Tags: tool reviews

4-Piece Solar Light Set

09/07/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Outdoor Living, Lighting, Solar Power

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com/HFRreviews.html

Solar Light
Item: 4-Piece Solar Light Set
Item number: 93863
Retail price: $14.99
Frequent sale price: $12.99
Target price: $9.99
Item Link

We've tested quite a few of these solar-powered lights over the past few years and until recently have been quite happy with them. They seemed to cruise through the first Buffalo Winter Test, survive the second, and begin to drop-off rapidly during the third and fourth summers into our testing. The current failure rate (even with battery replacements) is acceptable but disappointing considering their very strong start. Perhaps we're expecting too much out of an inexpensive (cheap?) set of solar-powered yard lights, but it's our money and we demand what we demand, and we didn't expect to have to replace them all within 4 or 5 years' use.

The good news is that about half of these solar-powered lights have survived their first three Buffalo Winter Tests providing strong lighting throughout the night after a moderately good day of sunshine. The bad news is that around half of the remaining lights fail to come back to life even with battery replacements and that those which do only provide modest lighting after a bright sunny day and have at best a faint flickering light by morning. The actual number of replacement batteries in the lights that are still working well has not yet been tabulated. It seems that at least a few are still on their original factor-supplied batteries, but we need to tally up all of the five 4-piece sets to be certain. We do note and have come to expect that they run much longer than their advertised 8 hours even during the winter months, although at this point it is difficult to recollect if they performed this well on their original batteries (our replacement batteries are rated at 2500 [Chinese] mAh, while the factory-supplied batteries are 600 mAh).

We've mounted most of these solar-powered lights about 2 1/2 feet about the ground along a fence every 8 to 10 feet for the perimeter of our backyard plus a mid-line intersection. This gives the lights plenty of access to sunshine throughout most of the year including the winter months and times the grass seems a little longer than it should be during the hot summer months (actually, it's never really all that high, imo :-/). With an couple of color-changing solar-powered LED lights (one 15 feet and another around 7 feet off the ground) and the addition of a string of 50 flashing blue LED lights stretching across a gate which intersects the area, the backyard has been quite brightly illuminated for the first several years deeming it affectionately "the puppy airport" in honor of Sasha (it's her backyard; see our "Pet Stake" review for a picture of her) and the occasional stray airplane flying overhead en-route to the Buffalo airport. The effect was quite attractive year round but particularly stunning in the quiet winter nights after a light snowfall which reflects the LED lighting brightly illuminating the entire area.

The lens protecting the photocells seemed very fogged after two or three years' use. The lights themselves are a favorite perch for Robbins and other birds and that might expose the lenses to a different type of 'raining acid.' Also, moths and other cocoon-forming insects love the inside compartment around the battery and electronic circuit, probably because it's a warmer (dark colored) protective housing for them too. The problems that we have with these solar-power lights might be related in part to the combined bird and insect attacks, but then we don't live in a desert. At least part of the lens clouding seems to be from the use of UV-reactive plastic for the clear cover protecting the photocell because it won't clean off with soap and water but does scrape off with a razor blade along with a thin film of plastic. (Or maybe it's a reaction to bird-acid, but we aren't planning on running any tests to explore this possibility without the support of a large government grant!)

Bottom line: If you can find them at our low target price, we still consider these solar-powered yard lights to be a good bargain. We've just damped our enthusiasm from the first two years when they seems to work flawlessly except for a few battery replacements. By the end of the second Buffalo Winter Test, they're definitely a mixed lot of the good, the bad, and the shine-only-after-a-bright-day (every with replacement batteries!) lights.

