How To Use a Magnesium Fire Starter To Make a Campfire

campfire

Here’s some good info everyone should have at their disposal, whether it be for camping or emergency situations. In fact, it’s so stinking easy, you’ll wonder why you never picked it up before.  That strange, cheap little hunk of magnesium and flint steel will save your bacon and pay for itself several times over in just one dire situation.

What’s magnesium, anyway? Magnesium is the seventh most common element in the earth’s crust. During WWII it was used to make fire bombs employed in European missions. It was also a main ingredient for flash powder in early photography. Today, magnesium is still used in fireworks and pyrotechnics. And, of course, fire starters.

magnesium firestarter

Here’s how to use your magnesium fire starter to make a fire:

  • Find an area where you can have a fire, hopefully a spot protected from any present elements like high wind and rain. Clear the area of dry grass, twigs, etc.
  • Gather up the tinder. If you’re a “Be Prepared” type of person, the best tinder would be a ziplock full of petroleum jelly-saturated cotton balls. But, if you just happend to have left those at home, dry moss, pine cones, dry pine needles, tiny twigs, dry grass and thin shreds of wood all make great tinder. Leaves can work too if they’re really dry. Even newspaper, or a paper napkin. Make sure the fuel is as dry and dead as possible.  If the leaf litter is wet from rain or dew, carefully lift the top layers to see if the lower layers are still dry — or check under thick foliage, which may have protected tinder from rain. You may also be able to find dry moss, pine needles or tiny twigs in these protected areas. Hollow logs are good, too. Or, if you’re not having much luck doing that, put the least damp tinder in your pocket for a while and let the heat dry it out. If you see any larger sticks or wood that looks useable, grab that aw well so it’ll be ready when needed.

tinder

  • Build your structure. The three go-to designs for a campfire are Teepee, Log Cabin and Lean-to (or variations of any of the three). For the sake this tutorial, we’ll be using the teepee build. Construct a teepee of twigs and small branches (like the picture below on the left), evenly distributing so it can bear additional wood after the fire takes.

campfire builds

  • Prepare the tinder. Once your structure is built, make a bundle out of your tinder that will catch the sparks from the fire starter. Place it as close to the structure as possible without going all the way in– in the “doorway” is best. On top of the tinder bundle, place a dry leaf or an old receipt to contain the magnesium shavings. In the best of worlds, you’d have some duct tape handy to keep the shavings from blowing away, but the structure and “container” (leaf or receipt) should do the trick.
  • Keep a bucket or other container of water nearby in case, for any reason, you need to put the fire out.

campfire magnesium shavings

  • Hold the magnesium block down, pointed at the tinder bundle. Then with the other hand, hold the serrated metal blade that came with your HF Magnesium Fire Starter at a slight (45º) angle against the block and shave tiny flakes downward onto the bundle. If the fire starter you have didn’t come with a blade, use the backside of a knife. Smaller shavings and pieces work best. Keep going at it until you have a pile of magnesium shavings on your tinder bundle about the size of a quarter.

campfire ignite magnesium

  • Using your serrated blade or backside of a knife, strike a spark to ignite the magnesium on the tinder bundle. But instead of sliding the blade down the flint toward the tinder, hold the blade stationary, down with the tinder bundle, and slide the flint up toward you. This keeps the spark close to the tinder. Keep scraping until a spark lands on the magnesium shaving and ignites it.
  • When a spark catches the magnesium, the shavings will burn bright, hot and fast. The generated heat will then spread to the tinder, catching it on fire as well. This is a crucial moment. You may have to urge the young flame on by very gently blowing on it and giving it additional oxygen. You may also need to adjust it a little here and there it to allow the young fire to spread.

campfire tinder goes in

  • As the tinder fire grows, you’ll need to carefully slide it– in tact–  into the campfire structure. You might want to use a couple of sticks to push the bundle under if it’s too hot to handle. Then, as you prepare for the next phase, maybe feed it some more leaves and grass to keep it stoked.
  • Another crucial moment. Fire needs a proper blend of oxygen, fuel and heat. As your structure starts catching on fire, blow on it and feed it by gradually adding slightly larger and larger twigs and sticks. Don’t get carried away, give it time. If you drop a log on it too soon, you’ll be back to square one, rummaging for dead grass. Don’t be that guy.

campfire successful

  • And while you want to be patient, you also want to keep feeding. Find larger sticks and logs to keep the fire growing and happy for the endurance you need to stay warm, dry and protected.

Practice Using The Magnesium Fire Starter

I’ve already said it before, but I’ll say it again: be prepared. It’s not enough to have your magnesium fire starter, you should be ready in an instant to know how to use it. Whether you’re stranded in the cold and wt woods or the arid, desert wilderness, knowing how to make a fire in a SHTF situation will give you life, comfort and security. So practice at home– when the need isn’t there– until you’ve got it down cold (or hot).

And, one last thing. You might want to rethink taking that baggie of petroleum jelly cotton balls.

 

How to Season Your Cast Iron Pans

cast iron fry pans

For camping and emergency gear, you can never have too many cast iron pans. Some of them come preseasoned, but factory finishes eventually strip. Whether you buy the pans unseasoned or preseasoned, it’s good to know how to season your cast iron pans so they can remain non-stick, easy to clean and stored for long periods of time without threat of rusting. A well-seasoned pan can give you a lifetime of faithful service.

