13-Piece Screwdriver Set

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

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com

Full-Sized Screwdriver Set
Item: 13-Piece Screwdriver Set
Item number: 1847
Retail price: $11.99
Frequent sale price: $7.99
Target price: $4.99 (with coupon)
Item Link

Unlike the 32-piece screwdriver set reviewed earlier which is intended primarily for light-duty work, this full-sized screwdriver set will tackle most projects around the home and even many found in the shop. Argumentatively, this set might suffice for heavy-duty use if one is willing to rely on the "Lifetime Guarantee" to replace screwdrivers with damaged tips.

The cushioned, non-slip grips help add that extra torque sometimes needed for an uncooperative screw, and the magnetic tips are really helpful starting small screws in tight spaces. The screwdrivers are surprisingly good-quality for the price and should even stand up to occasional heavy-duty use. For those requiring a set for sustained heavy-duty, professional-level work, we much prefer one of the Craftsman™ sets costing 5 or 6-times the target price of this set. See why we love Harbor Freight™? We have a couple of Craftsman™ sets, one on a bench and one in our automotive toolbox, and we have several sets of these Harbor Freight™ screwdrivers in other toolboxes and locations throughout our home and shops. This medium-duty set works well with most tasks, but we don't try to tear it up on the heavier work (well, at least not routinely, although I must admit more than once we have used a screwdriver or two from this set successfully on a few really stubborn screws).

Bottom line: Another great value at the target price, this full-sized, 13-piece screwdriver set is suitable for medium-duty work around the shop and will tackle almost any job at home. Buy-it-right for a duplicate set and keep it where you need it.

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3-Piece Thumbwheel Ratch Set

07/30/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Hot Buys, MoHo/RV

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com

Thumbwheel Ratchet Set
Item: 3-Piece Thumbwheel Ratchet Set
Item number: 94011
Retail price: $7.99
Frequent sale price: $4.99
Target price: $3.99
Item Link

These thumbwheel ratchets are used for driving your sockets in very tight spaces where a regular ratchet or even one with a swivel extension simply won't work. The set comes complete with 1/4", 3/8", and 1/2" drives, so it will cover most home and automotive work that you're likely to encounter. Of course if they are just the tool you need one day to get you nuts out of a tight spot, they're worth the full retail price at the moment. But we prefer to find this nifty little set of thumbwheel ratchets at our target price of $3.99 and stock'em before we actually need them. (Ah, "I see said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw," that's why they're on the Hot Buys list -- those are things you buy at the 'right price' BEFORE you actually need them!) They're not a bad buy at their sale price of $4.99 either.

The mechanism is stiff and this has been a complaint of some online reviewers. We're more sympathetic to this inexpensive little tool set, figuring that just turning the round driver and forgetting about the racketing (if it's too stiff for you) is sufficient for the job where no other tool will work. If we were silly enough to pay the full retail price of $7.99 we might grumble at bit too, but at our target price of $3.99, they're a good-value for the money!

If you have a special application where you regularly need this type of tool, you will probably be much better off to invest in a more expensive set. For most people, however, who are likely to only occasionally encounter a situation where a thumbwheel ratchet is needed, this is the set to buy.

We've even added the set to our list for RVers. Their compact footprint makes them easy to store and hey, you never know when you're going to discover that tight nut or bolt on your RV for the first time out on the road. Keep them in the RV or auto for that unforeseen roadside emergency and you can always bring them 'inside' as needed. And at the target price of $3.99 or even the frequent sale price of only a dollar more you might find two sets are on your buy list this month.

Bottom: A good value at our target price; priceless if you find you need them in the middle of a project. Don't expect them to feel like professional-level tools, but then how often are you going to use them?

