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.
Tough Tools To Buy
Jan 09, 2013
Sometimes it's tough to pay the price for a tool you know you won't use often. But someday, in the midst of a critical breakdown, you'll be glad you've got that tool in your toolbox.
Ten years ago I splurged and bought a set of crowsfoot wrenches that fit on the end of a socket extension. I use them maybe twice a year. But on those two times a year when I need to loosen or tighten a nut buried deep within a machine, when there's no other way to reach that nut, I thank myself for that "splurge."
I chickened-out twice before I wrote separate, painfully large checks a year apart to buy complete metric and standard tap and die sets. But the ability to repair rather than replace components with damaged threads has saved me hours of time--and my customers tons of money.
It was tough, years ago, to spend the cash to buy a set of bolt extractors that included left-handed drill bits. I already had a set of tapered, fluted bolt extractors and was getting along fine removing broken bolts by drilling holes in the bolts with conventional drill bits, then using the appropriate extractor to remove the bolt. A persuasive tool salesmen convinced me I shouldn't be without a set of left-handed drill bits whenever I try to remove a broken bolt, and now I agree with him. Many times the heat and vibration of drilling with a left-handed drill bit is enough to spin out the broken bolt without messing with the actual extractor.
Another impluse buy that turned out well was a set of center punches that range in size from 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch in diameter. I'm always trying to align bolt holes where I don't have room for conventional tapered punches that range from 8 inches to 16 inches in length. I can't say that I got my money's worth out of the center punch set when used as center punches, but they've more than paid for themselves as alignment punches in tight spaces.
I guess I'm offering encouragement that, the next time you're standing in the tool department and it strikes you that, "I can see where that would be handy to have," then have at it. You'll have buyer's regret on the way home, but there will come a day, maybe in a year or two, when that investment will seem like a wise decision.