Video: On test – 20 top workshop tools recommended by farmers

Off the back of the low-cost tool, gadget and knickknack review we carried out last year, scores of readers got in touch with nifty suggestions of their own.

Oliver Mark and James Andrews tried out some of the clever and quirky items that arrived in our inbox.

Watch the video and read the full report below

 

Scapa sniper tape

Price: £9.99 for a 10m roll

scapa sniper tape

© Jonathan Page

Sniper fabric tape is so versatile that it’s a piece of general-issue kit in the armed forces.

It gets used for everything from taping up weapons and patching webbing, to repairing fabrics and labelling equipment.

Unlike duct tape, it’s ultra flexible and has a matt finish so that it can be written on easily.

It is also water-resistant and tough against abrasion, yet can still be ripped off the roll by hand.

In a farming context it can be useful for protecting ropes and ratchet straps from rubbing, repairing ripped fabric or securing and labelling parts. It can also add grip to handles.

There are plenty of imitations, but a company called Scapa makes the genuine stuff.

It can be little difficult to get hold of in civi land, but there are a number of online retailers that offer it.

When we tried it out we didn’t find it that sticky. However, it is pressure sensitive and bonds stronger the harder it’s pressed on.

When wrapped around items, it seemed particularly strong.

See also: Video: 20 handy workshop tools, gadgets and knick-knacks

Sealey four-piece miniature hook and pick set

Price: £9.99

Sealey four-piece miniature hook and pick set

© Jonathan Page

Rather than fishing out o-rings and seals with pieces of bent wire or modified screwdrivers, it could be worth investing in a cheap-and-cheerful hook and pick set.

This particular kit is made by Sealey and has four differently shaped hooks and picks to help tease out the most stubborn customers.

They also have comfortable, rubbery handles that offer enough grip to get some decent purchase on the item.

As well as rubber seals, they’re useful for removing small bushes, split pins and spring tensioners.

Beefier versions are also available for heavier-duty tasks.

Faithful square drive adapters

Price: £4.62

square drive adapters

© Jonathan Page

For those with a cordless impact driver in their toolbox, this handy set of adapters will convert it into socket wrench.

There are three units in the pack, which slot into the tool’s 1/4in hex drive allowing it to accept either 1/4in, 3/8in or 1/2in sockets.

We tried them out on a Milwaukee Fuel 18v driver and found it would handle most stuff up to the toughness of a pickup wheel nut.

However, it failed on those that had been gorilla’d up beyond the correct torque setting.

Carbide-tipped scriber

Price: £5.89 for two

Carbide-tipped scriber

© Jonathan Page

The ultra-hard tip on this carbide scriber means it can score accurate marks into most types of metal.

It’s also capable of cutting into glass and ceramics, should there be a need.

For when it isn’t in use, there’s a clip for stowing it in a pocket, as well as a rubber cap to prevent the tip boring a hole for change to drop through.

Tite-reach extension wrench

Price: £39.99

Tite reach extension wrench

© Jonathan Page

When there’s an awkward nut the socket set just can’t get on to, one of Tite-Reach’s socket extenders could come to the rescue.

The tools are available in various sizes from 1/4in to 1/2in drive, and some of the biggest versions will extend the socket 35cm away from ratchet.

They do this using a chain inside the casing that transfers the torque from one end to the other.

Where we shopped

We picked up all of the bits featured from our local tool shops and mainstream online retailers.

We tried to shop around to find the best prices, but they could have changed since we assembled our collection in February.

We also went for the cheaper options in most cases, but you’ll be able to find higher-quality (and higher-priced) versions of pretty much every item we tested.

To make sure they last, the chain runs on tough chrome vanadium sprockets – on the lower-spec models, these spin on low-friction bushings, while the high-end ones use roller bearings.

We tried out one of the lower-spec plastic-cased models with a 3/8in drive that was useful for lighter work.

It also came with an adapter to accept 1/4in sockets. However, for general farm duties, we’d plump for the aluminium-cased 1/2in professional model.

For stubborn nuts and bolts, this can also be used with an impact wrench and it’s rated to take an impact of about 1,600Nm.

It’ll also handle a direct torque load of 300Nm.

As yet, there aren’t many shops selling these tools in the UK, but there are a number of online retailers, some of which will be shipping from the US.

The lower-spec model pictured costs about £39.99, while the professional one comes in at about £120 plus taxes.

