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.
Tools You Never Heard Of
Jan 01, 2009
One of my secret pleasures is browsing through tool catalogs. I'm fascinated by obscure specialty tools. Not specialty tools designed for a specific make and model of a car or truck, like a cam seal remover for a '98 through '01 SAAB, or a special socket to remove the oxygen sensor on a '91 Ford F-150 pickup. Those tools annoy me, because they indicate an engineer who was so clever--or so lazy--that he couldn't design the machine so it could be repaired with everyday tools.
No, I'm talking about weird gems like a tap extractor. A tool designed for rare, but generic mechanical situations.
Have you ever used a tap to cut or clean out threads in a bolt hole, and broke off the tap in the hole? That's when a tap extractor can be a life saver. It's tough to describe, but a tap extractor is a gizmo that fits four slender fingers down into the four slots on the sides of the broken tap, allowing the user to twist out the broken tap, even if the tap is broken off down inside the bolt hole. Walton Tools (www.waltontools.com) sells all sorts and sizes of tap extractors.
Have you ever wished when installing small screws in awkward locations that your screwdriver tip was magnetized so it would hold the screw long enough to get it started in the hole? Have you ever had a screwdriver tip that got accidentally magnetized, and would pick up metal filings, stray screws and stick to metal work when you didn't want it to? Mac Tools offers a little metal block that will magnetize or de-magnetize screwdriver tips. Catalog number MD5, it's a simple cure for a petty annoyance.
Ever tried to install a hex nut on an upside down bolt in a spot where you can get a wrench, but not your hand? Snap-on offers a cute little gadget that clips onto the handle of a box end wrench so that a thin, magnetic pad lies over one side of the wrench's open or box end. You can put the nut in the open or box end of the wrench and it won't fall out when you press it against the upside-down bolt to start it on the threads. Sure, a piece of duct tape might accomplish the same purpose, but if it doesn't, Snap-on's catalog number is YA207.
A mechanic would have to have pockets much deeper than mine to own all these obscure, rarely used tools. But it's fun to look, and useful to know that no matter what sort of mechanical predicament we get ourselves into, there's probably a tool designed to get us out of that jam.