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Catalogs, Magazines, & Web Sites

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message 1: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1192 comments 'tis that time of year. The catalogs are pouring in so I can spend myself into debt. Most go into the recycle bin, but there are a few I always enjoy going through. What about you? Do you know of some good ones for hard to find items? Do you browse them just for fun or ideas?

message 2: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1192 comments American Science & Surplus
is one I always like to look through. They have a cheesy, B&W catalog & descriptive style, but they're fun. It's full of crap, but also some hard to find, nifty items. Need a Van de Graaff generator? They have a couple plus odd items you'd never think of, like new, unused motors for vents on a B-14 airplane.


is another catalog I love. Not only do they have all kinds of clock movements, plans, & kits, but they have some very nifty furniture kits & ideas.

message 3: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments Hey Jim!

Once again, we agree. This is the time of year I spend recklessly, finally buying the stuff I've been putting off getting so I'd be able to finish ($$$) the large projects of the season.

I just placed an order at American Science & Surplus... could barely stop myself from buying the sextant they have, but I already know where I am and I'm not leaving dry land.... I couldn't resist a hand crank radio for ten bucks though!

message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1192 comments Wow! That's spooky. I actually have that page earmarked as a 'probably'. That's the 20:1 Radio on page 22, right? I thought I'd get one for each of the kids.

I was hoping to find cheap hand cranked flash lights cheap. I got a couple from Harbor Freight last year - just a couple to test. I LOVE them. I keep one in the car where batteries usually don't last long. Really comes in handy.

I also have the Ginormous Gem (p.39) marked. I have a staff that one of those would look cool in. I'm also planning on getting some of the Pocket Work Lights for $4 each. Marg got me one last year & it's wonderful. Last time the power went out, I hung it from my shirt & it was perfect. It also made doing the plumbing under the sink a lot easier. Those LEDs are bright.

message 5: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments Too funny! I'll let you know how well the radio works when it gets here...

Meanwhile L.L.Bean is busy advertising what could be the next big surplus item, a SOLAR powered flashlite!

message 6: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1192 comments LOL! There is something twisted about a solar powered flashlight.

I was tempted to get the Spud Launcher. The kids & I would have a blast with them, but it would be such a mess to clean up. There is no way we could all be trusted not to shoot them all over the house.

message 7: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (JLynneDH) | 15 comments Thanks for the recommendation, Jim. I see some stocking stuffers in my future. =]

Jim wrote: "American Science & Surplus
is one I always like to look through. They have a cheesy, B&W catalog & descriptive style, but they're fun. It's full of crap, but also some har..."

message 8: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1192 comments Candy got me to thinking about where I get project ideas. While catalogs are a big source, magazines are another. Most have so many ads in them, they're almost catalogs, so I edited the topic name to reflect that.

Birds & Blooms magazine has gorgeous pictures, many supplied by the readers. We give a subscription to 2 aunts & my mother, plus have one ourselves. It's well worth the $15/year or so.

They also have a great web site with one section devoted to projects.

I've made several things from these project pages. I rarely do it the exact way they do, but the overall measurements & ideas are handy.

message 9: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments "American Science & Surplus

I received the hand crank radio today. They sent it through the postal service so it took four days longer than needed (The pony express would be much faster here in Northern Maine!).

It works as advertised. One minute of cranking= about 20 minutes of play. One and a half minutes= 30 minutes of play. It plays about the equivalent of an old transistor radio.

I had hoped it would use a capacitor, but it's got two AAA ni-cad batteries inside. While the batteries work it could be cranked quite a while and hold a much longer charge, yet like old solar calculators, after a while the ni-cad batteries die.

While the radio works directly by cranking, I've been thinking that if I ever got my hands on a dynamo operated device I'd see if I could substitute capacitors instead. It wouldn't run as long, but then, capacitors would never go bad so I could throw it in a drawer for years and if indeed there was an emergency it would still operate.

Sounds like a cool Winter project in the making!

message 10: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1192 comments Oh! I thought all those operated on capacitors. I wonder what my flash lights have in them. Do NiCad batteries have to keep some charge in them or they'll die early? I seem to recall lead acid batteries without a charge will freeze easier.

I keep one of the crank flashlights in my car. Haven't used it in a while. That's why I thought it would be so handy there. Months can go by without me needing it. Used to be, by the time I'd need it, the batteries would be dead.

message 11: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments My understanding from researching e-bike batteries is most types do better if they are charged regularly and always recharged after use. I always make sure the tractor batteries are fully charged before I shut the units down, and for the Ferguson which sits all Winter I run a charger on it every few weeks. (I never heard of a lead acid battery freezing, even when it hit 42 below zero here))

My ni-cad phone batteries, which are automatically charged when I hang up the phone (think old style... not cell) lasted six years.

Batteries lose a percentage of charge just sitting, and for rechargables a percentage of capacity as well.

Yet companies make capacitor driven toys that charge with batteries... why haven't they created useful dynamo/ capacitor devices in this consumption driven society... perhaps we then wouldn't buy MORE fast enough to satisfy the need for corporations to keep making more profits (and toxic waste).

And how inconvenient... what would people do if they had to crank their cell phones.

(Uh oh... my environmentallly oriented fanatical recycler reuser re-purposer negative carbon footprint personna is coming through!)

message 12: by Jim (last edited Nov 19, 2012 04:08AM) (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1192 comments I'm never sure with batteries. The first rechargeable drill we got was an expensive Makita & had to have its charge fully run down before recharging according to the instructions. Otherwise, it wouldn't accept as much of a charge - it had a memory. I was glad when that went away as the technology got better. It was a PITA.