Sugru mouldable silicon glue

Price: £12.99

Sugru mouldable silicon glue

© Jonathan Page

It might have been designed for patching up products around the home, but the mouldable silicon glue, Sugru, can also be pretty useful on the farm.

The product comes in small sachets and when opened has the texture of Play-Doh, making it easy to squish and shape.

However, after 24 hours at room temperature, it cures to form a flexible silicon rubber.

According to the maker it will bond to almost any clean surface, is electrically insulating and can deal with temperatures as low as -50C and as high as 180C.

It’s also waterproof and will support a weight of up to 2kg. However, it won’t bond to oily plastics such as polypropylene.

It’s particularly nifty at repairing split outer cables on power tools, leaking seals and even patching up holes in wellies.

We reckon it could also prove useful in a cab for repairing or replacing grips on handles, making custom hooks, plugging up holes, or mending bits of trim.

Surfaces do need to be clean for it to bond properly and it will take longer than 24 hours to cure if laid on thicker than 3mm.

Cold temperatures also seem to slow the curing time.

Various different colours and pack sizes are available, but we tried a black-and-white set containing eight sachets that cost £12.99.

Streetwise Accessories Light Stream workshop light

Streetwise Accessories Light Stream workshop light

© Jonathan Page

Price: £37.80

Some battery-powered workshop lights are a little lacklustre, but the 60 cob LEDs on the Light Stream by Steetwise Accessories offer plenty of illumination.

On-paper output is a claimed 200 lumens – about double the brightness of a standard LED – and the whole light bar can be rotated to get the beam in the right place.

Magnets on adjustable brackets at either end allow it to be attached to metal objects of various shapes and sizes, and for any other surface there are a pair of integrated hooks.

It comes with a rechargeable battery and charger that works with both 12V and 240V supplies.

We picked this example up from Rough Trax and it cost £37.80.

Sealey angle grinder stand

Price: £31.93

Sealey angle grinder stand

© Jonathan Page

For those without an accurate tool for cutting up stock metal, Sealey’s angle grinder stand offers a cheap solution.

It’s designed to clamp a 100mm, 115mm or 125mm grinder in place and allows it to make accurate angled cuts in metal up to 18mm thick.

However, after setting it up and having a play we have to say we weren’t that impressed.

It’s a fiddle to fit the grinder in there, meaning you really need a dedicated tool for it, and the ability to only cut metal up to 18mm thick means it’s a little too hobby grade.

A quick search online bought up a few bigger models for 230mm grinders that will cut considerably thicker stuff, but we think they’d be a little hairy.

Unless you’ve only got a small amount to do we reckon it’s worth spending a bit more for a dedicated cut-off saw, prices for which start at about £100.

EZ Red Kiwi offset plier set

Price: £34.99

EZ Red Kiwi offset plier set

© Jonathan Page

These cranked “Kiwi” pliers from US firm EZ Red will tuck into places that normal long-nose versions can’t reach.

They come in a set of two, with the largest sporting an 8cm beak and the smaller a neat 3cm.

Build quality seems good, with grippy rubber handles and a nicely weighted spring action that’s hidden somewhere in the pivot.

Like the Tite-Reach tool we looked at earlier, these are a little tricky to find in the UK, but there are sellers online.

We found this set on Ebay for £34.99.

Rothenberger Super-fire 2 with Mapp gas

Price: £65.79

Rothenberger Super-fire 2 with Mapp gas

© Jonathan Page

The Rothenberger Superfire 2 is the soldering torch of choice for many plumbers, and when fitted with hot-burning Mapp gas can be a useful addition to the farm toolkit.

This burns about 70C hotter than propane, meaning it will heat up metal faster.

It can’t compete with an oxy acetylene kit, but it can be handy for helping free seized nuts and bolts in the field, as well as bending thin metal.

It has a built-in Piezo ignition, meaning it can be lit at the press of a button and it will work in any position without the risk of flaring – unlike some cheap blowlamps.

It’s also got an adjustable flame, meaning it can be turned right down for warming more delicate materials.

Lighting bonfires is another of its fortes.

Prices seem to vary considerably, but we managed to find the torch for £54.99 and the gas for £10.80.

