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.
Nov 01, 2009
Three times this harvest I've been working on equipment on customer's farms and overheard "discussions" about missing tools. Some of the "discussions" got rather loud. It was tough to keep track of hand tools back when a single farmer worked from his own farmstead, but today's multi-farm operations with neighbors, family members or hired men sharing tools almost guarantees lost or misplaced tools--and plenty of "discussions" about who is responsible for replacing the lost items.
On some farms, tools are bought by the farm and considered community property. Lost tools are replaced by the farm and considered an operating expense. There is a tendency for "community" tools to disappear more frequently than privately-owned tools because there's no incentive for tool users to keep track of tools.
Other farms have a policy that each person, whether it's brother, father, hired man or son, has his own tools. Each person is responsible for replacing his own lost or broken tools. If he borrows a tool and it gets lost or broken, it is the user's obligation to replace it. An offshoot of this policy is if a tool gets broken or worn out by use (drill bit, screwdriver, allen wrench), the farm operation pays for replacement. The theory is that the tool owner buys the original tool, but the operation pays for replacing tool wear or damage incurred during use for that farming operation.
I've been in both situations, where tools were provided, and where I was responsible for providing all my own tools. I prefer the latter situation (as long as pay compensation acknowledges that I'm providing tools necessary for my job). It's far, far, more expensive for me to own all my own tools, from mini-screwdrivers to a gas-powered welder/generator, but: (a) I'm much more careful and conscientious about the way I beat and abuse MY tools than when they belonged to someone else, (b) I'm much more careful and conscientious about making sure MY tools are all in MY toolbox at the end of the day, and (c) if I change jobs or retire, the tools all leave with me and I have a good start on either a new job or a heckuva nice home shop.
There are many variations on these tool owning strategies. But as long as there are farmers working on equipment late at night in farm fields miles from home, there will always be discussions in farm shops on rainy mornings about, "WHAT did you do with that 9/16 wrench you borrowed a couple days ago?" or, "Has anybody seen the 1/2-inch drill...?"