Dan Anderson: High-Value, Low-Cost Tools

November 29, 2017 12:00 PM
Dan Anderson

It’s easy to covet expensive tools. Plasma cutters, hydraulic metal workers and other hi-fi tools are on the, “If I win the Lottery list” of many farmers. However, when it comes to useful, practical tools, sometimes the price tag doesn’t reflect the high value. Take the following tools, for example, and consider adding them to your Christmas wish list:

  • Hose removal tools, a five-piece set for $25. They look like round-shank screwdrivers of varying lengths, with their ends bent in hooks or right angles. They’re designed to help pry and pull rubber hoses off radiator and water pump fittings. But they’re darn handy for snagging and pulling wiring harnesses or hydraulic hoses from inside frame tubes or confined spaces or for pulling cotter keys from awkward locations. Once you have them in your toolbox you’ll keep finding new ways to use them.
  • Crowfoot wrench set, $25 to $50. Imagine the open end of a combination wrench cut off an inch from that open end, with a 3/8" square hole punched in the shortened handle. Remember when you needed to loosen a hydraulic fitting, but other fittings were so close you didn’t have room to rotate a conventional wrench? To use, put the appropriate sized crowfoot on a 3/8" extension, put the extension on a ratchet wrench and slide the crowfoot down the hydraulic line to the fitting. They’re tough to describe and visualize, so Google “crowfoot wrench” and you’ll see what they look like. The next time you’re wrestling with hydraulic fittings in close quarters, the genius and value of a crowfoot wrench will be obvious.
  • Jewelers drill bits, $15 to $25, and micro hand drill, $15. Conventional cleaners for acetylene torch tips are flimsy, bend easily and usually end up (forcefully) thrown into a dark corner of the shop. Jeweler’s drill bits start at 1/8" and go down to one size larger than a human hair. Because they’re drill bits, they resist bending, and because they’re drill bits, you can literally drill into deposits clogging the orifices of torch tips. The micro hand drill is about the size of a pencil, with teeny jaws that clamp on the teeny drill bits, allowing you to spin the drill bit with your fingertips. Find them online or at quality welding supply stores.
  • Disposable nitrile gloves, $10 to $20 for a box of 100 gloves. I used to feel like a sissy, wearing disposable gloves to change fuel filters. Now I happily wear them to avoid the day-long stench of diesel fuel soaked into my skin. They’re great for changing sprayer tips and handling new roller chains coated with that slimy, sticky factory lubricant. Disposable gloves are also great when you have to manually clean rotten grain out of an auger sump or repair a manure transfer pump.
  • Mechanic’s tweezers, $10 for a five-piece set. They’re simply man-size tweezers, some of them with angled tips, but it’s amazing how often you’ll use them if you have them. Maybe to pull a sliver from a fingertip, or maybe to install a teeny little cotter key in an awkward location. For a few dollars, they’re worth having handy.
  • 16" needle-nose pliers, $30. I have two sets of standard-length needle-nose pliers and one pair of 16" needle-nose pliers. I use the 16" pliers almost exclusively. Once you get used to using super long-reach needle-nose pliers, they’re the ones you always grab.
  • Ultra-long screwdrivers, $25 to $50. It’s surprising how often you find use for 12", 14" and even 16" long screwdrivers. The flat blades aren’t big, from 3/16" to 3/8", and the Phillips tips need only be #1, #2 and #3, but once again, they’re an example of cheap tools that are priceless when they’re the only way to accomplish a repair.

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