Price Advisory: Electric Leaf Eater and Shredder

08/16/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Outdoor Living, Announcements

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

The Electric Leaf Eater and Shredder is Harbor Freight's "Deal of the Day" selling for our target price of $59.99. Print out their on-line ad (click here) and take it to your local Harbor Freight outlet. Many (most?) Harbor Freight outlets are honoring their on-line sales. I wouldn't expect to combine it with a 20%-off coupon, but hey, you never know.

If you decide to buy this item, be sure to read our online review (click here for the review). We had mixed feelings about this product but do see some merit in it. Try it out within the first 30 days so that you can return it if dissatisfied. Good luck and happy sa(i)ling.

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1001-Piece Nut and Bolt Storehouse®

08/16/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, Storage/Organization

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

Nuts and Bolts Assortment with Cabinet
Item: 1001-Piece Nut and Bolt Storehouse®
Item number: 67628
Retail price: $14.99
Regular sale price: $6.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $6.99
Item Link

OK, 1001 doesn't translate to very many when spread across a range of sizes, but they're housed in a good-quality cabinet and that alone is worth our target price. Add the fact that you do get some nuts (and bolts) and most importantly, this set gets you started to being well organized. So don't be too disappointed when you see only a few items in each bin. You can top up the sizes that you actually use frequently and have the others for that rare time that you need an odd size to finish a project.

Do the math: 1000 units (I presume the cabinet itself is the 1001st item) divided by 35 bins with 2 specific items (e.g., a single nut or bolt size) in each bin leaves only 14 units per item or 28 units per drawer. The drawers look mostly empty to me, but who cares? I top them up from my bulk supplies.

The assortment of small nuts and bolts covers both SAE and metric sizes. There are even screws and some cotter pins amongst the mix. The small metric nuts and bolts alone can be a lifesaver for those assembling (or re-assembling) an item made outside the USA (which is about everything today). Drop a small metric bolt while trying to re-assemble? No problem, go to your nifty little collection included in this deal.

You'll pay our target price or more for the 25-bin cabinet alone at the big box retailers. Just consider the hardware and the preprinted labels a bonus and don't grumble about how few of each size is actually included in this set.

They're typical Chinese quality nuts and bolts which is to say not very high quality, but they work for many light- to medium-duty applications. (I have a lot of stainless steel small parts left over from my professional work, and I have become rather spoiled by that quality of made in USA product.) And the big box stores are starting to stock the same quality products but continue to charge 'better quality' prices. We love this little set. It supplements the extensive collections of nuts and bolts we have already, but guess what? This makes another great 'duplicate' like we've been touting for many of your tools. We keep this set in a different location, next to a workbench where it's not used as often as our main small-parts fabrication workbench but nonetheless does have occasional need for a nut here and a bolt there of the small sizes contained in this set.

Bottom line: A good purchase for most, when bought at our target price. If you don't already have your small nuts and bolts organized, this will get you started. And if you are organized, you might just need this as a duplicate in a less-often used location.

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24" Aluminum Bar Clamp

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

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

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.

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40-Piece 3/8" and 1/4" Drive Socket Set

08/16/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hand Tools, Hot Buys, MoHo/RV

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

Small Socket Set
Item: 40-Piece 3/8" and 1/4" Drive Socket Set
Item number: 47902
Retail price: $4.99
Frequent sale price: $2.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $2.99
Item Link

They're something about a $2.99 socket set with a lifetime warranty that makes one just have to buy it. This 40-piece set is compact and just the right size for carrying in your vehicle for some unexpected emergencies. I lamented earlier about being trapped out in my van doing a pick up of an item which turned out to be unexpectedly large. Specifically, I just needed one wrench or socket to make the job of loading much, much easier and to save half an hour of juggling and groaning. This one would have saved my butt.

First impressions: We generally like this set, but it's definitely light-duty or occasional medium-duty. All of the sockets are 1/4" drive except for the 4 largest which are 3/8" drive. Of course a 3/8" to 1/4" adapter is included, but the use of a 3/8" drive ratchet with this set is somewhat misleading in as much as one might expect the sockets to be the same drive size. The fact that the ratchet itself is the larger 3/8" drive is probably a good idea because its mechanics are correspondingly stronger than a comparable-quality 1/4" drive ratchet. We've only used this set a few times, but it does seem to perform OK for its size and better than might be expected from its very low price. We do advise that you keep the form-fitted box that this set comes in because the latch on the plastic case is very weak and not expected to last long. So keep it neatly cased, unless you want to find yourself picking up the sockets spilled across the ground.

And the performance? The small protrusion on the socket side of the 3/8" to 1/4" adapter which holds the socket securely on the adapter is defective on our test unit. This leaves the sockets continually falling off when tipped at the 'wrong' angle (which is almost every angle). We strongly suggest that you open the package and closely check the 3/8" to 1/4" adapter for the specific socket set you are buying before you leave the store. The ratchet itself has considerable free-play. Our test unit's ratchet moves about 15 degrees or so before the gear mechanism engages to drive the socket; this translates into several inches of wasted movement at the end of the handle. Both of these defects are annoyances but tolerable considering the very low price and the fact that we plan on using this set only occasionally for light-duty work.

