In The Shop: Wish List for Gearheads

December 8, 2010 07:55 AM

It’s that time of year again. Time for the dreaded task of trying to find just the right gift for husbands, sons, friends and relatives who enjoy shop work. I’m here to help. Buy one of these cool tools or stocking stuffers and you can’t go wrong.

Knipex-brand Cobra slip-jaw pliers are way ahead of their generic counterparts. The unique design of Knipex slip-jaw pliers allows the user to let go of both handles and press on only one handle. The physics of the tool are such that the harder the handle is pressed, the tighter the tool’s jaws grip the pipe fitting, oil filter or other large object. Toolbox-friendly, 15"-long Cobra XL models sell for $65, but every farm should have a 22" Cobra XXL, which sells for $90.

Batteries in farm equipment rarely go dead close to electrical outlets. Battery jump starters are specially designed rechargeable battery packs with built-in cables that allow jump starts in remote locations. The Jump-N-Carry JNC300XL will start a dozen or more cars and pickups per charge, has a 900-amp peak capacity and retails for $70. The JNC950 model will start multiple four-wheel-drive tractors, combines and trucks per charge with its 2,000-amp peak capacity and sells for $310.

Farmers who test electrical systems will appreciate Fluke Electronics’ new 233A voltmeter. It has a removable, wireless digital display that enables the user to set up the voltmeter at the rear brake lights of a truck, remove the credit card–sized display, carry it to the driver’s seat, and push the brake pedal to see if voltage is present at the brake light. The voltmeter can transmit to its display within a 30' range. Fluke 233A voltmeters retail for $400.

Mac Tools’ ATR35 air-powered cut-off tool (aka die grinder) is reversible so the user can change the direction in which the tool throws sparks. I have three cut-off tools in my toolbox, and I
usually grab this one. It sells for $175.

A reliable battery tester saves time and frustration. Solar’s Model BA7 is only the size of a large cell phone but uses predictive computerized technology to test batteries up to 1,200 cold cranking amps. The BA7 sells for $70.

Rear-view cameras are economical and practical. For $150 to $200, it’s possible to see behind combines, self-propelled sprayers, grain carts and other large farm equipment.

Angle-head grinders are multi-purpose tools in the shop or field. For shop work that entails heavy-duty grinding, look for an industrial-duty Bosch, Makita, DeWalt or name-brand 115-volt grinder that uses a 4½" diameter grinding wheel and sells for $125 to $150.

A name-brand 4½" battery-powered angle-head grinder won’t have the endurance for extended shop use but is ideal for field repairs that require grinding off occasional bolt heads or cleaning broken edges prior to welding. A battery-powered angle-head grinder sells for $100 to $150. Battery charger and batteries add another $200 to $300.

Tools are expensive—and quality tools are even more so. These stocking stuffers are easier on the wallet but just as valuable in the shop.

  • Even manly men appreciate having disposable gloves for changing vertically mounted engine oil filters, cleaning spray nozzles or working with rotten grain. From $8 to $15 per 100-count box.
  • Rust prevention capsules emit an odorless, nontoxic, rust-inhibiting vapor to protect metal objects and tools in closed spaces from corroding. Zerust or Rustenz capsules sell for $10 at auto parts stores.
  • Liquid Tape brushes onto electrical connectors or spliced wires and creates a flexible, waterproof coating that won’t unravel. A 4-oz. can costs $9 at auto parts stores.
  • Digital tire pressure gauges are the best way to measure low air pressures. Available at auto part stores for $10 to $20.
  • Gorilla Tape is my favorite brand of duct tape. It lives up to its name for $5 a roll.


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