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Maybe the milkman doesn’t arrive with glass bottles in a neat little wire rack anymore, but milk bottles still come in crates, and they’re bloody useful. I found they make perfect motorcycle engine stands, and they’re sturdy enough for storing heavy metal parts later. Those long, fragile crank case studs need to be protected, since they clamp the cylinder block and head together. With copper washers costing $2.50 apiece from the dealership, you don’t want to have to find out how much new studs cost.

You’ll almost never find milk crates on store shelves, but sources like the aptly-named UsedMilkCrates.com sell both new and used versions. Toolmongers who are going to beat the snot out of these things don’t need to bother buying shiny new ones, so there are a few dollars to be saved buying used ones.

Milk Crates [Used Milk Crates]

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Bear with me, there’s science behind this one. There’s a chemical for just about every single situation you can encounter under a hood (some of them more effective than others). However, when it comes to cleaning that scaly crap off your battery, the creme de la creme is something you probably have in your fridge. Nothing I’ve heard of cleans battery acid residue better, and this isn’t exactly expensive stuff. There’s a bit of a catch: cola has all kinds of ions floating in it, so it does conduct electricity, but not well enough to burn out your battery. Still, cleaning one terminal at a time is a safe bet.

It should be said, for the happiness of the Toolmonger legal department, that fizzy beverages are no substitute for most automotive chemicals. Mythbusters fans probably remember what happened when Adam and Jamie used cola as coolant. If you haven’t seen that one, well… let’s just say don’t do it!

Street Pricing [Google Products]

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Though power miter saws offer awesome power and versatility, they can be expensive.  Sure, you can get a power miter saw for less than $100, but you can get a 45-degree-only plastic miter box for less than $10.  Not one to limit my future functionality, I picked up this miter saw and box combo at the big box for less than $20.

Sturdy enough for the occasional DIYer and weekend warrior, the saw gives you quick angles for four, five, six, eight, and twelve-sided polygons — that’s 45, 36, 30, 22-1/2, and 15 degrees — in addition to your perpendicular cuts.

Plastic Precision Miter Saw [Jorgensen]
Street Pricing [Google Products]

 

Few things can highlight a lack of basic tools like moving into a house from an apartment.  Now that you have a yard, your sweetheart wants to plant some bulbs under the big tree out front, which seems reasonable — until you remember that your only digging implements are a hatchet and a spoon.  You need a tool like this Seymour round-point shovel from Northern Tool and Equipment.

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As battery technology advances, stores have to push the old systems off the shelves to make room for the new kings of cordless tools.  Often a vigilant hunter can find sweet deals on perfectly good batteries and even a few chargers.

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TP Tools’ sale catalog always features a few cheap tools that might be worth a quick look — for instance, this 3/8” close-quarters drill for $50.  You can certainly find cheaper drills running around, but this one offers the major advantage of a short spine, so it’ll fit in tight spots.

This is the plug-in variety, which means a lot of the on-board girth is motor, not battery and controller gear — so it’ll likely out-torque and out-grunt most similar-sized battery-powered units.  Sure, you probably won’t hand it down to the next generation, but it could help out if you’re constantly short of clearance when drilling holes in the shop.

3/8″ Close-Quarters Drill [TP Tools]
Street Pricing [Google Products]

 

Nothing says “cheap tool” like leftover plywood I found on the shop floor.  I needed a push-stick last year and, being the tightwad that I am, I wasn’t going to pay five bucks for a decent one.  So a search of the scrap pile yielded a stick of adequate dimensions to fashion my own.

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Often the simplest solutions get the most mileage in the shop. When our pile of steel and lumber got to be too unruly, a trip to the local big box set us up with a few pieces of hardware which we cobbled together to make storage racks — not pretty, but they work.

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To get started with air tools you don’t need to indulge in a momentous spending spree. If you’re just looking to get into some finish and trim work, Campbell Hausfeld’s bonus kit combo provides a cheap way to go.

At the core of the package are a two-gallon twin-stack air compressor and a 2-in-1 nailer/stapler that’ll handle up to 500 brads or staples in a few 18-gauge sizes. The kit also includes a 25-foot hose and all the assorted accessories that’ll get you going right out of the box.  Just charge up the tanks, load the fasteners, and you’re good to go.

It’s a good deal for an all-in-one package, and it helps the true beginner out by supplying all the right gear you may not have known you needed.

Air Tool Bonus Kit Combo [Campbell Hausfeld]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
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Welding isn’t the cheapest hobby to pick up and start fooling around with, and some of the high-end gear can cost you more than a shiny new 60” HD TV. But there are ways to get your weld on without crossing into budget-killing territory — the Chicago Electric 90A flux-core welder comes to mind.

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