Coping: Love Chinese-Made Power Tools

In fact, I can’t think of a better single investment I’ve made in the tool department than some Chinese-made tools I have acquired over the years.

One favorite is my metal lathe…courtesy of my friends (and client at the time)  The one I got carried the Jet brand, but is identical in looks to the Amazon-marketed Precision Bench Metal Lathe 9″ x 20″ Belt Drive 3/4HP 550W 2000RPM.

Here’s my point:  When Jet was selling it, the price was around $699 – going from memory.  Another $139, or so, for the matching base.  Today?  Basically the same tool is going for $1,319.   No base, either.  Doubled, roughly!

(Continues below)


Last Monday I gave you some ideas on setting up the shop to run on a “workstation” concept. New issue of Family Handyman landed Saturday and what’s on the cover?  A nice tool wall – and I suppose that makes sense if you don’t have room for a real shop.  Wall of tools, roll-out benches – and you can still get a car in the garage.  Yeah, makes sense… But compared to a “saw station”  “drill station” “assembly table”  “Glue-up table”  “Paint room” set up?  It’s a whole different world with multiple workstations.

What I didn’t get into last Monday – because it’s really a story in and of itself – is the air handling system and other goodies that are going in to the “stations.”

Story goes like this:

Years ago, as we were rebuilding the house, and I was spending a king’s ransom at Harbor Freight ( I noticed they had some really remarkably good monthly sales deals on Chinese-made machine tools.  I mean really good.

Since the shop was running on the “contractor model” at the time – one workbench in the middle and piles of crap (tools, parts, wire, plumbing) everywhere else, I vowed that I would put down – much as one lays away a vintage wine – some good tools for later use.  When I got around to building the shop – which as the back-asswards world works, is usually after the house is built.

We weren’t flush, but I figured I could sneak $75-bucks into the construction budget for a vac system.  This was about 10-years ago.

So here comes the (10-years ago) flyer from HF.  And there – to my delight – the was a sale on a reasonable quality 4″ ducted ,one horsepower vac system.

I bought it – and some other “old man kits” – like an 80 CC moped kit for my mountain bike – that we laid down in storage in the shop – and promptly forgot about it.

Cleaning and reorganizing, here it is!  My air system and out comes the dusty box…

Not only had I make one hell of a wise purchase (similar units today are running about $144… but I also picked up a basic accessory kit, too…

By the end of 10-minutes – mostly emptying out boxes and cutting up plastic packing, it was all assembled and ready for action:

Peachy and dandy… or so I thought.  But, my problems were only beginning.

First, the accessory kit didn’t have enough hose.  So 50-feet of 4″ hose will land today from Amazon.  Along with lots of clamps and so forth –  additional Y’s and cut-off valves -so you can turn off suction to all but the working machine.

Sunday was spent putting in the overhead runners for the hoses (air and vacuum) and sometime this week the rest of the adapters will land.  My machines happen to be 2-1/2″ fittings while the big vac is 4″.

One other set of adapters:  When you have a Dust Deputy in line – mine is set up for ShopVac sized hoses so it’s an adjust down to that size (on the input and output ports) OR *(this is where the floating design mode comes in) I MAY mount the whole unit outside the shop door.

The argument for this is I would be able to use the Dust Deputy elsewhere…but that’s a head-scratcher having only one shop.  BUT by putting it outside, the 12-gallon bag would be outside and so better from the inside air quality angle.  Quieter by a mile, too.

But (the arguing in my head went on for several hours like this) If I leave the Dust Deputy in the line from all the machines, it’s easier to empty the Dust Deputy than it is to take the bag off and on to the vacuum.  Research:  How long does it take to make 10-gallons of sawdust?

These are what we call “high class problems” to have, but I want to underscore a couple of things.

First is what I mentioned to Peoplenomics subscribers in the Saturday report.  If there is ANYTHING you want to buy from China, get it NOW.  Odds of their goods doing up – dramatically – are increasing.  What happens if the Rest of World devalues the US dollar?

