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The industry standard for knockout punches, Greenlee screw- or hydraulic-actuated two-piece piloted dies are designed to make holes in sheet metal for conduit and instruments. But what about for the weekend warrior or the guy starting out in the trade? Harbor Freight has a set of four for only $15.99, about a tenth of the price of a set of Greenlee punches. You can of course find used Greenlee brand punches for much less, if you’re lucky.

The real question is whether the Harbor Freight set works well enough, actually makes clean holes, and can survive more than one or two uses. So we ask, Hot or Not?

 

13 Responses to Hot or Not? Harbor Freight Knockout Punches

  1. Frank Townend says:

    Hot enough.

    I have the set and it works fine. I also have the Greenlee set (and other single punches) and they are better. If someone wanted a set and wanted to know if the HF is OK, I would say yes.

  2. ToolGuyd says:

    I had asked around about these, and the consensus is that HF knockouts dull very, very quickly rendering them virtually useless.

    I would suggest alternatives such as hole saws or unibits for smaller holes if the cost of Greenlee punches is too high to be a valid consideration.

  3. Mike Yancey says:

    NOT.
    I bought the Harbor Freight punch set and I’ve found it to be terrible.

    Now, to be honest, I’ve not cut conduit holes, but just a mild steel enclosure cover for a vacuum tube project, and I found it took an enormous level of force to complete the hole. I thought I’d never get it out, in fact.

    As a comparison, I recently updated that project and I had bought a USED, single Greenlee punch. I’d already messed up a spare cover, so just to see if I had noodle arms or something, I tried the Greenlee punch just as a test. The one Greenlee punch I have just punched through like butter!

    As a side, I also tried Harbor Freight’s step-drills. They vibrated so much I thought I’d ruin my drill press. Also, they didn’t drill very well to boot. I’m not too impressed with the Harbor Freight stuff.

  4. Chris W says:

    Not. The first time I used my HF punch it started ok then began digging into the die.

  5. David Bryan says:

    I’d rather eat some metal and try to excrete one than have to use these.

  6. MeasureOnceCutTwice says:

    All very useful comments, but clearly David Bryan said it the best!

  7. heywood says:

    check ebay. you’ll find greenlee pretty affordable, and their stuff doesn’t suck.

    hf’s doesn’t use decent steel, so the punches might work for a hole or two but then will distort and dull.

  8. fritzgorbach says:

    Destroyed two sets of these, boh on the first hole, bboth times the screw broke. How many does the “casual user” need. Just spring for maybe a half and a 3/4 if you really must.
    Personally, I have two sets of greenlees,both up to two inch, one fairly new with a ratchet wrench in a nice plastic case(about $250 at home depot) and one fairly old in two leather pouches(5 bucks at a garage sale) and both work great.
    Granted I broke the HFs on a fairly heavy cabinet when i didn’t have my greenlees with me, so the HFs might be ok around the home for a few bucks, but why take a chance. Especially if you are working in a hot panel, the last thing you want to do is F’around trying to get the broken punch outta there.
    As for HFstep bits, respectfully disagree. I go through about three sets of them a year, where i used to go through one or two sets of irwins, and the HF bits are like seven bucks, compared to better then a hundred for the irwins, etc.

  9. arniel ancheta says:

    this is great,thank you..

  10. rick says:

    Bought the set works like a true professional tool.used it many times on electrical panels.cannot complain 1/4 of the money spent and I’m happy 1 year with it got my money’s worth great job harbor freight! Especially when I knew I was on a budget and of course greenlee or klien has an upper hand. but priced compared I’ll buy another on in the long run

  11. Tom in Oregon City says:

    2009: Terrible; 2014: works great.

    Here’s the take-away lesson that matches my experience with Harbor Freight. Avoid the first generation of anything they sell, and watch for the returns/complaints/bricks-through-the-window comments to have their effect. The second generation of the tool is likely to be pretty good, and the third generation much better. It’s that way with their hand tools, power tools, fittings, drills, etc.

    I’ve learned that lesson several times the hard way, then started paying attention.

    The latest? The vibrating multi-tool. After a few months my FIRST one simply quit. I opened it up and discovered the windings on the stator were not sufficiently restrained when being made and lacquered, and the rotor simply ground through one of the wires. I bought a second-generation replacement, and opened it up before I plugged it in: entirely different inside, and very professionally done.

  12. Charles J Hurst says:

    Godayum, mutherfudders using that cheep chineese crapola.
    I won’t never ever ever buy anything at harbor crap!

    I am Charles Joseph Hurst, of Pasadena Maryland and I love cock, esp the cocks of young virile black bucks. I love me some black seed! Fill me up boys!

  13. Greg says:

    These are miss-sized the 1/2 inch is actually 7/8 inch and calls for a 1/2 inch pilot hole

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