As wear and tear takes its toll on our tools, a farrier’s instinct is to tweak, maintain or fix it. There are times, though, when we should resist our natural tendency to repair it.

Retiring a tool to the scrap heap isn’t always the easiest thing to do, particularly when your bottom line is telling you that a few quick swipes of a grinder will give you just a little more time with that pritchel. Most tools that are wearing still can do their job even though they are dull. Trying to stretch the life of a tool can make an already tough job even tougher, put unnecessary strain on your body, and in some cases, cause serious injury.

Keeping your tools clean, as well as lightly lubricating those with rivets, will help maintain them. Yet, despite our best efforts, they will wear out in time. Each tool wears differently, depending on who uses it, how it’s used, the frequency of use and the conditions under which it’s used.

Our tools have to be tough to survive all of the elements that we expose them to on a daily basis. The torque, beating and extreme temperature changes hasten deterioration. Nevertheless, wear and tear always seems to kind of sneak up on us, or at least on me anyway. By the time they feel just right, I might have gone past the point I can tune them up and get a little more use of them.

Nip It In The Bud

Nippers often are used past replacement time because we’re accustomed to them and they still cut, although not as nice, clean and smooth as they once did.

Once the blades are worn back, we have to squeeze harder to make a cut. Often when the corners of the blades are worn back, they basically drag, tearing the foot. It’s not a terrible thing, nor is there a great amount of damage, but it takes more rasping on our part to correct.

As the blades wear down, the handles get closer together, which changes the balance and feel. Nippers are a precision tool, don’t grind, file or sharpen them unless you know what you’re doing. If you haven’t done it before, make sure you have a backup pair.

Quick Work

Crease nail pullers wear faster than other tools.

The ends taper down and are thinner so they can grip the head of the nail. After considerable use, the ends or points can tip up, which will restrict grip.

If the tool slips off the head of the nail two or three times, it might be time to replace if filing down the points fail to help.

That Clinches It

Clinchers are like the rest of our tools, they work hard and wear down over time, making it difficult to do the job correctly and efficiently.

One thing you can look for if your clinchers don’t seem to be working like they used to is check the teeth, both top and bottom. They should be somewhat sharp to grip the clinch. If they slide off a couple of times, the teeth might be worn down. They can be fine-tuned a couple of times with a small triangle file.

The bottom teeth are important and often get overlooked. When those wear down or get rounded, they don’t grip the shoe and slide forward, often leaving a larger hole above the finished clinch than needed — not to mention it makes our job a little more difficult.

Get A Handle On Pull Offs

Pull offs last much longer than most tools. They are built a little heavier for the work they do.

The blades wear down, but that’s not a big factor. If they become rounded, they still can get under a shoe. A good indication that it’s time to replace them is when the handles get close and you can’t get a good grip on the shoe. The same applies to nail cutters. If the handles are too narrow, it makes it more difficult to cut a nail.

Hazardous Mushrooms

Hand tools such as clinch cutters, pritchels, fullers and punches all have something in common. They last for a long time, but they also mushroom from the beating they take.

When the top starts to mushroom, it gets bigger and the outer edges easily can be chipped. You should grind them back and round them off to avoid chipping or breaking. Should the mushroomed edge chip or break off, it will do so under great force, propelling the metal fragments and posing a danger to your face, eyes and hands.

The tools should be retired if you discover a crack, the top is hanging over to the point of breaking, or if the integrity of the metal is compromised.

 We work our tools hard, and often we don’t realize that they are past replacement until they create more work for us. Good tools that perform as they are intended take a lot of strain off our wrists, hands and other body parts. Inspect your tools regularly for wear, chips and cracks. It will shorten your shoeing day, decrease your chance of injury and make a tough job a little easier.