Before you start, if your pan is used, scrub any rust and gunk out of it with fine steel wool. If that doesn’t work, stick it in your self-cleaning oven for the shortest time period and wipe clean. If you don’t have a self-cleaning oven, spray it with oven cleaner, stick it in a plastic bag overnight and wipe clean the next day.

The process of seasoning is pretty simple. First, spread oil or fat on the inside of your pans, not a lot, with a paper towel. There’s some debate as to what kind of coating to put on, particularly when you factor in the non-meat eaters who lobby for vegetable oil.  What we have found, however, is that animal fat does the best job. So you could fry up a big batch of bacon (ooohhh, yeah…) and then leave the grease in there to harden and then spread around. Or, you could just grab some lard.

cast iron pan lard

Set your oven for 450° and spread a sheet of aluminum foil on the lower shelf. Set the greased pan on the upper shelf upside-down, so the foil can catch the excess drips. It would probably be a good idea at this point to open the windows and turn on the exhaust fan, ’cause the place is gonna get smoky  real soon. Bake the pan for 2 hours.

When the time is up, turn off the oven and leave the pan in there, leaving the oven door open a crack. The cast iron pan needs to cool slowly; a sudden change from hot to cool temperature might cause it to crack.

cast iron pans seasoned

The end result should be a nice, even, black finish. You may have to do it a few times in a row to get the desired result.

DO NOT WASH! When the pan has cooled enough to handle, take it out and wipe it down with a kitchen “J-cloth” or sturdy paper towel, making sure it’s dry to prevent rusting. And for future cleaning, don’t scrub it too hard or you’ll ruin the finish– and don’t use soap or detergent! Just hot water and a plastic scrub brush should do the trick.

And that’s it! Over time you’ll want to repeat the seasoning process to keep your pans in prime shape, and you’ll find they cook more evenly and last longer than the other pots and pans.

Harbor Freight has an extremely affordable, quality 3-piece set of Cast Iron Frying Pans #44707, ready to go along on your family trips and excursions! They also have a nice 12″ Cast Iron Dutch Oven #44705 for your camping trip Mountain Man breakfasts, stews and cherry cobblers!

dutch oven tailgate

5 Tools: Build the Perfect Lemonade Stand With Your Kids

lemonade stand

You’ve heard the old saying, “Build a Better Mousetrap.” You can certainly apply that to a lemonade stand, ’cause as much as your heart goes out to the kids hawking their punch in hundred-degree weather, if they’re standing behind a card table with a flapping poster board taped to the front, you’re probably going to be less apt to pull over and buy a cup. If you want your progeny to get a taste of making something of themselves in the world, at least give them a fighting chance. Here’s a great way to not just show them how to run a business, but how to build a business! Building a lemonade stand is fun way for them to learn some basics about construction. And if you take the time to build a sturdy Lemonade Stand, they could also use it down the road as a puppet theater, a “fishing game” stand at a fundraiser, or even as the “register” at a yard sale.

The 5 Tools

Another great reason to build a lemonade stand is, you probably already have the tools to make it. Here are the five things you’ll need:

lemonade stand 2

Detailed steps on how to build the perfect lemonade stand- including illustrations!- can be found on Instructables.com. It even provides extra steps if you want to convert the stand to a home garden “wishing well!”

Projects such as this are easy and fun for all the family. Even more, they build memories that can last a lifetime. And the tools to make them happen can be found for extremely low prices at Harbor Freight Tools!

 

DIY Book Jewelry Box

jewelry box book 4

As Mother’s Day is only a week away, if you haven’t thought about what to get Mom, now is probably a good time. As we all know, moms love to get homemade stuff for presents– and if it has some sentimental slant to it, so much the better. Here’s a great idea that takes very little time and money, and one that your mom is sure to love: A Homemade Jewelry Box Made Out of an Old Book!

So, the first thing to do is choose the old book. If you really want to get Mom excited, make it one that has significance for her. For example, if you have a lot of wonderful family memories about Oyster Bay, NY, find an old book on Oyster Bay. Or, if she loved the Anne of Green Gables or a Jane Austen book, go to the used bookstore and find an old print copy of one of those. You could also pick out a book on a particular hobby she likes, or a movie star who she’s always had an iconic appeal for. You get the idea.

Next, get the following supplies:

  • Small hobby knife set
  • Mod Podge
  • Small paint brush
  • Pencil
  • Hot glue gun
  • Decor of your choice – silk flowers, buttons, ribbon. Here are a couple of examples:
    • If the book is Julia Childs’ “The Joy of Cooking,” you could get tiny kitchen utensils.
    • If the book is “Secret Garden,” you could find little little rake, clippers, etc. A Michael’s, or similar craft store, would carry stuff like that.
    • Amazon also has good ideas.

jewelry box book 3

Steps: 
1. Open the book and draw a rectangle on the top page, leaving a 1/2-1″ border all the way around the book.
2. Next, using your sharp hobby knife, cut the rectangle using the lines already drawn. Don’t force it too hard. You will be doing this several times, depending on the thickness of the book. Also, don’t cut down to the very bottom; leave 1/4-1/2″ of pages to serve as a cushioned bottom.
3. It’s OK that the cut pages don’t line up exactly.  A little bit of roughness can really add to the vintage look.
4. Once you’ve cut as deeply as you want to go , leave the book cover up and start Mod Podging every few pages together as well as the outside of the page,s and all inside the new” box.”
5. Then using your Hot Glue Gun, you can decorate the “lid” with little kitchen tools or gardening tools, silk flowers or ribbon, bedazzle, etc.
6. Once the Mod Podge is dry, you might want to go to the thrift store and find a couple of beautiful old jewelry pieces to put in the box for added decoration!

jewelry box book

 

Harbor Freight Tools carries all sorts of great crafting tools and aids to help make your special products awesome! We also have wood burners, rotary tools, rock tumblers, airbrush kits, chisel sets, hot knives, and more!

