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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.

Trophy Tools

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.


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