Having the right tool, gadget or knick-knack at hand can take some stress out of the most frustrating farm tasks.
Here the Farmers Weekly Machinery team presents 20 potential gems – some old-school, others quirky newcomers – that won’t break the bank.
Watch the video and read the report below.
Gocableties releasable cable ties
Price: £19.71 for a 100-pack of 450x9mm
There are various types of reusable cable ties on the market.
Some (like the ones we had) look very similar to a standard plastic zip and have a very small tab that needs a long nail or pen knife to lift it.
For jobs where you would like to remove them time and again, we would recommend something such as a heavy-duty Speedy Tie.
A quick Google search will find them – they’re yellow in colour and have a much bigger thumb-release tab.
They’re also a bit more expensive – £9.21 for a bag of five – but should last a long time provided you’re careful not to grind down the plastic teeth.
Most come from wholesalers so the more you buy, the cheaper they get, and they’re available in widths up to about 13mm.
See also: Six best-selling impact drivers on test
Screwfix Multi-Fix concrete screws
Price: £10.41 for a 100-pack of 7.5x100mm
Attaching timber to masonry usually involves pushing plugs or expansion anchors into the wall first.
However, you’ll now find a pretty decent selection of concrete screws from any reputable merchant – ours came from Screwfix and included a T30 driver bit.
All they require in terms of preparation is a pilot hole (usually 1mm or so narrower than the screw) before they can be wound straight in.
The tougher the material you’re screwing into, the better as the high/low threads of the screw winds themselves in but they should happily bite into concrete, brick, stone, block or wood.
We found mortar a bit loose to get a decent fix.
CK self-adjusting wire stripper
Our favourite tool is the self-adjusting wire stripper. This one is made by CK (sourced from Toolstation) and will pull the coating off flat and round wires.
It’s a doddle to use – simply slot the electrical wire across the jaws and, as you squeeze the handles, they’ll clamp the wire and whip off the plastic insulation.
Its limit is apparently 6mm, but we found it worked well on the outer of much thicker twin and earth cable too.
Once the grey outer is removed, you can also bung the live and neutral wires in the block at the same time and it will strip them both.
A depth stop can be slid in and out to determine how much of the wire is stripped and there are also crimping and wire-cutting jaws, along with a little adjustment knob for stripping really thin wire.
Halford’s assorted heat-shrink tubing
Heat-shrink tubing might have been around for years but having a decent selection in stock will mean you can finish soldered wire joins or cover small components such as resistors with a more weatherproof, insulated and longer-lasting finish than a few tatty loops of insulation tape can offer.
They’re also far more convenient than buying long lengths of tube and cutting them to size.
In case you haven’t used them before, simply slip the wire through the tube and then wave a lighter, soldering iron or heater around it – any sort of heat should be enough to make it contract.
Ours came from Halfords but it could have done with a few extra smaller tubes as they are used far more frequently. You can pick up similar kits from other retailers – a quick internet search found prices as low as £2.30.
Draper strap wrench
Strap wrenches come in all shapes and sizes.
Some use rubber bands – particularly useful for plumbing jobs – others use chains and the one we’ve picked has a nylon strap joined to an attachment for a 1/2in drive or 21mm socket.
There’s nothing high-tech about its operations; just get a ratchet on the socket drive and crank it round – the webbed strap will gradually tighten and twist the filter loose.
Nylon straps tend to work better than steel three-jaw grippers that have a habit of twisting awkwardly, or 12in adjustable oil filter pliers.
The Tyre Equipment Company heavy-duty puncture kit
For a quick in-field puncture fix, something like this Black Jack kit will get a tubeless tyre air-tight in just five minutes without having to take off the wheel.
You can pay as little as £5 for a string insert kit, but we’ve gone for one at the pukka end of the market.
For that, you get a spiral rasp tool that should be slid in and out to roughen and clean out the wound and a split-eye needle to insert the sticky strings.
Push them roughly two-thirds of the way in and then slice off excess material with the razor blade provided.
The kit comes with strings of different thicknesses and lengths to suit the size of the hole, which can be replaced pretty cheaply.
There’s no need for any glue either, but bear in mind that it should only be used as a temporary fix.