You can find this and other fun, creative ideas on the blog, Eat. Sleep Decorate.

BUILD A TREEHOUSE!

treehouse

Building a treehouse is a cool family activity and a source of lifelong memories. But it doesn’t have to cost yout a lot of dough, especially when you go to ‪#‎HarborFreight‬!

We found a simple and solid HOW-TO that we like from Instructables.com

And here’s a bare minimum list of tools you’ll need:

Hammer
Saw
Level
Square
Tape Measure
Adjustable Wrench
Cordless Drill
Jigsaw
Ladder

Some other useful tools that might make your life easier, but aren’t crucial, include:

Miter Saw
Table Saw
Router

If you want to try something different, there are plenty if ideas to find in a Google search. Most importanly, make it a fun, learning experience for the family!

This Ain’t Your Great-Granddaddy’s Ditty Bag

There are two things that you don’t need in the Navy: a wife and a car. If the Navy thought you needed them they would have put them in your Ditty Bag.” – Co. Commander Gunners Mate First Class DeLapp

ditty bag being carried

According to a 1912 issue of Field & Stream, the purpose of the ditty-bag can be summed up as follows:

In camp and when cruising about the woods, there are certain essentials, and many other small articles of constant use which one should always have handy. They aggregate about two pounds weight and if disposed about one’s clothing will not only make these garments heavy and uncomfortable but will fill them with knubly protuberances which make sitting down or lying down a matter of much struggle and remonstrance. Wherefore the ditty-bag…has the inestimable advantage of being the place for everything small and loseable– it’s there, nowhere else, and all you have to do is to go and ferret it out instead of having to do the same thing through eighteen or nineteen pockets.”

boston ship

 The original ditty bags were used by sailors in the early 18th century. They were issued canvas bags in which to store their spare clothes. A smaller pouch was sequestered in the sack which was for holding all the “implements of his housewifery”: a sewing kit (which also included supplies to repair hats and shoes), letters from home, trinkets and sundry relics from their journeys. These seafaring men were expected to make their own clothes, so the sewing kit meant more than just a way to restore a button.  The origin of the term, “ditty” has been obscured by time, though. It might have come from a cotton cloth known as ditti or a fabric called dutty which was used to make sails.

ditty bag

As for us 21st century landlubbers, we’ve got a slightly modified list of necessities for our travels. And Harbor Freight Tools carries a lot of items ideal for the ditty-minded dude in all of us.

sardines

Of course there are other things you’ll want to include in your Ditty Bag that Harbor Freight doesn’t carry, such as food (dry nut mix works), water, water purifying pills, change of clothes, small first aid kit, fishing sinker and repellant. And you might want to deviate a bit from our checklist depending on what journey you have in store, but not much. All these items listed are valuable when out in the nowhere. Also, please let someone know where you’re going when you set out for your trek. Like an uncle with dementia or something.

Finally, a word about the Ditty Bag itself. There are a few types out there, some in cloth, some nylon, some in leather and some in canvas. We prefer canvas, preferably waxed or otherwise weather-treated, the kind that slings over your shoulder like you’re in an Old Spice commercial. Your first stop should be your local Army Navy stores. Their gear is pretty rugged and ready to get dirty. Or, if you strike out and happen to have a chunk of change you can part with, the Best Made Co. in NY has formidable-looking a “Best Made Ditty Bag” available for a mere $124.

Portable Workbenches, Mobile Stands and Sawhorses

When working on a project for a particular space, it’s a lot easier to actually be working NEAR that space. That’s why Harbor Freight Tools has no shortage of portable work stations, tool stands, work benches, etc. , so you can forego the ol’ back-and-forth and just get the job done. We’re sure that, with all these choices, you’re going to find just what you need at a price you’ll definitely appreciate:

 

tool stand

29″ HD Tool Stand

Central-Machinery 29″ Heavy-Duty Tool Stand #95128

By adding your own bench top, this tool stand will accommodate scroll saws, band saws, miter saws, chop saws, drill presses, sanders and toolboxes up to 300 lbs.! The stand’s width extends to make room for larger tools as well. It comes in a powder coat finish to fight rust and no-mar feet to protect your floor. This sweet tool stand sets your equipment at the perfect height for work in the shop, garage or out on the patio.

 

workstation

Adjustable Height HD Workstation

 US General Adjustable Height Heavy Duty Workstation #46725

If you’ve got a saw, scraper, sander, grinder, drill press, or need a sturdy mobile workstation for your garage projects, you’re gonna love this tool table! Besides being an awesome stand for your tool-of-the-moment, it’s got magnetic strips to hold screws, bolts, etc., while you’re doing your thing, and can take up to 1,000 lbs. of tools and equipment! The workstation also has two shelves to store stuff, making this an ideal companion for any metal, wood or auto job.

