In the Shop
As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.
A "Third Hand"
May 25, 2009
Most of my tools are in my toolboxes at the dealership, or loaded in my service truck, but I have a few carefully selected tools in my garage at home. I avoid having duplicate tools at home and at work, unless they are gotta-have tools for basic repair work, or tools so useful that I'm willing to pay the price of having two of the same tool.
Motorcycle tie-down straps, a cable winch and a set of pry bars are tools well worth the cost of duplication. The common thread among those three gadgets is that they allow one man to do the work of two men.
Motorcycle tie downs are obviously great for lashing things into the back of trucks or onto trailers. But they are invaluable for holding small gearboxes in place during removal or installation; they work great for holding any medium-weight component out of the way while working beneath or behind them. They're infinitely adjustable and I've used them numerous times to hold a gearbox or other assembly in place while I aligned components or installed mounting bolts.
Cable winches, commonly called "come-alongs" in our neighborhood, allow me to be as strong as I used to think I was. Pulling a combine feederhouse the last inch or so into position is MUCH easier by winching it into position than to manhandle it as I foolishly did when I was younger and back strains healed more quickly. The same goes for any situation where you can't get a tractor loader to hydraulically lift or pull components into position. It's much easier to ratchet the handle of a 1- or 2-ton cable winch to pull a concave into position than it is to pry, pound and lift it into place.
Speaking of prying, pry bars are the third tool I willingly pay to have both at work and at home. Think of how many times you've used a big screwdriver to pry on components during repairs. Imagine how much more leverage you would have had if the tool was not only 2, 3, maybe 4 or 5 feet longer, but had a tip and shank designed to withstand the rigors of prying. If there are universal tools that every mechanic has beyond the requisite hammers and wrenches, I'll wager it is a variety of pry bars in a range of sizes. Mine range from a 6-incher up to a 6-footer. In our shop we jokingly refer to pry bars as, "equalizers" because with enough leverage, a lone mechanic can lift, pry, wedge or move objects that would otherwise take two men.
Or in my case, lift, pry, wedge or move objects that I would have done with brute strength and youthful disregard for injury, 25 years ago.