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Always Use Jack Stands When Working Under A Car! (Jack Stand Lessons)

5 Oct

Safety should be priority number one for preppers. Is what you’re doing safe? Can I do something better to protect myself better? What happens if something goes wrong? Do I have adequate backups? Ask yourself these questions with any high risk situation.

In the news, a car buff was killed when his scissors jack failed. This is Autoshop 101: Never work under a car only supported by a jack of any kind. Jacks fail. Professionals have lifts. Those of us working out of home garages will have a floor jack and jack stands. Hydraulic jacks fail. Screw jacks fail and aren’t sufficiently stable for anything more than raising a wheel to change a tire.

I prefer jack stands with pins to ratcheting stands. Ratcheting are acceptable though. For car owners, I recommend the Sears Craftsman Professional 4 ton ratcheting jack stands. They’re only about $35. They’re made in China, but appear well enough made. They have a wider and more stable base than the more common 3 ton jack stands.

For larger vehicles, Harbor Freight Sells ratcheting jackstands in 6 ton and 12 ton capacity. While Harbor Freight gets a rap for producing cheap Chinese crap, these jacks appear well made. Find a coupon to get the 6 ton stands for $40.

I reviewed the 3 ton Torin “double locking” stands on Amazon and wasn’t too impressed. The pins were poorly positioned. The welds looked like crap. I shared some photos there to show what I mean.

I gave some hints for inspecting new ratcheting jackstands in that review. One thing you can do is purchase two sets of stands, inspect them all. Mix and match and return any parts that are unacceptable. Is the pawl straight or crooked? Are any of the welds poor?

Jackstands shouldn’t have much rust on them. Maintain them. While at it, be darn certain the jack points on your vehicle are solid and not rusted. Rusted jack points collapse. You should know where all jack points are on your vehicle and where you can place stands. The metal the suspension support is attached to is solid.

I haven’t seen it myself, but I’m told some newer high-end cars don’t have jack points for floor jacks! They’re meant to be serviced on a professional lift. The same point for lifting and supporting. How’s that for really screwing the DIYer? I’ve ranted before about how the automakers want us dependent on dealer repair. This is one more example of that.

Jack stands fail too. One issue is that many of the bars are cast metal and cast metal can crack.  This is why I love backups. Get two pairs of stands and place a second set as a backup. It takes a bit of time but gives you much better safety.

This is a mathematical fact: If one stand has a 1 in a thousand chance of failing, the chances of two failing at the same time is one in a million. Most stands are far safer than 1 in a thousand. The chances two stands will both fail on you is about the same as winning a huge lottery. It won’t happen.

One more thing. Chock the wheels so the vehicle can’t roll. For $7 Harbor Freight makes great wheel chocks of solid rubber. Back them up with sandbags. Jack stands can physically break. Much more common though is a car isn’t solidly placed on the stands and it slips off. The stands must sit on solid concrete. Not soft ground.

When you use ratcheting type stands, the lower the bar the better and more stable. Do lift the bar so the pawl engages the first notch. The stands aren’t designed to sit just on the top of the stand.

In the book I recommend 12,000 pound rhino ramps. It’s really just 3,000 pounds per ramp. 12,000 pounds per vehicle. The design has changed. The new ramps are stackable. They take less storage space. This is a great example of dumb engineering. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. For a bit of convenience, we’re asked to give up a solid structure under the ramp. I no longer recommend the new ramps.

Blitz the company making the older style ramps went belly up because of lawsuits. Not because of ramp failures! Blitz makes gas cans. The old school gas cans. They had a snout and you poured the gas out.

The problem was some people poured their gas onto open flames. They spilled gas and left the cans near water heaters or other sources of flames. The flame worked its way into the gas can. New gas cans have devices to prevent flames from burning back into the can. For most of my life we used the old style can with complete confidence. Common sense and caution in your own behavior is always your first and best line of defense.

The vanishing of Blitz USA-made old school rhino ramps illustrates another principle I harped on in the book. Just because something is available today is no reason to assume it will be available in the future. If you purchase something you really like and rely on and if you can afford it, purchase a backup.

