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December 2010 Archive for 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.

In The Shop: A Tough Way To Be Remembered

Dec 18, 2010

 Good things can come from tragedies. More than 30 years ago a neighbor was killed when he was crushed under a corn head. Richard was working under the corn head, and hadn't lowered the safety stop. He somehow broke off a hydraulic fitting to one of the corn head lift cylinders. Death was nearly instantaneous.

I cannot crawl underneath a piece of equipment, let alone a corn head, without thinking of Richard. I'm impressed by the number of times when I'm on farms working on equipment and take a moment to lower a safety stop, that the farmer mentions Richard's accident. Farmers in this region who never met him remember hearing of the accident, and to this day it inspires them to take an extra few seconds to possibly prevent a replay.

Yet we still gamble when working on equipment. We use a tractor loader, skid steer or forklift as a scaffold, or to lift or support a frame while we work beneath it, using hand-me-down chains that were already stretched when our grandfather bought them at a farm sale. We build stacks of wobbly wooden blocks to support a piece of equipment, promising ourselves we'll, "...stay over here on the "high" side where it won't get me if it falls." I'm most guilty of jacking up a piece of equipment then working on it without putting jackstands or blocks in place to support it, if the jack suddenly fails or slips.

We're aware of the dangers. We're just in too much of a hurry, don't have the exact blocking or jacks necessary, or have some other excuse. With luck we won't become an example for other farmers of what not to do. That's certainly not the reason I want to be remembered in this region.

In The Shop: Not The Way I Want To Be Remembered

Dec 13, 2010

 Good things can come from tragedies. More than 30 years ago a neighbor was killed when he was crushed under a corn head. Richard was working under the corn head, and hadn't lowered the safety stop. He somehow broke off a hydraulic fitting to one of the corn head lift cylinders. Death was nearly instantaneous.

I cannot crawl underneath a piece of equipment, let alone a corn head, without thinking of Richard. I'm impressed by the number of times when I'm on farms working on equipment and take a moment to lower a safety stop, that the farmer mentions Richard's accident. Farmers in this region who never met him remember hearing of the accident, and to this day it inspires them to take an extra few seconds to possibly prevent a replay.

Yet we still gamble when working on equipment. We use a tractor loader, skid steer or forklift as a scaffold, or to lift or support a frame while we work beneath it, using hand-me-down chains that were already stretched when our grandfather bought them at a farm sale. We build stacks of wobbly wooden blocks to support a piece of equipment, promising ourselves we'll, "...stay over here on the "high" side where it won't get me if it falls." I'm most guilty of jacking up a piece of equipment then working on it without putting jackstands or blocks in place to support it, if the jack suddenly fails or slips.

We're aware of the dangers. We're just in too much of a hurry, don't have the exact blocking or jacks necessary, or have some other excuse. With luck we won't become an example for other farmers of what not to do. That's certainly not the reason I want to be remembered in this region.

In The Shop: Tough Lesson Learned

Dec 12, 2010

 Good things can come from tragedies. More than 30 years ago a neighbor was killed when he was crushed under a corn head. Richard was working under the corn head, and hadn't lowered the safety stop. He somehow broke off a hydraulic fitting to one of the corn head lift cylinders. Death was nearly instantaneous.

I cannot crawl underneath a piece of equipment, let alone a corn head, without thinking of Richard. I'm impressed by the number of times when I'm on farms working on equipment and take a moment to lower a safety stop, that the farmer mentions Richard's accident. Farmers in this region who never met him remember hearing of the accident, and to this day it inspires them to take an extra few seconds to possibly prevent a replay.

Yet we still gamble when working on equipment. We use a tractor loader, skid steer or forklift as a scaffold, or to lift or support a frame while we work beneath it, using hand-me-down chains that were already stretched when our grandfather bought them at a farm sale. We build stacks of wobbly wooden blocks to support a piece of equipment, promising ourselves we'll, "...stay over here on the "high" side where it won't get me if it falls." I'm most guilty of jacking up a piece of equipment then working on it without putting jackstands or blocks in place to support it, if the jack suddenly fails or slips.

We're aware of the dangers. We're just in too much of a hurry, don't have the exact blocking or jacks necessary, or have some other excuse. With luck we won't become an example for other farmers of what not to do. That's certainly not the reason I want to be remembered in this region.

In The Shop: The Christmas Tool Lottery

Dec 01, 2010

 Buying tools as Christmas gifts is always a gamble, because tools are such a personal thing to a guy. Especially this guy. I can spend an hour shopping, testing and comparing a simple set of slip-jaw pliers to carry in my belt holster, seeking the perfect combination of weight, fit, design and even appearance. What hope does my wife have of wandering through the tool department at Sears and coming up with something to satisfy someone that fussy?

(The same chance her husband has of finding clothes, household items or knick-knacks for Christmas presents that satisfy her stringent tastes, but...that's another story...)

There have been Christmas morning fiascos in our house. My wife has gamely attempted to guess at my tool needs and over the years presented me with an assortment of mechanic's chairs, a rolling "creeper" for working underneath equipment, step-stools and flashlights. None of them were exactly the type, brand, model or design I would have bought for myself.I may not have appeared as excited at receiving those gifts as I should have.

But, y'know, every one of them is at the dealership's shop, grease-stained and worse-for-wear, because she bought me practical tools that I can use every day. And even if they aren't the exact type, brand, model or design I thought I wanted, I treasure each of them because they all have a unique feature unavailable from all the others I could have bought for myself.

They are gifts from my wife.

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