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Air Tool Accessory Kit

08/25/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Air Tools, Hot Buys

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com/HFRreviews.html

Air Accessory Kit
Item: Air Tools Accessory Kit
Item number: 42716
Retail price: $9.99
Target price: $7.99 (with 20%-off coupon if necessary)
Item Link

Most air compressors out-of-the-box contain nothing to get you started except the compressor itself. You'll need several other parts to make your new air compressor useful. We recommend that you start with one of the air accessory kits offered by Harbor Freight. Our selection of the particular product reviewed here is based on our intended uses and still leaves you without a necessary air hose. You might consider one of the other kits (e.g., 20-Piece Air Compressor Starter Kit; retail price: $14.99) which includes a coiled hose if your intended use differs for your air compressor. (See below for a brief description of how we use our air compressors.) For most purposes we suggest this air tool accessory kit combined with one of Harbor Freight's 25- or 50-ft rubber hoses.

There are always exceptions: We generally recommend buying this air tool accessory kit and adding a 25- or 50-ft rubber hose for most users. However, if you are buying a lightweight, hand-carried air compressor you may want to purchase an air tool accessory kit that includes a coiled air hose (e.g., 20-Piece Air Compressor Starter Kit). We don't use a coiled air hose very often, but there are a few situations where we find it very useful. (Note that the kits including a coiled hose do not include some of the 'odd' pieces included in this air tool accessory kit which you may find later that you need, and they include fewer quick couplers.)

We have a small, hand-carried (very) portable air compressor that we use for inflating bicycle tires and for blasting debris and dust at various locations. The coiled air hose works great for these applications. We also find the coiled hose useful when we combine it with our air manifold that has several outlets on our larger, medium-sized air compressor. Here we frequently use the coiled air hose with an air gun for blowing debris and dust from bench tools located near our main air compressor.

FYI: Coiled air hoses generally wear out much faster and are subject to damage much easier than are rubber air hoses.

With this sit you receive 4 male quick couplers. Two will be used immediately on your air chuck and on your blow gun, and that leaves only two for your other air tools. The quick release coupler attaches to your air compressor output line. The female quick coupler, 1/4" nipples, and other couplings are likely to remain in your toolbox for a while until you have special needs for them. You could just purchase the couplings (e.g., 5-Piece Solid Brass Quick Coupler Set; retail price: $4.99) but the air blower is very useful and the air chuck a necessity, so you would mostly likely find yourself later purchasing them separately at an increased cost. Moreover, we found use for some of the other 'odd' pieces immediately with our air tools and would have to had paid a couple of dollars each for the other pieces. All-in-all, investing in this low-cost air accessory kit was the right choice for us to get started as we feel it will be for most other novice users. Not only is it likely to save money in the long run (compared with buying each component or set of specific parts separately) but more importantly it saves frustrating trips to the hardware store when we would have been 'short' that one 'odd' little piece to get our tool running.

FYI the obvious or the not-so-obvious if you haven't purchased your first air tool yet: Most air tools come with 1/4" NPT connections and do not have quick coupler fittings or other necessary connectors included. You need to purchase these separately and this kit gets you started with four of these quick couplers. When you need more purchase them in small packages not individually. You'll find that you need more and more as you increase the number of air tools that you use.

Some online reviewers have complained about this set, but we like it for getting you started in the world of air tools or for purchase with your first air compressor. This kit contains the components which are an absolute must for getting started; the complaints have been mainly about the air flow rate through the quick couplers (see below) and are most likely from people who use their air tools more 'seriously' that we do for our applications.

It's all relative and here's our point of reference: We do not use air tools on a regular basis, except perhaps for our blow guns. We do not usually disconnect and connect several tools daily nor even use our air compressor every day. On a busy day with our compressor we only swap air tools several times, and busy days are likely to occur only once or twice each month. Of course on occasion we have used our air tools throughout the day for several successive days; we have tackled a few bigger projects requiring this more serious type of use. But our normal pattern of compressor use is irregular and sporadic, with only several uses each month. Our evaluations are based on this type of use, not sustained regular use of these products. Be advised that professional use may require higher-quality products than those reviewed here. We occasionally use air tools such as our high-speed air cutter, air hammer, die grinder, impact wrench, and air socket. We don't use a paint gun or a sand blaster. We have fun and we save a lot of time on projects for which we use our air tools, but we don't do regular, professional work with an air compressor nor have we tested any of these products under these conditions.

