PHOTO: Keeler Johnson
February 14, 2017

When it comes to hobby farms, there are a few machines and tools that every farmer needs. One is a tractor (or similar machine) for transporting supplies and doing heavy work. Another is an electric drill—as you might recall, last year I made the case that electric drills are an absolutely essential farm tool.

Another tool that I believe every farmer should have on hand is a ratchet with a set of interchangeable sockets for use with nuts, bolts and some types of screws. So many farm machines and tools are held together by thick bolts with nuts screwed tightly in place, and if you’re going to be doing any sort of maintenance or assembly, a ratchet with a large collection of assorted sockets (like this one) is critical.

One huge advantage that ratchets offer is the ability to turn a nut in only one direction. This allows you to effortlessly tighten or loosen a nut by simply swinging the ratchet back and forth. The ratchet will only turn the nut in the direction you desire, automatically letting go when you turn in the opposite direction. This makes them faster and easier to use than traditional wrenches, where you must either turn them in a continuous loop (not always possible when working in tight quarters) or remove them from the nut after every partial turn to adjust your position.

Here are just a handful of jobs where a ratchet and socket set might come in handy.

1. Machine Repair & Maintenance

Even if you’re just doing a little maintenance that won’t require much effort, you never know when you might encounter the need for a ratchet-and-socket set. For example, just last month I was replacing the muffler on a snow blower and had to use a ratchet and two different sockets to undo the bolts and screws.

Really, when it comes to machine repair and maintenance, the possibilities are endless for using a ratchet-and-socket set. You might need them for replacing spark plugs, which tends to be a rather common job with small engines. You might need them for replacing the teeth on a hay rake. You might need them for replacing parts on an old wagon. You might need them for removing the mower deck on your lawn mower. The list goes on and on!

2. Assembling Things

It seems as though every wagon, yard cart or wheelbarrow ever designed is held together with nuts and bolts. Because most of these items arrive unassembled, a ratchet-and-socket set will make the assembly process significantly easier. And because these bolts usually have to be installed in tight places without much room to maneuver, the ratchet will make tightening the nuts much faster. Just make sure that you have all your sockets on hand and haven’t lost any—the number of different sizes of nuts and bolts in a single project can be astonishing.

3. Installing & Replacing Fence Gates

While your ratchet-and-socket set will surely get the most use with the first two categories, I’ve found that it’s good to have them on hand for working on fence gates, as well. Some types of gates are held in place by large bolts driven through wooden fence posts. While this occasionally means that the nut will be screwed on so far along the bolt that your small sockets won’t be able to reach it (requiring the use of a different type of wrench), they’ll still be a timesaver in many cases.

It’s clear, you’d be lost on your farm without a ratchet-and-socket set, so ensure you’ll be set up for future productivity by investing in one today.

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