Quality Products for Home, Garden and Workshop
If you are fed up with the crappy quality of so many products, below is a list of some high quality products and brands you might want to be aware of. Or if you have found a company that is committed to delivering exceptional quality and standing 100 percent behind their products, please post it to the Comments section of this page.
It’s truly hard to find high quality products these days, made by companies that want the product to work well, be durable, and that provide parts and service if/when something breaks. High-pressure — sometimes even dishonest — marketing and the rise to dominance of big box stores are probably partly to blame. But mostly, too many people are willing to buy whatever model is the cheapest; they are enticed by the low prices at the big box stores, and forget that you get what you pay for. If we want high quality products, we need to pay more up front.
Here are quality product recommendations from MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors and readers for:
Open Country Dehydrator
Treadle Sewing Machine
Patagonia Freewheeler Duffel
OK, so I hate to plug any commercial brand, especially electrical, but this is an exceptional-quality product. I’ve tried every method of dehydration I possibly could over the last 25 or so years — oven racks with the pilot on, double screens in the backyard on blocks (flies, yuck), etc. — only to eventually find the best thing ever: My Open Country food dehydrator and jerky-maker. It absolutely rocks.
Because it has a built-in fan, it takes a fraction of the time that other dehydrators I’ve tried need. I still dry my herbs in open air (the flies tend to stay away), but for jerky and other wet foods, this appliance is the stuff. It has a temperature range of 95 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit, so choose away, depending on the type of food you want to dry. The racks are dishwasher- and (fairly) kid-safe (having been dropped more than a few times), and they’re stackable up to eight high. I got mine at Cabela’s several years ago for about $50 and I can't tell you how many times it’s paid for itself.
Every year, I make up layered soup starter with dried carrots, celery, onions and herbs, presented in pint canning jars for Christmas presents. It’s pretty, and my family and friends really love it. Just stick a bow on top!
Sheri Sidwell, Sioux Falls, S.D.
High on Hills Clothesline
When I moved to my new home in 1992, I wanted to find a sturdy clothesline that was removable and would not offend my neighbors. I had seen too many fully loaded, umbrella-type clotheslines fall over. I happened upon the Hills rotary clothesline in a catalog and decided to give it a try, even though it was expensive.
Well, 20 years later, I’m still using the same clothesline. I have replaced the line once and the handle once. Both parts were available from the company and were easy to install. This truly is what I consider a quality product. It certainly has paid for itself over the years.
Perfect Play Mats
I recently found a quality product that is both durable and safe. It is a new tummy-time play mat for babies called the Panda Mat. Not only is it easy to care for, it holds up to the toughest play and it is totally safe! It is 100 percent organic, printed cotton fabric (Global Organic Textile Standard Certified), and doesn’t contain formaldehyde, heavy metals, harmful flame-retardant chemicals or other harmful ingredients. Perfect for my grandchildren!
St. Paul, Minn.
Sold on Shopsmith
The best qualilty product I’ve ever purchased is a Shopsmith power shop (saw, lathe, drill press and sander combination). It was 20 years old when I bought it, but it worked like new. Now it’s 66 years old and still works like new! I’ve remodeled seven houses with it and use it daily for carpentry, repairs, furniture-making and hobbies. It requires 15 minutes of maintenance (lubrication) every year or two. You couldn’t harm this thing unless you dropped it off a truck.
A brand new Shopsmith will cost you several thousand dollars (and it’s worth it), but you can sometimes find a vintage model for a few hundred on eBay. Support (from www.Shopsmith.com) is unmatched — these people really care about their brand. I have never owned any product, property or investment that has given me the lasting satisfaction, enjoyment or value I’ve gotten from my Shopsmith.
Sylvan Lake, Mich.
Super Sewing Machine
I, too, long for the days when things were built to last for generations. Just a few years back, I purchased an old treadle sewing machine at a yard sale. I started looking at them on the Internet and even started collecting and restoring them. These machines were made to last and are next to impossible to really damage. And the great thing about these old treadle sewing machines is they require no power other than that supplied by the operator’s foot. They are a quality product that is easy to find, costs little and works great.
North Augusta, S.C.
I have had a Weber grill with all-metal handles since 1971. It’s in great shape. Also, I do take good care of it.
Patagonia Freewheeler Duffel: Simplicity Is As Simplicity Does
I travel a lot — often two or three trips a month. I’m famous in my family for destroying luggage. I like to claim it’s the airline’s fault, or that the condition of the sidewalk destroyed the wheels on my carry-on, or that a freak accident tore the bottom out of my duffel. My traveling companions point out that none of these hazards afflicted them. Therefore it must be me. I once destroyed a duffel on the first leg of a family trip, received a brand new one from the airline, and had to strap the new one together with duct tape before we got home.
Then I discovered Patagonia’s luggage.
First I got a Patagonia Freewheeler duffel, because my duffels have never, historically, lasted more than three trips. Granted, I packed them full of gear (for hiking, climbing, diving, skiing, fishing and camping) and they often had to accompany me on high-speed crossings of various rugged intersections, concourses and gangplanks. But three trips? Several of them didn’t even last one full trip.
The Freewheeler appeared to be sturdy, so I loaded it with 49.5 pounds of gear and dragged it around for a few months. I didn’t treat it special. It not only held up under the abuse, but it looked fresh and new six months later. And I love the pocket arrangement, especially the huge separate compartment for gear that’s dirty and destructive. My wardrobe has benefited greatly.
So when I destroyed my carry-on, I bought a Patagonia MLC Wheelie carry-on. Ah, bliss. It’s light, pulls smooth, has convenient compartments and holds as much as any carry-on I’ve owned. It hops curbs and skips across cobblestones without complaining. And after about 40 trips it looks like new.
Sometimes we equate cheapness with simplicity. But with luggage — and a lot of other things, I guess — true simplicity is mostly a product of usefulness and durability. Since I’ve been dragging around my Patagonia luggage, there’s been a lot less anxiety in my travel and my travel life has been, in a word, simpler.
Bryan Welch, Publisher
The best mixer we ever have had is the Braun Powermax MX 2050, which has a sturdy glass jug and costs $30. It is very powerful and has never failed. My wife gives it a workout in the kitchen with her from-scratch cooking, and I give it a workout making concretes — ice cream and strawberries (a milkshake without milk) — which are very thick and difficult to mix. Most mixers that we had would die after one to three years, but our Powermax has performed tirelessly and powerfully for many years.