PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson
You know youâ€™ve reached a new level of DIY dedication when you start using your welding skills to manufacture custom-made tools.Â No, I canâ€™t personally claim to have reached this level, but a neighbor who helps us bale hay every summer has contributed his skill to make our task easier.
When we bale our hay fields, the process is pretty straightforward. Our tractor pulls the baler (producing small squares) with a large hay wagon attached to the baler. On board the wagon, two of us stack the bales as theyâ€™re produced. This way, we save time and effort: We don’t drop all the bales on the field to pick up later.
Safety always comes first when baling hay, and weâ€™ve modified our hay wagons to install three sides and even a removable board across the front. As a result, the bales stack nicely, and the workers get a lot of protection.
Of course, you always need to take extra care when walking near the front of the wagon to grab the fresh bales. Thatâ€™s where our DIY, custom-built tool made by welding comes into play.
It started a few years ago when we considered how some sort of long-handled tool with a hook on the end would make grabbing bales and pulling them toward the rear of the wagon much easier. With such a tool, the wagon workers wouldnâ€™t have to walk so close to the front of the wagonâ€”they could just reach out with the tool, hook each bale as it leaves the chute and pull it within easy reach.
Our neighbor, always eager to innovate and help, quickly turned our concept into reality. Using a handle, a steel rod and a metal hook, he fired up his welding equipment and combined the parts to form a custom tool matching our specifications.
Now tell me, whatâ€™s more impressive than that? Weâ€™ve used the â€œhay hookâ€ every baling day for several years now, and it works just as we envisioned, making the baling and stacking process safer and easier. The hook is set at the perfect angle for catching hold of bales, and our neighborâ€™s welding job has held up perfectly. The hay hook has no trouble digging into bales that weight around 50 pounds and pulling them across the wagon. The tool shows no signs of wear or tear.
This isnâ€™t the first time our neighborâ€™s welding skills have come in handy. During one hay season, he worked into the night to repair the tongue of our John Deere 594 hay rake, another repair that has held up flawlessly.
The takeaway? If youâ€™re serious about your DIY farming skills and want to open up a new world of creative opportunities, learning welding is something to seriously consider. In addition to repairing your own equipment, you can modify existing equipment and fashion new tools from scratch.
Interested in learning more? Check out our Farmerâ€™s Guide to Buying a Welder, packed with tons of in-depth information to get you started. Have fun welding!