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52-Piece Socket Set

07/29/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Hot Buys, MoHo/RV

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com

SAE & Metric Socket Set
Item: 52-Piece Socket Set (SAE & metric)
Item number: 35338
Retail price: $9.99
Regular sale price: $7.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $7.99
Item Link

Click here for coupon through 02 August 2010

This 52-piece socket set contains both SAE and metric sockets. For us baby boomers, it's a marvel of modern technology: not because of its function (yes, my son, socket sets have been around for a long time ;)) but because of its price. It doesn't seem that long ago that a socket set covering just SAE or just metric cost several times this much. And therein lies much of the appeal of Harbor Freight™ for many of us 'older' folks.

A little (more) Harbor Freight™ tool-buyer's philosophy:
I still have my first socket set. It was a gift from my brother (now deceased) and a rather expensive item at that. It's a Craftsman™ set covering basic SAE sizes and cost around $20 at the time (that would be $40 or $50 in today's money; hum, am I giving away my age?). I've used this set over the years for all of my work (mostly automotive and home repairs) and considering it's a 3/8" drive size certainly abused it on occasion (i.e., should have been using at least 1/2" drive for the work I was doing). It has held up well and I still use it today. Sears™ certainly sold me on the quality of their Craftsman™ tools with this early purchase -- they could have given the set away for the imprinting it performed, keeping me a loyal Craftsman™ customer over the years and having me extol the quality of their products to others.

Even as I purchased socket and wrench sets as an adult, the prices always seemed rather high for quality tools and the imports were strictly junk that broke after regular use and were never capable of even a little abuse. Each time I purchased a set I was faced with the dilemma of whether to buy the traditional SAE or the newer metric size as an increasing number of products were being imported using metric-sized nuts and bolts. Enter Harbor Freight™ tools.

Harbor Freight™ provides an outlet for generally medium-quality tools at deep discount prices (In my book they accomplished their mission of making "it easier for working people to get the best value possible on top-quality tools.") For many of us baby boomers it's like a child in a candy store each time we visit Harbor Freight™. What am I going to buy next? So each time I enter my local Harbor Freight™ store I instantly feel like a rich man: I can 'afford' to buy all sorts of tools that were too pricey in my recent memory. And I buy, buy, buy, admittedly today shopping for the best possible price on each item.

Younger people have different expectations. Many of them are use to getting everything 'on-the-cheap' and expecting good-quality at very low prices. Then they're disappointed when their 'cheap' item doesn't hold up to heavy use. But then they live in an era where coffee is drunk out of a Styrofoam cup most everywhere (Yes, even the self-proclaimed upscale coffee shops have switched from china to disposable cups -- how crude! :() and where everything is seemingly disposable. What did they expect from an inexpensive socket set? For us 'older' folks Harbor Freight™ is great (nice rhyme, perhaps that should be their mantra). They provide low-cost tools that are generally acceptable quality for all but 'professional-level' work and they even fit that bill with some items.

This socket set makes our Hot Buys list as a light- to medium-duty set (click here for a discussion of: Is it light or is it medium duty?). The convenience of having both SAE and metric sockets in a compact storage case outweighs any minor limitations in the quality of the item. Other online reviewers have complained that this set doesn't hold up to regular use, but then their expectations may be much different than ours (hey, buy a Craftsman™ for that serious work). In all honesty we haven't used this set very much yet. If we find, after more extensive testing, that it doesn't hold up to home and light-shop use, we'll be happy to revise our preliminary review and product recommendation accordingly. Meanwhile, this is a great buy at the target price as a duplicate set for normal home and occasional light-shop use.

Read more »

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Windmill Mole Chaser

07/28/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Outdoor Living, Product Safety Warnings

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com

Mole Chasing Windmill!
Item: Windmill Mole Chaser
Item number: 47987
Retail price: $9.99
Sale price: $6.99
Target price: $6.99
Item Link (product removed from website)

Revised 23 August 2010: Well, as we predicted (see second to last paragraph below), this product didn't last long as assembled out-of-the-box -- it failed after only 6 months' use (spring through late summer). Because of this premature failure we are removing it from our Hot Buys list, although it doesn't quite make our list of The Junk for the reasons noted in the review below and because we got our money's worth in entertainment as a whirligig for the 6 months before it broke. Also, we reiterate our product warning about this item related to its sharp rotating blades with the addition that the blades may become detached without warning.