Prepper lesson: Have backups. Allow for failure. Be safe.

Stockable Consumables & Raw Materials

23 Oct

The other day I made a pull up bar from some spare pipe I had. Nothing complex. I cut it to size and held it in place by some 2x4s. It sits over an opening in a stairway. Before inspecting some old heavy pipe I had, I priced some new metal pipe. It was shocking to see how much new thick metal pipe costs today! Even though I had stored this pipe outside, it was in surprisingly good shape and very usable for the project. Other pipes were corroded and pitted.

I had taken this pipe for granted. Looking at today’s prices, the cost to replace all the scrap pipe with new would be in the several hundreds of dollars. Preppers should consider the future availability and cost of stockable consumables and raw materials they use. Just because something is cheap and available now doesn’t mean it will be in the future. When you can afford it, it’s not a bad idea to stock up.

Other examples come to mind. On I saw a mint condition Colt 1911 Series 70 Gold Cup with a buy now price of $1,800. In the 1970s, you could get these for around $300. Just because you can afford something now doesn’t mean you’ll be able to in the future!

The recent rise in 22 LR ammo prices is another example. I have 50 caliber ammo cans packed with 22s from years ago. Much of it was purchased for $1 for a box of 50 or $10 for a brick of 500. If I was younger and still shot a lot, I could shoot for a while before running low. Younger shooters without a stockpile would need to pay through the nose or reduce their shooting. My advice: Purchase a quality air rifle and air pistol. At the lower end, The Beeman P3 air pistol shoots well.

Quality American made tools are a final example. If I could go back in time, like in Back To The Future or something, I’d come back with a cartload of tools that are no longer made here. You can get good quality, it’s just that you’ll pay through the nose for it.

For preppers who are handy do-it-yourselfers, work to assemble a complete set of tools and a small stash of raw materials. What things do you wish you had purchased and stocked up on in the past?

Just Sharing Some Youtube Videos (Fitness, Goal Setting) & Random Thoughts About Axes

28 Jun

This is a good video by Scooby on Youtube about setting fitness goals.

He talks about setting “goals for roles” which sounds kinda corny, but makes sense. What are your important roles in life? Parent? Prepper? Exercise Buff? Target Shooter? For each of those roles, set some measurable goals.

Setting goals is easy. Achieving them, not so much. The key is to find little steps you can take which move you closer to the goal. Exercise provides a good example. Many exercises which are notoriously difficult can only be achieved by finding a progression of less intense exercises that allows you to reach the goal.

This Youtube video shows a three-step progression to doing one-handed body rows.

When younger I knew the 2 handed version of these as Charles Atlas style pullups. The idea was to put a broom between two chairs, lie underneath it, and pull yourself up. Atlas was more famous for his chair pushups. You can’t really use a broom. They just don’t make them like they used to! You’ll need to find a solid wooden or metal bar. You’ll need a more stable base than the backs of chairs.

In the day it worked because the course was designed for proverbial 98 pound weaklings. Today’s weaklings are fatter. The broom would break. The chairs would topple. This exercise was deleted from the revised course.

These can be done with the legs straight or with the knees bent and the flats of the feet on the floor, as shown in the video above. The bar should be just high enough so you have to reach up to grab it.

If you grab the bar with a normal grip, you might feel an ugly sensation in your fingers if you do a lot of reps. I suspect this is the nerves in the finger joints being pinched together. If that happens, wrap your thumb around the bar so it’s alongside your fingers. This has the effect of moving the bar more toward your palms.

This grip is like the “monkey grip” of BJJ, but not a full false grip. For those who want to see the monkey grip, the next video show it.

Part of goal setting is knowing when a goal really is too much. Here is a video from a guy who’s crossed the line into super amazing: He can do a one-handed actual pull up.

Unless you’re very small and light, that’s simply too much stress on the elbow and shoulder.

