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.
Jun 14, 2012
Every mechanic and a lot of farmers have a special drawer in their toolbox where they stash their homemade tools. Some of them are carefully machined and painted; some of them are rough-welded and look like an escapee from the scrap iron pile. But they all served a specific purpose and worked well enough for the "inventor" to save them for future use.
Whenever I'm around another mechanic's tool box I keep my eyes open for homemade tools. I've seen old bearing races that had a handle welded to them so they served as drivers for new bearings of that specific size. I've seen wrenches heated with torches and bent at odd angles to reach "inaccessible" nuts and bolts buried inside machines. Back in the era when "clamp-on" dual wheels were common, a lot of 15/16-inch and 1 1/16-inch sockets got cut in half and then had a piece of 1-inch pipe welded between the socket halves, to make super-deep well sockets.
I've cut, welded and bent my share of tools. Some of them worked like a dream. A super-long punch for knocking bearings out of wheel hubs is on my "success" list. It used to be a crowbar. A small 3/8-inch cold chisel reshaped so one side of the chisel head is concave is my precision tool for teasing seals from castings.
Some of my improvised tools were miserable failures. I've got a pair of shiny halves to a 1 1/8-inch chrome socket that now serve as paperweights on my toolbox, expensive reminders to, "measure twice, cut once." Most of the other improvised tools that didn't work as I planned ended up in the scrap iron dumpster.
Though, there are a few failures stashed under my work bench. I'm pretty sure they just need a little more welding, a little more grinding, maybe one more bend in juuussst the right place, and then they'll work as perfectly as I envisioned. The major bending and shaping has been done; all it will take will be some fine-tuning and tweaking, and I'll have them exactly as I want them.
Now that I think about it, that seems to be the same strategy my wife has toward me.