Category: Uncategorized

9000-Lb. Capacity Hitch Receiver for Winch

08/24/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Uncategorized, MoHo/RV, Automotive


Hitch Receiver for Winch
Hitch Receiver with Winch Mounted
Item: 9000-Lb. Capacity Hitch Receiver for Winch
Item number: 66409
Retail price: $39.99
Frequent sale price: n/a
Target price: undetermined but under $30
Item Link

We haven't actually evaluated this product yet, we haven't even determined a reasonable target price, but it's so cool that we just had to post our preliminary observations sight-unseen. (Hum, there seems to be some type of contradiction with "unseen observations" ;).) Maybe we don't get out enough, but we haven't seen this product before despite the fact it's an obvious 'invention' for everyone who has a Class III receiver hitch and wants to winch occasionally. It avoids the potential problems associated with permanently mounting a winch on your vehicle, such as exposing it to the elements and to thieves or perhaps just to hecklers laughing at the undersized winch on your Jeep Wrangler (You might expect a real man's winch on a Jeep, but I copped out and thus far only have a rather anemic 3000-lb. winch for it -- somewhat embarrassing for a Jeep enthusiast.) How much to I like it? Well, it's the first product to receive two pictures in one review.

This hot little item allows anyone with a 2" receiver tube (e.g., Class III receiver) mounted on their vehicle to have a fully capable winch with up to 9,000-lb capacity. Even those more subtle, classier road vehicles can now do some serious winching when called upon without complicated, unsightly mounting brackets. Wow, that's impressive. I can imagine someone's Buick pulling themselves out of a ditch on a cold winter morning after sliding off a slippery curve. No more waiting for the auto club; it's self-extraction time for those luxury sedans.

Of course we do have our 12-volt electric portable winch that mounts on our hitch ball for temporary use, but this winch mount hosts our 3000-lb remote-controlled winch which is not only more powerful but much faster in actually winching. And it's so much Jeepier. It evens give one a reason for a second Class III receiver tube mounted to the FRONT of your vehicle. (Hey, that's really "Jeeping it up.") Combined with a 6,000- or 9,000-lb capacity winch, it's much more capable than anything you could mount on a hitch ball.

A new winter accessory for those BMW owners always in a hurry? (Every notice how many seem to run red lights? They MUST be in a hurry!) Add one of these babies with a good-sized winch to your trunk for winter ballast and for self-extraction when needed. This makes a rather cheap accessory by BMW standards and could stimulate lots of conversation at the office parties during the winter holidays. Now you have a way to more subtly bring up the topic of your expensive car without directly flaunting the fact that you drive a Bimmer: "Yes, the roads were very slippery today. I had to winch myself out twice during the drive in to work." :P You might want to add an inexpensive tool bag to stow a tow strap for extracting your office-mates on the drive home after the party. (Hey, why not save some money on the bag? Even those with luxury sedans can have cash-flow problems.) And if you're looking for another icebreaker for the ladies, imagine yourself being able to extract some distressed lady after she's driven her car into a ditch.

Bottom line: Excuse me for cheating but I wanted to post the product somewhere where I will frequently see it, ever watching for it to hit that undetermined low target price so I can finally buy-it-and-try-it. And sharing (my discovery) is usually good too.


Mover's Dolly

08/10/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Uncategorized, Hot Buys, Material Handling & Safety


Mover's Dolly
Item: Mover's Dolly
Item number: 93888
Retail price: $14.99
Frequent sale price: $7.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $7.99
Item Link

How complex can a mover's dolly be? All it takes is a solid wood frame nailed over four ball-bearing casters and you're off and running. Add a little carpet to the top to protect your furniture and you have your basic mover's dolly. Harbor Freight's basic dolly is rated to 1,000 lbs so you can haul even the largest furniture with ease.