 

folding clamping workbench

Folding Clamping Workbench

US General Folding Clamping Workbench with Movable Pegs #47844

When you’re pinched for space– and green– this sturdy, low-priced workbench is the ticket. It features a protractor scale and 24″ inch ruler with SAE and metric markings, making it easy to work on jobs where measuring and marking come into play. You can easily mount bench-top tools onto the hardy birch veneer tabletop, or use it as a stand. The folding workbench also has four movable pegs and 24 very handy slots for quick access to your tools. Very light and mobile, but don’t let its under-12-lb. demeanor fool you. This is a formidable workbench for all projects that need a table.

 

roller stand

132-lb. Capacity Roller Stand

 Haul-Master 132 lb. Capacity Roller Stand #68898

Our roller support stand is the perfect companion for your portable workbench or table. It adjusts from 26-3/4″ to 42-3/4″ and comes with a heavy-duty ball bearing roller for easy handling of wide or long boards on table saws, drill presses, band saws, etc. It’s also got an extra-wide base for solid support and the steel roller won’t blemish your work pieces. Use it for wrought iron, PVC, plywood, etc. The roller stand folds and unfolds easily for quick storage, retrieval and transport. In short time you will find this roller stand pay for itself over and over, again.

folding power tool stand

Folding Power Tool Stand

Central-Machinery Mobile Folding Power Tool Stand #40612

Another solution for when you’re hurting on space or tend to move your projects around from place to place, is this Mobile Folding Power Tool Stand. DIYers with saws, sanders or the need of a mobile work table can benefit from this rugged folding tool bench. It features extension wings with rollers to stabilize any large pieces you’re working on and can support up to 550 lbs. then when you’re done, it just folds away for easy and compact storage, making it an ideal solution for any metal, wood, plumbing job or hobby enthusiast.

 

foldable adjustable sawhorse

Foldable Adjustable Sawhorse

 Central-Machinery Foldable Adjustable Sawhorse #69059

You’ll be surprised how useful and convenient these adjustable sawhorses really are. They hold up to 440 lbs. and fold down to a compact 3″ thick for economical storage in the garage– or behind a truck seat!
It’s constructed of 13-gauge steel and adjusts from 25″ to 35-1/2″ high with a spring-loaded mechanism. The foldable sawhorse also comes with a carry handle and has a non-slip rubber coating on its top surface. Get a couple of these and a flat of plywood, you could take your work outside and enjoy the weather, or bring it to the needed job for easy, close access to do the task.
sawhorse 2-set

Plastic Sawhorse 2-Set

350 Lb. Capacity Sawhorses, 2 Piece Set #47782

These rugged sawhorses weigh less than 4 pounds each, yet can sustain 350 lbs. each! With incredibly easy mobility, they fold up and transport effortlessly wherever you need them. They also fold up and store flat when not in use. And since they’re made of  injection molded PVC, they won’t rust if left outside or exposed to the elements. A great addition to your arsenal for mobile work.

So, take a stand– or a few! With so little investment and so much practical assistance, you’ll wonder why you didn’t grab them long ago. Also, visit Harbor Freight Tools for all your other shop, auto and outdoor tool needs (don’t forget the coupons!). We guarantee you’ll find something you like with every visit!

Four Power Tools That Bring the Love to DIY

power tool art

Considering man’s entire history on the planet, the technology of tools has certainly exploded in just the last 100 years. This is largely due to the introduction of electricity. Although many a “long-in-the-tooth” garage warrior will tell you there are still plenty of projects around better served by a hand tool, we know there are far more jobs out there where a power tool would send the hand tool packing. Besides, nothing quite makes you feel like a virile master of the universe like a live, heavy-duty power tool in your hand.

While there are many awesome and formidable-looking power tools you could put in your shop, I’m here to tell you about four that you’ll definitely want to get before the others.

Cordless Drill

18V Cordless Drill

18v Cordless Drill

Why You Want To Have It

Before you look at any other power tool, this is the one to get– the must-have for your arsenal. Most of you are probably too young to know what it’s like to hand-bore holes with a manual drill, but let me tell you, it’s nothing to get nostalgic over. Forget the blisters, the muscle fatigue, the sheer boredom– and that’s on the first hole. With a good, ample cordless power drill you’ll be able to take on a multitude of tasks in an afternoon: drill holes into sheet rock, drive screws into a 2×4, “earthquake-proof” furniture, install towel bars, and sawing circular holes in the back of your entertainment center. You get the point: If you don’t have a cordless drill in your possession, you may as well be launched on an ice floe and die.

What to Buy

When choosing a cordless drill, you want one with lots of power, which is measured by the amount of voltage in its battery. An 18v is a good size for home use, and make sure it’s got variable speeds for different jobs, and is reversible. The reversible feature will come in handy if you need to take some screws out when you realize the outhouse door needs to swing out, not in. Most competitors sell 18v models for about $100-$200. You can purchase a sturdy 18v cordless drill at Harbor Freight for $25-$55.

