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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.

Shoulda-Bought-Sooner Tools

Sep 07, 2008
 My mother always said, "Watch your pennies and you'll never have to look for dollars." Good advice, but being cautious of how I spend money slowed me from buying handy, useful tools that I wish I had bought sooner.

For example, I finally broke down and spent $12 to buy  a battery carrying clamp. I should have bought it long ago. Rather than bending and using two hands to hoist batteries from awkward locations, I can now put the clamp on the battery and lift it with one arm while i use the other arm to brace myself and gain leverage . With combine and tractor batteries now weighing more than 50 pounds a piece, that simple device has significantly reduced wear and tear on my aging back. 

Another simple, low-cost tool has helped me maintain my composure while doing battery maintenance. For some reason, I have little patience with battery cable clamps. Few things make me want to use a large hammer for violent purposes more than a battery cable clamp frozen to a battery terminal. So it was a wise investment when I spent $15 and purchased a battery cable clamp puller. It's a mini-gear puller with jaws that clamp beneath a battery clamp, and a threaded T-handle. Once installed, a few turns of the T-handle pry off even the most stubborn battery cable clamps. I should have bought that battery cable clamp years ago. It would have saved a lot of hammer-induced damage to batteries.

Gasket scrapers are nothing more than fancy putty knives dressed up as mechanic's tools. For years I couldn't bring myself to spend a couple dozen dollars on a set of gasket scrapers. I muddled along with screwdrivers and assorted other flat things to remove gaskets, clean off caked grease and do the dozens of things that I now do with gasket scrapers. I've learned that a small assortment of gasket scrapers--some wide, some narrow, some rigid and some flexible--get used as much as any small hand tools I have in my toolbox. I keep one or two in a special drawer, with a sharpened, ruler-straight edge, for honing gaskets off machined surfaces. The rest of the scrapers live abused lives, cutting gaskets, used as chisels, chipping wood when necessary, cleaning caked grease, scraping rotten crop residue from auger sumps. Another example of tools well worth the money I spent, and should have spent sooner.

There are more simple, economical tools that I should buy. Every time I go to a hardware store or step into a tool truck that stops by the dealership, I see gadgets and small tools that I know would make my job easier, faster or less annoying. Then I start counting pennies and worrying about dollars, and end up walking away empty-handed. I'm a perfect example of the old British proverb, "Penny-wise but pound-foolish."
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