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'Every Farmer Ought To Have A Workshop' | Fall 2006 Out Here Magazine

Tips from Handy Farm Devices as relevant today as in 1909

By Carol Davis

Handy Farm Devices and How to Make Them, written in 1909 by Rolf Cobleigh, associate editor of American Agriculturist magazine, provides know-how on making handy devices not likely found in stores — a pig catcher, fruit picker, or corn husking rack.

But first, Cobleigh says, you need tools. In this excerpt from the chapter titled, The Farmer's Workshop, his suggestions are as well suited for 2006 as they were nearly 100 years ago:


There is no doubt that of all the handy farm devices, good tools head the list … Every farmer ought to have a workshop in which he can do odd jobs and make things when the weather prevents out-of-door work, or at times when there is little to do on the farm.

Economy and thrift demand that a farmer should have and keep in good condition a few essential carpenter tools. First of all, he should have a long, strong, smooth-top bench and, either on racks above the bench or in a tool chest, he should keep in order, and where he can easily find them when wanted, his stock of carpenter tools.

Some of the tools that will be found useful are the following:

A rip saw, a crosscut saw, a back saw, and a compass saw; a jack plane, a fore plane, and a smoothing plane; a shave or drawing knife; two or three chisels of different sizes for woodworking and a cold chisel for metal; a gouge or two; a good hatchet; two or three hammers, including a tack hammer and a bell-faced claw hammer; a brace or bit stock with a set of half a dozen or more bits of different sizes; one or more gimlets; a mallet; a nail set, a large screwdriver and a small one; a gauge; a spirit level; a miter box; a good carpenter's square — No. 100 is a good standard size; compasses or dividers; cut nippers, a pair of small pincers and a pair of large ones; a rasp; a large, flat file; at least one medium-sized three-cornered file and a half-round file.

It is poor economy to buy cheap tools. Of course extravagance is to be avoided, but be sure that you get first-class material in every tool you buy …

Keep on hand in the shop a variety of nails, brads and tacks, screws, rivets, bolts, washers, and nuts, and such small articles of builders' hardware that are likely to be needed occasionally, including hinges, hasps and staples, and some sandpaper. Have a good plumb line, chalk, and pencils.

Keep in a handy place a jar of a good liquid glue, and some cement. See to it that the shop contains a good stock of well-seasoned lumber, both hard wood and soft. Attached to the bench should be a bench screw or vise. This need not be an expensive one, but should be of good size and strong. There should also be a pair of carpenter's saw benches, a shaving horse, a small anvil, and a grindstone.

A corner of the shop should be devoted to painting supplies, including several colors of good standard ready-mixed paints and stains, raw linseed oil, boiled linseed oil, turpentine, varnish, putty, points for setting glass, several brushes of different sizes, a good putty knife, and panes of glass of different sizes ready for emergency …

It would cost quite a tidy sum to buy all these things at once, but they can be gradually accumulated as one is able to purchase them, and then the outfit should be kept complete. Whenever anything in the shop is broken, worn out, or disappears it should be replaced.

Whenever farm implements or anything about the barn or house are broken or out of order, they should be properly fixed. Often a few minutes spent at the right time will make a thing almost as good as new, while, if neglected, it may soon get beyond repair and have to be thrown away.

A thrifty farmer always keeps his farm implements well housed and in repair. It is not what we earn, but what we save, that makes us rich. It is quite as important to stop the leaks as it is to figure on big profits directly.