Bessey GH30 all-steel lever clamp

Price: £49.99

Bessey GH30 all-steel lever clamp

© Jonathan Page

All farm workshops have a motley collection of aged G-clamps, but Bessey makes a pukka alternative with a ratchet mechanism to pinch things properly tight in preparation for welding.

Our version had a 300mm front opening and 140mm throat depth, but there are all sorts of sizes from 120mm to 1,000mm depending on the type of work you do.

To use it, simply slide the arm up the rail until the metal pad is touch-tight with the metalwork, then work the ratchet mechanism by cranking round the red handle. This turns a steel cam that has up to 15mm of travel.

It apparently offers a maximum 8,500N of clamping force that, in our real-world tests, was enough to remain tight despite vibrations caused by long spells of cutting and grinding.

If anything, we found the plastic trigger release occasionally hard to pop free under tension.

It’s torsion resistant too, and seems to have the sort of build quality that will see it outlast most of the people that use it…

Tec7 sealant adhesive

Price: £12.95

Tec7 sealant adhesive

© Jonathan Page

Having do-it-all sealant/adhesive saves storing racks of part-used cartridges that inevitably end up going manky.

One of the most versatile is Tec7, which is quite similar to CT1 and will stick and seal all common building materials, including wood, brick and concrete.

It also works in the damp, can be painted over and is available in loads of different colours.

There’s nothing unusual about its application – it comes in a regular 310ml cartridge and is squeezed out with a caulking gun.

One of its perks is that it cures without shrinking very much and, in our tests, seemed to stay permanently elastic (but exceptionally strong). It’s odourless too, unlike other adhesives.

It can take a while to set, though – a skin will form in 10mins, it’s tack-free in 30mins but a 6mm-thick application will take 24 hours to harden.

Tensile strength continues to increase through the first three months after application.

However, it was quite hard to source in England – it’s available from a few specialist plumbing retailers, but we ended up paying £5 postage to get it sent from Ireland.

Diall self-amalgamating rubber tape

Price: £2.49 for one roll of 25mm-wide, 3m-long tape

Diall self-amalgamating rubber tape

© Jonathan Page

Self-amalgamating tape can be put to all sorts of uses, whether it be adding a tennis-racket-style grip to a sledgehammer, sealing leaking waterpipe or insulating electrical connections.

The non-tacky silicone rubber tape isn’t particularly adhesive to the object (pipe, wire, etc.) but sticks to itself.

Stretching the tape to roughly twice its original length activates it, after which it can be wrapped around the target object while maintaining tension.

It’s best to keep an overlap of near to 50% as you move down the workpiece to guarantee it seals.

Over time, it will fuse into a solid that can’t be unpeeled, but it’s still easy to remove using a knife.

Because it’s electrically insulative, it’s handy for jointing, splicing and repairing cables, as well as emergency repairs of low-pressure pipes and hoses.

It’s best avoiding the cheapest versions – they tend to be thinner and you’ll just end up having to use more of it.

Beta Tools 1774A gasket scraper

Price: £8.19

Beta Tools 1774A gasket scraper

© Jonathan Page

Cut-throat razors aren’t just good for shaving – mechanics also like them for peeling off gaskets or sealants from flat surfaces.

This kit from Beta Tools is handier than some others because the blades at the end of the 300mm-long shaft can be replaced, rather than having to try to sharpen them on a grinding stone.

To replace the 40mm trapezoidal blade, simply undo the small screw and slot in a fresh one.

Laser oil/fluid extractor

Price: £49.99

Laser oil/fluid extractor

© Jonathan Page

Laser’s liquid extractor is pretty hobby-grade at first glance but, as well as vacuuming oil from the sumps of suburban Audi A6s, it’s also useful for clearing juice from the heavy, immovable casings of dissembled tractors.

The kit comes with a six-litre bulb-shaped vessel.

To the top fits a slightly naff manual pump – it’s easy enough to work, but requires a second hand to brace it while pumping, leaving nothing to steady the bulb.

Working the handle builds the pressure and it will begin to sup the oil through the narrow pipe.

However, the process can be pretty slow if the oil is cold and the tube isn’t quite long enough to reach when changing the engine oil of 4x4s.

This version is at the cheap end of the spectrum and is pretty plasticky – if you’re serious about using one then it might pay to spend a few quid more.

Neilsen torque adapter set

Price: £40.50

Neilsen torque adapter set

© Jonathan Page

If you don’t own a torque wrench then this little gadget will help make sure wheel nuts and other torque-sensitive fastenings are tightened correctly.

