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.
Poor Man's Porta-Power
Feb 17, 2014
I have two hydraulic bottle jacks in my service truck--a 20-ton behemoth and a dainty little 2-ton jack I bought at a discount store for $30. I'm glad I have both of them.
The 20-tonner is an obvious necessity when trying to raise combines, tractors and other large objects. I made a point of loading one compartment of my truck with 3-foot-long pieces of oak bridge plank, some 6 x 8-inch oak blocks, and an assortment of 2 x 4, 2 x 6 and 2 x 8 blocks so I can fine-tune the jack's height and stability while I've got 15 tons teetering in the air. Before next spring I'm going to add a short, stout shovel to my tool inventory, so I can (a) dig a level spot in uneven dirt on which to place the jack, and (b) once I'm done with the repair, dig down a foot or more and retrieve the blocks that have been hydraulically injected into the soil by the sheer weight of the machine I'm jacking.
The cheapie 2-ton jack looks pretty feeble sitting beside the larger jack, but it has proven to be just as valuable as its big brother. I rarely use it to "jack" things up in the conventional sense---I tend to use it as a portable hydraulic press to lift components within a machine, push things apart or together, and to help straighten various and assorted frame pieces.
The other day I needed to lift one corner of a cab a couple inches. There wasn't much room between the lower frame of the cab and the cab support, but there was just enough room to squeeze in the little 10-inch-tall, 2-ton jack. I've turned the little feller on its side to push a corn head off its mount on a combine feederhouse (it's a long ugly story that ended well because of the little jack). Now that I thnk about it, I use that little jack nearly as often as I use the big one.
Ironically, the little jack was an impluse buy, one of those "ain't that cute, it don't cost much, I think I'll buy it" split-second decisions that you regret as you're walking across the parking lot to your truck. Fortunately, the little jack turned out to be one of those tools that's worth far more than it cost.