You can purchase different air couplers that are rated for high air flow (i.e., 4-Piece Hi-Flo Male Plug Set; retail price: $2.99). They have a larger internal diameter than do the standard couplers included in this set and the quick couplers used by many (most?) people. These high-flow air couplers permit higher levels of air flow to your air tool thus increasing its power. However, we find that for our uses the standard couplers work just fine. In fact, we have a medium-sized compressor that runs out of high-pressure air long before we might have problems with its rate of air delivery influenced by any constriction in our air line. In other words, our compressor can't really handle the sustained high air flow that some tools require and that the high-flow couplers are designed to permit. So who cares? The standard couplers work quite well for us.

How much would you like to pay? Amazon (who has consistently been beating eBay on prices for new items) sells a very similar accessory kit for $29.99 marked down from a list price of $44.99. You do get a case for that price, but most of the items in our air tool accessory kit are being used around the shop, so the case would pretty much be empty. At our target price, the equivalent item from Harbor Freight is less than a third of the price at Amazon! Click here to view the product sold by Amazon.

FYI: We like Amazon and have bought lots of items from them over the years. We recommend them for many other products, but they just can't touch Harbor Freight's prices.

As you build your arsenal of air tools you will quickly need additional quick couplers. For your next purchase, we recommend you do invest in a set of high-flow male connectors (i.e., 4-Piece Hi-Flo Male Plug Set; retail price: $2.99). The price is great and you might as well invest in the higher flow rate just in case it does eventually make a difference. Of course to make full use of the high-flow connectors you would need to also purchase high-flow female connectors too (i.e., 2-Piece Brass Hi-Flo Female Air Coupler Set; retail price: $4.99). Be forewarned that some users have reported problems with the female couplers failing and you may need to invest in a more expensive female coupler purchased elsewhere.

Bottom line: This low-priced air accessory kit from Harbor Freight is one of several possibilities for getting you started with your new compressor. Don't leave the shop without it or without a similar accessory kit, or you'll find that the only thing your new air compressor does is blow air in the garage.

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Air Blow Gun with 2-ft. Extension

08/25/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Air Tools, Hot Buys

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com/HFRreviews.html

Air Blow Gun with Extension
Item: Air Blow Gun with 2-ft. Extension
Item number: 35226
Retail price: $4.99
Frequent sale price: $2.99
Target price: $2.99
Best price: $1.99
Item Link

OK, I've used these long wands for cleaning automotive engines and other items with steam and even water, but I just didn't envision air being able to perform the same task. So why the long wand? Well, for cleaning things you wouldn't use steam or water to clean.:)) OK, that's a really obvious come-back, but seriously, what's this good for?

For most of our uses here at Harbor Freight Reviews this is simply a type of high-pressure air sweeper. Not a vacuum -- it blows the dust and debris out not sucks it up. We use it to clean the air handler filters on our HVAC, we blow away the saw dust from our compound sliding miter saw, bench sander, drill press, and other tools, and we reach those hard to sweep nooks and crannies throughout our shop. It's very good for work below your waist ;) -- getting the blow below your knees, thus saving you from bending over to reach low objects that need cleaning. In other words, getting the air to where you want it with minimal effort.

In our first edition of this product review, we're not going to elaborate on all the places where you might find this tool useful. Suffice it to say, try it at our target price and you'll probably find lots of uses around your own home or shop. We did and we only bought it originally because it was on sale very, very cheap at its best price.

Like all of your powerful long tools, enjoy using it but use it wisely. Remember that this tool is operating at a high air pressure that can not only dislodge particles that your vacuum cleaner can't suck but also propel some debris into the air. We are careful to set-back the air-pressure regulator on the compressor appropriately whenever cleaning filters and mindful of possible blow-back from injecting air into our various 'nooks and crannies.'

