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  • Harbor Freight stuff, how to improve

    Anyone who shops H.F. stores, using their sale flyers probably has several of those "Free With Any Purchase" flashlights. I started carrying one in my pocket at all times, due to being an Old Fart with O.F. eyes. Got tired of it getting turned on accidentally so did a bit of machining: Turn a piece of aluminum about 1.100 OD X 1/2" long, bore to 7/8, then make a counterbore 1/4" deep and about the same size as the rear of the flashlight. Note that they vary a bit, so measure yours. Round all edges, inside and out, then press/push together. Now, the switch is recessed and won't be turned on inadvertently, and you'll orient it properly by feel. If you carry it in a pocket with change, a quarter (25-cent piece) will JUST fit in the front; chuck it up and roll the edge a bit to prevent that.

    H.F.'s batteries aren't all that great, but the AAA size for the flashlights is "good enough", especially when you get them for "Free With Any Purchase".

    H.F.'s drill bits can be OK or not, but at $10.00 (on sale) for the set, they're cheap. Buy a set and dub the cutting edges, then mark them "Brass Only". Do an Internet search if you don't know what I mean.

    If you do much electrical work, you probably lust for a Greenlee knockout punch set. H.F. has a hydraulic outfit that does 3/4" -> 2" (conduit size) for only $100.00 or $80.00 with a 20% coupon. I picked one up the other day, tried it, and it works well and seems to be good quality. Rated at up to 11 Gauge steel, a bit less for SS.

    They also have a hydraulic electrical crimper that works great. When I was making new cables for an old golf cart, I used copper tubing to make the eyes and crimped them with this gadget.

    You have to watch H.F's sale flyers over time to figure out whether it's REALLY a "sale price", they vary all over the place. I've found Menard's to be cheaper than H.F. for some items.

  • #2
    Nice fix, the only thing worse than shopping at HF is not doing it and paying a higher price for the same chineeeese stuff lol
    I'll tell you what - they got about the best nitrile gloves in the bidness,,, buy them an extra size larger though so you don't lose your circulation,,, just one pair can last several jobs instead of several pairs lasting only one...

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    • #3
      HF is not and will probably never be a top notch supplier. But they do have useful tools and they are improving.

      A few days ago I was looking for a specific router bit for a wood project (a shelf/bracket for my cable box and router). I wanted a round nose cutter that could cut at least a 7/8" deep slot. I started at the local ACE Hardware and made the rounds of home supply and other tool places, more or less in the order that I came to them. At HF I found a set of 15 carbide router cutters that had the exact cutter that I wanted except it only cuts a bit over 3/4" deep. I planned to make incremental cuts anyway so that was OK. The set cost $37.99 and I had one of their 20% discount coupons. That's about the price of a single name brand router bit. Even if I only get a single project out of this round nose bit, it is worth it. And I would still have the other dozen or more bits.

      But it did cut a nice slot and is still sharp enough for further use. I think I got a good deal and a good tool set.

      Oh, bonus: the router bits came in a nice, hinged wood box with tilt up holders inside it. That's the nicest storage box that I ever purchased router bits in. They will be the best organized router bits in the drawer.

      On the larger tool side, some years ago I purchased their Central Machinery, 20" floor stand drill press. I was somewhat hesitant at the time. It is one of the most used machines in my shop and I am delighted with it. I have made some improvements to it and plan to make some more. Here you can see better lighting, a column mounted tool shelf, and the smaller chuck that I added. The original chuck is stored in the left side of the tool shelf along with the various tools that came with the DP. I also added a pair of screws on the left end of that tool shelf where I hang my drill press vise when it is not in use: it is always at hand for instant use - no searching for it.



      The next two items on my list are balancing the motor and pulleys for less vibration and adding a better, quick adjust depth stop. And I have been toying around with adding a three phase motor with a VFD to get around some of the gaps in the speed chart. It seems like there is always one or more big gaps when multiple step pulleys are used for speed selection. I have played with the math there and there is no clear solution where the speed steps are always evenly spaced in a logarithmic scale. Another idea is to have a way to move the table up and down while standing in FRONT of the DP, not going around to the side and back: aiming device, motorized lock screw, and motorizing the hand crank. That one is definitely on the back burner.

      Another HF tool that was perfect at the time is a hammer drill. I was mounting a heavy AC unit in the shop window and needed to drill into the concrete foundation to secure the wood frame. I purchased a HF hammer drill for the project and it made the needed holes with ease. I may never use it again (who knows) but it was certainly worth the price at the time.

      Now, do I want a HF lathe or milling machine. Well, not yet.

      I do believe that HF is trying to improve while holding their low prices.
      Last edited by Paul Alciatore; 03-31-2019, 03:32 PM.
      Paul A.
      SE Texas

      Make it fit.
      You can't win and there IS a penalty for trying!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by jdunmyer View Post
        I started carrying one in my pocket at all times, due to being an Old Fart with O.F. eyes. Got tired of it getting turned on accidentally so did a bit of machining
        You might treat yourself to a small Fenix. The lights that take a single AAA are great for carrying.

        https://www.fenixlighting.com/produc...compact-4-long

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        • #5
          Yeah, I too have a sackful of those "Free With Any Purchase" flashlights. Handy little things to have scattered all around the house to be there when you need one.
          In fact, I've been known to actually buy them, when I didn't see anything else to buy, just to get one "free with any purchase."

          But I don't have trouble so much with them turning on inadvertently, as being a bit inconvenient to turn on one-handed, with that button on the back end. But hey..., gift horses and mouths, etc.
          Lynn (Huntsville, AL)

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Glug View Post
            You might treat yourself to a small Fenix. The lights that take a single AAA are great for carrying.

            https://www.fenixlighting.com/produc...compact-4-long
            Holy Cow!