 Reciprocating Saw

reciprocating saw 7-5 blog

7.5 Amp Reciprocating Saw

Why You Want To Have It

From the first time he knocked down his toy blocks with vicious glee, man’s life mission is to destroy stuff. This is why the reciprocating saw is so wonderful. Whether you’re remodeling a kitchen, demolishing a carport, or doing a tricky plumbing or electrical job, few tools offer the sheer destructive force and ruthless precision of a reciprocating saw. The reciprocating saw cuts through metal, wood, drywall, cable, PVC and most other materials like they were room-temperature butter.

What To Buy

Yes, there are cordless reciprocating saws, but I don’t recommend them. Nothing can set your day into a tailspin like running out of battery power in the middle of a good demolition. The corded ones will finish the job, and, depending on what you’re doing, they’ll have plenty of power to do it quickly and efficiently. Whether or not you want to get one with a rotating handle will also depend on what you plan to be doing with it, but in most situations it isn’t necessary. At Harbor Freight, you can get a decent model for $30-$60 dollars (I tend to lean on the credo “you can never have too much power,” but again, it depends on what you’re doing with it). Also make sure you have a good assortment of blades on hand. Happy busting!

 Oscillating Multifunction Tool

oscillating multifunction tool blog

Why You Want To Have It

The oscillating multifunction power tool is the basic weapon of choice for all the small-to-midsize cutting, scraping, sanding and sawing projects on your to-do list. For all the things they do, these babies are easy on the wallet and pack the juice you need to put some real muscle into the tough jobs. The multi-tool easily cuts through cable, air ducts, downspouts, plasterboard and pipes… sands down cement, concrete, stone, plaster, tile adhesive, paint and wood . . . it can even saw through wood up to 2″ thick! It’s definitely a “go-to” tool for remodeling and repair jobs, as well as hobbies, tile, car repairs, even scraping freshly painted windows or old floor coverings. Get one of these in your hands and you’ll wonder how you ever managed this far in life without it.

What To Buy

Here’s another case of cordless vs. corded, and again, I say get the corded. Don’t get me wrong, there are some quality cordless multi-tools out there, too, but I keep thinking of that scenario when the power drains down just when you were making some headway. Still, there will be those rare occasions when you need a corded one, so get both– they’re cheap enough– just make sure you have the corded one first. Also take the time to peruse the myriad of attachments made for this wonder tool. You can walk out of Harbor Freight with an oscillating multifunction tool for $20-$40.

 Circular Saw

circular saw blog
Why You Want To Have It

If you genuinely enjoy the long, steady, back-aching activity of cutting wood with a handsaw, please disregard this section (hey, some people like yodeling). But if your projects often take you to the task of cutting stacks of 2x’s and sheet lumber, then you’d be a fool not to have a circular saw in the garage– and I pity the fool that don’t have this tool. A circular saw can do the job of a handsaw in 1/10th the time, and frees you from the blisters and sore muscles that often accompany the hand tool alternative. Just make sure that when you get one you educate yourself on all its. safety practices. It’s also a whizz at cutting skin and bone.

What To Buy

One last time, get a corded model. There are two basic types of circular saws: the smaller traditional type and the more heavy-duty “worm drive” saws. The worm drive saw cuts through wood like butter, but they’re also heavier and more unwieldy with one hand.If you’re a weekend warrior with garden-variety cutting jobs, the smaller one will be fine. If, however, you’re a professional, the worm drive will more likely be your brand of bourbon. At Harbor Freight, circular saws range from $33-$90.

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THE 12 MOST IMPORTANT TOOLS IN YOUR TOOLBOX

handy andy tool set

So, up until now you haven’t had much call to for bunch of tools (and you’re sticking to that story). But then things start happening. The bathroom faucet is dripping. The Mrs. decides it’s time to install new light fixtures. It’s the night before a birthday and you need to put a bike together. The cute divorcée next door needs a pair of big, strong hands. It’s time to be self-reliant. With just a handful of tools– and some elemental know-how that you can pick up from your dad or YouTube– believe it or not, you can personally handle most of the basic household projects that speed bump into your personal time. So, as you embark on this new journey of self-reliance, we’re here to share with you you the 12 simple-yet-powerful tools you need to have in your arsenal. No doubt, others will chime in with suggestions of their own because, well, that’s what tool guys do. The great thing about these tools is, they’re all affordable, so you can be all locked and loaded after one quick trip to Harbor freight. Here they are:

 

claw hammer

Claw Hammer

Claw Hammer

The hammer could be your favorite go-to tool. From driving in nails (or yanking them out), to starting screws and aligning holes, to full-scale demolition detail, the 16-ounce claw hammer packs just the right punch you need for the job. In fact, you’ll probably find yourself pulling it out for projects you don’t even need it for. You know, just in case. Instead of the “old school” wooden handle, we recommend you go with a fiberglass one: they absorb impact a heckuva lot better and they don’t crack or splinter. Also, when you go buy one, try a few different hammers out and feel the heft and balance in your hand. Like a bat or a bowling ball, if it feels good, it makes all the difference. Just watch out for passing patrons when you start swinging it in the store.