Evolution Rage mitre saw multi-blade 255mm
Price: £24.98 (blade only)
If you’re chopping through nail-ridden timber regularly then Evolution’s Rage blade is the tool for the job.
It runs on the British firm’s mitre saw and the same 24-tooth blade will slice its way through steel, aluminium, plastic and wood.
It carries tungsten carbide tips that can operate at much higher temperatures and spinning speeds than high-speed steel equivalents.
It comes in a few different sizes – we had the 255mm diameter blade with 25.4mm bore – and spins at about 2,500rpm to produce a burr-free finish on box-section steel.
We found the whole rig online for £112.49 and, given its versatility, we reckon it’s a shrewd investment for anyone that currently does without a regular circular saw and bandsaw.
Bosch drill bit sharpener
If you’ve got a tray-full of blunt drill bits lying around the workshop then it’s probably worth breathing new life into them with a sharpener.
Most of the cheap kits are multi-tool arrangements that spin a grinding wheel and come with different plastic attachments to sharpen chisels, scissors, knives and drill bits.
They’re a bit toy-cracker quality, come with more complicated instructions and have a reputation for burning out the motors when pushed hard, but if you can find a cheapy then it could still be considered money well spent.
We’ve gone for Bosch’s purpose-built bit sharpener, which is at the more expensive end of the market.
It slides over the spindle collar of an electric drill with an M8 bolt in the chuck to transfer the drive to the grinding wheel. Once it’s spinning, just push the drill bit into the appropriate hole the other end, twisting it quickly. It doesn’t take long to sharpen them up, but this one is limited to a maximum bit size of 10mm.
Of course, you can also use a standard bench grinder, but there’s a bit more skill involved.
Heller cobalt drill bit set
This six-piece set of cobalt drill bits from Toolstation runs from 2mm to 8mm and doesn’t cost a whole lot more than a standard HSS set.
The 135deg point angle gets going pretty easily and accurately, and should last far longer when working through stainless or high-alloy steels. In reality, we’d probably get the bigger set – expect to pay about £30 for the 19-piecer.
Teng Tools nut splitter
When a nut is rusted on and refusing to budge with the socket set, these nut splitters might be the answer.
They’re better for getting into awkward places than a grinder or hacksaw and more delicate than clumping the troublespot with a hammer and chisel.
They should also keep the bolt threads in half-decent nick if you need to wind another nut on.
This Teng Tools kit comes with two crackers – one for 5-20mm nuts and the other for 14-27mm – that use a tough blade that is wound through the wall of the nut.
Sometimes it cracks straight off under the pressure, but often it needs a bit of light encouragement.
It’s definitely worth shelling out a few extra quid for a decent brand, otherwise the blades will go blunt. If you’re doing a lot of this type of stuff then you can get hydraulic nut splitters from Sykes-Pickavant – a new one costs close to £200.
Where we shopped
We picked up all of the bits featured on these pages from our local tool shops and mainstream online retailers. We tried to shop around to find the best prices (ex VAT), but they may have changed since we assembled our collection in March.
Siegen magnetic parts tray
It may seem simple but lots of people go without magnetic trays and end up losing parts in engine bays or tractor back-ends.
This twin-magnet tray measures 240x140mm and will hold nuts, bolts, washers and sockets, even when it’s hanging upside down.
You’ll probably find far cheaper ones if you shop around – down to about £3 for a single-magnet set-up.
Trojan eight-in-one rotational socket wrench
This is far from being a top-quality tool but, with eight sockets set on one handle, it’s the ideal thing to lob into a tractor toolbox.
It means you can keep your workshop spanners where they should be while still carting around all the main sizes from 8-21mm.
Faithfull flexible drill drive shaft
The flexible, anti-kink shaft slots into the chuck of any electric drill and extends the drive by 1.1m to a second 6mm keyless chuck.
It’s potentially handy and can be threaded/poked through awkward channels, but the solid plastic handle is still 175mm long, so isn’t quite as versatile as you might imagine.
It can run all the usual items – drill bits, wire brushes and grinding wheels to name a few – but for working between joists, you might be better off getting an attachment to turn the drive on a standard drill through 90deg (or buy a specialist right-angle drill).