My biggest gripe now with them now is the cheaper drills say the battery can only be charged for a few hours. They supposedly don't stop charging automatically. I can NEVER remember to unplug something after a few hours. Never. Just isn't happening. The cheap Kawasaki drill I had may have died from that. The cheap Harbor Freight one I have now seems to survive it, though.

I keep one cheap, cordless drill in the shop. Otherwise I rely on hand or corded tools, depending on what I need. Corded tools are a lot cheaper, smaller, & lighter for the speed & power they develop. I have a little generator for power outages & it's easy to toss into the truck if I need power elsewhere, but more often I'll grab a hand tool.

I'm not a big fan of cordless power tools, if you can't tell. I think the current trend of making everything into electricity for batteries is horrible. They're very hard on the environment, bulky, heavy, & expensive. The electronics & motors for them rely on a lot of rare earths that are strip mined in China & other places, so I can't see how or why folks say they're better for the environment than a gas motor. There's so many different things in them, I wonder how anyone can tell for sure, though.

message 13: by Foxtower (new)

Foxtower | 427 comments I bought a porter-cable cordless drill once. It never had enough power and two batteries couldn't get through a days work. After a year the batteries died. Replacement batteries cost more than the unit did new! I said never again!

Just last week I was at the hardware store, and it's still the same. New cordless tool and two batteries= $100. A single replacement battery $90.

And yet the cheap black and decker 1/4 inch drill I bought when I was young still works! I don't use it much, as I have two dewalt corded drills now and long heavy duty extension cords.(had to buy a spare drill in the middle of a job when a switch went bad... I replaced the switch inexpensively so now I have a beat up one and a nice one... and both work great after many years of tough service!)

I also have my grandfathers hand and breast drills that don't need electricity at all and were state of the art in the 1920's!

I'm with you on battery powered devices... and even though you're a computer guy I think computers and cell phones are two of the most damaging products on the planet betwen using so many rare earth minerals and a two year "life" that adds to toxic waste. My computer is seven years old now. And they still come out with new and improved every two years, making new programs and web pages fatter and fancier rather than more efficeint so people have to "upgrade" ($$$$).

Who can tell for sure? Telecommunications companies are making lots of money and don't care about the environment at all. They know but will sell sell sell and let your grandkids deal with the consequences...

message 14: by Jim (last edited Nov 20, 2012 03:10AM) (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1192 comments I moved my reply to the new Tool topic here:

message 15: by Jaye (new)

Jaye  | 102 comments I like the Family Handyman magazine for general hints and such.

I was looking through one that is about 5 years old and there is a warning about using/buying counterfeit electrical parts with the concern being that they are made of inferior parts and may not provide protection.
The warning was specific about circuit breakers.

I wondered, with more time gone by, if this now applies to more things made in China and other places.
I'm wondering about chargers and such.

message 16: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1192 comments Likely the warning does apply. It certainly applies to the batteries themselves. A lot of us have bought discount batteries that only last 6 months or so while the seemingly more expensive name brands will last for 3 years.

Of course, the latter vary. I deal with UPS (Uniform or Uninterrupted Power Supply) & laptop batteries a lot in my job. Batteries generally last about 3 years, but some fail in 2 while I had one set of UPS batteries that lasted over 7. Not sure how that happened, but it's a big, expensive UPS so maybe I got what I paid for.

Cheap chargers don't stop charging & that eats up batteries fast. Any time a battery gets too warm while charging, it's a bad sign. Others don't charge enough, as I found out with my solar electric fence charger. I tried to save money by replacing the solar unit with a cheap one & the battery cracked over the winter. My best guess is it didn't have enough charge.

message 17: by Jaye (new)

Jaye  | 102 comments My son was telling me about a problem his father was having with his battery powered drill. It got so the charge was holding less and less time so that he'd end up having to go get the wired one to finish up a job.
I was having the same problem with mine and thought, until I heard that, that it was something I was doing wrong. Mine is almost useless now after a few minutes.

Then, I heard a woman at work talking about her battery powered lawn mower. After about a summer and a half she had to go and buy a new battery.

message 18: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1192 comments We have a place called Inter State Batteries (squish together & add .com after it for their web site) right near work. I buy all my batteries from them. They'll even make custom batteries for most anything for a surprisingly affordable price - or so they told me - & they weren't kidding.

I have 2 old power screwdrivers I bought from Ace. I really like them because they're rechargeable & geared very low. They won't replace a screw gun, but do an amazingly good job. I bought them about 10 years ago & one wouldn't keep a charge any more. Although it has 'no user serviceable parts', I took it just far enough apart to get to the battery, pulled it & gave it to them. They soldered the connectors on & it cost about $5. It took me 20 minutes to get it back in & get the switch right (FOREVER!!!) but I managed it & it's as good as new.

The lithium ion batteries that I have in my Ryobi screwgun & drill are only about a year old, but I've used them pretty hard. They're fantastic. I think a lot depends on the quality of the battery & the type. My son told me about it until my eyes rolled back in my head. I finally just asked him what I should get for a cordless drill & he gave me this exact set. I have been very happy.

message 19: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1192 comments I wasn't thrilled with Antique Collector's Directory of Period Detail by Paul Davidson. He tried to cover too much territory & time which wound up confusing me. Still, I learned a few things & gave it a 3 star review here:

message 20: by Cindy (new)

Cindy | 1 comments Wanted to say thank you for the web/catalog suggestions. I always enjoy searching for supplies. A site I have ordered from several times:, they have great sales.
Another site I browse but have not yet purchased is I also use because I love their catalogs!! Happy New Year Crafters!

message 21: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) | 1192 comments If you want to make your own wind chimes, this site is a must.

Lee Hite's site has information on how to figure the tone & pitch of your pipes plus all sorts of other design concerns. Fantastic!

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