It sits between the socket and ratchet/breaker bar to monitor the torque, sending verbal and visible warnings as it nears and then hits the target tightness.

The digital unit comes with a 1/2in drive (and adaptors for 3/8in and 1/4in) and has a range of 40-200Nm.

Read-outs can be in Nm or lb/ft and users can store up to 10 preset torque settings, though initial setup is migraine-inducing and the instructions are near worthless.

We checked it for accuracy against a recently-calibrated wrench and it was pretty much bang on.

However, we’d probably leave cylinder head bolts and other accuracy-critical jobs to a proper torque wrench.

As with most of the tools we’ve tried, we bought at the lower end of the range, but it seemed to work just fine.

It also comes in a neat blown-plastic case, so is easy to store.

Kincrome K4900 nut riveter

Price: £79.95

Kincrome K4900 nut riveter

© Jonathan Page

Nut riveting kits work in similar fashion to a regular pop-riveter, but leave a threaded nut in the slot – ideal for quick and easy fastening of metalwork.

Our kit came from Bunnings (now Homebase) and includes a twin-handle riveter that provides the sort of leverage required to insert M8 or M10-sized nuts.

To use it, simply pre-drill a hole the size of the rivet nut, then thread the suitable mandrel, nosepiece and locknut on to the end of the gun.

Winding up a limit stop against the head prevents over-compression of the nut, which could otherwise distort or weaken the workpiece.

The pack includes M3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 zinc-coated rivet nuts (10 in each size), but it’s also possible to source ultra-lightweight aluminium ones.

Draper Expert five-piece torque multiplier kit

Price: £104.95

Draper Expert five-piece torque multiplier kit

© Jonathan Page

Stubborn or seized wheel nuts often require a long breaker bar and a fair bit of elbow grease to free, but life can be made a lot easier with a torque multiplier kit.

This one from Draper comes with 32mm and 33mm sockets as standard and is mainly designed for HGV wheel changes, but all you’d need to do to make it tractor-friendly is find a 30mm impact socket with a 1in square drive (a rare thing on farms, admittedly).

It’s most handy out in the field or where there’s no access to an air impact driver, for which its 3,200Nm max torque is more than a match. Such power means operators will need to use it sparingly to save shearing threads.

It achieves this with a huge 1:56 gear ratio that means the undoing process is pretty gradual and, amazingly, once it’s under strain, the whole job can be done with one hand.

The pack also comes with an extension for particularly deep-dished wheels.

Dremel 8220 multitool

Price: £99.99, plus £16.99 for the multipurpose cutting kit

Dremel 8220 multitool

© Jonathan Page

Dremel’s delicate multitool won’t suit anyone for whom a hammer is the first course of action, but it’s ideal for intricate cutting and grinding in awkward spaces.

It runs on a 12V 2.0Ah lithium-ion battery and brushless motor, which tends to drain pretty quickly but will recharge in little more than an hour.

A neat variable-speed control allows stepless adjustments from 5,000-33,000rpm.

We found that having the cutting head spinning at its fastest melted the plastic, so slower speeds were best for a clean slice.

A motor break stops it spinning straight after switch-off, so you can rest it on the bench as soon you’re finished.

To try it out, we bought a multipurpose accessory kit with various cutting and grinding attachments, but it was far too lightweight – even for basic tractor cab modifications.

The fragile discs broke particularly easily, so we’d suggest buying specific kits for the tasks you intend to use it for.

Neat features of the multitool include a little LED at the end to shed some light on the job and an EZ Twist nose cab for changing tools quickly.

Sealey 10t hydraulic press

Price: £185

Sealey 10t hydraulic press

© Jonathan Page

Having a hydraulic press to hand gets farmers out of trouble time and again.

This bench-mounted Sealey kit has a 10t capacity and is ideal for removing or mounting bushes and bearings on tractors, combines or the farm pickup.

It comes with two table plates and the 40mm-wide ram has a 180mm stroke.

It weighs 48kg, so is light enough to be shifted by one person and has a total height of just over 1m.

Sealey, along with a stack of other manufacturers, also makes a tall version designed to stand on the floor.

Got any suggestions?

There are thousands of quirky tools out there that we and many other farmers will never have thought of using (and may never 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 oliver.mark@rbi.co.uk