 

pro screwdriver 8 pc set blog

Flathead & Phillips Screwdriver Set

Screwdriver Set

Contrary to popular belief, the slotted flathead screwdriver is not dead, not yet. Therefore, it’s inevitable that you’ll need both flathead and Phillips screwdrivers in your journeys. Start out with a basic set of both. Besides slotted screws, the flathead screwdriver is also excellent for lifting the lids off paint cans, scraping off old paint and epoxy, nudging things and emancipating personal items locked in briefcases with lost keys. The Phillips screwdriver has gained more popularity, though, because it’s designed to give a user more torque than is possible with a flathead screwdriver, so when possible, go with Phillips screws.

stripped screwAlso, the last thing you want to have in the middle of a project, is a screwdriver or a screw that starts stripping before you can loosen or tighten, so make sure the following things are true:

  • Make sure the pilot hole is approximately the same size as the inside diameter of the screw threads.
  • Make sure the screwdriver head fits the screw nicely.
  • Put some weight into it when you’re turning the screw, so that it holds its place and isn’t tempted to slip its grip.
  • Make sure the screwdriver is in line with the screw as you turn. Coming at it from an angle is a sure method of stripping.

This Pittsburgh Pro screwdriver set is an excellent starting point for your tool arsenal. As jobs come your way, you may need to acquire either a larger or smaller one, but these will tackle most household projects.

 

tape measure blog

Tape Measure

Tape Measure

Whether you’re building a workbench, seeing if a big screen TV will fit on a wall, verifying the diameter of a pipe, or measuring a room, a trusty 25′ retractable tape measure is a must. In fact, since they’re so inexpensive, we’d go as far as to say buy four: one for the toolbox, one for upstairs, one for downstairs, and one for the car. I mean, who likes fetching a tape measure on the other side of the house? It also goes without saying, throw a pencil in the box as well. If you’re grabbing the tape measure, you’ll probably be grabbing one of those, too.

 

crescent wrench set blog

Adjustable Wrench Set

Adjustable Wrench

Of all the tools in your arsenal, besides your hammer, this baby will probably see the most action. Because one adjustable wrench can handle different sized nuts and bolts, it’s like having 50 wrenches in one. So you could literally be walking around the place, tightening your kid’s trike wheels, the BBQ’s frame, the microwave cart and the Gatling gun tripod without ever going back to the toolbox. When using an adjustable wrench, adjust the jaws to fit precisely over the nut, rocking the wrench slightly as you tighten, to help secure a firm fit. Also, for added strength, make sure the nut is positioned as deep as it will go into the throat of the adjustable wrench. As with the aforementioned screwdriver set, the crescent wrench set shown could take on most of whatever your honey-do list can throw at it. There may an occasion to get a bigger one along the way, but those kind of jobs are rare and far between.

 

socket set blog

Socket Set

 Socket Set

If you’re dealing with a lot of nut-n-bolt action– usually on an engine or other machinery– then it’s time to put aside the crescent wrench and pull out the “big guns”– the socket set. Socket sets can exponentially speed up a project like an ordinary crescent wrench never could. They’re so convenient and effective, in fact, you’ll actually get giddy over the chance to pull it out. This is because of the ratchet that comes with it, a mechanism that eliminates the need to remove and refit the socket on every stroke. Also, because the tool will turn the bolt when swinging in one direction, but won’t pull it back when returning.  A good basic household socket set with about a dozen or so sockets, a ratchet and an extension will prove almost always sufficient for household jobs, such as driving in lag bolts, tightening bolts or other occasional repairs, builds or tasks. Like all guys, you will love your ratchet, and will probably look for excuses to buy several. Which brings us to the Husband’s Litmus Test: If she says, “But, you already have a ratchet,” then you know, she doesn’t understand you.

 

vice grips blog

Locking Pliers

Locking Pliers

Locking pliers are designed to provide maximum locking force and come in handy when you need an extra hand to work with. Then, when the job is done, a quick release disengages the tool for the next step. Extremely versatile, you can employ this multitasking tool as pliers, a pipe wrench, an adjustable wrench, wire cutters, a ratchet, or a clamp. The three shown here can take care of most stuff around the house and garage.

 

needle nose pliers blog

Needle Nose Pliers

Needle Nose Pliers

An valuable tool for electrical work, this little guy can be a lifesaver for projects that require you to cut, bend, re-position, grip or strip wire. They’re also used for crafts, jewelry making, computer repairs, bomb defusing and other functions . Because of their long and skinny shape, they’re particularly useful for getting into tight spots. You can also use them to pinch your bratty nephew.

 

cordless drill blog

Cordless Drill

Cordless Drill

Power tools are awesome, but most are unnecessary for the garden-variety shtuff around the house. That said, a cordless drill is a must-have component in your toolbox arsenal. It can be used for drilling holes into sheet rock and driving screws into a 2×4. So, if you’re “earthquake-proofing” furniture, installing towel bars or sawing holes in the back of your entertainment center, this is the go-to tool . When choosing a cordless drill, you want one with lots of power, which is measured by the amount of voltage in its battery. An 18v is a good size for home use, and make sure it’s got variable speeds for different jobs, and is reversible. The reversible feature will come in handy if you need to take some screws out when you realize the outhouse door needs to swing out, not in.

 

toolbox saw blog

Hand Saw

Hand Saw

Now, let’s turn to Old School. A great misconception is the idea that you need an electric saw to make cuts. All you really need is a simple hand saw in your toolkit. You don’t have to run an extension cord, you don’t have to recharge a battery, and you can catch yourself alot faster if the cut’s going awry.The image of a wooden-grip hand saw has long been the iconic symbol of the DIY craftsman. A good general-purpose hand saw is the go-to tool for trimming branches or cutting lumber for a DIY project. It’s also the one tool you want to make sure you’ve got a good pair of work gloves to wear while using.

