my shop is so well equipped (and I also have so little space) that I don’t buy as much now and I only stopped in yesterday because I was nearby.

Good Deal: Belt Drive Conversion Kit for the Mini-Mill

Mini-Mill Belt Drive Kit has the Ron Steele belt drive conversion kit for the mini-mill on sale for just one week, until Tuesday, September 1, 2009.  It’s $109.95, which is $20 (15%) off the normal price of $129.95.

I’m going to order one.  It is one of the most popular modifications for the X2 mini-mill, I was going to eventually buy it anyways, and I’ve never seen it on sale before.


  • The kit eliminates a couple of drive gears, including a plastic one that can break easily if your cutter jams.
  • It increases your maximum spindle speed from about 2500 rpm to about 4300 rpm, which is important if you use very small end mills or drills.
  • Your mill will run much quieter.

The conversion kit is very easy to install and it will probably take only about 25 minutes.

But don’t take my word for it.  Richard Bradshaw made an excellent 8-minute YouTube video that will show you how quick and easy it is to install the kit, and how much faster and quieter your mill will run.

Good Deal: Starrett Heavy Duty Hacksaw Frame

Starrett Hacksaw Blade FrameHave you heard of the Armstrong Method?  It is what you’re using when you cut metal stock to length with a hacksaw.  It’s the method that I’m stuck with because I don’t have room for a 4×6 bandsaw and even if I did I couldn’t justify the cost.

I’ve managed to break at least a couple of inexpensive hacksaw frames.  The last time that happened I went to Home Depot and bought the most expensive frame they had even though I almost choked on the price.  That frame is much more rigid and durable than the cheapies I’ve owned and is capable of putting far more tension on the blade, which means it won’t twist and bind as much.  The handle is also much more comfortable and easier to grip, which helps a lot when you’re trying to cut through a 2.5-inch round of 4140 steel.  It is good if your hand doesn’t hurt because then you only have to worry about a tired arm and sweat dripping down your face.

That’s why I think the Starrett Heavy Duty Hacksaw Frame that has on sale is worth mentioning.  It normally costs $35 but right now it is on sale for $17.50, but only through Tuesday, August 4th 2009.  I did some searching and that seems to be a very good price.  They also have Starrett hacksaw blades on sale.

Good blades are essential no matter what kind of frame you use them with. I suggest you buy the best blades you can from manufacturers who are known for making quality blades, unless of course you are deliberately trying to build up the muscles in just one of your arms.  I started using Starrett blades a couple of years ago and highly recommend them.  Before that I was pretty happy with the Lenox blades you can get at many hardware stores.

Did you know that there are carbon, high speed steel and bi-metal hacksaw blades?  Carbon blades are very inexpensive, flexible and dull quickly.  HSS blades are the most expensive but they stay sharp longer and cut faster.  They are also more brittle and will break if you don’t keep the blade straight when you are cutting.  Bi-metal blades are a good compromise. The cutting edge is HSS welded to a carbon back for flexibility.

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with other than occasionally buying stuff from them and that I think they are a pretty good company to do business with.

Random Quote

Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.

— Neil Gaiman