Second, even if you don’t THINK you will need some Chinese tools, especially the still reasonable heavy iron, I have seen the economic power shift in spades in tool pricing.  So this week, for example, I will either buy a pilot-arc plasma cutter OR a regular (no pilot) plasma machine.  Votes on that are welcome.

Are there a lot of projects around here that require welding?  Well, I have been thinking “Get an old beater and make a Rat Rod…”  How many old men, handy with their hands have done that?  Maybe go George Barris on the body with stitch & glue plywood to keep the fabbing fast….I digress.

Thing is, tools aren’t worth spit if you don’t use ’em…and that’s the third point.  I know of people – right here in ‘Merica  – who can’t change a damn tire! Let alone drop a differential and change gearing. I would venture a fair bit that the Chinese are now much more capable from a technical education angle than we are.  See the  visions of empire setting?

Common Core has not only (*heavily) PC’ed and feminized America, but liability insurance and lawyers have mostly priced even minimal technical education out of most school systems. Once the liability shysters get into sport injuries, well, that’s one way to kill pro sports, isn’t it?

Now, should we ever get into a national show-down with China, they have a “rope around our balls” to put it in cowboyese.  They have the machinery now and are willing to sell it.  If we’re going to make America great again, it will take machines.  All kinds and lots of ’em.

Sure, there’s  a lot of skilled craftsmen left up in Connecticut and Massachusetts, but the old people who can Make with their hands are going to the graveyard for the long visit.  No one’s coming up behind ’em and THAT my friend is a dangerous deal.

Thus, Ure’s Three Points of Patriotism this week are as follows.

  1.  If you are need power (and even hand) tools, now or in the future, buy them now and find somewhere to lay them down while time comes around to use  them.  Remember, they work just fine with a little care.  For example, on the vac system, I will leave the switch on the unit turned on all the time.  I’ll put in a $1.25 regular wall switch in a $0.99 rework box with $0.10 worth of cable staples (within 6″ of the box) so the switch on the unit will never wear out.  This is prepper-thinking, got it?  No breaky, no fixy.
  2. When you buy a tool to “lay down” get all the consumables.  Since I’m going for the plasma cutter, I will get (and maintain) a 50-100 cutting tip inventory.  Similarly, if you have a wire welder, like our Lincoln 175 wire welder, lay down a couple of  five pound spools of general purpose solid and FluxCore 0.35″ wire and three dozen tips.  Again, it’s a terrible waste right now, but if you’re a prepper and the crap hits the fan, where are you going to find copper tips for your welding rig so you can contribute to national recovery?  Or tack up the rebar for your expanded fallout shelter?

3. Build a personal power plan – and make it something that will work.  For example, a few years back (again we’re way over-prepped, arguably) I saw this Vogelzang box stove on sale for $99-bucks.  Again, picked it up because I knew deep down inside tools would go up in price. And winters are cold without heat.  Well, here’s a comparable stove… US Stove 1269E Small EPA Certified Cast Iron Logwood Stove, 54,000 BTUs which is $293. Once again its a 3x multiplier.  I did a better job of accessorizing this one; got the stove pipe and roof mount kit.  Now, all I need is some time to pour a concrete pad in the shop,  scarf in some used brick for looks, and then I’ll have a long-term heating solution….

Point of all this rambling?  Tariffs really are a slippery-slope and war with China would not be good for either country.  But the little people like you and me?  Not even in the equation.  But, what we can do is what son George and his lady-friend are doing:  Looking for recreational property.

If you get serious about building a “fall-back” position – and I don’t know who would put that idea in their heads  – over investing – in tools is not a bad thing.  Especially if you look at the history of war.  You’ll see that the important things to have are food, water, shelter, HEAT, SOMETHING TO COOK IN or ON, and Tools and supplies so that you can really live a fully kitted-out life and help others.

