Category: Woodworking

24" Aluminum Bar Clamp

08/16/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Woodworking


Aluminum Bar Clamp
Item: 24" Aluminum Bar Clamp
Item number: 38183
Retail price: $9.99
Frequent sale price: $5.99
Target price: $4.99 (use a 20%-off coupon)
Item Link

This bar clamp is sturdy enough to put some serious pressure on your work, yet reaches 24" and has a quick release. Bought at our target price, this item is only a little more than the plastic ratchet-style clamps that many people are abusing by trying to over tighten. This metal clamp is what's needed for gluing furniture and other projects that require stronger pressure than what the plastic clamps were designed for providing. Use the right tool for the project and "no worries."

We love our 12" ratchet-style clamps and use them for a lot of work around the home and shop. They're suitable for light gluing or for holding aligned boards together while drilling. They've very lightweight and quickly tighten and loosen. For the heavier work, we use a heavier tool -- this aluminum bar clamp is for projects that require more pressure (e.g., most furniture repairs). It weights a bit more and is noticeably slower tightening (uses a screw mechanism instead of a ratchet), but that's the cost of a more heavy-duty tool needed for a 'larger' project.

The aluminum clamp is lightweight and easy to use. For larger projects, it comes in 36-, 48-, and 56-inch sizes. We don't do a lot of woodworking or furniture repair, so it sees little use in our shop. But when it's needed, it's needed. At the low target price it's inexpensive enough to keep on hand even for occasional use.

Bottom line: A good-quality aluminum bar clamp, priced right when on sale at Harbor Freight. Also available in sizes up to 54" for those larger projects.


4-Piece Chisel Set

08/09/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Hot Buys, Woodworking


Chisel Set
Item: 4-Piece Chisel Set
Item number: 42429
Retail price: $8.99
Frequent sale price: $5.99 (with coupon)
Best price: $4.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $5.99
Item Link

An inexpensive set of chisels that work well for mortising and other light to medium woodworking jobs. Expect them to chip if you high a nail or two while chiseling, but this is a great set to chip (if you must) -- inexpensive and easy to resharpen (You do sharpen your chisels from time-to-time, don't you?).

Bottom line: Not for the serious woodworker but good enough for the rest of us to meet most simple woodworking demands. Priced right at Harbor Freight when bought at our target price.


12" Ratchet Bar Clamp/Spreader

08/09/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Hot Buys, Woodworking


12-inch Bar Clamp
Item: 12" Ratchet Bar Clamp/Spreader
Item number: 46807
Retail price: $6.99
Frequent sale price: $1.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $1.99
Item Link

Cheaply made but cheaply sold -- a great deal because the product works and because it's sold at the right price. This is the kind of deal we love. There's not much cost that goes into manufacturing this item; its light-duty plastic and metal components are not fabricated from expensive materials nor is there complex machining involved in the manufacturing process. But it does its job and it does it well, and very importantly, Harbor Freight has priced this item (when on-sale which is very frequently) at a correspondingly low price.

The business model of today is to price most items at what the market will bear irregardless of their intrinsic value (e.g., the cost of materials and workmanship). Harbor Freight frequently bucks this trend by pricing their merchandise not only lower than other retailers but at levels consistent with the intrinsic value of the product. This bar clamp is a cheap little item sold at a cheap little price -- bravo Harbor Freight!

For those who don't understand the purpose of this 12" bar clamp (e.g., those who are going to abuse it by over tightening its ratchet mechanism), this is a light-duty item. For those that use it for its intended purpose such as holding wood and similar pieces together while gluing or drilling, this is a medium-duty item that should stand-up well to normal use. (Hum, that theory of relatively keeps popping up yet again in another context, i.e., use for intended purpose vs. abuse of a tool.) Don't get too annoyed when the orange end caps keep falling off; just snap them back on while remembering this is a cheap little tool and you didn't pay much for it.

Buy at least a pair; when you discover a need for holding two bulky pieces together for gluing you don't want to be caught one short for the job. If you need a lot of holding force, this is not the tool: use Harbor Freight's 24" aluminum bar clamp or if you need a lot of pressure, use a C-clamp instead. You might also consider the small, 6" version which is very handy for those extra small items that need to be held while gluing. Watch out or you'll be paying more for the small 6" clamp than for this 12" clamp. The 6" version has occasionally been on sale for 99 cents, but it's not up as often as the larger size.

Bottom line: Buy a pair and even consider the smaller sized clamps. They're another great deal from Harbor Freight when purchased at our target price of $1.99.