Warning: This dolly has hard-rubber wheels which are NOT suitable for hardwood floors and other soft surfaces that can be marred by transporting heavy objects. You should use a more expensive dolly with soft-rubber wheels for those situations or you may regret the damage left behind by using the wrong 'tool.'

This mover's dolly can find a lot of other applications in the shop as well. For example, we have our Onan genset semi-permanently sitting on one and saved a hundred dollars or so on what the actual wheel-kit for the generator would have cost. We have other heavy equipment sitting on these dollies from time-to-time when we expect to slide them around the shop frequently. Buy a couple and you'll be surprised at the applications you find for them.

Warning: If you use or store this mover's dolly near moisture such as that found on a typical concrete garage floor, expect the casters to corrode after a couple of years. They're easily restored to working condition, but you might consider adding some light oil to protect their galvanized finish.

With two warnings in one review it might seem like this is not a good buy, but it is when purchased at our target price. This inexpensive dolly can find a lot of uses around the home and shop. We use to even keep one in our van for those unexpected heavy loads. It was supplanted by our foldable aluminum platform truck which serves as a mover's dolly as well as a platform truck. The latter collapses for easy storage, is as small as the mover's dolly, and is light weight. Of course it also costs nearly 4-times as much even at our target price, and the simple mover's dolly does transport nearly 3-times the weight as the foldable aluminum platform truck.

Bottom line: This mover's dolly works well to roll heavy objects such as furniture and even shop equipment. Buy at least a pair when Harbor Freight puts them on sale at our target price.


Kenmore Conical Burr Grinder, Programmable 12-Cup Coffee Maker

08/05/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Uncategorized, Hot Buys


Kenmore Coffeemaker/Grinder
Item: Kenmore Conical Burr Grinder, Programmable 12-Cup Coffee Maker with Stainless Steel Trim
Item number: 00894006000 (Model #239401)
Retail price: $149.99
Frequent sale price: $104.99
Target price: $104.99 or less
Item Link (not available)

Click here to read the web page version of this review. Updates will be made to the web page only.

With this review we’re setting precedence in two ways—first, we’re introducing our reviews of a Sears™ product from their Kenmore™ line. Of course we’re dedicated to the ultimate tool-review, but sometimes a guy just needs a decent cup of coffee to get him started on that next big project. This review also breaks precedence for another reason that only those who know me well personally would appreciate—it’s a review for an automatic coffeemaker. Why is this second point so unusual? Well, I haven’t used an automatic coffeemaker since around 1978! Nothing personal, I just don’t like the quality of coffee they brew and therefore opted-out of the standard American practice of using an automatic drip coffeemaker. (I did use an automatic coffeemaker for providing coffee in my research laboratory from late 1987 to around 1994.) So how do I usually make my coffee?—one cup at a time. And therein lies the point of this review.

I started using a drip-style coffeemaker in the early 1970s when most Americans were using percolators. I discovered that I liked restaurant coffee, usually made with the Bunn™-style drip basket, but not home-brewed coffee. My mother found an old 1940s electric coffeemaker that used a direct immersion method of brewing coffee which was very similar to the drip-style found in many commercial coffeemakers. Of course when Mr. Coffee™ came on the seen I was one of the first to line up and begin brewing my coffee with their revolutionary machine.

This Kenmore coffeemaker is so convenient and so good that it brews a cup of coffee that even I find satisfying. Push the little button and let the grinding begin. Or for those of you who get up on a regular schedule, you can set the automatic timer to have your coffee ready and waiting. I like my coffee very strong so I have to use a couple of tricks to brew just the right cup of morning refreshment. This Kenmore coffeemaker allows me to customize my brew. I make individual cups by using the fine grind with the strong setting brewed for 4 cups with only 2 cups of water added. An unbleached paper filter is also usually used although unnecessary if using the gold-mesh filter included with the coffeemaker. (Bleached paper filters are also fine when the unbleached variety is unavailable.) This ‘recipe’ makes a robust cup of coffee just short of the quality obtained with the single-cup Melita™ filter method most often preferred for the very best coffee. It propels one from the typical café Americano to a truly European-quality brew.