Looking darkly at the future?  Well, buying a few kegs of nails would be the first thing G2 would hear from dad.  If you have even hand-saws, Mike Oehler’s The Fifty Dollar and Up Underground House Book and a hammer and nails, it’s amazing what you can build.  No power needed. Few gallons of used motor oil (creosote if you have it) and some plastic bags…old railroad ties…well, let’s just say I’m rereading his solar underground greenhouse book.

And in the worst case  One Second After kind of word, there will only be a handful of crazies like me with solar and power tools.  Everyone else will be back into manual mode.  20-bounds of construction screws are going to ruin your palms.  Keg of big sinkers!  Our shop building is a Texas pole building type – featuring ring-shank nails that are (trust me!) damn near nuke proof.

Again, it’s why setting up as workstations makes sense –  you can get some production going with a half-reasonable workflow that makes so much sense (and money if things hang together).  If the crap ever hits, by the time our family lands here (as is the plan), each arrival will be issued a sidearm and the master plan for the place and a job assignment. This won’t be a politically correct place and it may not seem democratic, lol.

I’ll explain that we’re damn fortunate to have laid down a few Chinese-made tools, welders,…well, you get the picture.  Been eyeing one of those HF $99-on sale 6.5 HP horizontal shaft engines, too.  With a barrel of avgas (which is ethanol free and stores well), no telling what could be done with a small engine.  Donkey-engine for moving timber?  Yes, even that, I reckon.  Slow, but after WW III who’s going to be in a hurry – or know what time it is?

America has been far too focused on the “second home” as being on a lake with all kinds of consumer spending indiscators strewn about.  But read up on how the Russians chief their dachas:

A dacha is a seasonal or year-round second home, often located in the exurbs of Russian and other post-Soviet cities.[1] A cottage (kottedzh) or shack serving as a family’s main or only home, or an outbuilding, is not considered a dacha,[1] although some dachas recently have been converted to year-round residences and vice versa. In some cases, owners occupy their dachas for part of the year and rent them to urban residents as summer retreats. People living in dachas are colloquially called dachniki the term usually refers not only to dacha dwellers but to a distinctive lifestyle.[2] The Russian term is often said to have no exact counterpart in English.[3][4]

Dachas are common in Russia, and are also widespread in most parts of the former Soviet Union and in some countries of the former Eastern Bloc. Surveys in 1993–1994 suggest about 25% of Russian families living in large cities had dachas.[5] Most dachas are in colonies of dachas and garden plots near large cities. These clusters have existed since the Soviet era, and consist of numerous small, typically 600 square metres (0.15 acres), land plots.[citation needed] They were initially intended[by whom?] only as recreation getaways of city dwellers and for growing small gardens for food.[6] As of 2017, dachniki use their dachas for fishing, hunting, and other leisure activities. Growing garden crops – still seen as an important part of dacha life – remains popular.

But no, among the dachniki, we here gardening (and home brew) is far more important than video games and jet skiis.  Also far more affordable for people with a Great War memory and an internal need to prep, such as American’s never have.

All things change.  And the Ure clan, descendants of MacEwar, do have a plan.  Which is more than can be said by most.  Investing in Chinese power tools is just one quirky part of it.  But, its worth giving some serious thought to…

Whew!  How’s that for the Monday wiled-eyed prepper mindset?

Speaking of kegs, you did enjoy National Beer Day Saturday, right?

Write when you get rich,

17 thoughts on “Coping: Love Chinese-Made Power Tools”

  1. George
    “If the crap ever hits, by the time our family lands here (as is the plan), each arrival will be issued a sidearm and the master plan for the place and a job assignment.”

    I’m glad you took the advise of myself and others to stay put in your present locale! A sidearm is usually understood to mean a pistol. You should also consider a rifle for each arrival. Being able to reach out and touch someone can be a very good thing. Don’t forget the ammo and extra mag’s.

