Category: Novel Uses

18" Pet Stake

08/13/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Outdoor Living, MoHo/RV, Product Safety Warnings, Novel Uses


Pet Stake
Item: 18" Pet Stake
Item number: 95489
Retail price: $2.99
Frequent sale price: $1.99
Target price: $1.99
Item Link

As the reviews for some of our favorite and least favorite products from Harbor Freight are starting to stack up, Sasha just reminded me that I should include a sample of Harbor Freight's selection for your pets (she prefers the term "little friends"). So, need a quick pet screw, ah, pet stake? Check out this little item for your pet from Harbor Freight. This 18" pet stake provides a solid anchor for your pet's lead and is complete with a swivel ring which permits 360-degree runs without tangling. Simply screw it into the ground, attach a 15' or so lead/line (click here to view our review of Harbor Freight's 15 ft. heavy-duty pet tie-out), and you're free for a few moments repose. (Did we need to tell you to attach your harnessed pet to the lead?)

Advisory: Consider keeping your pet's lead at around 15 - 20'. Shorter leads do not provide sufficient movement and longer leads can lead to trouble (Oops, that one just slipped in or was it out? ;)). Not only do the longer leads permit roaming larger areas unsupervised (with more things to get into trouble with like wondering pets, people, and other edibles), but they also permit stronger force to be exerted on the ground screw should your pet begin chasing a squirrel from near the center position (i.e., a longer 'run-out' before the lead 'snaps'). The greater force increases the chance that your Siberian Husky may be able to dislodge the stake from the ground and continue his/her chase into the woods. Also, if your pet is a chewer, be sure to use a lead/line which is chew resistant so that they can't quickly bite their way through the lead. Lastly, strongly consider using a harness instead of a collar -- a harness is a more solid restraint which also causes less stress to your pet when they're tugging away; definitely avoid the choker-style collar that could cause serious injury should your pet have a long run before being 'snapped' back into obedience.

This pet stake is particularly useful for RVers and those who seek a little R & R in public parks that will need to limit the range of their pets. Obviously don't leave your pet unattended. This is simply to prevent your pet from darting off after the next rabbit while you enjoy a sandwich or just a few leisurely moments. And although most of us may use this infrequently, it's a pleasure to have on-hand when needed. We keep one in our MoHo and another in our van for those unexpected rest stops while traveling.

Hint: I also carry a 'real' climbing carabiner (rated at 3,000 lbs.) for attaching Sasha's lead to nearby solid objects or to my belt when we're out. It permits me to work hands-free while enjoying her company. Don't use the cheap models for restraining your medium- to large-size pet; even a small dog can exert a lot of force when they've gained some momentum before reaching the extent of their run.

Bottom line: A must have item for pet owners priced right at Harbor Freight. At our low target price, buy one for each vehicle and be prepared for those impromptu roadside breaks while traveling.


OK, need a novel use for this item? This use is so obvious that I hardy consider it "novel," but if the obvious hasn't occurred to you, consider the following use.

These 18" pet stakes make excellent "tent stakes" for soft soil or sand. Similar to the ice screws used in winter mountaineering (a former hobby of mine from my younger years), these screws (AKA "stakes") hold much, much better is soft, unstable material such as loose soil. They will also hold better in firm, clay soil but that is usually overkill.

I've had my eye on one of Harbor Freight's greenhouses for a while now, but the Buffalo winds do blow strong and I've been afraid that the greenhouse will end up in the neighbors yard and their attorney will be visiting me with a lawsuit. If I do eventually purchase a greenhouse, you can bet it will be anchored with one of these stakes on each of its four corners even though the soil here is a firm clay-type. Ditto their canopy and other types of makeshift dwellings that can act like sails in high winds. Of course you could just by one of their canopy anchor sets instead. It would be interesting to put these two styles to the test to see which hold the best. In ice climbing, the ice screw dominated (25 years ago) for ice and hard-packed snow but the blade-style anchor was used more often in loose-packed snow. My guess is that the screw style will penetrate hard-packed soil easier than the blade-style canopy anchor and that the screw will sort of 'thread' itself into the ground. The blade style would most likely win in sand or very loose soil.

One last thought on the style comparison: The pet stakes should provide some holding power even if they only partially penetrate the ground, whereas the other blade-style anchors are probably much more difficult to place in hard-packed ground. Therefore, if I add a canopy for our traveling show (AKA on-site sales venues) I will be using the pet stakes as tent stakes not the canopy anchors. Please don't leave your pet attached to my canopy unattended.


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.


Novel Uses

08/02/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Announcements, Novel Uses


Not being a carpenter, machinist, tradesman, or formally trained in the use of any of these items sometimes has its advantages. When browsing through Harbor Freight™ I often survey the shelves thinking, "I wonder what that's good for?”This sometimes leaves me thinking so far outside the box that I didn't even know that it normally comes in a box. And this can lead to discovering novel uses of an item, usually not very earthshaking but occasionally rather interesting.

To celebrate “thinking outside the box” a new category is added that explores novel uses for some Harbor Freight™ products. This category is provided to make it easier for those who like to browse these reviews. Don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed, but occasionally you might just find an interesting idea, perhaps something even useful. Just click on “Novel Uses” found under Categories on the right-hand column and skim through the possible uses of various items that were not their original intended purpose. Be sure to click on “All” under Categories and “reset filters” to insure that your subsequent viewing will include all of the reviews and not just those from the “Novel Uses” category.


Clear-Lens Halogen Lights

08/01/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Lighting, MoHo/RV, Novel Uses


Halogen Automobile Lights
Item: Clear-Lens Halogen Lights (pair with 15A fuse & switch)
Item number: 37249
Retail price: $19.99
Frequent sale price: $12.99
Target price: $9.99 (with coupon)
Best price: $7.99 (with coupon)
Item Link

These may make good driving lights (we don't know; we haven't tested them for that function), but they make really terrific backup lights. In fact, it only takes one to light up the night much better than the 15-irLED infrared camera on our MoHo. They work so well that I'm considering installing the other one as a backup or auxiliary light on our van. In fact, they're so bright that we may add a DC-dimmer if we use the spare as an extra exterior light for the van's wheelchair-lift entryway.

The lights come as a set with a pair of halogen lights, 15A fuse, switch, and wiring. For our purpose we only need the single light so everything else goes into our parts bin waiting for the next project. Their all plastic construction make them somewhat impact resistant, and thus far they have withstood five Buffalo winters without any sign of deterioration.

Hint: If you use these lights as backup lights or for other auxiliary lighting in town, be considerate of others when setting the vertical beam angle. We adjust ours so that they only project about 50 feet behind our vehicle; that produces a controllable beam with a nice, concentrated light within the area where we need it most. They are really bright and could easily light up the block which our neighbors wouldn't appreciate much when we return home late some night and back our MoHo into our driveway.

Bottom line: These halogen driving lights are a good deal at the target price of $9.99 and a give away if you can find them at their best price of $7.99. Use the pair to light the front or a single for a super-bright back-up light.


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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