Having my morning coffee ready waiting for me doesn’t really work with my personal habits. My schedule is too variable and my coffee can’t sit very long without become bitter and undrinkable. When coffee made by my formula simmers on the hotplate for a while it becomes a really nasty syrup.

Combining the coffee grinder with the brewer in a single package is an innovation that allows those picky about our coffee to be satisfied with minimal effort. The beans are ground just before use and automatically fall into the filter basket awaiting the hot water brought to just the right temperature. The process is then the same as with any other coffeemaker, this model has perhaps a few other convenience features but the brew process is basically the same.

Americans drink a lot of coffee but they drink it weaker than most other countries in the world. My normal morning or evening coffee has about the same amount of coffee used for a single cup as most Americans would use for a pot. Americans tend to favor coffee quantity over quality, drinking their favorite brew throughout the day, whereas Europeans (and myself) tend to punctuate the day and evening with real coffee breaks, where the coffee (and often good conversation) is the center of their activity. In other words, when they’re drinking coffee they’re drinking coffee and little else.

Americans drink a coarser grind of coffee than do Europeans. The finer grind common elsewhere releases more of the coffee's flavor and aroma producing a much higher quality of coffee. It also requires considerably less coffee to produce this more satisfying product.

Why the courser ground coffee? There are probably several reasons. First, it’s a holdover from the days of percolators where anything but coarsely ground coffee would pass through the holes in the brew basket. Second, it sells more coffee, much more coffee. Without getting into conspiracy theoriesB), let’s just acknowledge that the coffee manufactures are well aware that pound-for-pound the finer the grind the less coffee is required to produced a satisfying cup of coffee. And thirdly, not unrelated to the ‘conspiracy theory’ that we’re not exploring here, grinding the coffee to a fine grind is considerably more wear on the coffee processor’s machinery (not to mention that fact it requires more time and electricity). So there you have it – the one, two, three’s of why American’s brew their coffee with a coarse grind. A combination of habit (what Americans are use to and what they will accept) and economics (less cost, more money for the coffee industry).

Too many people are hung up on silly discussions about which coffee is the best—Arabian, Colombian, African. They often ignore the fundamental basics necessary to make a great cup of coffee. (Personally, I like all of these coffees, each having its own unique characteristics.) There are really three components to making a great cup of coffee which are often overlooked in this “higher-level” discussion of which coffee is “best.”

Start with fresh coffee beans. It doesn’t matter what kind of coffee you are using, it must be fresh (and I’m presuming properly roasted) coffee beans. Next it needs to be finely ground (not burned by friction in a cheap [not really a] coffee "grinder"), and it should be ground just before use. Coffee beans start to loose their important oils shortly after grinding and will dry out rather quickly. Lastly, the actual brewing method is important but there are several choices for an excellent cup of coffee. Like the various coffees, each has its own distinctive characteristics and each can make a great cup of coffee.

  1. drip basket (American)
  2. pressed (French)
  3. high-pressure (Italian espresso)
  4. direct brew (Turkish)

And of course the water has to be at just the right temperature, slightly under boiling. If it's too cold it won't release all of the flavor from the coffee beans, and if it's too hot, well that's not 'cool' either.;) Most commercial automatic coffeemakers have been designed to provide the correct water temperature for brewing.

Cheap coffee "grinders" don't really grind the coffee; they chop it up more like a piece of celery. This doesn't produce a very uniform "grind" and it certainly doesn't produce a good cup of coffee. A quality coffee grinder uses a burr- or mill-method of truly grinding the coffee beans and they're expensive.

The Kenmore conical burr grinder/coffeemaker is a fully programmable grind-before-you-brew coffeemaker. The grinding is by a burr and performs well, with an even fine grind obtainable with negligible spillage. This method of grinding coffee beans is essential for a proper grind and coffee grinders using this method are pricey themselves. A tight seal on the hopper keeps the coffee beans fresh until they are ready to be ground.

