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6 tools to make your shop more efficient

The trend toward handling more repair and maintenance chores at home – combined with the necessity to keep equipment constantly rolling at the height of the season – is putting more pressure on farm shops to be more efficient. The following are six investments that not only will expand your shop's capacity but also may save you time and maintenance costs.

  1. Rolling tool racks and benches offer the opportunity to move tools or a work space right next to the job to speed work. The rolling tool bench shown above was the creation of Michael Blake and Dustin Harrison who farm near Aurelia, Iowa. “The frame is 2-inch square tubing topped off with 3/16-inch steel plate and ¾-inch plywood for the upright tool rack. Old hog flooring was used to create a bottom storage shelf. We built the rack for a fraction of the cost of a rolling toolbox,” Blake says. “With it, all the tools are exposed for fast identification. Besides being able to move tools where we need them, the bench provides some work space to work on smaller items.”

  2. Lubricant pump and meter systems can seem pricey at $750 to $1,000 for a complete system (air-operated pump, hose, hose reel, and electronic metered gun). But with “some of large tractors consuming 14 to 16 quarts of engine oil, using a 2-gallon oil can seem to take hours for refillings,” says Randy Miiller of Mount Vernon, South Dakota. “Plus, no matter how careful you are, you always seem to leave a trail of oil on the floor or manage to drip on an engine. With this system, refilling a tractor is a mess-free, five-minute job.”

    Lubricant pump systems are accurate (thanks to an electronic meter that dispenses the exact fluid you program into the gun), clean (drips are eliminated), and fast (entry-level pumps dispense at a rate of 3 to 5 gallons per minute).

  3. Welder spool guns can equip any wire welder to readily dispense aluminum electrode without the worry of that wire bunching up in the feed cable. Plus they extend the reach of a welder another 25 to 50 feet to go down inside trailer hopper bottoms or up grain legs. Spool guns also carry their own supply of electrode wire in a 4-inch-diameter spool. They receive electricity and gas (if needed) through a cable running out from the welder. Entry-level spool guns range in price from $300 to $900.

  4. A tire repair center can be as basic as a workbench equipped with a variety of tires irons and spoons, a tire hammer, bead breaker, manual tire changer, and dunk tank ($350 to $800 if purchased new, not including repair supplies), and up to $2,000 to $5,000. “Timewise, there is no comparison,” says Brad Minor of Rutland, South Dakota. “It can take you hours to take an implement tire to town to get it fixed. Even then, a dealer may not be open at night or weekends. With a tire center, you can get the job done in 20 to 30 minutes at home.”

  5. Overhead booms fashioned in your shop suspend air lines or electrical cords within quick reach over work areas to keep hoses or cable out from underfoot. The Waterloo, Wisconsin-based Crave Brothers Farm built the boom shown left from 1½-inch steel tubing to suspend a 10-gauge power cord over their welding table.

    “The boom hinges on the wall so it swings in an arc over the table for easy positioning. The cord and reel cost more than the boom to make,” says Andy Crave. “This saves us from always unwinding tangled cords, which, if left on the floor or table, are also susceptible to damage.”

  6. Auto lifts represent a sizable investment, ranging in cost from $3,000 to $10,000 for lifts with capacities that range from 8,000 to 25,000 pounds. But if you're doing work such as greasing a chassis, changing oil, or fixing brakes, the investment can be quickly recouped.

    “It was one of the best investments I made in my shop,” says Larry Rutt of Chappell, Nebraska, who purchased a 10,000-pound-capacity Rotary Lift. “I got tired of crawling under vehicles. It makes jobs like lubing a chassis much easier.”

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