Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When Is It OK To Use Products From China? (A Review of a Parts-Carousel from Harbor Freight Tools)

So as you probably know, I am an avid recycler.   I am NOT perfect, but I do the best I can to recycle whatever I can - from shipping materials (almost always), to jewelry and fabrics, to furniture (especially for my studio!).  But there are times when I simply can not find what I want or worse... when what I want APPEARS to be vintage, but in reality is still from China (reproductions) that still cost an arm and a leg to own.  

Antique? (photo per
Case in point - "old" revolving, tool-caddies/parts-carousels. 
You would think they would be easy to find at antique stores etc...and they are.  But I caution you to look them over carefully!  For I have discovered a great many of them are being reproduced from china with a vintage look and have found MANY being sold as true vintage in flea markets and antique stores. 

I have a business license and even at wholesale prices, the china reproductions being sold are quite spendy.  

The various un-assembled parts
I have been looking for a carousel for over 2 years and have had little luck finding one that I could dear readers, I beg you to forgive me for purchasing a brand new carousel from Harbor Freight Tools.  Yes it is from China, and yes it is um... not super sturdy.  But, it was less than $20 bucks for a decent parts-carousel. 

Having now put it together, painted it, and am using it, I have some tips and pointers for those of you wanting to buy your own:
* Be aware that there are a LOT of nuts, washers, and bolts to put together (75 of each I think).  

* The instructions were typical - a couple of picture/diagrams and some directions.  If you've ever put anything together yourself, you should be able to figure it out without the instructions.
* The metal is somewhat flimsy - especially the dividers - and some edges are sharp!
This is the bag of parts

* You won't need many tools - although a Phillips-head screwdriver and maybe a small wrench to tighten the bolts. 
* If you have big hands, the trays with 6 dividers will be a bit of a challenge to put together! I have big hands and arthritis in my thumb, so this was a bit of a challenge for me - and led to the next item...

* It took me about an hour to put together.  Those darned partitions are a pain! They aren't hard to do... they just take time. 

*They did NOT include lock-washers.. you may want to get your own, or you may want to add lock-tite to the threads of the screws (unless you want to be able to take it apart later..then don't do that!).

* Some of the screws were NOT machined well... meaning their phillip's heads were not correctly made so my screwdriver did not fit into the slots correctly. 
The base of one of the trays

* Harbor Freight did include a couple of extra washers and bolts, which was nice (but no extra nuts, which was not so nice).


* None of the parts were separated, which was a bit of a pain because there is a set of 3 slightly-larger nuts, washers, and bolts which is needed to make the base. 

Spray painted the sections seperately
* It took 1 can of spray paint to fully paint the carousel (including the undersides).

* I'd advise coating the carousel with a varnish of some kind. I simply spray-painted the whole thing and then put it together.  The paint was easy-to-scratch and I've already got a few nicks on it (which is fine for me since I like the vintage look, but it does take away from the nicely-painted look!).

*  Once the individual trays were assembled, the actual putting-together of the carousel was simple and fast.  

My new, lovely pink parts-carousel holding many of my supplies
*It is not a huge carousel and doesn't easily hold larger items, but I find it incredibly helpful for storing the items that I use for making art! I need all my stuff, but I don't need it often.  This way they are all out and easy to get to, but the items I need the most, are turned towards me.  

FYI - Pink wasn't my preferred color, but it's what I had on hand.. I think it looks pretty good in pink.  Next time, I think I'd do a deep purple gloss though.

All in all I'd say that the Harbor Freight Tools Parts-Carousel is a winner.  Easily put-together, easily painted, holds a lot of stuff, and inexpensive. And at least I KNEW I was getting a cheap knock-off from China rather than buying something that cost a LOT more and was pretending to be vintage!

Is buying from China OK?  Well, I still prefer not to... but there are times when it's unavoidable. 


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