While I used a back exercise as an example, the concept applies to anything difficult to achieve. You must find some series of steps that will lead you to success. Each little step might seem small, but, collectively, they’ll add up to big personal achievements you might have believed impossible.

A sad day in prepperville (two days ago): Richard Matheson, author of I Am Legend has died. This was made into a film, The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price. It was the book that The Omega Man was based upon. A third version, I Am Legend stars Will Smith. If you’re younger and have only seen I Am Legend, check out the two classics.

Heard this on the news (don’t know if it’s true): Heat kills more people in America than all other natural disasters combined. In the next few days, it’s possible parts of the American Southwest will hit record temperatures never before recorded on earth. Stay cool.


This video is about re-handling and sharpening axes. Wouldn’t you know, right before watching this video, I sharpened an axe on my electric grinder. According to the video, we’re not supposed to do that because it destroys the axe’s temper. Nothing’s worse than an ill tempered axe!

I seldom use axes today, and in the past, I remember sharpening them manually. For the life of me, I can’t remember if I knew not to sharpen them on electric grinders or not. Usually when I forget something and am reminded of it, I at least then remember that I had known it in the past and forgotten it. Whenever sharpening any tool though, I go slow and try not to heat the metal up too much.
Practical Axe Manual

How To Sharpen An Axe (by Wranglertar). I know he’s running his finger on the side of the axe and probably moving away from the blade, but don’t run your finger along the blade of any sharp tool!

Wranglertar is a prepper-homesteader with many great videos. He makes a great point in this video: If there ever was a long-term break down of society, tools like quality files would be in demand. File cards, sharpening stones, and honing oil would all be good to have.

Files are one of those things you really can’t easily manufacture yourself. The quality of the metal is crucial. Like many tools, most files today are made overseas. If you want to try to snag made-in-the-USA Nicholson files, try

If you want to know more about files, this pdf has some information.

There seems to be a de-evolution of tools. I suspect our kids will look back one day and say, “Do you remember when we could purchase all those great high-quality Chinese tools?”

I’ve always liked axes better than hatchets. Hatchets are more dangerous, because your fingers are within striking distance. If you’re looking for a new axe, take a look at the Husqvarna Forest Axe. The people who like sharp things like it.

These are made by the traditional Swedish axe makers and sold under the Husqvarna brand. You can save some bucks while getting good quality.

Many woodsman, if given one tool to choose when going into the Northern woods, select an axe. I shouldn’t be surprised at the prices of axes today. It’s no longer a common working tool.

Charlie Palmer, The Prepper Next Door

Dealing With Deadly People & Sears Rant

20 Dec

For several days now, the news has had non-stop coverage of a school shooting. It’s a sad story. A troubled boy shot his mom and then shot several people in a school. Gun control is a constant theme. Mental illness is another.

Let’s begin by saying the obvious: There are many people who are mentally ill who will never harm another person in their life. As has been correctly reported, the mentally ill are too often bullied, picked on, and harmed by others. We don’t want to stigmatize people with mental health issues. That said, something I’ve read a few times is that we can’t be sure the boy’s mental health problems were related to the violence. Yes, we can. Mentally healthy people don’t gun down classrooms full of kids. There is something fundamentally not working correctly in the brain if shooting up a grade school seems like the thing to do. This isn’t the same thing as just being overcome by rage (called an emotional hijacking) and shooting one person.

Police, prison guards, and social workers regularly deal with people with serious mental problems, often compounded by drug or alcohol abuse. Most of us don’t have experience with troubled individuals. There are several kinds of deadly people in the world.

There are psychotics and there are sociopaths. The most dangerous psychotics might be loners, reclusive, and obsessed with the morbid. We should be careful not to stigmatize introverts, shy people, or loners. Many introverts are extremely gentle. Shy people, almost by definition, care about other people, usually caring too much about what other people think of them.

Some parents must deal with dangerous behavior from a child’s early age. The show 20/20  ran an episode (link to hulu) that chronicled this. It’s distressing to watch, but it gives us a new respect for parents struggling with this.

