In the Shop: Little Did I Know

October 26, 2013 05:26 AM
Dan Anderson close

Iconsider myself "inquisitive." My wife says I’m "snoopy." Either way, writing for Farm Journal has allowed me to ask smart people a lot of dumb questions and learn things I wouldn’t know otherwise. For example:

  • A flanged hex nut or bolt with serrations on the bottom of the flange, if tightened to the proper torque, holds better than a standard hex nut or bolt with a lock washer.
  • Diesel fuel delivered to farms is filtered to 10 microns. Fuel injection pumps on diesel engines that meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier III or Tier IV Interim standard require fuel filtered to 2 microns. Hence, the need for all those hefty fuel filters on new tractors and combines.
  • All types of shop lights suffer "lumen depreciation"—a fancy way of saying they get dimmer as they age. For example, incandescent bulbs initially produce 18 to 20 lumens per watt but offer only 10 to 12 lumens per watt just before they burn out. New metal halide lamps average 100 lumens per watt but can lose up to 40% of their brightness during their life span. So it’s not your imagination: Between the lumen depreciation and the normal accumulation of diesel soot and dust, your shop lights are dimmer than they used to be. Fortunately, cleaning the reflectors and installing new bulbs will bring back the brightness.
  • Researching a story on heating options for farm shops taught me a lesson about planning ahead. Experts recommend installing some insulation around the shop’s outside edges to mini­mize cold and heat transfer between the concrete floor and outside soil—especially if the shop will have an in-floor heating system. Too bad I learned that after I put the concrete floor in the shop that I’m slowly building at home.
  • Researching a story on portable welders provided justification to buy my own gasoline-powered welder/generator. John Leisner of Miller Electric told me, "You can generally buy a welder/generator for the same price, maybe less, than a generator alone. For farmers, it’s a heck of a deal—they get a portable welder and generator they can use in the field and have a durable, high-watt unit to power their house if they have a power outage."
  • It was a head-slapper for me when research for a story turned up a simple tip to determine when a pulley for a V-belt is worn out: If the paint is gone from the bottom of the pulley, the pulley is worn out. V-belts grip the sides of a pulley. I should have known that, just from common sense. Duh!
  • I used to think that I needed a plasma cutter. Researching stories about welding taught me that while plasma cutters are extremely cool and incredibly useful when cutting flat metal, an acetylene torch is more practical in the often crude, imprecise, slap-it-together world where I live. Someday I might own a plasma cutter. Just not in the near future.
  • I used to think a MIG welder was the best and only way to weld "good." Researching metalworking stories taught me that MIG welders are nice in a shop under nice controlled conditions but that I should never be ashamed to reach for my good ol’ stick welder when outdoors or in "difficult" situations on rusty, heavily painted metal. There’s a reason blacksmiths with portable welding units use their stick welders in the field more than their MIG welders. Who am I to second-guess the pros?
  • WD-40 earned its name because it was the 40th effort by the company to create a water-dispersing lubricant for the aerospace industry. "RTV" in RTV silicone stands for room temperature vulcanizing. It cures (vulcanizes) at room temperature, compared with specialized silicones that have to be baked or treated with a curing agent.

It’s OK to keep learning. I also learned a lot after stories or columns were published. Many farming decisions are based on opinions and personal experiences rather than hard science. Readers have said my opinions and experiences were "dumb," "useful" or "genius"—often all three in the same conversation or e-mail.

That’s fine. I never said I knew it all, and I’m willing to keep learning. As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep sharing what I learn "In The Shop."

Cool Tool

cool tool

Agricultural batteries are big and heavy. It takes the fingertips of two hands to carry a battery by the rim of its case, but a battery carrier makes it a one-handed job. Some carriers grip the battery’s terminals; this one’s serrated jaws lift the unit by its case. Price: $10 to $20.

An experienced farm mechanic by day, Dan Anderson’s practical shop tips, tricks and fixes are tested and true. Contact Dan:


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