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) www.emachineshop.com. 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!
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 (www.harborfreight.com) 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.
- 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.
- 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. A cottage (kottedzh) or shack serving as a family’s main or only home, or an outbuilding, is not considered a dacha, 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. The Russian term is often said to have no exact counterpart in English.
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. 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. They were initially intended[by whom?] only as recreation getaways of city dwellers and for growing small gardens for food. 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,