 

magnetic torpedo level blog

Magnetic Torpedo level

Level

Whether you’re hanging pictures, putting up a curtain rod,  or affixing shelves to a wall, a straight line is absolutely crucial. You don’t want to put a bunch of nails in the wall, only to step back and see your family portraits are all askew. To get the job done right the first time, you need a level. There are some hoity-toity laser levels out there, but you can’t beat the sweet satisfaction of getting that bubble in the middle. Of course, if you enjoy getting the stinkeye from certain cohabitants,  go ahead and just keep doing it by eye. ‘Cause you’re so good at it. Seriously, get this tool, you’ll be happy you did. On the level.

 

utility knife blog

Utility Knife

Utility Knife

This tool might not put out the sexy like other tools, but we bet it’ll never gather dust at the bottom of your toolbox. You’ll find the utility knife to be a stupendous sidekick with every project: Stripping wire, cutting rope, rubber hose or plastic strapping, snipping the sealed tips off epoxy tubes, scraping paint… you get the point. When nothing else in the arsenal can help, the utility knife steps up to the plate.

 

toolbox blog

Toolbox

Toolbox

Well, duh. As time goes on, you’ll probably graduate to a tool cart, then a tool cabinet, and maybe even a wall of tool chests. In the meantime, the humble shlep-around toolbox is the perfect receptacle for carrying your basic tools to any household project. Keep it simple and solid, and it’ll never leave you, even when you need more storage.

 

No doubt, some of you think we overlooked some items you think are crucial to the ensemble. Duct tape. WD-40. The InSinkErator tool. Everyone’s needs could slightly deviate based on their home situations, but we’re standing by this list. So? Go thou, get thee tools and be useless no more.

 

10 Customer Reviews Of Harbor Freight Products That Might Surprise You

HFT mosaic sale pic

As is always the case, this coming weekend’s Parking Lot Sale— our January Blowout— is garnering a lot of interest, particularly from those who are looking to add to their shop and garage for the coming year. Customers will find a number of products on sale that they’re familiar with (maybe some not so much) and have already formed opinions about. However, since there’s nothing like getting it from the horse’s mouth, here are ten customer reviews for products that will be among those on sale, some of which may persuade you in ways you didn’t expect (Note: prices on the individual product pages will reflect the PLS during its run. To see PLS prices now, click on the above image):

 

tool cart 4 door black

U.S. General 26-in. 4-Drawer 580 lb. Capacity Glossy Black Roller Cart

Bought this box two years ago and work out of it almost daily. I use the heck out of this thing and it rides in the back of our box truck work truck strapped in everywhere we go. It is loaded to the max and the wheels and drawers have never failed, and I cannot believe how much stuff I can fit in this box. With four longer carriage bolts you can bolt a 2×4 wood bumper across the back just under the lid and the height elevation lines up perfectly for the lower E-track strap system inside most commercial trucks and trailers. This is a great tool box, worth five times as much in my opinion. Cant go wrong with this.”  B. Hill – Cameron Park, CA

 

motorcycle lift

Pittsburgh Motorcycle 1000 lb. Capacity Motorcycle Lift

I have own this lift for a year and love it! I lift my Harley Davidson Street Glide and Soft Tail with with no problem. Also, a couple of my friend’s Ultra Classics. I’ve used it for maintenance, and repair on my bikes. This lift has saved me a lot of cash and allows me to do all my own bike services. Not to mention all that free beer my buddies bring over to use my lift! Read all the info that comes with it. It will tell you to put hyd. oil in the lift. I’ve left bikes on it for weeks at a time and it holds firmly. Yes it’s heavy, but it works great.”  USMCVet – AZ

 

90 amp flux wire welder

Chicago Electric Welding 90 Amp-AC, 120 Volt, Flux Cored Welder

I have a nice Hobart MIG, but it’s heavy and requires 240V. I bought this welder for welding in areas I don’t have 240V, but since I bought it, the Hobart has barely been touched. This welder is light, works great, and could not be more convenient. I’ve had it for a year or so, and it’s been dragged to races, and probably has ten or so hours of welding on it. It hasn’t missed a beat. If it died tomorrow, I’d happily go buy another one without complaint. I’ve done a fair amount with it… made a coffee table out of wrought iron, made a pit-cart, and swapped the entire body of a Toyota Pickup onto a Mercedes. It’s gotten some use, needless to say. It lays down nice welds for flux-core, and while it probably won’t last forever, the quality is surprisingly good. Gun feels a little flimsy and can get hot, but it’s never really bothered me. It’s one of my favorite HF purchases. Also, they include a full spool of wire, which impressed me.”  Ted – Spartanburg, SC

 

welding cabinet

Chicago Electric Welding Cabinet

I own and run a busy sculptural blacksmith shop and now have 3 of these carts. I have my MIG, Tig and Plasma cutter on each cart and I use them everyday. I love the working height of these carts and that they have well-built heavy drawers for storing tools and consumables. I am very hard on my equipment and tend to overload my carts with no problems. My work are is now cleaner and more organized.This cart is mostly assembled.You have to screw on wheels,casters, handle, tanks brackets and hose hooks. This took me about 15 minutes on the first cart and maybe 10 minutes on the other two.”  Bender Dave – Maine

 

tile brick saw 10 inch

Chicago Electric 10-in. 2.5 HP Tile/Brick Saw

I am a patio installation professional, but I was working on a multifaceted concrete paver project on my own home. I wanted a low-cost saw that I could use exclusively for this purpose without slowing my crews down by borrowing their tools. One thing that I learned: this saw specifically states in the product manual that it is to be used with a CONTINUOUS RIM diamond blade, not segmented. However, I had already purchased a segmented diamond blade and it worked fine to cut my pavers.

