For whatever reason, every time we run a shootout, someone will ask us why we don’t include a Harbor Freight model. It’s a little hard to tell if we have a legitimate Harbor Freight fanboy demographic out there, or if y’all just like to troll us from time to time. In either case, those of you clamoring for us to include this budget brand in our testing will be pleased. Because we love you, and because we’re genuinely curious, we included the Harbor Freight oscillating tool (Chicago Electric) in our Best Oscillating Tool Shootout.
Before we dive into the nuts and bolts of the Harbor Freight oscillating tool performance, let’s take a quick tour of the main features. Oscillating multi-tools, in general, aren’t feature-rich, so this short list isn’t a surprise or a disappointment.
- Variable Speed Dial
- Power switch (instead of a variable speed trigger)
The only thing that’s really missing is an LED light and that’s not something terribly common on corded models.
This Chicago Electric Oscillating Tool requires that you have a hex wrench handy if you plan on changing out the blade or to a different accessory. Where a lot of manufacturers have moved toward tool-free blade change designs, Harbor Freight chooses to lag behind, likely as a cost-saving move. If it isn’t apparent yet, this design is our least favorite of the available options. Sure, wrenching the blade into place will keep it secure, but the process of changing blades becomes time-consuming and requires an additional tool. Quite frankly, it’s a pain, and it’s a deal-breaker for our Pro team.
To see what kind of cutting speed you can expect, we put each model through a series of plunge cuts in untreated 2x pine and got an average. We experienced some slow cut times, but the Harbor Freight Oscillating Tool took the cake with the absolute slowest time we saw unless you count Porter-Cable’s 20V Max model that failed to complete the test.
Just how slow is it?
Its 46.8-second average is more than 40 seconds behind our speed winner. With just a 2.0-amp motor, that’s not a surprise.
The Chicago Electric oscillating multi-tool has a ton of vibration – there’s no getting around it. While it is a couple of levels up from the worst offender, a score of 60 in this category puts it well below what we expect from a Pro-level tool.
Chicago Electric does pretty well in the design ergonomics category. The Harbor Freight oscillating tool feels reasonably comfortable in the hand with its slimmer housing. It’s very light at just 2.64 pounds. Of course, any tool that’s considerably lighter than its peers brings up a few questions about the quality and durability of the build. But we also give credit where it’s due – this is the lightest multitool of our finishers.
Overall, Harbor Freight earns 88 points for its ergonomics, good enough for a 3-way tie for 4th place.
Nobody has come up with a truly quiet multitool yet, which would actually be a pretty big task. Just by virtue of how these tools operate, we expect a lot of loud chatter. However, some models make a good bit more noise than others, and the Harbor Freight Oscillating Tool is one of the worst offenders. Measured at the ear, Chicago Electric generates 102 dB(A) while cutting in an open field. It’ll be louder inside where the noise can resonate.
At 102 dB(A), Harbor Freight is in a 4-way tie just 2 decibels from the loudest.
Hands down, the Harbor Freight Oscillating Tool wins in this category, owing to the fact that it costs a mere $40 – even less if you snag a 20% coupon from their flyer. The next model up (Worx) will set you back $50 and the most expensive is the Fein Supercut cordless at nearly $600. Of course, you ought to be advised that this multitool only comes with a 90-day warranty. But at $40, at least this model is cheap to replace if it fails after the 90-day mark.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the thing: we recognize that there’s a big niche in the market for DIY/Homeowner grade tools. A $40 Chicago Electric Oscillating Tool won’t beat up your pocketbook too badly, and if you don’t intend to use a multitool too heavily, something like this might work for you. Of course, that statement assumes that you don’t mind some exceedingly slow cut times, questionable build quality, a miserable blade change system, a ton of vibration, and a warranty that inspires zero confidence.
However, we can’t recommend this product to anyone at the Pro level unless you just need a tool to get you through a few cuts in a pinch. Even intermediate DIYers will quickly wish for something better if they use it with any regularity.
Harbor Freight Oscillating Tool Features
- Delivers 10000-20000 OPM (oscillations per minute)
- Precision control over tough jobs and detail work
- Over 30 attachments available for a variety of jobs
- Sealed bearings for long life
- Comfortable over molded grip
Harbor Freight Oscillating Tool Specs
- Model: Harbor Freight 63113
- Motor Size: 2 Amp (220 watts)
- Oscillations: 10,000-20,000 OPM
- Oscillation Angle: Not listed
- Weight: 2.64 lbs. with battery
- Warranty: 90 days from the date of purchase
- Price: $40