“You get what you pay for” is an adage I don’t live by. I’m very frugal, so I’m always watch for great deals or just buying cheaper stuff. Many times you are paying for a brand or a “lifestyle”. This applies to nearly everything you can buy, but today I want to talk about tools.
Background: My old miter saw
Last spring I built a chicken coop. Everything went really well until my miter saw stopped working. I’m a big DIYer and love to learn new things, but in this case I wasn’t interested it fixing it. I probably needed a new switch, which would require taking it apart, finding a part, installing that part, and putting it back together. I’ve never worked with this type of electronics before, and I didn’t have the time or interest right now to learn right then and there, especially being in the middle of this project.
I decided to buy a new saw and to sell my old one on Facebook Marketplace. It went really quick and I realized afterwards that I could have got more money for it, but it was a cheap saw and I was just happy that I didn’t have to throw it away. The old saw was a WEN compound sliding miter saw. WEN looks to be a lower end brand, but I got a solid 5+ years out of it and it worked well enough. It definitely wasn’t the best saw available, but it functioned well…until it didn’t. Continue reading
We’ve been using the same Cabela’s Westwind tent for 8+ years and it has been great. However, as a “Ranger” for The Dyrt, I get to test camping products. This time the company was Wenzel, a company that make tents in the budget price range.
For the Ranger review program, we typically get a coupon code to use and I rarely spend more than the total amount (typically $100), but this time I decided it would be worth it. There wasn’t anything I found cheaper from Wenzel that would be really useful for my family at this point, plus I love tents. I picked the Ivanhoe 6 since our only real issue with the Westwind is the setup time/effort.
The Ivanhoe has a simple setup with a single walled design. It is definitely smaller than the Westwind Deluxe, but my oldest son James is now in is own small Coleman dome tent, so we don’t need it to be as big. We plan to use the Ivanhoe in good weather mostly, since we love the weather proofing and vestibule from the Westwind (though the Ivanhoe performed admirably in the rain).
Here’s my video review of the Wenzel Ivanhoe 6 tent:
You know I’m working on my basement and I wanted to share my thoughts on the product I’m using for the ceiling grid, CeilingLink. Generally, they have been very positive and I’d recommend it if you are in a similar situation.
What is it and who is it for?
CeilingLink is a direct-mount grid system for ceiling tiles. My basement has 7’2″ ceilings from floor to joist, so I needed something that would give me as much headroom as possible, being that I’m 6’5″. Classic drop ceiling was out of the question. I wasn’t interested in drywall for a variety of reasons: effort, cost, and access. With ceiling tiles, I can remove a few to access whatever I need to access that’s up in the ceiling. Plus, I’m not convinced that drywall looks much better than tiles. The other benefit is sound reduction, as ceiling tiles can help absorb some between the basement and the main floor upstairs. Finally, a lot of people leave the basement ceiling exposed. The primary reason we didn’t want to do this is spiders. There are a decent amount of spiderwebs in those joists and it feels warmer and cleaner having a real ceiling.
Most toilet paper holders are functional, but are frustrating. They are frustrating mostly, because they are overly complex. The other frustrating thing about traditional, spring-loaded toilet paper holders is living with people who are too lazy to replace an empty roll. The new roll just sits on top of the old one, making the entire holder useless.
Five years ago I wrote a post detailing my media server setup. The post is woefully out of date from a hardware standpoint, but only slightly out of date from a software standpoint. The endpoint of my systems is still a Roku with the Plex app, but now I have a almost three-year-old Roku 2, which is significantly faster than my old Roku HD. Currently I’d recommend the Roku Stick or Stick+.
When we moved almost 4 years ago, the old laptop I was using for a server would no longer turn on. Instead I’ve been using a low-powered Windows 8.1 HP Stream Mini desktop combined with an external hard drive. If I were to buy one today, I’d get a similar cheap PC or maybe a refurb desktop, since the HP Stream is discontinued. Since all of my media is directly played by the Roku/Plex, the computer can be wimpy since it doesn’t do any transcoding, just serving.
The 2015-2016 winter was our first winter in our house, and I fully intended on surviving with only a shovel. I changed my mind, after 8+ inches of heavy wet snow, and almost 2 hours to shovel our driveway. Having already done some research, I seized my chance…I drove to Home Depot and bought a Toro Snowmaster.
I’ve been using my Snowmaster 724 QXE since last year and I was a little apprehensive at first, since it was a new model. After using it a few times, that apprehension is gone.
Photo credit: Toro
Yes, it is technically a single stage with a different auger design. They call it “inline two stage” because the sides of the auger pull snow toward the center, and the center paddle (much smaller and more scoop-like than a standard single-stage) throws the snow out the chute. The bucket and chute design are shallower in their tapering to maximize throwing distance. It may not throw as far as a two stage, since it lacks an impeller, but if you keep it moving and full of snow, it can throw snow 20-30 feet. The lack of impeller lets Toro use more power in the auger, which spins very fast (“10 times faster than a 2-stage”). This also allows the blower to be a lot lighter, needing much smaller tires (this isn’t a disadvantage).
The lack of weight on this blower means it moves around more like a lawnmower, than a typical two stage blower. Toro even put their personal pace system from their mowers on it. This means that the controls are very minimal:
one lever to engage the auger
Toro’s “quick chute” joystick (which is awesome)
personal pace bar to push the blower and engage the drive-train.
All this means that I can clear my driveway and sidewalk in much less time than my neighbors.
I read most of The Sweethome’s reviews. They are usually great, in-depth, and well-researched. They impress me with their testing and I’ve had great luck with their picks. Sometimes, the picks don’t live up to my expectations. Their laundry basket pick is one of them. They picked the Sterilite Stacking basket from the Container Store.
I looked these at a local Container Store. Ultimately they felt junky, were too small, and were unimpressive.
The Container Store also vastly disappointing. The selection was poor and it felt like walking into a OCD nightmare. The store felt unorganized, but it was a store of organization containers….
Note that there are two different versions of the “Sterilite Ultra” basket. Walmart stocks the better one, with the triangle shaped holes and the non-arching handles with a bulge on the bottom. These handles are thicker and more sturdy compared to the ones with oval holes and simple arching handles, which break easily. The basket itself is also made out of heavier plastic.
We have three of these baskets and they’ve held up well to regular laundry tasks, but also to my kids messing around in them (which is what broke our old baskets). They’ve even survived being thrown down the stairs…more than once by Alyssa.
I know, I know…I’m reviewing a shower head. The only reason I’m reviewing this is because it is a great shower head for not that much money ($40).
Most low flow shower heads are terrible. My parents have gone through a few of them, and all the ones they had were cheap, plastic, and had poor water pressure. It took twice as long to wash my hair, which defeats some of the purpose of the 40% water savings.
If you know me, you know I like to do a lot of product research before I buy. My shower head research started on The Sweethome. They do a lot of research and testing, which helps me to understand how a product works and what to look for. I almost pulled the trigger on one of their picks last year, but an Amazon recommendation stopped me. The High Sierra shower head is a well reviewed, metal shower head, that was also 1.5 GPM low flow. It had to have fake/paid/incentivized reviews. Nope.