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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

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 Very Slow Learner

Jul 26, 2009
 There are two types of farmers: those who wear gloves anytime they pick up a tool, and those who don't even own a pair of work gloves. I grew up around no-glove farmers. Scabs and scars on your knuckles were badges of honor. At New Year's Eve parties, family members would actually congratulate each other if they had gone all year without need for a trip to the doctor for stitches.

At the other extreme were neighbors who never left the house without leather work gloves in their back hip pocket, and they never touched a wrench without first stopping to wriggle their un-calloused fingers into their gloves. Being a rebellious teenager, I experimented with wearing gloves while working on equipment just to annoy my father, but disliked the loss of dexterity and sense of touch and eventually returned to bare-handed repairs.

So I spent a lot of years with grease and dirt ingrained into the pores of the skin on my hands, and added yearly to my collection of scars. I kept my hands below the table at restaurants because I was never able to get all the grease out of the cracks in the skin on my fingers, and was reluctant to shake hands with people at church because of the nasty texture of my battered digits.

A couple years ago, our dealership passed a rule that all mechanics had to wear gloves as much as possible. Tearing apart a hydraulic system pretty well soaks and destroys a pair of work gloves, so there are exceptions, but for the most part, I had to start wearing gloves. I disliked them intensely for the first week. Now I find myself delaying the start of jobs if I can't find a pair of gloves to put on before I touch a tool.

They're just simple stretch nylon gloves with rubberized palms and fingers for improved grip, but they've saved square inches of skin, several ounces of blood and probably at least one trip to the doc for stitches. My wife is no longer embarrassed in public by my "dirty" hands. Beyond the reduction in major and minor injuries, I've found psychological advantages to using gloves. A guy can spend a few minutes thinking and sizing up a repair job while he pulls on a pair of work gloves and stands there working the material tight between his fingers. It makes me appear thoughtful, when I'm actually thinking to myself, "How the heck am I going to fix THAT?"

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? I once swore I couldn't work on equipment if I was wearing gloves, and now I won't work on equipment unless I'm wearing gloves. Maybe with age comes wisdom--or an increased dislike of scabs, scars and painful scrapes. 

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