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6 product picks from farmers

Having the right tools when you need them is key when it comes to repair and maintenance in the shop. If you've walked down the tool aisle lately, you know there is no shortage of choices.

To check out the latest innovations, Successful Farming magazine enlisted a group of Iowa farmers to test more than two dozen tools.

Five men at Nelson Farms in Belmond, Iowa, put everything – from welders to wrenches to a pulling device – through their paces for more than two months this past winter.

Brothers David, Dennis, and Neal Nelson, along with their employees, Steve Schrage and Loren Wenzel, used the tools for a number of repairs in the shop.

“We tried to find as many uses for these tools as we could,” says Dennis.

Some performed well; others didn't quite measure up. When it was all said and done, there were clear standouts. Following are their top six picks.

6. Stanley Fax Max Mechanics Set is a 187-piece professional-grade mechanics socket set, which includes ¼-, ⅛-, and ½-inch drive sockets, patented lock-on wrenches, and a number of accessories.

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It is priced under $250, yet what made it a top contender for the men was the nice variety of tools in one set.

“We had to haul corn at another site, and it was a nice way to gather a whole set of tools and take them with us,” says Neal. “The only downside is we just about needed a crowbar to get them out of the container. They are in there so tight, and frozen fingers wouldn't be able to remove a socket very well.”

The upside is the tools won't spill all over when the case is opened in the middle of a field.

“This is definitely a nice one to have in the truck,” says Neal.

Learn more at www.stanleytools.com.

5. Dewalt 20-Volt MAX Lithium-Ion Recip Saw is part of DeWalt's 20 Volt MAX Series, which launched with 10 other tools in June 2011.

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Well known in the construction industry, reciprocating saws made their way to the farm years ago, and farmers quickly realized what invaluable and versatile tools they were.

“Reciprocating saws are handy tools to have around the farm because they can cut through just about anything,” says Neal. “The main thing I noticed about this saw is how lightweight it is. We put a lot of hours on this saw and have yet to run the battery down.”

An added bonus is that the charger for the 20V Max batteries can also charge the 12V Max batteries – a huge advantage DeWalt has over its competition. This Series can also use a compact 1.5Ah or a regular 3.0Ah battery.

Suggested price is $249. Learn more at www.dewalt.com.

4. Lincoln Electric's 180 Dual MIG Welder is a MIG and flux-cored welder that touts top features like dual-input power capability, Diamond Core Technology, and the fact that it's spool gun-ready. Priced at less than $950, it is a top choice because of its ease of use and portability.

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“This is a nice little unit,” says Steve Schrage. “We really like that it is spool-ready, and the simplicity and portability is a plus. It's great for smaller projects. When we have a larger project to work on, one person can tack with the 180 welder and the other person can do the major welding.”

Learn more at www.lincolnelectric.com.

3. Air Comb Filter Cleaner extends the life of your filters. This device can also blow out dust and debris from radiators, condensors, and more.

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The patent-pending multiport nozzle design focuses high-pressure and high-volume shop air at a 90° angle to access those hard-to-reach areas.

Available in four different sizes from 12 inches all the way to 48 inches, this tool ranges in price from $29.95 to $49.95.

“These were impressive,” says Loren Wenzel. “Steve used this to blow the radiator out. He used a standard wand and then tried the Air Comb. The Air Comb got a lot more debris out of it.”

Learn more at www.ipatools.com.

2. Viking Tribal 3350 Series ADF Welding Helmet is an auto-darkening, solar-powered helmet that offers continuously variable control for shade and sensitivity. It has 6 to 13 shade controls and is popular among the test team.

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“We really liked the tinting variability,” says David. “We can use a plasma cutter with it at lighter tints and then weld with it at darker tints. There is so much adjustment on it for shade. We really liked the delay of time that it comes on. And it's lightweight at 21 ounces.”

For under $300, they all agreed this helmet is well worth the investment.

Learn more at www.lincolnelectric.com.

1. Easypuller combines locking pliers with a 2-pound hammer to create a powerful pulling force. Simply clamp the pliers on any item you want to remove and slide the hammer quickly along the slide bolt to the end, creating a powerful pulling force.

When the Nelsons saw this device, it reminded them of a tool they had created to use on their own farm. “We used it to remove a cotter pin in a tough spot on a skid steer loader,” says Dennis. “For $39.95, this tool is a must-have for our toolbox.”

Learn more at www.lasvegastool.com.

Meet the Testers

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Five men (shown above) at Nelson Farms, Belmond, Iowa, tested more than two dozen tools as part of the Successful Farming magazine Product Test Team. Brothers David, Dennis, and Neal Nelson have been farming in the Midwest for more than two decades. The corn and soybean growers, who also raise hogs, have an operation with an extensive lineup of machinery that is well maintained in their recently built shop.

Along with employees Steve Schrage and Loren Wenzel, the Nelsons have put more than a few tools through their paces over the years. When they couldn't find a tool on the market to tackle a job on the farm, like many farmers, they created their own.

For more than two months, the men tested a variety of tools from Craftsman, DeWalt, GearWrench, Grime Boss, IPA Tools, Las Vegas Tool, Lincoln Electric, Milwaukee Electric Tool, and TR Tools. Successful Farming magazine would like to extend a special thank you to those companies that generously donated products for this test.

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