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.
More Than Maintenance and Repairs
Dec 10, 2008
It's always interesting to "snoop" a bit when I'm on service calls to farmers' shops. There are sometimes Harleys or street rods tucked in a back corner. I've run across a few stock cars, and a lot of antique or collectible tractors in various stages of restoration. Those hobbies and passions are a natural fit for a farm shop, and I enjoy hearing about and looking at their latest projects. The stuff that really impresses me in farm shops, however, is the often offbeat, sometimes artistic hobbies of farmers.
Some farmers weld and shape scrap metal into sculptures. Some are humorous, like the odd-looking "birds" made from inverted hand shovels, with coil springs for legs and sickle mower knife guards for "beaks." I've seen a few scrap iron "dinosaurs" as well as "cows" and "pigs" welded from all sorts of odd scrap metal. Some metal workers deal on a smaller scale, brazing together odd nuts, bolts, chunks of chain and other work bench debris into small comical human figures on "bicycles," or other caricatures of humanity.
On a larger scale, some farmers tinker in their shops to build things they can't buy. Such as a garden tractor that looks like a full-size articulated 4WD tractor. Or a garden tractor that looks like a scaled-down combine, with header that raises and lowers. Or a garden tractor equipped with a leftover, 400 hp V-8 Chevy small-block. I get the impression there are a lot of old garden tractors languishing in machine sheds that farmers can't resist tinkering with.
A few farmers exhibit artistic skills when they tinker in their shop. My uncle Paul uses his shop air compressor and a small portable sandblaster to etch farm scenes into mirrors and panes of glass. He frequents household auctions and farm sales and buys old mirrors or glass items, them tapes the entire surface with masking tape. He outlines a picture on the taped surface, then uses a knife to trace the sketched outline. He carefully removes selected portions of the image, then lightly sandblasts the entire surface. When he removes the rest of the tape, the sandblasted areas become frosty, silvery images on the otherwise smooth mirror or glass. The resulting artworks, often based on scenes from his more than half a century of farming, are treasured gifts and keepsakes for friends and family members.
So farm shops aren't only about work. Sometimes they're an adult's toyroom, or an amateur engineer's design studio, maybe even an art studio. Remember: all work and no play...is what your wife THINKS you're doing when you spend all that time out in the shop.