Plans, projects and how-to's for home machinists

How To Square Up Stock On A Mill

This is the best video I’ve ever seen on squaring up a piece of stock on a mill.  You’ll also see how a pro deburrs edges and see how quickly and smoothly he can turn the hand wheels (I don’t think he’s using a power feed).  He also says you should start with a piece of stock that’s been cut  so you’ll only need to make one rough cut and one finish cut on the mill.  That sounds like a good advice if you have a Bridgeport but it’s probably not doable if you have a hobbyist-type mill because you may only be able take off .020 to .050-inches in those two passes.  So your saw cuts (hacksaw, bandsaw, cold saw, etc.) would have to be very precise and square.

CNC Machined Tape Dispenser

This tape dispenser was made by the Advanced CNC class at Laney College in Oakland CA.  It’s made from a pound of 6061 aluminum and every part was made using CNC.  Click on the picture or this link to see more pictures.

My Opinion About Harbor Freight’s Inside Track Club

I no longer have a positive opinion of Harbor Freight Inside Track Club.  Read the comments below to find out why.

I waited a long time before joining the Harbor Freight Inside Track Club because I couldn’t find out if it was worth $30 a year.  Now I think I can answer that question and my short answer is that it is — IF you regularly buy a variety of tools from them.  And even if you spend a modest amount you’ll probably save enough to at least pay for the cost of your membership.  And if you fall short it probably won’t be by much.  So, I don’t think there’s much risk in giving it a try.  Especially if join now, while they’re still giving away a $10 gift card with each new membership or renewal.  They had the same offer at this time last year and it’s why I joined.  [Shipping is free if you purchase your membership on their web site.]

What You Get With Your Membership

  • You’ll get at least 150 Inside Track Club coupons in the monthly retail flyer they mail to your house.  You can also view and print them from the Harbor Freight web site.
  • More ITC coupons will be emailed to you at least once a week.  I think there’s also a daily coupon that you have to get from the Harbor Freight web site.
  • You’ll get access to private member-only sales in the stores that are held every 2 or 3 months.  They’re for 2 hours and the ones at my nearby store have been on Sunday nights from 6-8 PM, which is right after it normally closes.  Although, the last one was from 4-6 PM.  I’ve been to at least 3 of them and I the only customer in the store except for one.  And that one only had a couple of other customers.  You’ll get additional coupons for the private sales and they even put out free snacks and soft drinks.  Sometimes you’ll get an additional 10% off your entire purchase.

Some Examples

Here are some examples from the February 2012 retail flyer

12-speed Bench Top Drill Press #44836
Normally $170 and on sale for $150.  ITC member price is $100.

1×30-inch Belt Sander #2485
Normally $50 and on sale for $45.  ITC member price is $30.

36 pc SAE/Metric Hex Key Set #94725
Normally $15 and on sale for $10.  ITC member price is $5

18-volt Magnesium Drill/Hammer Drill #65949
Normally $60 and on sale for $55.  ITC member price is $40

29 pc Split Point Cobalt Drill Bit Set #36891
Normally $55 and it’s NOT on sale in the retail flyer.  ITC member price is $45

The Deals Aren’t Always Great

I included the last two examples to show that you don’t always save much by being an Inside Track Club member.  Anyone could have used one of Harbor’s Freight’s easy-to-find 20%-off almost anything coupons to buy the Cobalt Drill Bit Set for about a dollar less than the ITC price.  And they could have used a coupon to buy the drill for only about $4 more.

I keep an envelope full of the coupons in my car.  I get at least one new one every week from our Sunday newspaper and they’re in all kinds of magazines that I either subscribe to or can get from our library’s free magazine exchange.  I’ve seen them in Family Handyman, Field and Stream, Sports Illustrated, Boat US, Flying, Popular Science, Digital Machinist and many more.  You can only use one coupon per trip and you can’t use them to buy air compressors, tool chests, welders and one or two other things.  They also can‘t be used with other coupons, including the Inside Track Club coupons.

By the way, there’s always a coupon for a free item next to the 20%-off coupon.  So now I have a large assortment of flashlights, tape measures, screwdriver sets, voltmeters and work gloves.  I don’t spend that much at Harbor Freight anymore because I have nearly everything I want and I’m running out of storage room in my workshop.  But I get to their store fairly frequently because I’m often very near it.

And Finally

As I said before, I don’t think you have much to lose by joining the club unless you just don’t spend very much money at Harbor Freight, or you buy just some very specific things.  I’ve saved quite a bit, although I also probably spent more than I might have by making some impulsive purchases because the savings were too good to pass up.

Made by Hand No 2 – The Knife Maker

Click the space above if you don’t see the video.  It’s there but for some reason it doesn’t show up on some computers/browsers.

This well made video is about Joel Bukiewicz, the owner of Cut Brooklyn, who started out wanting to be a writer but found he loves making things and being part of a community that makes things by hand.  Joel explains why, how he came to make knives for home and professional cooks and what it takes to get really good at something.

I enjoy videos like this and I’ve posted similar ones.  But for reasons I’m not sure I understand this one resonants with me much more than the others.  It might be because I also enjoy making things, but I make my living with computers so I don’t have anything tangible that I can see and hold at the end of my workday.

Random Quote

Never think someone is losing time by stopping to sharpen his axe.

— Abraham Lincoln