Are the wife and kids bugging you for a list of things you'd like for Christmas? Are you stymied about what to buy your father, brother, best friend or hired man? According to what tools farmers admire and what questions they ask while I'm working on their equipment with my service truck close by, here are items they'd like to have in their toolboxes:
Farm-duty battery-powered ½"-drive impact wrench. That means a unit that is labeled commercial- or industrial-duty, capable of at least 250 lb.-ft. of torque. While you are there, get two batteries and a "smart” charger that won't damage batteries that are left to charge overnight. Expect to pay $250 to $450.
Battery-powered trouble light. Freedom from dragging a power cord to illuminate repairs makes these LED-illuminated units great for night field repairs or quick jobs in the far corner of a dark machine shed. A magnetic base is a worthwhile option. Economy units sell for $50, while top-of-the-line heavy-duty lights with two batteries and a smart charger can cost $150.
Sometimes it comes down to holding a penlight in your teeth to make emergency repairs. Been there, done that, and Sunlite's 100-lumen penlight is the brightest pocket light on the market. It's 6" long, ½" in diameter, easily carries in a shirt pocket and provides hours of intense, bright, white light. Price is around $45.
Long-reach needle-nose pliers set. The purpose of needle-nose pliers is to reach into awkward locations, so why not have long handles with long jaws to reach as far as possible. A single straight-jaw needle-nose plier is a great gift at $15. A complete set
of long-reach needle-nose pliers with straight 45° and 90° jaws cost between $30 to $70.
Battery clamp puller. No more prying, twisting and levering stubborn cable clamps off of battery terminals with pliers and screwdrivers. A couple twists of the T-handle easily removes battery cable clamps in a matter of seconds. Cost: $15.
Roller chain breaker. This cool tool pushes the pins from roller chain links so you don't have to grind off the pin head and then use a hammer and punch to drive out the pin. Most farm equipment dealerships have some sort of chain breakers in stock or know where to get them. Look for a chain breaker designed for #25 to #60 roller chain for everyday use on the farm. Breakers for #60 to #100 chains are available, as well. The cost is $25 to $30.
Magnetic parts tray. While this metal tray will hold bolts, nuts and other metal parts during repairs, it simultaneously clamps to any metal surface thanks to a powerful magnet. Every time I pull out a magnetic parts tray to store fasteners and small parts while making field repairs, the farmer says, "I gotta get me one of those.” So, get him one. They cost a mere $10 for a small 9" circular dish and $35 for a larger rectangular magnetic tray.
Putty knife set. It's a guy thing to have an assortment of putty knives in various sizes to scrape off grease and grunge when repairing equipment.
A four-piece set, with wide blade, narrow blade, stiff blade and flex blade, is only $15 to $20.
Battery carrier. Modern batteries are getting heavier and are in increasingly awkward places to access. These devices clamp onto the sides of batteries and allow the user to reach in, grab, lift and carry batteries with one hand. Cost: $10 to $15.
Drill Doctor or its equivalent. Every shop has dozens of dull drill bits and never a sharp bit in the size needed. A power sharpener makes it easy to keep drill bits sharp. They're pricey at $150 to $250, depending on the quality of the machine, but it's worth it to
always have sharp drill bits on hand.
Stocking stuffers. Duct tape. Pocket knife. Any size of Vise-Grip pliers or Knipex slip-joint pliers. A knife sharpening kit. Liquid Tape electrical sealant. 3M duct tape bandages.
Send comments and story suggestions to Dan Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.