Irwin bolt grip sockets
When you’ve chewed a nut so much that a spanner simply won’t grip, these reverse spiral flutes bite in to give you one last chance of removing it cleanly.
Like the nut crackers, it’s worth splashing out on a decent brand for this type of thing – poor-quality metal will get mushed up pretty quickly.
We found they needed a decent tap with the hammer to make sure they grip the nut tight.
Once you’ve locked on and started turning, the spiral flutes bite down harder on the nut.
Each socket will take a 3/8in square drive for an impact driver or there are hexagonal flats for sockets and mole grips.
They’re nicely made, but there’s not a wide enough selection of socket sizes in the five-piece pack we bought (it ranged from 3/8in to 5/8in) and we reckon there are a few better options for shifting rounded-off, rusted-over or painted-on nuts.
Recoil M8x1.25 helicoil thread kit
These recoil kits solve the problem of wrecked threads by ripping out and re-building the old ridges with a nifty coil that returns the cylindrical hole to its original size.
We bought the M8 kit – a popular farm bolt – but if it’s going to be a store cupboard item then it’s probably better to get one of the multi-size packs.
To use them, clear the old threads with a drill bit, then retap the hole (both the bit and tap are provided in the kit). You can then wind the coils – made of stainless steel wire rolled into a diamond-shaped cross-section – into the threads to finish the job.
There’s a huge range of kits out there. They’re not particularly cheap but it’s a clever way of solving a headache-inducing problem and once you’ve got the tap, bit and insertion tool, you can just buy bags of inserts – they tend to be about £5 for a bag of 10.
SIP 3/16in professional air-powered riveter
The air-powered riveter is another one of our favourites.
Obviously, you need to be doing a fair bit of tinwork to justify the expense but it’s seriously satisfying to use compared with a manual gun (which you can pick up from somewhere such as Euro Car Parts for £7).
It works quietly too, and can keep on going without a break provided there is a reliable 6.3bar (90psi) pressure in the airline.
The model we used was bought a couple of years ago but the design hasn’t really changed.
Draper Expert digital vernier calipers
Vernier calipers are a workshop essential for anyone wanting to build to a more accurate level than an old tape measure will allow.
However, on manual read-out versions the numbers aren’t that easy to read – particularly for those with poor eyesight – so for a few quid extra, you can have a digital version that spells out the measurement much more clearly on an LCD display.
Gunsons Eezibleed auto brake/clutch bleeding kit
Gunsons well-known bleeding kit has been knocking around for a few years now.
It uses air pressure – provided by a spare wheel in the case of cars – through a 2m tube to force fluid through the system.
There is a selection of caps that should fit most machines with a screw-cap reservoir and that joins via a 600mm reservoir tube to the pressure vessel.
The key is to get the cap sealing tightly to avoid spilling brake fluid everywhere and wrecking the paintwork.
Lifting Equipment Store endless lifting straps
Lightweight lifting kit isn’t as expensive as you might think and can have the sort of capacity to outdo the old-school chain and hook
The lifting straps we picked were rated to 8t but there are all sorts of sizes and lengths depending on the sorts of jobs you have planned. The LES range kicks off at 1t (starting at £1.48) and goes to 15t (starting at £113.15) for the smallest circumferences.
It’s also worth bearing in mind the lift capacities vary depending on how they’re used – our set can carry up to 16t when used as a standard U-shaped sling.
Owners also have to treat the straps with far more care than you would with old chains, as pinching and tearing the webbing can seriously affect lift capacity.
Spax wood screws
Price: £17.86 for a 100-pack of 6x100mm
Star-headed torx screws make a better job of maintaining the drive from the drill without mushing-up the head. The extra ribs increase the contact area between the driver and the head and the bit uses a blunt point.
You can pick them up from most wood merchants. We got ours from Walford Timber and they came with a wirox coating to make them corrosion resistant – just the job for external timber.
Got any suggestions?
There are thousands of quirky tools out there we and many other farmers will never have thought of using (and may never have heard of). If you can think of any that are reasonably priced then please get in touch – we’re keen to run another story looking at more of these handy items.
The quickest way is to send a text to 07717 660 034 – you can do it while you’re reading this – but you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org