Simple and versatile define farming’s go-to tools and products
There are products, gadgets and tools that work well—and there are products, gadgets and tools that work miracles. WD-40, duct tape, zip ties and Vise-Grips are prime examples.
WD-40 was invented in 1953 by the three employees of the fledgling Rocket Chemical Company in San Diego, Calif. It took them 40 tries to formulate a light-viscosity, deep-penetrating lubricant with water-dispersing properties—hence the name WD-40.
The unique lubricating, penetrating, water-dispersing and solvent characteristics of WD-40 have found countless uses in agriculture in the past 50-plus years. Not only does WD-40 lubricate rusty metal fasteners, it removes road tar from the paint on vehicles, gets chewing gum out of children’s hair, dissolves grease embedded in work clothes and is spritzed on fishing lures by some anglers to attract fish.
According to WD-40’s website, customers have also used the product to remove chewing gum from chicken feathers (who gave the chickens chewing gum in the first place?), remove coffee stains from coffee cups (WD-40-flavored cappuccino, anyone?) and remove a boa constrictor stuck in an engine of a car (no report on the snake’s response to being basted with machine lubricant).
Universal fix-it. The only thing more ubiquitous on American farms than WD-40 is duct tape. Duct tape was first manufactured in 1942, during World War II, by the Permacel division of Johnson & Johnson. Its combination of cloth medical tape with a water-resistant outer coating and a tough,
all-weather adhesive was designed to keep water out of ammunition cases, but soldiers quickly adopted it as a universal fix-it. Originally dun-colored, duct tape was switched to silver after the war in response to its use during the housing boom to seal metal heating and air conditioning duct work.
Uses for duct tape in farming are limited only by imagination or desperation. Holes worn in grain auger tubes have been temporarily and often permanently patched with layers of duct tape. Many farm truck and tractor seats are partially or completely upholstered with duct tape. The biggest downside to duct tape is the stubborn, gummy residue it leaves behind. Fortunately, WD-40 removes it.
Baling wire used to be the favorite quick fix, but the disappearance of wire-bound bales diminished the supply of baling wire about the same time Thomas & Betts Corporation invented Ty-Rap in 1958 as a nonconducting fastener for electrical wiring in the aerospace industry. Now universally called zip ties for the "zipping" sound they make when pulled tight, these nylon ties are a quick, tidy way to fasten electrical wiring harnesses and hydraulic hoses to equipment. They’ve helped lace together broken plastic body panels on tractors, cracked plastic corn head snouts and broken latches on tractor cab windows.
Semi-permanent fixes. If there’s one tool other than a hammer that’s found in every farm toolbox in the U.S., it’s a Vise-Grip of some size. Invented by Danish immigrant Wilhelm Peterson in Nebraska and patented in 1924, Vise-Grip–brand lock-jaw pliers are another product that benefited from the inventiveness of World War II soldiers. After the war, soldiers brought Vise-Grips home, and they’ve been part of American farming ever since.
Vise-Grips are great for temporarily clamping together components during assembly or repair. They are also valid semi-permanent fixes. A lot of rusty Vise-Grips are clamped to feed wagons, headlight mounting brackets and other farm equipment on the "I’ll-fix-it-when-I-have-time" list.
Vise-Grips have been used to temporarily hold steering wheels, hydrostatic shift levers and brake linkages in place until repairs could be made.
While WD-40, duct tape, zip ties and Vise-Grips can work miracles, you don’t have to be a genius to use them.