Although we are pleased that Harbor Freight has removed this item from their online sales, we do think they should keep a link to this product with an appropriate safety warning for those who have already purchased it. Thanks to Harbor Freight for getting this half right; too bad they didn't "go the whole 9 yards." (FYI: We'll be happy to receive a donation of any remaining stock to salvage the blades for use with our wind-generator prototypes.)

The poor fit between the two vertical support tubes leaves the main body of this windmill out of perpendicular to the ground, thus presenting the blades at the wrong angle to the wind which stresses the bearings of the windmill. The undue wear on the bearings which connect the blade to the horizontal shaft resulted in metal fatigue which caused the unit to 'break.' The winds were generally less than 20 mph with no strong gusts noted for the 48 hours preceding the unit's failure. (Yes, we collected data from a weather station located about 20' from the windmill.) Our original review of this product follows unmodified below.

This is one of the very few items from Harbor Freight's extensive inventory that we decided to return shortly after assembly. But then we didn't and we're real happy we kept it. This windmill is perhaps the flimsiest item yet from Harbor Freight's product line (yes, they do carry some pretty bad stuff amongst their treasures; see our list of "The Junk"), and it looked like a real rip-off when we unboxed it. After sitting for nearly a year in our garage (waiting to be returned to Harbor Freight for a refund because despite the low price, we REALLY felt ripped off), we finally reassembled it and placed it in the yard. Then it began to spin . . . and to spin and to spin.

It takes a pretty strong wind to get it moving, but our Buffalo blows provide more than enough wind-power to rev up the blades. In fact, with our 20-30 mph winds that frequent the area it looks like it's ready to take-off and fly away. Its torque is so strong once it gets going that we're considering converting it to a wind-powered electrical generator (ah, another project) but don't expect much from a gentle breeze. The bearings and the mount for the blades to the horizontal shaft are very poor, and the wobble makes it immune to small breezes. (Perhaps we'll modify the blade connection later too, after we've turned it into a wind-powered generator.;))

Warning: The blades are quite sharp when rotating at high speed, making this a very effective 'meat slicer.' We've mounted ours on heavy-metal electrical conduit several feet above the ground and well out of the reach of dogs and small children. We've had one bird fatality (perhaps a suicide but more likely blown into the blades by a strong gust of wind) in the 5 months it's been up and running. This product definitely needs a safety warning!

The windmill mole chaser is very poorly constructed. The entire device is extremely loose, and the main shaft for the windmill blade wobbles. Of course the manufacturer could try to argue that this was in the design; after all, it's supposed to vibrate to scare those pesty moles and other ground-burrowing critters away. We think it's just cheaply made (What do you expect in a $6.99 [on sale] windmill?), and we will forgo any serious discussion of its design merits. Even the back fin is so thin that it bends in a strong wind and has to be reshaped constantly.

Other online reviewers have reported that it does really chase away moles and other ground-burrowing vermin; we haven't be able (fortunately) to test that feature yet. Sasha does a great job of keeping the wild things out of our yard. Most everyone reviewing online reports problems with its construction, especially the bearings as noted above. The majority claim that the unit lasts a year or two before it needs a major over-haul or to be replaced. Ours has only been running since early spring and it has yet to endure our Buffalo Winter Test.

The real value of this "mole chaser" for us is not in its intended purpose but in its entertainment value. As one ages it becomes increasing satisfying to watch someone or something work while we're resting in a leisurely repose. (I can always tell my wife that I'm busy chasing the moles away, while sitting in the backyard enjoying a refreshing gin and tonic during a hot summer day.) So, for us it's a whirligig and a damn fun one at that. The aluminum blades are quite shiny and reflect the sunlight very well. We have a solar-powered floodlight which illuminates the blades at night when the windmill is pivoted in the right direction, and that presents a rather eerie flicker of light on a dark gusty night. And if we can actually generate a bit of electricity for our yard lights, then this will indeed have been an amusing project. (As noted above, the blades are somewhat resistant to rotating [i.e., it take a substantial, sustained breeze], but once running they seem to produce a surprisingly large amount of torque.) For its entertainment value alone (and this is purely subjective), it makes our Hot Buys list.

