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Product Test Team 2019: 6 Farmer-Tested Tools
Our farmer evaluators tested a workbench full of new tools.
1. Wagner Control Pro 150: Airless Sprayer is Ideal on Farmsteads
Wagner’s Control Pro 150 unit is not a replacement for an HVLP sprayer for automotive work if you want a mirror-smooth finish. But you can spray iron with it and do a good job, which is what I did with a trailer and toolbar. Where it really shined, though, was spraying building exteriors and interiors.
This is a high-efficiency airless (HEA) sprayer that pressurizes paint for delivery. In my first use of HEA, I found it far easier to master than an air gun, which requires you to set both air pressure and paint feed rate separately. With HEA, you set the paint feed rate and select different nozzles to produce finer or heavier droplets. This sprayer employs a pump slightly larger than ½ hp., which is powerful enough to dole out unthinned coatings (such as high-acrylic “super” paints). By not using air to deliver paint, an HEA sprayer produces far less overspray (55%, according to Wagner). So much less, in fact, that when I used the Control Pro 150 on an interior project (a shop wall), I didn’t have to contend with paint dusting the floor or filling the air.
Also, I could spray continuously without having to refill the screw-on canister in use on HVLP sprayers. The Control Pro 150 sucks right out of a 1- or 5-gallon bucket, which is a good thing, because this sprayer turns out nearly 1∕3 gallon a minute. This is the sprayer to go with if you are painting large surfaces.
In that regard, I tried the sprayer on a grain bin (thin oil paint) and a barn (much thicker acrylic latex paint). Again, adjusting the sprayer for paint thickness (the viscosity of the paint it propels as well as the thickness of the coat it leaves behind) was simple. Hats off to Wagner for providing instructions (and online videos) that are easy to follow.
The Control Pro 150 retails complete for $289.99. You can order upgraded versions of this technology ($309 up to $429) with larger motors and more options.
If you need to paint a barn or a large shed, that investment provides a payback the first day you use it.
2. dewalt DCG426 CORDLESS DIE GRINDER: Grinder for Tight Spots
James Fred was the perfect evaluator for the DeWalt DCG426 cordless die grinder, as the Rochester, Indiana, dairy farmer had used air die grinders before. “The advantage of a die grinder, in general, is it allows me to get into tight spots an angle grinder can’t reach. For reaming out a hole in metal, nothing is better,” Fred points out.
While he appreciates his air die grinder, this cordless unit provides him so much more flexibility in tackling different chores. “I can grab it and head outside if I’m working on a grain leg or an implement,” he says. “This is a more substantial tool (in length at 15 inches and weight at 4 pounds) than an air grinder. It allows me to grab the tool and bear down when grinding, let’s say, a crack out of metal before making a welding repair.”
Fred points out that the cordless grinder could be awkward in tight spots, where an air die grinder is shorter. “It makes up for that with the convenience of not having to drag an air hose around,” he says.
He also appreciated the tool’s three speed ranges (with variable speeds within ranges). “I can set the ranges to suit the job, such as using a wire brush attachment where too high a top speed can cause me to loose bristles or when using a burr bit that must ran slower to avoid ruining the bit.”
At a retail price of $216 (online prices were as low as $149), Fred says this tool is well worth the money.
3. MILWAUKEE JOBSITE BACKPACK: Bulletproof Tool Pack
Storage-wise, the tool backpack evaluated by Jerl Joseph held everything a comparable hard-sided toolbox could carry “but all the tools are on full display when I open the pack up,” the Hampton, Nebraska, farmer points out. “Golly, does it have a bunch of pockets (35 pockets, according to the manufacturer) and also elastic pockets on its outside and places to clip on tools. Another nice feature of the pack, which I didn’t use, was that it has a laptop sleeve that can hold a computer.”
Milwaukee notes that sleeve holds laptops up to 15.6 inches.
A fold-down front pocket also provides for extra storage space for large items such as extension cords, drills, or repair supplies.
Where Milwaukee’s Jobsite Backpack really shined, Joseph points out, “was that it was soft sided, so I can keep it in a tractor or pickup cab and not worry about it damaging walls or upholstery. Plus, I can throw it on my back to walk to work in the field, which I sometimes have to do out here where I use center pivot sprinklers.”
Milwaukee designed its tool backpack with a padded load-bearing harness, “which doesn’t cut into my shoulders if I need to carry it around. But it also has a handy handle on top,” Joseph notes.
The manufacturer added a harness strap that snaps around your chest to keep the backpack’s load even across the body.
Milwaukee manufactured the Jobsite pack from 1680 denier material – a ballistic material that is highly resistant to cutting or snaps. That material is stitched to a water-resistant plastic base that holds the backpack upright when it is set down.
The Jobsite Backpack (model 48-22-8200) carries a list price of $175; online prices are as low as $129. Milwaukee backs the pack with a lifetime guarantee. “This is everything I expected from Milwaukee Tool in that it is so well built,” Joseph notes.
4. Tiger lights: Perfect-Fit LED Lights
You don’t have to be envious of the stadium-like lighting on newer equipment if you run older machinery like Bret and Mike Braatan. The Butterfield, Minnesota, father-and-son farm team were provided retrofit LED lights to replace the incandescent lights on a Case IH 9380 tractor, Case IH 9120 combine, and rear light on a Bobcat 850.
