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 10, 2012
When I finish my "dream shop" at home, there will be a special shelf over the main workbench dedicated to my trophy tools. Those are tools that earned the right, for a variety of reasons, to be retired from service and admired for what they symbolize.
A 4-foot long pry bar that's twisted and bent into a half-circle is a good example. It's a reminder to never assume that anyone who is helping with repairs understands EXACTLY what you want them to do. I was under a combine, using that pry bar to try and pry open a frozen concave. I asked the farmer to get in the cab and activate the electric motor to open the concave. There was a brief moment of clarity when I realized (1) the combine's engine was running, and (2) the farmer was going to ENGAGE the SEPARATOR rather than flip the concave control switch. I had a split second to let go of the pry bar and dive out of the way, before the twisted bar came flying out from between the rasp bars and the concave. I keep that mangled bar as reminder to never assume that a "helper" understands what you want them to do. And to never work on a machine with the engine running. Duh.
I have a few sentimental trophy tools waiting to go on display. For many years my primary ball peen hammer was a wood-handled 32-ounce Christmas gift from my father. Dad's now gone, and that hammer, with it's taped handle and battered head, has been retired from regular service. I occasionally get it out to beat on something that deserves a few educational whacks, in memory of Dad. I've also got a set of long-reach Allen wrenches my wife bought me for our first Christmas, and a battery terminal clamp puller my son bought me when he was a teenager. Only a husband or father would understand why they deserve trophy status.
I've also got a pair of broken safety glasses, a bent cold chisel and a pair of Vise-Grips with the jaws welded together that will go on my trophy tool shelf. I don't have room here to explain how they earned trophy-status, but... they will sit on the "stupid mechanic" section of the shelf. That section will be dedicated to tools damaged by operator error.
Now that I think about it, I might need TWO shelves.