Certain things I’m very picky about, coffee being one of them. I can’t give a coffeemaker a stronger endorsement than to say that I personally use it to produce a very satisfying cup of coffee. My rank-ordered preference for the perfect cup remains espresso or cappuccino made with my Pavoni™ Professional, followed by coffee made with the French press method or, you guessed it, one cup at-a-time using my single cup Melita™ filter holder. This latter method is particularly good for making the extra strong coffee needed for a great cup of Irish coffee!

My Irish coffee recipe: four scoops of finely ground coffee, two shots of John Jameson™, a touch of sugar, and an inch of so of French vanilla creamer, all reheated for about 20 seconds in a microwave. Cheers:D, I think it’s time to break and have one now.

The convenience of an automatically brewed cup of satisfying coffee out weights my quest for the perfect cup these days. I discovered the Kenmore™ grind-before-you-brew coffeemaker at just the right time as the reality of aging overcomes the desire for perfection. Therefore, this machine sees a lot of use as my daily coffeemaker while the Pavoni™ and other instruments of coffee making usually sit idly by on the kitchen counter-top. It’s that good.

Bottom line: One of the best automatic coffeemakers on the market meeting the requirements of a fresh grind with automatic brewing. If you've learned to appreciate fresh-ground coffee and need automatic brewing, this is the machine for you.


Dial Gauge Angle Finder #34214

02/23/09 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Uncategorized, Hot Buys, MoHo/RV, Novel Uses


Angle finder
Item: Dial Gauge Angle Finder
Item number: 34214
Retail price: $4.99
Frequent sale price: $3.99
Target price: $2.99 (with coupon)
Item Link

OK, so you're wondering what this might be useful for? Me too. Not being a serious project builder (I try to avoid projects that need angles.), this appears to be an interesting but useless toy. Not so fast. I also own a motor home (MoHo) and one thing MoHo owners all appreciate is the necessity of keeping our rigs (or specifically, our refrigerators) level or at least within the plus/minus 5 degrees necessary to prevent damage to our refrigerators when parked.

I have two of these, mounted 90 degrees apart, that provide precise information on the degree of tilt I have when parking my MoHo. Much better (and cheaper) than comparable devices sold at MoHo suppliers, these little devices add a tough of class to my rig. And if I ever get ambitious enough to try a project requiring angles, well, they double for their manufacture’s intended purpose too.

BTW: I bet the welders out there who can slap this on to a piece of iron held tightly by its magnetic base can find some serious use for this tool.

Bottom line: A must have item for those who own a MoHo and probably of use to others who build projects on a slant.


Pickup and Reach Tool #94870

02/22/09 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Uncategorized, The Junk


Pickup Tool
Item: 36" Pickup and Reach Tool
Item number: 94870
Best price: $1.49 (with coupon)
Item Link

Well, this one is certainly junk unless you intend on using it very, very rarely. I bought three, two for my handicapped wife and one for myself. I use mine for picking up occasional items that I drop behind hard to move furniture or the tool bench; my wife who can't walk much USED her frequently for reaching nearby objects as well as for picking up things dropped on the floor. Mine still works (used it three times inside and once for picking up yard debris) and hers broke within a day. I bought a fourth one, thinking perhaps she was a bit rough with hers and learned from her experience to treat the tool more gently--it still broke almost immediately.

The spring grasping mechanism is very stiff and requires some effort to get the device to open properly. The pick-up strength is adequate for light objects, but the grasping is tenuous at best. When used with any frequency (as in extended the reach of a handicapped person), this unit is lucky to make it through the day. A very disappointing purchase from Harbor Freight.:'(

Bottom Line: Trash is trash at any price. Save your money (remember, $1.49 can go a long ways at Harbor Freight) for something more interesting unless you have a special use for this item.

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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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