“You know when you hear that parts will fit, well, sometimes ‘will fit’ doesn’t fit,” Bret observes. “But Tiger Lights said it would fit in existing light openings, and it did. So replacing the lights was simple by removing mounting screws, plugging in the new lights, and reinstalling them.”
Most of the lights the Braatans replaced were plug-and-play units that Tiger Lights designs to fit manufacturer requirements and to readily fit with existing plugs. “We did, however, get a back work light for our Bobcat that required a little wiring, but that was simple. I didn’t have to read the instructions for installation,” Bret says.
Where these retrofit LED lights really shined was in the field.
“Oh my gosh, what a difference. Unbelievable light – like in the middle of the day,” Bret says. “We ran them last harvest on the combine and tractor. Those LEDs light up the field way ahead of the combine. We could clearly see unloading on-the-go. We could easily watch what kind of job we were doing in the field while tilling.”
The Braatans were also surprised by the difference the upgrade in light produced on the rear work light on their Bobcat 850.
“The old light, well, that was like a candle compared with the LED replacement,” Mike points out.
Tiger Lights offers a very wide range of retrofit lights for all ages and types of equipment (including UTVs) that are complete units (with housings) or plug-and-play lights that use original hardware.
Retail prices (all listed online at tigerlights.com) vary greatly by the light being replaced. Tiger Lights makes retrofit lights for all major makes and models of farm equipment as well as UTVs and many brands of construction equipment.
Its offering of retrofit products also includes work lights, warning lights, and light bars.
Pricewise, a simple 18-watt sealed round light sells for $39, where the headlights for Case IH STX and MX tractors (shown above) range from $160 to $170. A complete set of lights for Case IH combines (like that used by the Braatans) varied from $1,200 to $1,280; a complete set for a Case IH tractor was $820 to $1,000.
“At first blush, that may seem a bit steep,” Bret says. “But once you see the difference in the lighting, you quickly justify the cost.”
5. milwaukee M18 Fuel chain saw: Battery-Powered Saw
When Terry Wells found out he was getting a battery-powered chain saw to evaluate, the Maxwell, Iowa, farmer thought it was something he could only use to trim tree branches. “I had no idea I could take a whole tree down with this thing,” he marvels. “I first used it to remove trees in a fence line. Then I found I grabbed it more often than my 16- and 20-inch gas chain saws.”
Wells evaluated Milwaukee’s M18 16-inch chain saw, which is powered by that company’s new 12-amp-hour high-output 18-volt battery. “What was so impressive was its power,” Wells points out, adding that the saw could handle any job a 16-inch gas saw would be used for. “The difference between a conventional saw and the Milwaukee unit is pressing the trigger on the Milwaukee saw and I’m cutting. No mixing gas, no spark plug to replace, no filter to change, and no pull starting. Beyond refilling the chain lube reservoir, there really isn’t any maintenance with the Milwaukee unit.”
Wells says the battery-powered saw operated all day on a single charge, which usually recharges in about an hour. “What was so impressive was the amount of power that saw had. I was taking down good-size trees (12 inches in diameter and larger at times) with the Milwaukee saw, and it didn’t balk even cutting through hardwood trees,” he says.
Milwaukee estimates the M18 chain saw (which is equipped with a Oregon bar and chain) is equivalent to a 40-cc gas engine and reaches full operating throttle in under one second. The saw is powered by that company’s Powerstate brushless motor that is designed to maintain cutting speeds under heavy loads without stalling. That company estimates the saw can deliver up to 150 cuts per charge.
The model 2720-20 without a battery or charger retails for $299. Adding the M18 HD12.0 battery pack (recommended for the saw) retails for $249.
“That’s more than the price of a 16- or 20-inch gas chain saw,” Wells figures. “But then I don’t have all the yearly maintenance costs that I’d incur with a gas chain saw.”
6. mini-Ductor venom: Red-Hot Induction Tool
If you’ve ever had to use a torch to heat up a rusted or stuck nut or bolt, then you’ll quickly appreciate the Mini-Ductor induction heater, observes Dave Nelson. “I was amazed by how fast it turned a nut red hot,” the Belmond, Iowa, farmer says.
The tool’s manufacturer, Induction Innovations, claims the Mini-Ductor can turn a ¾-inch nut red hot in 15 seconds. “I didn’t time it, but I’d say it’s not far off base,” Nelson says. “By focusing the heat around the object I’m working on, the tool minimizes heating of surrounding objects (a problem when using a torch). This is great if I’m working around hoses or belts or something that would melt or could catch fire.”
Nelson also appreciated the tool’s small size and weight (compared with a torch) and found that it fit into tight areas not as accessible by a torch. The kit he evaluated includes a flexible coil that could be wrapped around irregular-shape or in-line objects (such as a metal pipe coupler). A variety of fixed coil sizes are also available. Nelson liked how the coils easily locked into place in the tool. At $599, the Mini-Ductor Venom’s price could be daunting unless you had a lot of need for it. “But there is nothing better for heating up fasteners fast,” Nelson recommends.
What do you want tested?
We will continue to test shop tools and products throughout the year and feature them in future issues. Let us know what items you would like to see tested. In addition, we are always on the lookout for farmer evaluators to join the Successful Farming Product Test Team. To get involved with our testing process, email firstname.lastname@example.org.