Bottom line: A useful tool at the right price and our target price is right. This is a good buy-it-to-try-it tool for anyone with an air compressor in their shop or garage.

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The Real Deals: What to Buy this Month at Harbor Freight

08/12/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Real Deals

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com/HFRreviews.html

Harbor Freight has some great deals this month. Some are sale items and others require special coupons. Below is a list of some of our selections complete with links to our online reviews. We may revise this list, so check back later. Happy shopping at the Harbor!

Second Edition (release date: 16 August 2010)

  1. Folding, Locking-Back Utility Knife: $4.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review
  2. Mover's Dolly: $7.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  3. 4 Ft. x 12 Ft. Canvas Dropcloth: $4.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  4. 12" Ratchet Bar Clamp/Spreader: $1.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  5. Black-Cap Knee Pads: $2.99 (with coupon; click the item's name for our review)
  6. 4-Piece Nesting Toolbox Set: $24.99 (use a 20%-off coupon and get this for only $19.99; click on the item's name for our review
  7. Clear-Lens Halogen Lights (pair): $9.99 (or $7.99 with a 20%-off coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  8. 13-Piece Screwdriver Set: $4.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  9. 3" High Speed Air Cutter: $6.99 ($2 below our target price with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  10. Portable Air Compressor: $79.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  11. 4 x 36"/6" Disc Sander: $59.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  12. 12-Volt Portable Electric Winch: $39.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  13. 9-LED Mini Flashlight: FREE (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  14. Pack of 12 15" x 13" All Purpose Shop Towels: $2.99 (with coupon click; on the item's name for our review
  15. 40-Piece 3/8" and 1/4" Drive Socket Set: $2.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)
  16. 1001-Piece Nut and Bolt Storehouse®: $6.99 (with coupon; click on the item's name for our review)

The coupons mentioned above are from several different sources: online at Harbor Freight.com, magazine and local newspaper ads, and mailings. Locate your coupons early and check the expiration dates. Some of these offers are only for this week!

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A Guide to Using Our Discussion Forum

07/19/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: HFR Forum User Guide

Link: http://www.HarborFreigthReviews.com

You can access this guide from any page in the discussion forum by clicking on the "HFR Forum User Guide" category found on the right-hand column. Be sure to uncheck that filter when returning to the main reviews.

This version was last revised 03 August 2010 20:32 EDT.

Welcome to Harbor Freight Reviews

This discussion forum was created for those who love shopping at Harbor Freight™. The forum owners post reviews from time-to-time of items personally evaluated, helping to guide others through the good, the bad, and the do-not-buy junk that is found throughout Harbor Freight’s brick-and-mortar stores and occasionally some items sold through their online sales outlet. The purpose is to share information on the best buys and the worse buys, on the best prices, and on availability of special discount offers such as online coupons.

Please note that Harbor Freight Reviews is in no way affiliated with Harbor Freight™. We do not receive any commission from sales from them nor are we liable for the information provided here for educational purposes. We LOVE Harbor Freight, but we are also aware that shopping there can be tricky (see our Guide for the Novice Shopper) and we appreciate others sharing their experiences with us as well. And like many others, the forum owners are dedicated to buying one of everything (on sale, of course) before it's 'game over' for this life cycle. Cheers and happy sa(i)ling throughout the Harbor B)!

Why Another Discussion Forum?

At the time of its inception this forum was unique for two reasons. First and most obvious, we provide pricing information for each item. The published "retail price" is given for each product which is accurate at the time the review was written. A "frequent sale price" is also listed which is the lowest sale price that has been seen in the past 6 months that is expected to be repeated (e.g., no clearance prices). And finally, a "target price" is set which is the price we would hope to pay for the item ourselves. This latter price is the most important of the three -- it considers not only value-for-the-money but also prices for which the item has been recently advertised. If you can beat our target price, "go for it." If you have to pay more for an item than our target price because of current need, "such is life." Our target price is merely a guide to the complex and frequent sales and special coupons offered by Harbor Freight which makes their pricing obscure at times. In simple terms, the target price is simply the price we would hope to pay for a replacement of the item under review. We update our pricing occasionally but with no set regularity.

