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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.

Good AND Cheap

Jun 17, 2010
I'm very fond of some very cheap tools. They aren't great tools but they are good enough for the ways I use them.

For example, I've got an off-breed set of "angle head" open-end wrenches that cost me 1/3 of what a similar set of Snap-On or Mac wrenches would have cost. The wrenches have conventional 15-degree open ends on one end of the handle, and 60-degree open ends on the other end. They are my secret weapon for loosening or tightening clusters of hydraulic hoses or hydraulic fittings in tight places. I only use the angle head wrenches maybe three or four times a year so it wouldn't be cost effective to pay full Snap-On or Mac prices. If my job duties entailed using them more often I'd need to pay the price for a more durable set of wrenches, but for the way I use them, the discount store wrenches work just great.

Same for the Craftsman crowsfoot wrench sets I use maybe once a month. Crowsfoot wrenches are like the sawed-off ends of conventional open-end wrenches, but with square holes in them so you can operate them with 3/8- or 1/2-inch socket wrenches. Put them on an extension and you can reach deep into machinery and access nuts and bolts that are otherwise inaccessible. Craftsman crowsfoot wrenches come with the usual Craftsman lifetime guarantee and cost half of what their "professional" counterparts cost.

Don't misunderstand--I'm not against Snap-On, Mac, Cornwell, and other professional-grade tools. I own a lot of tools with those names stamped on them. Those brands are THE standard of quality and durability against which tools are measured. When it comes to air-powered impact wrenches, die grinders, electrical testing equipment, or other tools that I use frequently and without mercy, I am willing to pay for the quality and durability those names provide. 

But there's a balance between having the best tool possible and having a tool that will merely get the job done. If it's not a repair that I do frequently, or a procedure that demands "unbreakable," I'm completely happy to have a GOOD, cheap tool.
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