Category: Measurement

Non-Contact Pocket Thermometer

08/07/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Novel Uses, Measurement, Material Handling & Safety


Non-Contact Thermometer
Item: Non-Contact Compact Thermometer
Item number: 93983
Retail price: $14.99
Frequent sale price: $9.99
Target price: $7.99 (with coupon)
Item Link

We love this small, non-contact thermometer available periodically at our incredibly low target price of $7.99. It takes fast and reasonably accurate readings without direct contact on the surface being measured. It holds the reading for easy viewing until the button is depressed to take another reading, and it turns itself off automatically after 15 seconds.

We especially like this non-contact thermometer for chasing down cold spots and air leaks in our insulation and HVAC systems. The only drawback is that you have to be within an inch or two of the spot being measured, otherwise you'll be averaging your surface temperature with the ambient temperature (i.e., this isn't a true, narrow-angle spot meter but then it doesn't claim to be one). It is quite amazing to see how much cold air leaks in from a small crack or single-pane window. Need some feedback that replacing old caulk around a window or door is actually doing something? This is the ticket that will make you feel good about the job you've done and encourage you to seal up even more. It easily detects cold air sources that are undetectable as drafts or by physical sensation. It should be similarly useful for detecting air leaks by the temperature differential (i.e., 'leaking air' vs. surrounding space temperatures).

Some might complain that the accuracy of this device is only within 4 degrees Fahrenheit, but accuracy is not really the important variable for most applications where a non-contact thermometer is useful. What is more important is the reliability of the readings, and this thermometer produces consistent (i.e., reliable) readings. For example, when the wall temperature is measuring 68 degrees and the suspected air leak measures 45 degrees, it doesn't really matter much whether the air leak is actually 41 or 49 degrees compared with a wall temperature of 64 or 72 degrees; what matters is the large temperature differential between the two surfaces. In our tests we've found the thermometer to be more accurate than advertised, falling within a degree for normal ambient room temperatures.

Let your imagination run with this baby and you'll find a lot of novel uses for it. With a maximum reading of 230 degrees Fahrenheit, it falls a little short of the temperature needed for my wife's homemade taffy, but it can confirm that you're getting closer when the analog candy thermometer seems stuck at the same reading. Think you might need additional cooling on your computer or home theater system? Use this to locate hot-spots that would benefit from the addition of another cooling fan or two. Experimenting with solar heating? This will give you immediate feedback on which configurations are working best. And the list of possible uses goes on and on and on.

There are a lot of novel uses for this inexpensive non-contact thermometer. For example, when I was doing some cold-weather painting last fall I used it to check the surface temperature of the material I was about to paint. For proper adhesion it is important to make sure the actual item being painted is within the parameters specified by the paint manufacturer. Depending on the amount of sunlight that strikes the material (e.g., shade or direct exposure, east- or west-facing), the surface temperature can be quite different than the actual air temperature. When pushing the low temperature limits for painting, this pocket non-contact thermometer was invaluable for squeezing out quite a few extra days.

At our target price of $7.99 this is an absolute steal, but it's not a bad buy at its frequent sale price of $9.99 either. The regular retail price of $14.99 is probably realistic for this device too, but no astute Harbor Freight shopper would actually pay full retail except in an emergency. And if you need one last reason to grab one of these little wonders: well, you know that watch pocket on the right-hand side of your jeans? This pocket thermometer fits perfectly in that pocket so you can carry it around with you, measuring ambient and surface temperatures anywhere you go.

So why was this non-contact thermometer included in our "Materials Handling and Safety" category? Why not measure the temperature of that hot blade or drill bit BEFORE you touch it?! (I'm guessing that I'm not the only one who has foolishly grabbed the tip of a hot drill bit without letting it cool down.) Want to know just how well that coolant is keeping your tile-cutting saw blade? Maybe you need to clean your pump filter to increase the water flow.)

Bottom line: A great buy for a fine little instrument, quickly and reliably measures temperatures without direct contact. Grab one at our target price of $7.99 when you can and feel guilty about the steal deal later.