The second feature that makes Harbor Freight Reviews unique is the fact that our reviews are written from first-hand, personal experience. Although we are interested in the experiences of others and are willing to post reviews written by second parties from time-to-time, the basis of this discussion forum is our own experiences, taking into consideration that of others but ultimately OUR personal opinion about a product. This differs importantly from other online resources where the reviews are written by anonymous authors, sometimes by people that have a vested interested in the subject about which they write; often by people who have unrealistic expectations about a product (e.g., do not consider its price when considering its quality). When reading these reviews one must always take into consideration the author. The same is true here at Harbor Freight Reviews, but here you 'get to know' the author by reading a lot of material written by the same person.

Evaluating the products and writing these reviews is a slow, tedious process. We could rapidly expand our product coverage by allowing unvetted reviews from anonymous authors, but that is not the purpose of Harbor Freight Reviews. Furthermore, we will update our reviews from time-to-time as we gain further experience with a product. With this understanding of the nature of our discussion forum, we hope that you find our reviews interesting, valuable, and perhaps even entertaining from time-to-time. In any case, "happy hunting."

Click here to jump directly to the 'top' (i.e., latest topic) of the discussion forum.

Navigating the Discussion Forum

Items in the discussion forum are presented in reverse chronological order—the most recent reviews appear first. If you simply wish to read the most recent reviews, start at the first item on the top of the page and read your way down through the various reviews. Use the highlighted page markers at the bottom of each page to advance through the various pages. This approach works best for those who like to periodically peruse our reviews and to read everything at least once. To read the comments posted by others or to post your own comments, click on the review’s title to open a special page (registration is required for posting comments because of spamming).

For those that require a more systematic approach to locating information, the right-hand column has several navigational aids. First, clicking on a highlighted date on the calendar will show only reviews posted on that date. This is useful for those that wish to read the forum on a daily basis but have missed specific dates. Second, there is a search box (after the forum description on the right-hand column) which permits searching the forum for specific words including the Harbor Freight item number. Third, there is a list of categories that can be used to filter the reviews. Clicking on any of the categories will show reviews only for items listed in the specified category. Be sure to click on “ALL” when finished if you wish to return to reading all of the items posted in various categories. (See the section below on “Keeping Up-to-Date” if you would like to learn about the last item in the right-hand column, XML feeds.)

Be sure to click on "All" found under the "Categories" listing on the right-hand column or you won't be viewing our entire database of reviews after you've perused a category or a specific date. Alternatively, you can click on "reset filter" when available to make sure that you're seeing the entire list of product reviews. Either procedure will remove the "filters" that were set by your early search. For those who don't use any of the links under "category" or the "calender, you can disregard this instruction set.

Locating Specific Reviews

If you wish to check for a specific item, enter the part number or name in the search box found midway down the right-hand column; you can also enter any related search terms (e.g., solar lights). If you wish to search for items in a specific category (e.g., air tools), use the category filter found on the right-hand column (click on the relevant category). And if you wish to search by specific dates that the reviews were posted, click on the date on the calendar found on the top of the right-hand column. (See previous section for more details.)

Click here to jump to a list of “Hot Buys” for items that have been reviewed.

Keeping Up-to-Date

There are two ways to keep up-to-date and to ensure that you don’t miss any reviews. The old fashioned way is to manually peruse the reviews, beginning with the top of the list (most recent) and read until you reach the point where you left off with your earlier reading. Alternatively, you can click on the corresponding date on the calendar found on the right-hand column. A more convenient, and indeed a timelier, method of keeping up with the very latest posts or comments is to use the XML feeds available for this forum.