    Back around March 29 I made a comment about frequencies used by the Ancients around the world. I quoted 101 Hz. That should have been 110 Hz. I found my mistake watching a rerun of Ancient Aliens season 12 episode 8. I don’t believe aliens gave us everything we know how to do, but the show has lots of eye candy.

  2. Whew! Ever thought of cloning yourself? ;-)
    One million times would “make America great again,” or would it? Perhaps Chinese can do

    • I actually went lathe happy a couple of decades ago even had the wonderful legacy mill.. the plan.. to make a few four poster beds and when I built the house some spindles for the stairwell..( at that time I had been given a 30 by 30 one room school house with 18 foot ceilings.. unfortunately our community wouldn’t let me move it on the lot.. so I never made the bed frames and I never made any spindles and ended up pretty much giving it away..
      and then the wife said.. I would like to park the car in the garage.. so I had to I just have one table top lathe to make pens with.of course I have the extension table and duplicator.. I would like to say.. making pens is an awesome gift idea and a lot of fun to. unfortunately you cannot use old piano keys anymore to make pens. real ivory is not legal in the usa. and since you cannot date the keys.. well you get the idea..

  3. …and if SHTF day never comes, stored tools “in inventory” can be sold off — possibly at a nice profit — for the currency of the day.

    This is also why I set up a “Small Things Carry-In Fix-It Shop” in my garage. I’m old, and not much use as heavy day labor anymore, but I can FIX almost anything electronic or electrical or mechanical; and I figure I can make barter if not “money” for services.

  4. It’s one thing to carry a sidearm, and another to carry it where you can move about and get real work done in confined spaces without banging it on everything. If you can’t do that, you’ll be tempted to put it down somewhere and then you’ve lost its real utility. Long guns are even more of a problem and won’t be carried well if you’re really working. Of course, they have their place, but unless you’re upright, it will be your get-to gun. I wonder if there are good ideas from readers who do carry while doing major construction/renovation/mechanical/etc.?

    Where I am, open carry is legal most places, and concealed is legal on property you own or have rights to.

  5. Common core has created an entire generation who have no working knowledge of the basics. Perhaps that is ‘the plan’- in addition to not teaching classes like shop and home ec today, ‘the plan’ also figures that the kids do not need skills in math and English…guess ‘they’ want to dumb down and keep them down.
    The teachers I know, who are still teaching today, bemoan that they spend more time prepping and administering (read – spending tax dollars) the common core tests – than they do actually ‘teaching’ the common core information. And that all those tax increases that are said to be for ‘education’ really are spent on the plethora of administrative levels within the education system AND the various administrative levels associated with the Common Core program. No wonder the kids are lacking.

    • All planned, same with the takeover of medicine. The doctor’s are covered up in administrative duties and are dictated to how much time they can spend with a patient, and what tests to order. Gotta dance to the administrators. Same with higher education, administrators galore sucking up all the money.

  6. I think the destruction of our modern society, can strongly be traced back decades ago, when families mutated from skills of farming, homesteading, food preservation and self sufficiency, to slowly becoming brainwashed zombies of technology, govt, media, tv. The latest generations are basically clueless about skills pertaining to self sufficiency, thereby allowing themselves to be enslaved by TPTB and technology more then ever. Yes, some technology has been very beneficial. Refrigerators and modern toilets are 2 examples, but narcissistic social media and corrupt monopolized tv media are 2 POWERFUL negatives. If we only go back 60-70 years ago, that generation would have never believed that in todays era, the average teenager / adult would be clueless about growing a sustaining garden , but they would be fully educated about useless things like taking selfies, uploading those photos to a thing called the internet or being able to program a complex TV remote control so they can tape their favorite bullsh1t TV show that is full of lies, phony drama and brainwashing techniques.

    The current generation has happily traded life sustaining skills from decades ago, for trite, phony venues of entertainment and pleasing lies. What a recipe for disaster.

