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.
Big Boys' Toys
Nov 29, 2009
Thanksgiving is past so it's safe to talk about Christmas. Time to think about Christmas lists, for other people and for myself. My wife keeps asking for a list of things I want for Christmas. Just for fun I may hand her a list of the following "dream" tools:
-TorcUp pneumatic torque wrench. It looks like a conventional 1/2- or 3/4-inch-drive pneumatic air impact wrench with a funny U-shaped gizmo on the business end. But it's a high-tech, air-over-hydraulic torque wrench capable of accurately torquing fasteners to as much as 6,000 ft. lbs. After beating myself up putting all my weight onto the end of the 6-foot-long handle on a conventional torque wrench trying to get wheel bolts to merely 800 ft.lbs., the TorcUp unit looks pretty sweet. However, they won't even list prices on any of the websites I visited, so I'm guessing we're talking about a price in excess of $2,000 to $3,000 for the complete unit, which includes the "gun" and its associated suitcase-size regulator unit.
-Plasma cutter. It would be nice to accurately slice plate steel, and a plasma cutter is nifty way to do it. But most of the metal I cut is 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick. A plasma cutter that would easily handle 3/4-inch steel would carve a $2,000 to $4,000 hole in my tool budget. Yes, a smaller plasma cutting unit might cut thick steel, but I've learned the hard way it's better to buy a large tool and operate it in the middle of its operating range than to cheap-out, buy a small until, and constantly operate it at or beyond its designed capacity.
-Remote viewing camera. Imagine a color digital video camera on the end of a 6-foot-long cable that displays images on a hand-held 3-inch x 4-inch screen. Imagine the camera and cable is small enough to fit through a 3/8-inch diameter hole. Imagine being able to look inside gearcases or behind dashboards without first taking them apart. Imagine looking through a spark plug hole and checking an engine cylinder for damage without removing the cylinder head. Imagine paying $500 to $1,000 for a durable unit that displays a high-quality image. I can imagine everything but the price. Maybe technology will improve, competition will drive prices lower, and I'll someday be able to get one of these nifty units for around $200.
Or maybe Santa will bring me one this Christmas. It certainly won't come from my wife. She glanced over my shoulder as I was writing this, burst out laughing, and said, "No, really, what do you want for Christmas?" That's not a promising sign.