            Now explain just why it is that I might want to pay anywhere from $29.95 to $119.95 as an alternative to that free HF flashlight! ...maybe to be the envy of my neighborhood?
            Lynn (Huntsville, AL)

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Paul Alciatore View Post
              On the larger tool side, some years ago I purchased their Central Machinery, 20" floor stand drill press. I was somewhat hesitant at the time.

              And I have been toying around with adding a three phase motor with a VFD to get around some of the gaps in the speed chart. It seems like there is always one or more big gaps when multiple step pulleys are used for speed selection. .
              Just skip the belt changes altogether. 4-pole 1.5kW motor and VFD will cover the entire range pretty well.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by lynnl View Post
                Holy Cow!

                Now explain just why it is that I might want to pay anywhere from $29.95 to $119.95 as an alternative to that free HF flashlight! ...maybe to be the envy of my neighborhood?
                I have some of those HF lights too. The color of the "9 led" light is often too blue, and the 3 AAA battery holders tend to have a fairly short run time. But for glancing in the pantry cupboard it's just fine. They are cheap enough to leave them scattered around the house for when you are not yet dressed.

                Having said that, my "kitchen counter light" is a $100 Nitecore Defender Infinity. The lights on my end table are 1000 lumen, 700 lumen and 300 lumen hand held Li-Ion powered lights. I use one of the Fenix lights as my EDC (every day carry) light.

                What you don't get from the HF lights are...

                A fairly neutral tint with good color rendition.

                A regulated output so that you get a constant light level until the battery starts to fade.

                Switches that are rated for the current that they are switching.

                But I'll still take one if it's free.

                Dan
                At the end of the project, there is a profound difference between spare parts and extra parts.

                Location: SF East Bay.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have several of the HF free flashlights, but IMHO they are not worth the bother, and most of their other freebies are much better deals. The multimeter is probably the best deal, especially since it includes a 9V alkaline battery which costs at least $1, even from HF. Other freebies that are good deals are the 25 foot tape measure, 4 pack microfiber cleaning cloths, and the 5' x 7' tarp. If you want a cheap flashlight, I recommend getting one of the many varieties that use a single AA cell. They will work with cells from my camera that are "exhausted" down to about 1.3 volts, and will run for maybe an hour or so until the voltage drops below about 0.8 volts. I got some from Banggood for only a couple dollars or so. Aliexpress might be even cheaper:

                  https://www.aliexpress.com/item/3-Mo...AbTest=ae803_4 ($1.94 with free delivery. Has high/low/strobe function, and variable zoom)


                  https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1PC-...AbTest=ae803_4 ($1 including shipping)


                  And here is a combo UV flashlight and a pen with UV ink, for about 50 cents including batteries and free shipping!
                  https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Mini...AbTest=ae803_4
                  Last edited by PStechPaul; 03-31-2019, 05:24 PM.
                  http://pauleschoen.com/pix/PM08_P76_P54.png
                  Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
                  USA Maryland 21030

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by lynnl View Post
                    Holy Cow!

                    Now explain just why it is that I might want to pay anywhere from $29.95 to $119.95 as an alternative to that free HF flashlight!
                    Oh, you may not want to. Those HF junkers have almost nothing in common with even middling cheap import lights. The Fenix single AAA lights are incredibly tiny, reliable, constant brightness even as the battery drains to nothing, focusing beam, bright, good color, don't turn on by accident, waterproof, etc. A lithium battery makes them quite a bit lighter weight, and shelf stable for many years.

                    The biggest negative on the tiny ones is the potential for misplacing them for years.. A bright lanyard helps, if not affixed to keys, or a place where it is always kept.

                    The difference between a flashlight with a good regular vs. non-regulated is huge.

                    In recent years a lot of good cheap lights have come on the market. But when you're in your backyard and being stalked by animals, or stalking animals - whether or not they are drinking your beer - it's good to be able to reliably put some light on the situation.

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                    • #11
                      I buy those 10 packs of led lights for $7-15. They get lost stolen or damaged before the first set of batteries normally die. I forget how many packs I have bought and only know where 2 of them are right now.

                      We normally pick up a pack just before camping for the year and give the kids each one and have the rest around the camper/truck, and whatnot.
                      Andy

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                      • #12
                        Most of the "good" flashlights have a very serious problem.... I do not have them with me. The crappy flashlights I also would not have with me, and they are crappy.

                        So I carry a Maglite "Solitaire" LED that runs on one AAA cell. Bright as heck, and small enough that I sometimes almost do not find it in my pocket.

                        I know some folks have a serious hate on for those, but I have been using them for 25+ years in standard and LED, and have never had a problem other than the odd dead battery. I don't think I have ever even had a bad bulb, and now with the LED, the bulb should not be an issue.

                        I replace them when the case gets too worn down from the change etc in the same pocket.
                        1601

                        Keep eye on ball.
                        Hashim Khan

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                        • #13
                          I always carry a MAG Solitaire. It is a single AAA cell flashlight with a voltage regulator. It is quite bright, and holds constant brightness until the battery is too low, at which point it turns off. it fits nicely in the change pocket of my jeans. I think it was under $10.

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                          • #14
                            J Tiers, I think we were channeling each other.

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                            • #15
                              The Maglite is fairly expensive - about $15:



                              You can get a key fob flashlight for less than $1, including batteries:
                              https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1pc-...AbTest=ae803_4


                              Or this AAA unit fort $1.37:
                              https://www.aliexpress.com/item/HGHo...AbTest=ae803_4
                              http://pauleschoen.com/pix/PM08_P76_P54.png
                              Paul , P S Technology, Inc. and MrTibbs
                              USA Maryland 21030

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