We are still pleased with our little set and will probably not even take it back to see if Harbor Freight has a 'better' set available at our local store. It's three bucks and it's a 'spare' set kept for occasional light-duty use. It's just fine considering the price and our intended purpose.

How does this set compare with a more expensive set? Well, the most obvious way is that a better-quality set would most likely include a higher quality 1/4" drive ratchet and a 1/4" to 3/8" adapter needed for only the 4 largest sockets rather than visa versa as this inexpensive set requires. More expensive ratchet means a smaller drive size is sufficient because of the higher-quality materials and workmanship. Harbor Freight kept the cost of this set very low by using a lower-quality, but larger drive ratchet. Also, we wouldn't tolerate the free-play in the ratchet or the defective 3/8" to 1/4" adapter with a significantly more expensive set. For frequent use we would advise investing in a better quality socket set such as that offered by Craftsman, but we stand by our original conclusion that this is a good set for occasional bench and unexpected travel use.

This set has you covered in both SAE and metric sizes up to 11/16" and 15mm. Of course more serious roadside repairs require a more serious socket set, such as the 52-piece set reviewed earlier which includes a 1/2" ratchet that will take you up to 7/8". We actually recommend that you carry that set with you if you are serious about making your own roadside repairs or if you do MoHo maintenance while traveling. But this set is even cheaper and more compact, so no excuses not to carry something in every vehicle.

We use a 1/4" drive Craftsman socket set for most of our bench work requiring this type of tool. The cost of this set is considerably more, $19.99; unfortunately, that's for just the SAE sockets. The metric socket set is another $19.99. So, the Craftsman equivalent of this $3 Harbor Freight socket set costs around $40 or over 10-times as much. We can stand a little free-play in our ratchet and some dropping sockets for that price difference, at least for our duplicate socket sets that we only use occasionally. The Craftsman 1/4" socket sets are great tools and regular use often demands the better-quality tool but be prepared to pay for it.

We wouldn't expect this set to stand up to heavy-duty work or even regular medium-duty work. After all it's a $3 socket set that even includes metric sockets. However, it's suitable for light-duty work and can find use as a bench set for electrical or other light repairs. It's compact size makes it even easier to stow than our recommend toolkit, so even those disinclined to carry tools for roadside repairs have no excuses for not carrying at least this small set. You never know when you'll be out shopping and find that the newly purchased barbecue grill just misses fitting in your trunk by four little nuts.

Bottom line: A $2.99 socket set with a lifetime warranty? Gotta have it! This compact set is fine for occasional light-duty use or even for some emergency roadside repairs and other needs when traveling.

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Pack of 12 15" x 13" All Purpose Shop Towels

08/16/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Hot Buys, MoHo/RV

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

Shop Towels
Item: Pack of 12 15" x 13" All Purpose Shop Towels
Item number: 46162
Retail price: $5.99
Frequent sale price: $2.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $2.99
Item Link
Also available in a 50-pack (click here to view) with a target price of $12.99.

At our target price this is a great buy on a small pack on shop towels. They're great for cleaning up greasy messes, for cleaning and re-oiling tools, and for general shop use. They aren't very absorbent, probably because of their tight weave or the dye and finish used, so they're not the best solution for picking up liquid spills. The bright red dye does manage to stay in the towel and not transfer onto your work which is somewhat surprising for a cheap cloth towel, so we can't really complain about their finish even if it does cut down on their absorbency.

The Harbor Freight description claims these towels are "soft" and "absorbent" We don't find them particularly "soft" (perhaps compared with sandpaper) or very "absorbent" (compared with a rock?) and not very good for picking up liquid spills, but we still think they're a must-have item and a great buy at our target price. It's probably the "theory of relativity" all over again; we like really soft cotton or microfiber towels for applications requiring a soft touch (e.g., polishing) and still prefer paper towels for most liquid spills. We use these towels for just about everything else. They're especially good for carrying around in the car or MoHo; they won't absorb atmospheric moisture and become soggy and fall apart like stowed papers towels left too long in your vehicle.

If you don't already have shop towels lying about for cleaning up all of those Harbor Freight tools, this small back of 12 is just what you need. For those of us who do more work (Are messier?), the larger 50-pack is a good deal and seems to be on sale at a comparable price more often. In either case, treat yourself to some real shop towels and save those flimsy paper towels you've been using for other tasks. There's something that makes the job feel more professional when you're carrying a few of these cloth towels around with you. And the tools clean up much easier with these cotton towels than with paper towels.

The 50-pack seems to go on sale for $12.99 quite frequently. On a regular sale, you can use your 20%-off coupon to bring the price down even more, making these towels just 21 cent each. At the coupon price of $2.99 for the 12-pack, they're still just 25 cents each. Isn't your project worth an extra buck to 'pro' it up a little with 4 or 5 of these shop towels? You can afford to use these as disposal towels, but they're machine washable too. We even use them to clean up our paint and caulking messes; they seem to be much more absorbent for these viscous liquids and work far better than paper towels.

Bottom line: If you need or don't already own a pack of shop towels, buy them when they're at our target price. They're good enough that you'll want to wash them, but they're cheap enough to throw away.

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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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