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.
Most Frequently Used Tool
May 08, 2010
I have several tools that are part of my pocket-slapping routine before I leave the house each morning. I've got to have my 8-inch pocket pliers in their holster, my mini-ViseGrips on the other side of my belt, and a motley array of pens, pocket magnets and pocket screwdrivers in my shirt pockets.
Some of you won't leave home without a pocketknife. Others feel naked without a Leatherman or some sort of multi-tool clipped to their belt. The younger generation considers a Palm Pilot or Blackberry an "essential tool", and I confess that I'm starting to feel a little under-equipped if I leave home with my cell phone.
But what is the tool I find most
essential? My first thought was the pliers. They hold things, they pound things, they pull things, they pry things, and they make a dandy paperweight when trying to read tech books on windy days. A good pair of pliers with jaws that mesh well and handles that don't flex are like having a third hand.
I gave brief consideration to the mini-ViseGrips, the extendable pocket magnet and the pencil flashlight I carry. The mini-Grips not only salvage a lot of rounded-off nuts and bolts, but help keep my pants balanced--pliers on one side of my belt, mini-Grips on the other. Smart people say that "balance" is important in a person's life, and I heartily agree.
The extendable pocket magnet is important for someone as clumsy and fumble-fingered as I am. I frequently drop nuts and bolts and small tools to the ground or into machinery I'm working on, and the extendable magnet saves a lot of reaching and bending over to retrieve them. The extendable feature is also great for scratching itches between my shoulder blades that I can't quite reach with my hand.
The pencil flashlight was in serious contention for my "most valuable tool". The one I use is literally pencil-sized, powered by 3 AAA batteries, and uses a special LED bulb to produce an amazingly bright, white light. Being able to peer into cavities and better see what I'm working on makes it one of my favorite tools.
But the tool that I feel lost without is a little pocket screwdriver. Almost every professional mechanic has a worn, battered mini-screwdriver tucked into their shirt pocket. My mini-screwdriver opens plastic parts bags, scrapes grease out of crevices, punctures things that need punctured, and is great for cleaning fingernails. Sometimes I even use it as a screwdriver.
I keep duplicates of very few tools. I have a few extra wrenches of common sizes, in case I lose or misplace one. I have a spare pencil flashlight so I'll never be completely in the dark. But secreted in one of my toolbox drawers are four more mini-screwdrivers. A man can never have too many of a great tool.