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Front Porch: Does the next generation even know what a grease gun is?

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

September 3, 2021

3 Min Read
hands and grease gun covered in grease
GREASE TO SPARE: There is plenty of grease here to grease lots of things — it’s just not in the right places!Tom J. Bechman

I’m sure I couldn’t count all the places that needed greasing on my dad’s 6-foot, pull-type, No. 64 McCormick International combine on all my fingers and toes. If there was a bearing, there was a grease fitting. Engineers of those early combines some six or seven decades ago didn’t pay much attention to where they put those parts either. Some were hard to reach, especially if you had big hands.

As soon as I was knee-high to a grasshopper — or at least to a cow’s udder in the milking parlor, because I began milking cows at age 6 — Dad thought I was big enough to operate a grease gun, too. Just because I could put the teat cups of a milking machine on a cow didn’t mean I was mechanically inclined.

He wasn’t either, and his hands were bigger. So, I would try to slip my hand in, guide the metal tip of the grease gun onto the grease fitting, then pump the handle before the end flipped off the fitting and grease shot everywhere. If I was lucky, the fitting took grease and wasn’t clogged up.

Changing tubes

What I really hated was when the grease gun ran out of grease. Back then there were caps on tubes. Today they may be zip-tops. At any rate, you had to put the right end in the gun first, hope the threads on the end would catch with the new tube inserted, tighten it, and then hope it wasn’t full of air. When grease came out, I was relieved — not one of my favorite activities.

That brings me to today. Modern engineers have developed so many bearings that don’t need grease that very few parts on any tool made in the last five to 10 years need much greasing. Some machines do it for you. But I still have a lawn mower that has a grease fitting on each of the three spindles where three mower blades attach.

I have a grease gun left from Dad’s days on the farm — we’re talking decades old. But it still works. And eventually, it runs out of grease. Someone, who shall remain nameless, went to change out an old tube for a new one recently. The person put the wrong end of the tube in the gun. When they realized it and pulled it out and tried to put it back in, they were fighting coils inside the gun to try to screw the cap back on. There was grease on hands, clothes, the grass — everywhere but inside the bearings of my lawn mower.

Finally, the threads caught so the person could reassemble the grease gun, and the task was accomplished. But as soon as the mower was greased, the cap popped off the gun again. Surprise!

More grease everywhere! So right now, there is a grease gun with a nearly full tube of grease, unassembled, lying in my tool shed. I got a couple of new tubes of grease. The next time I need to grease something, which could be a long time, I’ll tackle putting it back together with a new tube.

Or I could just donate it to Pioneer Village or some other ag museum. My luck, they would want me to wipe off all the grease first!

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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