4 x 36" Belt/6" Disc Bench Top Sander

07/23/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Power Tools, Woodworking


Bench Top Sander
Item: 4 x 36"/6" Disc Sander
Item number: 93981
Retail price: $99.99
Regular sale price: $79.99
Target price: $59.99 (with coupon)
Best price: $49.99 (with coupon)

A stationary (AKA bench top) sander is a great addition to anyone's shop who does any amount of carpentry or woodworking. At the target price, it's very affordable for even occasional use. This sander uses 4 x 36" belts and optional 6" discs. The latter even includes a miter gauge for angled shaping and sanding.

If you're not familiar with bench top sanders, be a bit careful with this one. With a 1/2-hp motor it will reduce your pieces of wood down to the WRONG shape faster than you can say "oops" (see insert below). And of course, like all power tools, keep your hands, hair (for those with long hair), shirt sleeves, etc. well away from the moving surfaces especially any exposed pulleys or gear shafts.

When using the disc to even out (i.e., "square") long pieces of wood, be careful to take the wood stock down slowly. Otherwise, you will find that each 6" sanded section is smaller than the section that you were trying to match. I find it best to GENTLY slide the long stock back-and-forth across the sanding disc, constantly checking the working portion against the reference section on the piece. More than once I've been impatient trying to even out an irregular shape and over 'cut' the stock off the higher end of the piece.

We waited quite awhile for this item to hit our target price (observed on-sale once earlier), but when it did we were quite happy with this addition to our home shop. It greatly simplifies sanding and shaping pieces for a lot of our projects. Be sure to take the time to set this sander up properly as you assemble it. Adjust the belt tension as necessary to insure it runs straight, and square up the adjustable table and miter gauge with a steel or aluminum square. Otherwise, you could find yourself hastily sanding a piece before it's really ready to use (You'll be surprised how soon you can find use for this tool.).

Bottom line: A great buy at the target price for anyone doing woodwork.


12" Sliding Compound Miter Saw with Laser Guide (#96698/98194)

07/19/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Power Tools, Woodworking


Electric Miter Saw
Item: 12" Sliding Compound Miter Saw with Laser Guide
Item number: 96698/98194
Retail price: $199.99
Target price: $129.99
Best price: $109.99 (with coupon)
Item Link

I was probably "the last kid on the block" to learn this, but the real reason many homeowners would find this type of saw valuable is for making simple right-angle cuts that are straight and true. Forget the complex, reverse-angle miter cuts, simply cutting a 2 x 4" or better yet a 4 x 4" quickly and cleanly makes this saw a great investment. And if you actually learn to miter, well, that's cool enough to impress even the spouse with your Harbor Freight purchase. In fact, s/he may have you adding crown molding throughout your home if you're able to master this skill.

The saw has plenty of power with a 15-amp motor that rips through stock up to 4" x 12-3/16" at 90° and 8-1/4" x 2-1/8" at 45°. The unit is light enough to move easily which means it really needs to be attached to a table through its four mounting holes to make it stable. We've only completed preliminary tests with this saw, but thus far it feels a bit more 'stiff' than expected and therefore requires some deliberate thought before cutting. Perhaps this is good considering that you're operating a 4,300 rpm 12" blade almost in your lap. (Hum, what would Dr. Freud have to say about this?) The dust bag is basically worthless, so keep the shop vac nearby.

Hint: Don't expect this miter saw to cut straight and true right out of the box. You have to carefully square it as described in the instructions--then, let'er rip.

The saw is noisy and several online reviewers have complained or expressed concerns about its durability. Others, however, report no problems after a couple of years' use. Our initial assessment is that it should suffice for home or limited small-shop use and therefore is a great investment (when bought at the target price or lower) if only for making simple cuts quickly and squarely. The one-year warranty should be more than sufficient to weed out any lemons that might be unloaded at the dock, and any professional carpenter that keeps a $109.99 (current best price with coupon) miter saw running for a year has gotten a very good deal.

FYI for the novice user: don't be intimidated by the "sliding compound" description. "Sliding" simply means that the saw blade is on a pair of rails that permits it to slide across the table easily cutting boards slightly over 12" wide (and 4" thick with a 12" blade), while the compound descriptor simply means that it can cut at multiple angles concurrently (i.e, angled and beveled at the same time). You probably won't use this last feature until you need complex miter cuts (never?), but the additional width gained by the "sliding" feature can be a lifesaver (e.g., can quickly and squarely cut a 4 x 12" board).

Bottom line: A good, acceptable-quality saw for most work around the home or small shop. Perhaps not really in the same league as the expensive big name miter saws, but then the price isn't either. A great (almost must-have) investment for the DIY homeowner.

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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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