16" x 24" Steel Square

08/02/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Hot Buys, Measurement


Steel Square
Item: 16" x 24" Steel Square
Item number: 9541
Retail price: $7.99
Regular sale price: $4.99
Target price: $4.99
Item Link

This quality steel square is a great bargain at our target price and won't easily become lost amongst the boards thanks to its bright yellow color. Both English (hum, I see this is now being called by some at Harbor Freight "SAE" but really?) and metric scales are etched clearly into the steel, but both edges still produce smooth straight lines for drawing. Admittedly we do little more than draw simple perpendicular lines on pieces to be cut, but we get more than our money's worth at that. For lines 10" and less, we often use our stripped-down combination square.

Bottom line: A great buy at the target price, brightly colored and well marked for easy reading.


12" Combination Square Set

08/01/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Hot Buys, Measurement


12-inch Combination Square
Item: 12" Combination Square Set
Item number: 92471
Retail price: $7.99
Frequent sale price: $5.99
Target price: $4.99 (with coupon)
Item Link

This review is more of a price advisory than a real evaluation of the product. An unadvised shopper should easily walk into the store and pay full price for this item if they weren't aware that it can often be purchased for half of the normal retail price. If you think you might use it, buy it while it's on sale for half the normal retail price.

We normally remove two of the slides and keep only the 90-degree arm on this tool. We use it to draw simple, perpendicular lines on wood and other material. We've reattached the protractor a few times and used it to draw angled lines. It too seems to work very well, securely locking the desired settings. Unlike the aluminum angle rafter square which has gradations etched into the drawing surface, this combination square makes perfectly smooth lines. We still like the rafter square for 'squaring up' our machinery, but this is the tool for measuring and drawing small lines. For drawing perpendicular lines on larger pieces, we use Harbor Freight's 16 x 24" steel square which can be found on-sale for as little as $4.99.

Hint: We use this combination square far less since we've purchased a 12" sliding compound miter saw (click here for the review). The miter saw cuts perfectly perpendicular cuts without having to draw out the cut-line first on the work piece. This is much quicker and more accurate than when we use to draw a perpendicular line on a board and then cut it with a handsaw or with a hand-held power saw. Of course there are materials not suitable for cutting with our miter saw and we still use this combination square on occasion.

Bottom line: A good, inexpensive combination square which locks firmly and has clear, smooth gradations for marking work pieces. Buy it on-sale for half its normal retail price.


Aluminum Rafter Angle Square

07/31/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Hot Buys, Power Tools, Novel Uses, Measurement


Aluminum Square
Item: Aluminum Rafter Angle Square
Item number:7718
Retail price: $3.99
Frequent sale price: $1.99
Target price: $1.99
Item Link

What can we say about a 7 1/4" aluminum square? Well, that it's great for 'squaring up' your miter saw, bench-top sander, drill press, woodworking band-saw, and other power tools that have tables and miter gauges. And if you find other uses for it, well, you've more than gotten your money's worth for this thick (as in won't bend easily) aluminum square at Harbor Freight's frequent sale price of $1.99. What you won't do is draw straight lines: the gradations are etched into the aluminum edge of the rule in a manner that creates dips along the edge, thus preventing drawing smooth straight lines. Too bad, otherwise this small square is perfect. But at $1.99 it's a great buy just for checking the alignment of the tables on your bench power tools (You do that, don't you?), and if you actually use it for making rafters, so much the better.

Bottom line: If you own bench-top power tools, you need this handy little item to check their alignment.

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This review and discussion forum was created for those of us who love Harbor Freight(tm). It's well known to those who frequent the store that the prices are always cycling up and down, and most of us usually accept it as a personal challenge to get the lowest price possible. It's also well appreciated that some products at Harbor Freight are good, even very good, but that many others are also substandard, yes, even junk. This review and discussion forum is dedicated to the savvy Harbor Freight shopper and is intended to provide some guidance to the best and the worse buys. Similar products from other retailers will also be reviewed from time-to-time. Please be advised that everyone's experience is unique, and what works well (or doesn't work at all) for the reviewers here may or may not suit your personal needs. With this caveat and with notification that Harbor Freight Reviews assumes no liability for the accuracy of information provided here for educational purposes, enjoy the forum and good 'sa(i)ling' at Harbor Freight!


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