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.
My Best/Worst Tool Purchases for 2009
Dec 26, 2009
I got my money's worth when I bought some tools this year, and I wasted my cash on other purchases. Here are my opinions of some of the tools I bought in 2009. The tools I classify as "poor purchases" are probably good tools--I just may not use them correctly or don't appreciate their unique values.
-Great purchase: a new Snap-On 1/2-inch drive battery-powered impact wrench. I've used battery-powered impact wrenches for the past decade, and make a practice of trading "up" every 2 years. The quality of the impact wrenches and the power of the battery packs have improved so rapidly that it's worth trading off a good impact wrench every year or so to upgrade to the latest version. Things I like about the Snap-On include its balance, its power, and its variable-speed trigger. They also offer a plastic protective sleeve to keep the gun looking good, for when I trade it for a better one in 2 years.
-Fond purchase: Blue Point 1/4-inch drive socket set. I have a "thing" for 1/4-inch drive socket sets. I have several, though I probably only need one. I like the convenience of having a full set of metric and standard sockets, extensions, flex-joints and assorted screwdriver tips all in one easily carried plastic box. Perfect for carrying underneath dashboards or when working in other areas with lots of small and varied fasteners. I DON'T like socket sets that are a jumbled mess when you open their carrying box. The Blue Point kit stays reasonably organized even when dropped from a combine ladder. (Yup, I did.)
-Wasted money: set of air line disconnect tools. They're hard to explain, but they're a set of tools designed to push and release the collars on air lines used on brake systems and other on-board air distribution systems. I get tired of using my fingernails to pry and hold the collars to release air lines from their connectors, and thought the disconnect tools would be a finger-saver. They would, if I'd take time to get them out of my toolbox. I found they're not that much better than my fingernails, so I have little incentive to crawl out of, down from, or from underneath whatever piece of equipment I'm working on. A nice tool, if it was always within reach and no extra effort to chase down.
-new motorcycle tie-down straps. Gosh, I love motorcycle tie-down straps. They're my second set of hands. They easily and securely lift or hold small gear cases and other odd pieces of equipment up, over or out of the way during repairs. They're infinitely adjustable and I'm continually finding new ways to use them. My old ones finally got so frayed that I couldn't trust them. I may have them bronzed and hung on the wall--they're too much a part of my tool family to throw away.
-Don't tell my wife: a set of metric "shortie" ratcheting combination wrenches. Like conventional open end/box end wrenches, but with a reversible ratchet mechanism on the box ends. I've had a full-length set of ratcheting wrenches for 5 years and use them all the time. I noticed that many times I couldn't use them in tight confines where a full-length wrench is inconvenient. I also noticed that when I use them in wide-open spots I "choke-up" on the handle to use them as a speed ratchet. So I decided to invest in a shortie set, where the wrenches are only half as long as a normal wrench. The jury is still out whether it's a good investment--I haven't got to play with them very much. But they sure do glisten and shine in my toolbox...