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Currently viewing the category: "Cheap-Ass Tools"

It’s a rare day when we pass up cheap tools. In the case of cheap light, we’re very similar to a moth to a, well, you know. I saw this one in the discount bin at the local drug store for $2. In this case that’s roughly six-and-a-half cents per LED (31 total).

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With the whole side panel and front bulb cluster wrapped in a 10″ aluminium frame, these LEDs are light and sturdy. The light packs are bright and work well for either close work or general lighting, considering the power plant is three AAA batteries coiled in a cylinder at the butt of the unit.

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Let me be clear: we’re not necessarily recommending you buy this. In fact, we wonder whether it’s worth the cash or not. That said, however, we’re always interested in cheap-ass tool alternatives, and there’s something intriguing about the idea of a sub-$100 portable band saw. (Compare that, for example, with about $230 for Mikwaukee’s model.)

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I have a much older and much less nice-looking version of the square pictured above hanging around my shop. I use it primarily for metal work, but as I’m sure most Toolmongers will attest, once you start using a tool for one purpose, you’ll pretty much reach for it whenever you need to do anything similar. So mine gets a little woodworking use as well. The one pictured above showed up in an Irwin press release we received last week, and though I’m not sure it’s really updated or new, I still wanted to mention it because at around $8 it’s just a great thing to have around.

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For years I drove a green Jeep Grand Cherokee — a Laredo, not a Limited, thank you. It was great, complete with a nice 318 V8 and all the full-time 4×4 mojo, but none of the bells and whistles. The only reason I got rid of it was the fact that I had a truck as well and didn’t really need to tow with my people-carrier any more. But here’s the trick: When you have a 4×4, you eventually end up off-road. It’s a given. And if you’re a Toolmonger, you end up actually doing things off-road.

That’s when things can get a bit hairy, and that’s why I used to keep the Jeep’s awesome storage compartment under the rear seats full of good crap to help get me out of the jams I’d put myself in. What you see above is a slightly-nicer version of a similar saw that was part of my “oh s#!t kit.” I found my saw in an abandoned storage unit, though. Otherwise I’d have one like the one above, because it’s right in my budget: $5 at Northern Tool.

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We’re most definitely not vouching for any of the tools specifically on sale through Labor Day weekend at Harbor Freight, but we know damn well that some of you dabble in the ‘Freightster and would like to know that they’re running some specials. Hell, we might even take a spin by to see what’s what. For example, I’ve bought more than a few jack stands at HF, like these that are $13 right now. However, I’d avoid anything paint-related — especially something like this dodgy $10 HVLP spray gun.

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We’ll admit to being a little stumped on this one. Harbor Freight lists the above pictured item as a “composite ratchet,” but we’re not exactly sure which parts are plastic composite. The description page lists a “lightweight, rugged composite handle” but also touts “chrome vanadium steel construction.” Is it an all-composite handle, or does it just sport a cover-all “PVC composite” grip? Either way it’s just $10, and we’ve heard some positive buzz about it on various tool forums.

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Sure, you can buy better quality ratchet straps. And if you’re tying down containers of nuclear waste before barreling full-tilt-boogie down a bumpy mountain road, I’d definitely suggest spending for the best. But let’s face it: Most of the time you’re tying down something stupid like a mattress you’re moving for a buddy, and it’s pretty likely he’ll “accidentally” end up with a couple of your straps after the experience anyway. That’s why there’s Harbor Freight.

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These aren’t exactly going to make killer work lights, but it seems everyone I know loves the idea of these little, bright pocket LED flashlights. And who wouldn’t? The form factor is perfect for tossing in a camping bag or your glovebox. Of course, the high-end ones can run you upwards of $50 — and blind you from 50′. But the cheap-ass models, while significantly less powerful, get pretty cheap indeed. I guess they’re pretty much the penlight of the new century.

And here’s one you can have for $4.50. Hell, it’s even Prime-enabled on Amazon, so if you happen to have a Prime account, you won’t even pay shipping.

PS: Yes, I know there are shops online (and even on Amazon) advertising this for as little as $0.01. But you’ll pay an imperial assload of shipping, which means you’ll likely pay more than $4.50 all said and done. Hence why I picked this one.

Neiko 9-LED Compact Aluminum Flashlight Via Amazon [What’s This?]


Scales aren’t just for kitchens and meth labs. A decent little digital scale can prove handy as hell for measuring liquids — or even counting screws. (No, really: Just weigh one screw — or 2 or 10 — then weigh ’em all.) But why pay $100 or more for a scale you don’t need or settle for a hard-to-read weight-and-balance type scale when you can score this little digital model for $20?

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A friend of the shop asked us recently what we thought about cheap circ saws. Our answer was to get whatever you can afford and rip it — mostly because having something that will do the job is better than nothing. Our friend went out to the Depot and snagged a brand new $35 Ryobi 7 1.4” 12 amp saw. He loved it.

The first thing he did is stuffed a $15 Freud 40-tooth finish blade in it and went to town. After about 20 hours of cutting he called us back and said it was the best cash he’d spent for the shop in as long as he could remember.

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