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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.

In The Shop: An Ode To Pry Bars

Jul 22, 2011

 Customers are often amused by the near-fetish we mechanics have toward pry bars. Early in my career, I too, didn't understand what a magnificent tool a good pry bar can be. With age and experience comes wisdom, and I now treasure every pry bar in my tool arsenal. Let me explain:

Though we work in a shop with other mechanics, our goal and the rule is to do as much without another mechanic's help as possible. Considering how often we have to move stubborn, heavy, ungainly and awkward components into crowded, hard-to-access locations, we often need an extra hand or two and some sort of mechanical advantage in the war between man and machine.

That's where pry bars come in. Archimedes once said something like, "Give me a long enough lever (pry bar) and someplace to stand, and I could move the Earth." I agree. With my set of six pry bars, ranging from 6 inches to 6 feet, I can gently nudge a hydraulic valve body into place or rotate a combine dual wheel so the bolt holes align. Because my pry bars have metal caps on the handles so I can hammer on them without fear of destroying the plastic of the handle, I can use my big pry bar like a 6-foot-long cold chisel to bludgeon apart stubborn housings buried deep in a machine. The only tools I use more often on a daily basis are the 8-inch pliers I carry in a pouch on my belt, and the pocket screwdriver that lives in my shirt pocket.

All told, I own probably 15 pry bars. The primary objects of my affection are those six in-line pry bars, the ones that look like big screwdrivers. I've also got some 3- and 4-foot-long "alignment bars" with a tapered point on one end and an angled, flattened end on the other. I've got a set of adjustable "lady foot" bars, but I'm not a lady-foot guy, don't use them often, but have found them priceless in certain situations where they were the only tool to do a particular job. Add in some general purpose crowbars, along with a rusty, bent, broken-tipped but highly treasured crowbar I inherited from my dad's shop, and I can ALMOST live up to Archimedes' claim.

And that's without even opening my screwdriver drawer. In previous posts I've railed against the use of screwdrivers for anything other than installing or removing screws. I stand by that standard. I just don't always live by it...

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