I performed approximately 100 linear ft. of paver cuts on the first project, then another 50 linear ft. on the second project. Initially, the saw started up fine. This saw has a 15 amp draw, so make sure you size your extension cord properly as to not blow a fuse or trip a breaker. I used a 12-gauge 25′ extension cord to be safe. The pump worked great. I took special care to properly clean the pump and saw surface after each use. Plenty of power, smooth swift cuts that look great upon completion. Sliding guide plate was properly adjusted to make straight cuts, and saw arm can be used in a fixed or downward motion. Did many angled cuts. Used it on 2 3/8″ pavers and 4″ block, no problem.

In my experience a pump needs to be properly cleaned and no allowed to freeze or dry up after each use. I stored my pump in a bucket of water at room temperature between used and had no issues. Also, keep your slurry water changed regularly as to avoid it binding up your pump.

Next project planned is a tile project in bathrooms/kitchen. Most reviews say it works great. I am also planning to go ahead and buy the stand, as it will be more convenient.

I have owned and used many different wet saws during my career and one thing is for sure: these saws take a beating with brick dust, vibration, loading/unloading, etc. It’s my opinion that it’s ridiculous to invest $1k in a saw that lasts just as long as this one. I recommend this product to the novice because it’s safe if procedures are followed, and to the beginning professional who has knowledge enough to appreciate a good value on site.”  XMark – Indianapolis, IN

 

12K winch

Badlands 12000 lb. Off-Road Vehicle Electric Winch with Automatic Load-Holding Brake

I just used this with the HF hitch mount receiver. I pulled my 2500HD with 8-ft plow out from being buried in heavy snow to the frame on an incline (I was pulling UP hill!). I used a winch block to gain some extra pull, but the winch and mount had NO problems moving the truck. I attempted to pull the truck with other trucks and a loader with no luck. I couldn’t believe how easy it moved. I have used other name brand winches in the past, and yes they are faster and have a longer duty cycle (which I exceeded with the HF and had no signs of motor overheating) but they do come with a HEFTY price tag that I will no longer justify. If you don’t need it or use it everyday, you can’t afford NOT to buy this. Really, it would have cost me a few hundred for a tow. Overall its great product and well worth the money.”  Sierra – CT

 

 8750-7000 watt generator
Predator 8750 Peak/7000 Running Watts, 13 HP (420cc) Generator EPA III

I bought the generator because my uncle has this one,, and he swears by it..Sure enough this bad boy powers the house …I have the fridge ,, upright freezer,, central air,, big screen tv,,, electric water heater ,, ADT…and it runs it all.(.Dont get crazy ,, but run the essentials)..Just have an electrician wire it up 30amp style to your electric pannel , and your golden..I did load it a little heave once and it threw the breaker on the generator,, but I just pushed the button to reset and we were rolling again..Easy pull start too,, buy a battery , and it just starts with the push of a button..also buy the wheel kit,, , you will need it to move it around.”  Not-in-the-Dark, Crossville, TN

 

6.5 gas engine

 Predator 6.5 HP (212cc) OHV Horizontal Shaft Gas Engine EPA

 I put this motor on my roto-tiller last year and wanted to get a full year of service before writing a review. ‘Awesome’ is the word that comes to mind. WHAT AN EASY INSTALL!!! Fell right into the mounting bolts. The motor is easy to start and control, the most dependable I have ever used. Fuel use is great and it is pretty quiet for a 6 HP motor. I am buying another just to have a spare for any other projects that come up. Thanks, Harbor Freight, for a good price on a great product!”  Garden Man – Swedesboro, NJ

 

IR Temperature Gun

Cen-Tech Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer With Laser Targeting

I bought mine years ago to monitor the oil temperature in my turkey fryer, and it worked great! Then I used it to monitor the temp of my parts while powder coating (350 – 450 degrees), and it works great for that too. On performance engines with individual exhaust runners, I use it to spot a rich or lean cylinder. If you have a Weber kettle BBQ grill, it works good to monitor the cooking temp.”  Curt – IL

 

3-in-1 jump starter

Cen-Tech 3-in-1 Jump Starter and Power Supply

I bought this in the winter of 2005, and it has been a life saver every year. I don’t know how it has lasted as long as it has, but I plug it in for recharge any time I use it and just keep it in my truck the rest of the time. I have helped dozens of other drivers along the way as well as myself at each year among the 4 cars we own. This is going on 7 years, and I just used it again this morning, and it still charges to over 14 volts, and it will still crank a 350 over and over. I plugged a USB DC outlet into the jump starter to see if i could charge my phone with it and it worked.Get one!”  chefrick – CT