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.
More Giggle Tools
Jul 05, 2008
Continuing from a blog entry I wrote a couple weeks ago, here are some more "giggle tools" I've acquired over the years. (FYI--giggle tools are tools that work so well and are so handy that you giggle when you use them.)
Ratcheting combination wrenches--open end/closed end wrenches where the closed end has a ratcheting mechanism--are worth every penny they cost. It's hard to describe how handy they are and how often you grab them when they're in your toolbox, until you have a set and find them being the wrenches you grab 90 percent of the time. They come in two designs. In one design the wrench is flat, with no offset head, and the ratcheting mechanism is reversed by flipping over the wrench. The second design, which I prefer, has the ratcheting head at a 15 degree angle to the plain of the handle, and you have to flip a small lever or push a button to reverse the ratching action (like on a socket wrench). The 15-degree angle gives clearance so you don't drag your knuckles when you're ratcheting the wrench, but the "flat" version is handy for situations where there isn't clearance for the angled wrench head. Either version of a durable set of ratcheting combination wrenches will burn a $100 or larger hole in your wallet, and it will take two sets to handle the standard and metric bolts now common on farms. But at some point, you'll giggle or at least grin because of how handy they are to have in your toolbox.
I shouldn't advocate tools that are no longer available, but if you ever see one of Snap-on's 3/4-inch-drive breaker bars with a 4-foot-long handle at a used-tool auction, snap it up. None of the main line tool manufacturers now offer a 3/4-inch-drive with a one-piece handle longer than 2 feet, which is a shame. I bought the 4-footer about 10 years ago, and have never regretted it. There aren't many nuts or bolts that can resist that breaker bar--depending on how much weight you can put on the end, it calculates to offer more than 800 lb.-ft. of torque. The power is so potent that it's best to use common sense when really laying into it--when nuts and bolts finally crack loose it's easy to find yourself sprawled across the shop floor, seeing stars. But when dealing with stubborn hardware, there's no substitute for the biggest tools you can find.
A new high-tech pencil-type flashlight that fits in my shirt pocket is one of the handiest tools I've bought in the past year. I've always carried a down-sized flashlight in a pouch on my belt, but was disappointed with the dim beam, battery consumption and the way the pouch was always catching on things when I crawled around equipment. Sunlite-brand flashlights came out last winter with a pocket penlight that is 6 inches long, 1/2-inch in diameter, and provides 100 bright, clear, long-lasting lumens of light. That rascal is bright, light, and a mechanic's dream. The 3 AAA batteries last a long time, the LED bulb is durable enough to withstand repeated accidental drops onto concrete floors, and being able to tuck it into my shirt pocket keeps it simultaneously handy but out of the way. The $45 price tag made me swallow hard, but I'm so fond of that bright little pocket light that I bought another one to have as a spare in case I lose or figure out how to completely destroy the sturdy little light---I don't want to be without one.
Stay tuned--there are more giggle tools in my toolbox that I plan to tell you about in future blogs, and several promising looking tools that I've been eyeing in tool catalogs. So many tools, so little time...