atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#105: What $35 will buy

I mentioned in the last entry that I'd gone to Harbor Freight, the cheap-ass tool store.

Generally the stuff Harbor Freight sells is pretty fair stuff. It's not professional-grade stuff. If I was going to use it to earn money, I probably wouldn't buy there. Most of the stuff is made in China and it's not exactly the highest quality. The tools are cheap and will do what you need them to do, but don't expect miracles from them.

In general I've been pretty happy with the stuff I've gotten there. Learning that one was a twenty-minute drive from my house made me happy, and since then I've bought literal hundreds of dollars worth of tools there. I've bought a micrometer set, a dial caliper, a welder, an auto-darkening welding mask, a tap and die set, a hole saw set, a body hammer-and-dolly set, a floor jack, two mover's dollies, a hand truck...and that's the stuff I remember buying since 2004.

The welder I bought was on sale for $119.95. Its normal price was something like $190; after I got the insurance check for the Escort I immediately bought one because I didn't want to miss that sale price.

I have never seen it off sale. It's been $119.95 pretty consistently since December. I suspect that Harbor Freight lists certain items as being "on sale" when they are actually stating the thing's normal price.

This was my thinking about the tool cabinet. It had been "on sale" for a long time at $179.95. I figured I had time to get my crap together--so imagine my dismay when I saw that it was no longer on sale.


I looked on the bright side: I don't have to spend time cleaning and rearranging the garage in order to cram it in there.

It wasn't a wasted trip, though. I had other items on my shopping list. I got a remote starter switch, a set of thumb wheel ratchets, some rubber gloves (to keep paint off my hands), a slide hammer, and a powder coating kit.

The powder coating kit is one of those things I have wanted to buy for quite some time. I've heard good things about the Harbor Freight powder coater from other Fiero fanatics, who have used it to good effect. Its price of $90 wasn't the problem; the problem was that in order to powder coat something, you need an oven. A conventional electric stove whose oven has a "self-clean" function will do the job, but once you've used the stove for that, you will never use it for anything else, because the powders emit smelly fumes which would ruin any food you tried to cook in that oven.

Of course you can get a purpose-built oven for the job. HF sells one for a mere $400. They used to have a cheaper one but that one was discontinued a while ago, worse luck.

But I saw some magic words which prompted today's purchase: "CLOSE-OUT SPECIAL". Price? $35. $44 with the two-year warranty I bought--not quite half-price. This means I have the damn thing, and for $45-ish. They can go ahead and stock a similar replacement which costs twice this one's MSRP (like they did with the oven) and it doesn't matter. Ha!

Of course, I can't use it until and unless I find an oven to cure the powder in.

Powder coating works by electrostatically charging the powder and the item to be coated. Compressed air sprays the powder onto the item, and it clings to it. The item is then baked in an oven until the powder melts and bonds with the surface; the oven is shut off and allowed to cool. Once cold, the powder forms a coating which is tougher than paint. And the powder is available in all kinds of colors, so you can mix-and-match; and done correctly you can even layer them!

I have no idea how the hell I'm going to get or install an electric oven in that garage. That's a project for after I've gotten some cars fixed....

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