To receive RSS feeds, click on either “posts” or “comments” found under RSS on the lower right-hand column of each page. This will subscribe you to new “posts” (i.e., lead reviews posted by the forum owner or others) or “comments” (i.e., remarks posted by readers regarding the various lead reviews), respectively. Most people just subscribe to the RSS feeds for new “posts,” but some like to keep informed of all of the comments which are being left regarding reviews of the various items. To use RSS feeds you also have to have an RSS-feed reader installed. There are three different systems that are frequently used for this. We use an RSS reader on our Yahoo.com home page that we check frequently throughout the day (Google.com also offers an RSS reader for use on their home page.). Read the instructions found on your Yahoo.com or Google.com for further information on how to install this accessory. Alternatively, you can install an RSS-reader to work directly with your web browser (a plug-in). This will scroll the latest RSS feeds across a window on your browser (See your browser for instruction on how to install this plug-in.). Another convenient method for those using Windows Outlook™ is to subscribe directly from your e-mail reader which will then place the RSS feed in a special folder. Finally, for those using Windows Vista™ or Windows 7™, you can add a Widget that receives RSS feeds directly on your Windows™ desktop. We also use this method (on one of several computers) to receive RSS feeds from various sources (e.g., news reports, stock market updates, Addiction Science Network updates) and find it quite convenient. Click on the Widget and mark “add Widget” for instructions.

All of this talk about RSS feeds and readers may sound a bit intimidating to the older crowd which is most likely the audience for a discussion forum dedicated to tool reviews, but trust me, get your kids or grand-kids (that younger generation who grew up with this technology) to set it up for you and you'll love it once you become familiar with how it works. You'll find it useful not only for keeping up with the latest commentaries here at Harbor Freight Reviews but also for other sources where you desire the latest, hottest information.

Reviewers Wanted

If you have experience with Harbor Freight products that you would like to share, join the discussion forum and reply to any of the commentaries (i.e., threads) already started, or send your review/comments to info@HarborFreightReviews.com or to "The Professor" (e-mailed through this mail system) for initiating a new topic. Feel free to repost non-copyrighted material or links to other sites reviewing Harbor Freight products. The purpose here is to have fun providing a focal point and central repository for information about Harbor Freight products, and we're not really competing with the many websites that have already informative commentaries posted by their users.

To post your comments you will need to first register. We keep all information you provide strictly confidential (i.e., name, e-mail address, username) and use it only for registration purposes on this discussion forum. Once you have registered a page will appear whenever you click on the title of the item that you would like to comment on and you can enter your remarks in a window that opens at the bottom of the new page. Because of keyword spamming, we first review the content to make sure it's a legitimate reply and not spam; we do not edit or restrict content from legitimate, registered users and we only require registration because we have been heavily spammed when we allowed comments from unregistered users.

We wholeheartedly welcome comments and participation from Harbor Freight enthusiasts. We would like to see others with an interest in Harbor Freight's tools share their experiences and product recommendations while we methodically work our way through their inventory one tool at a time. We also appreciate feedback on our reviews, even conflicting opinions from time-to-time.

Special Note Regarding Advertising

We are blinded as to the advertisements provided by Google’s Adsense program found on the bottom of most pages (i.e., we see the advertisements like you see the advertisements and have no control over their content). These revolving advertisements should be clearly indicated as such, and please do not confuse these ads with our website links or content. We neither endorse nor receive sales commissions from these advertisers. Revenue is generated when you “click on” an advertisement or a link but not through sales. We can black-list specific companies found to practice unscrupulous trade policies, and we welcome input from our readers on their experiences with companies displayed in the Google advertisements. The only places where we receive commission on sales are through our Amazon shop and our direct online sales; both are clearly indicated as such. We appreciate your patronage which helps support our work here at Harbor Freight Reviews, but our primary mission remains to provide unbiased reviews of Harbor Freight tools and related products.

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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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