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.
Temptations For The Toolbox
Dec 13, 2009
Buying tools is a lottery for me. Sometimes tools turn out to be golden and worth every penny of their price. Other tools are leaden and just lay in the bottom of my toolbox and take up space.
For example, I hesitantly bought a set of ratcheting open end/box end wrenches. They look like conventional open-end/box end wrenches, but the box ends have reversible ratcheting mechanisms. They're golden--I use them constantly because they are just plain handy, fast and efficient. I've also got a set of "flat" ratcheting box end wrenches that I've used maybe twice in 10 years. The difference? The flat box end wrenches don't have their ends offset from their handles by 15-degrees, so they tend to scrape my knuckles when I use them in tight spaces. A small difference, but enough so that the flat wrenches have been relegated to my "rarely used" drawer. The ratcheting open end/box end wrenches with the offsets earned space in my top drawer where they're easily accessible and frequently used.
On the other end of the tool lottery are high-end, expensive tools that get used rarely but are treasured nonetheless. A one-inch-drive pneumatic impact wrench capable of loosening or tightening bolts to 1,200 ft. lbs. cost me a lot of money, gets used only a couple times a month, but is worth all the many pennies I paid for it. When I absolutely, positively need a wheel or frame bolt loosened or tightened, it saves the day. I can't say the same for a battery-powered cable winch which seemed to be an invaluable purchase when I wrote the check for it several years ago. Both were pricey, and both are awkward and heavy to use. The difference? Experience has proven the impact gun to be the only way to get some jobs done. As for the power cable winch, I've learned it's faster, easier and lighter to use a conventional hand-powered cable winch instead of dragging out the heavy battery-powered-winch and running power leads to the nearest 12-volt battery.
So it's a lottery, trying to guess which tool purchases will be as useful in the real world as they seem in the tool catalog. You'd think after all these years that I'd learn how to better anticipate which tools will be useful and which tools aren't worth their purchase price. I'd like to think I've learned from my mistakes, but the variety of tools that keep accumulating in my "rarely used" drawer indicates I'm a very slow learner.