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.
Feb 28, 2010
Nobody has every tool they need for every situation. Professional mechanics often improvise or substitute to get jobs done, and I know for a fact (because I've done it myself back when I farmed) that farmers are very adept at adapting. For example:
-a short 2 x 4-inch or 4 x 4-inch wooden block makes a functional seal or bearing driver. Wood blocks also work well to prevent damage or "mushrooming" the end of a metal shaft if it's necessary to use a sledge hammer to, uh, "persuade" the shaft.
-SnapOn, Mac and other tool companies sell fancy punch sets designed to remove bearing races. Envision a long cold chisel with the tip flattened rather than sharpened, so the user can catch the edge of a race to drive out that race. So...rather than pay $50 to $100 for those special punches, why not take a couple old cold chisels and carefully grind the tips flat, or oval, and get some race-drivers for free?
-If it's necessary to drive a bearing, bearing race or bearing seal below the surface of a component, after you use a 2 x 4 to drive it "flush" with the surface, select an appropriate-sized regular 1/2-inch drive socket to seat it below the surface. Standard socket sets up to 1 1/4-inches, combined with 3/4-inch drive socket sets that go to more than 2-inches, provide a range of sizes that work well to seat bearings, bearing races and seals commonly used on farms. Don't hit the socket directly with a hammer---use that wooden 2 x 4 to protect the end of the socket from being marred by hammer blows.
-When precise internal measurements are required in places where it's difficult to position a ruler, micrometer or caliper, use drill bits as "go/no go" gauges. If the minimum gap between two drive sheaves is supposed to be 1/8-inch, use a 1/8-inch drill bit to adjust the clearance until the drill bit just barely fits between the sheaves.
-Big cardboard boxes aren't actually a "tool", but they make wonderful accessories when working in awkward, potentially painful locations. If you have to lean against sharp edges to make repairs, or kneel on gravel, even a small piece of cardboard can make a big difference. If you have to work inside a combine, laying on top of straw walkers, a sheet of cardboard is almost a necessity. Just be sure to remove the cardboard from the strawwalkers after repairs are finished.
(FYI--sheets of cardboard make a horrific sound if they go through a straw chopper when the machine is test-run, and it takes a long time to clean up the shredded confetti...)