Some parents might recognize that something is wrong, but fail to evaluate a mental-health problem. It’s sad, but after childhood, some children won’t be able to integrate into society. They’ll need to be institutionalized, both for their own safety and for the safety of others. Too many wind up incarcerated in prisons, when they just move out like a normal young adult into the world.

Even with two parents, a child who grows into an adult who wants to burn the house down or behave in other troubling ways is simply too much to handle for parents.

One of the victims neglected by the media was the mother of the shooter, who by all accounts sounded like a generous women who liked gardening. No parent wants to institutionalize her child. But that may be the only solution. Just like a woman fleeing an abusive spouse, there’s a danger at the time of commitment. It has been reported (but not confirmed) that the mother might have been seeking commitment for the son, which may have been the triggering event.

The magazine Psychology Today had an interesting article about the psychosis of the Colorado shooter.  I strongly agree with a statement the author made, “The price of a free society is the acceptance of a certain amount of risk—we can’t be protected from everything and still be free.”

Sociopaths are a different breed. They aren’t shy or reclusive. Most are quite outgoing. They truly don’t care what other people think about them. They lack empathy for others. The link above has a link to a pdf of a classic book (The Mask Of Sanity) about sociopaths. Sociopaths are often harmless, but a nuisance.

Because they have no sense of other people’s feelings, they’ll do things like steal cars just to drive across town. They often become confidence men or mooches. According to the book The Sociopath Next Door, about 4-5% of the population might have sociopathic tendencies. Some people who suffer damage to a particular part of the brain become sociopaths, literally, by accident.

Gun control is the other topic that has become popular in the news. Before the shooting, there was no push to reinstate the assault weapons ban or limit magazine capacity. It was a dead topic. The recent shooting has changed this.

In a response to an article on, David Nash ( said that it’s important for preppers to be seen as “smart, responsible, individual’s beacons of liberty and good judgment.”

He is right, not just for prepping, but especially now, for gun ownership. If I had to guess, I’d bet about 30% of Americans are strong supporters of the 2nd Amendment. About 10% are adamantly opposed to gun ownership. This leaves 60% of the population that is subject to being influenced one way or the other. So what other people think of us, as gun owners, is important. It’s that large group in the middle that will determine what restrictions exist on gun ownership in the future.

What I dislike is an attempt to rewrite history and portray the 2nd Amendment as a right conferred to the States.

As gun owners, one thing we can all do to protect our rights is to keep most of our weapons locked up and safe. We must have some weapons available for personal defense, but the fewer weapons that fall into troubled hands, the better.

While the tendency is for people to want the government to protect them from acts of insanity, I think many preppers and others want to protect themselves. I read an article that in Minnesota, after the shooting, permits for CCW are up sharply.

In a recent post, I recommended Craftsman tools as a possible gift, only the Made-in-the-USA automotive hand tools. Avoid anything made by them with an engine or electric motor. A few years ago, when I needed new tires, I didn’t take my car to them, even though they were the lowest price. They had too horrible a reputation for automotive trickery. I didn’t want them anywhere near my vehicles.

When I got some tools for the holidays this year, they canceled one item, but billed me for it anyway. After six or so e-mails with their support staff, who kept insisting I hadn’t been charged for the cancelled item (even though I had the credit card bill in my hand showing the full charge) I just had the credit card company reverse the charges.

If you’re billed for merchandise you didn’t receive (from any seller), here is what the FTC recommends you do to get the credit card company to reverse the charge.  If you paid with Paypal, you can file a dispute with them. Filing a BBB complaint is another option.

When I stumbled upon this (looking for others b****** about Sears), I nearly fell over. Sears had to settle with the FTC for violating customer’s privacy. Sears had asked people to “join their community” which really meant they installed some tracking software on the customer’s computer.

The FTC charge said, “the software would also monitor consumers’ online secure sessions – including sessions on third parties’ Web sites – and collect information transmitted in those sessions, such as the contents of shopping carts, online bank statements, drug prescription records, video rental records, library borrowing histories, and the sender, recipient, subject, and size for web-based e-mails.”