Buy it as you see it -- for us it's an entertaining whirligig; for others it's actually a mole chaser as advertised. It is definitely not expected to last long as assembled out-of-the-box, but the simple construction makes modification to a slightly better windmill an easy task. And if we're successful in modifying it into a wind-powered electrical generator, then the blades alone are worth the target price as anyone working with wind-generators can aptly confirm.

Bottom line: We can't attest to its ability to chase away moles as the manufacturer claims, but we can rave about its entertainment value as a whirligig and the hours of amusement it's provided us. Be sure to buy it at the target price (even use a 20%-off coupon to knock off another buck) and you probably won't be disappointed.

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The Poor Man's "Toad"

07/28/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, MoHo/RV, Novel Uses

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com

This guide to "The Poor Man's Toad" is subtitled "How to get your toad on the road economically." Before describing the components, a brief explanation of the terms is in order for the non-RVers starting with, eh, "RV" which stands for "recreational vehicle" and includes motor homes ("MoHos") and travel trailers. Even pick-up trucks with camper tops that are actually used for sleeping are included in this category. An "RVer" is obviously one who uses an "RV" or more simply put one who "RVs."

Technically, the word is "towed" which is the truncated expression for "towed vehicle" -- that little tag-along car or SUV that is towed behind a MoHo for use once the RV is parked in the campground. RVer's have much more fun with the expressive term "toad," so it's fitting that we introduce an new acronym "towed often and driven" or "T.O.A.D." which shortens to "toad" in popular use. Remember, you heard it first here on Harbor Freight Reviews, the introduction of an original acronym justifying spelling and pronunciation of "TOAD" which would otherwise just be "towed" ;).

Toads are typically seen behind the larger, over 35' motor homes. They simplify touring an area or going out to eat where parking a large motor home can be an inconvenience to put it mildly. And of course they save on gasoline when touring from a campground base, and for "boondockers" they ensure that your camping spot won't be taken by some intruder while you're away exploring the area with your motor home on a day trip. Toads are sometimes also seen with mini motor homes, those less than 30' long, and perhaps a state or two allows toads to be pulled behind a fifth wheel (that's a special type of travel trailer for you non-RVers).

Components for "The Poor Man's Toad"

  1. 5000-lb capacity adjustable tow bar ($49.99 or less),
  2. 12-volt magnetic towing-light kit ($9.99), and (optional)
  3. 12-volt portable electric winch or equivalent ($49.99).

So what's the purpose behind the optional winch? Well, that's really quite simple and rather ingeniously solves the common problem of hooking up your toad to your motor home. (Remember, you read it first on Harbor Freight Reviews.) Move your toad close to your motor home and then attach your winch to either the motor home (the Harbor Freight model listed above has a coupling to attach to your hitch ball; click here to read the review) or the toad. You might even consider a permanently mounted winch. Now simply winch your toad to the hitch on your MoHO (you did put the toad in neutral and unlock the steering column, didn't you?) and BINGO, you have a matching connection. This system could be particularly helpful when using the Harbor Freight tow bar which is rigid and thus requires a perfect match between the hitch ball on your MoHo and the tow hitch coupling on your toad. And the same approach (pun intended :))) should also work well matching up any towed device that requires a perfect match with the hitch ball and coupler.

Bottom line: A quick and easy "poor man's toad" can be assembled from two Harbor Freight products: their 5000-lb tow bar and their 12-volt magnetic towing-light kit. Add an optional 12-volt electric winch to your set-up and you can align your vehicles even easier than most people using those expensive tow bars.

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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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