    • Sadly, all you say is true and the life has been sucked out of them and they don’t know it yet. Their brains are being irradiated and their hearts are being frozen.

  7. I needed a new diagonal cutter (“dikes”) for my electronic work and found some reasonable ones on eBay, so I ordered two. Chinese made, of course, and they LOOKED reasonable when they arrived. The jaws closed tightly with no daylight between. The open edges SEEMED sharp and well ground when I feel them in the open position. But the damn things will NOT cut a wire! It mashes flat but never separates into cut ends. And I just cannot nip a stub with the very tip of the cutter. Both of these new cutters went into the trash. Chinese tools? Ugh. I’m not convinced. I guess I shouldn’t look for ‘cheap’. Next time I look for better quality and not low price.

  8. Natl beeeeeeear day??? I fougt it wer natl beeer weeeeeak? weeel iim to far inta the weeek now to turn back

  9. Hi George,
    All is not lost on the Maker front–
    There IS a Maker movement among the young with their own magazine(s) like this one;
    and Maker Faires held regularly around the country .

    Speaking of which, and since you mentioned solar energy, Have you thought about making your own solar water pumps, essential oil stills, and the like?
    There is now an English translation of Augustin Mouchot’s 1865 handbook now available for cheap under the title, “Steampunk Solar” as an e-book.
    Lots of ideas for non-electrical solar devices.
    Here’s a link;

    Full disclosUre–
    Yeah, I had something to do with the translation.

  10. I love Chinese tools too, as long as they are capable of doing the job I need done, and are priced as Chinese tools should be, which is between 10%-20% of their quality American counterpart.

    Jet is Chinese, now? They were Taiwanese, for years (Formosan steel is pretty good stuff — on a par with Japanese steel…)

  11. My kids still think I’m crazy, that, when a lumberyard went tango uniform a few years back, I bought a pallet of nail kegs (8, 10, and 16 penny CC sinkers, and 1-5/8″ roofing and 30d galvanized — paid $25 for the pallet IIRC), then told them I was keeping ’em.

    I figured that was cheap insurance, and combined with my antique, but operational sawmill, I believe that [given a need and some time] one could build just about anything…

    The Vogelzang is the same stove as the 1269E, made in VZ’s Chinese plant (at least mine is), but I saw the same $99 sale you did, and it’s hard to screw up cast iron. The fancy US Stove / Vogelzang stoves are made in the U.S. or Germany, but when you are buying an emergency standby, “good enough” and cheap, takes precedence over spares and longevity. IOW the “fallback potential” outweighs the “freezing potential” (it’s currently snowing here) of not having a back-up heat source, and I’m still open to eventually latching on to an antique pot-belly. The VZ has two “burners” but it’s not really adequate for cooking. I recommend getting a “heat extractor” attachment for the flue. It’s a heat-exchanger which extracts a majority of the heat that normally vents to outside…

    Dust collectors move massive amounts of air, but not very quickly, which is their secret. The slower-moving air suspends dust and debris, enabling the vacuum to move it long distances. Most of the ones I’ve seen have been plumbed with either 6″ or 8″ galvanized furnace duct. BTW George, before I had mine, I used a 12gal Shop-Vac. It took about three passes through a planer with a 2×8 for me to fill the bucket.

    I saved the sawdust in trash bags, for the kids to use as campfire starter. Ain’t no kindling, nowhere, nohow, lights as fast & hot as dry fir shavings…

  12. Gotta watch that buy and store approach at HF. I bought a gas engine trash pump from them and put it away for about 3 years moving it around the garage and eventually to the ranch to pump water into a tank on a trailer for fire fighting. Finally opened the box one day only to find the dang thing’s engine barely would run and even with a hose pumping water into the priming port it wouldn’t move water at all. It appeared that the wearing ring surfaces on the impeller were too far apart to seal anything so, essentially, the thing was a boat anchor.

    Always pull things you buy at HF out of the box and verify that they work before storing them.

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