For those of you climbing back on your chair after falling off, you read it correctly. If you had this malware installed by Sears, they might know your bank balance, your library record, and what you did on other third-party websites. Talk about Big Brother! It’s astounding a corporation would have so little respect for their customer’s privacy.

Despite all this, I still want to snatch up what Craftsman Tools I desire, because many experts predict Sears won’t last long and many of the newer tools are being made in China.

I should have mentioned this earlier, but Menards has a sale on 60 Watt and 75 Watt American-made Sylvania double-life incandescent light bulbs. A pack of four is $0.99. For those in the dark, next month, 75 watt incandescent bulbs will no longer be made. The year after that, the 60 watt bulbs go the way of the do-do bird and Twinki too. Most amazingly, our local utility rates are going up 9% next year, because the utility company says people are using less energy so they need to bill us more for it!

The Prepper Next Door is Now Available On Amazon’s Kindle

8 Dec

The Prepper Next Door is now available as a Kindle eBook for $9.95. I’d say it’s a great stocking stuffer for Christmas, but I’m not sure how to put an eBook into a stocking.

Because eBooks are searchable, there is no index in the Kindle edition. The print edition has an extensive index. To make finding information easier, the eBook has an extensive table of contents with numbered subsections. This is something several readers said they wanted.

As an example, the Chapter about prepper guns now has 24 subsections after the main introduction. The sections are:

Chapter 8 Guns
8.1 Learning To Shoot A Pistol Accurately
8.2 How A Semi Automatic Pistol Works
8.3 The 45 Automatic Pistol (1911-A1)
8.4 Trigger Control (Learning To Shoot Continued)
8.5 Accurate Air Pistols And 22s For Practice
8.6 Point Shooting
8.7 Selecting A Defensive Handgun
8.8 Single Action, Double Action, And DAO Triggers
8.9 The Glock Pistol Design
8.10 Weapon Serviceability &  Revolvers
8.11 Pistol Stopping Power & Bullet Selection
8.12 Buying & Storing Ammo & FFLs
8.13 Holsters & Drawing Your Pistol Safely
8.14 Carrying A Concealed Pistol
8.15 12 Gauge & 20 Gauge Shotguns For Defense
8.16 Defensive Rifles & The 7.62 mm NATO
8.17 The AR-15 & How Gas Operated Autos Work
8.18 5.56 mm & 223 Remington
8.19 The AK-47 & Rifle Shooting
8.20 What About Weapons For Hunting?
8.21 Weapons For Target Shooting And Practice
8.22 Reloading Ammo & Caliber Selection
8.23 Purchase Useful Accessories
8.24 Guns For SHTF or WROL

Shorter chapters have fewer or no sections. I still prefer paper books to eBooks.

While searching for something else, I discovered Amazon is selling the Buck 110 Folding Hunter Knife for $29.99 with free shipping. That’s a pretty good deal.

TheLordHumungus has a nice video about basic tools preppers should acquire:

He focuses on basic versatile tools that are used around the house. While buying new tools is always fun, I kinda looked forward to the day when I had all the tools I’d need and wouldn’t need to purchase any more. That never really happened. As I learned more, I found there were more and more tools I wanted. They were more specialized and more expensive. The proper tool for a job can make it SO much easier.

A good example is removing the harmonic balancer on a car to get access to the timing chain. You really need to make your own special tool to do this or purchase one. Otherwise you risk damaging the balancer. All the tool consists of is a plate and screws. Three screws will grab the balancer. A larger screw will drive the plate away from the crankshaft, taking the balancer with it.

To push on the new balancer, you should use an installer, which is just a threaded rod, a nut, and a washer. Once you learn to use specialized tools like this, you’ll come to appreciate just how useful they are.

If you inherit tools and you don’t know what they do, don’t give them away or sell them. If you become a serious do-it-yourselfer, one day you’ll say, “Oh, crap. I had one of those and I gave it away!”