Tools Rock 2 !
Providing automotive services of any description is one of the toughest jobs on the planet. In my opinion, a job well done, and a satisfied customer can be very rewarding, but every new day seems to offer new challenges, new roadblocks, and new opportunities to test our skills. When you put the key in the front door of any automotive center, you can be certain of only one thing! Uncertainty! Thatís what makes the technician and installer a unique breed of cat!
I started my love affair with cars and trucks at a very early age building plastic models from Revell, AMT, and Monogram. I created some of the most beautiful cars from í58 Chevys, and deuce coupes, to some serious trucks. It was only natural, that I would turn to the real thing as I reached the age where Dad would let me into the tool box. I had a passion for tools ever since.
In the past 40 years, I have worked on an incredible variety of machines from go-karts, to boats, and even aircraft. Like you, I have gotten myself into and out of many jams. Hopefully, sharing my experiences may help you save some time, expense, and heartache. In this and subsequent articles, Iíll try to provide some tips on Ēhow toĒ as well as some of the interesting tools and equipment that I believe will help you in the shop everyday.
Letís start with some basic tools and equipment that form the backbone of any good workshop. You may not even think about how many times a day you go to, and use the bench vise, but Iíll bet its more than you think! A good bench vise is invaluable. I prefer a minimum of a 5 inch vise with the 6 inch being the better choice. Try to buy a quality vise that will last for years. Some of theses cheap vises can cause damage and injury because they lack the ability to hold parts in a stable manner. Most of you have experienced working with a cheap or worn out shop vise, and you know itís no fun.
The few top brands that come to mind are ďWiltonĒ and ďColumbianĒ. I recently purchased a Sears ďCraftsmanĒ and I am pleased with its performance. A set of soft jaw inserts will also come in handy to avoid damaging delicate or plated items. Of course, any good vise requires a solid foundation, so mount it to a good, solid bench.
If anyone has a set of plans for a great workbench, we would love to see them and maybe share them with our readers. You can submit the plans via Llamspro@mindspring.com and maybe Iíll use them in a subsequent article!
The next piece of basic equipment is the venerable bench grinder. I have 3 different grinders, all set up to perform different tasks. Again, to produce great results and lower the risk of personal injury, quality is important here. I canít tell you how many shops I have either worked in or visited, and the grinders had no guards, no tool rests, and stones that should have been thrown away centuries ago. You all know exactly what Iím talking about here.
One bench grinder setup that I recommend especially if you fabricate a lot is the ďMulti-ToolĒ. I use this more than any other piece of equipment including my dedicated belt / disc sander. It cuts fast, and does a terrific job on most any material. The Multi-Toolís belt change is a snap, requiring no tools, and has a simple belt tracking adjustment.
Multi-tool comes with a 1HP motor, so again, a good stable base is a must. If you add these two basic tools to your workshop, and put them on a stable platform, I think youíll agree that both items will pay you back big dividends in reducing your workload and increasing productivity.
The other 2 grinders I use are Searsís Craftsman 6 inch units. Watch the sales, and they can be a great buy. This one came with a stand, gooseneck light, stone truing tool, and quench tray, all for about $70. It also has a tool rest attachment that is great for sharpening drill bits. DeWalt and Jet also make very nice grinders.
Be sure to use gloves and eye protection, and always keep the guards in place. I like to work smart, and protect myself.
You all know two things for sure! Productivity is essential to bottom line profits, and equipment down time assassinates productivity. With this in mind, be sure to make wise equipment purchases, and donít be lured by low priced junk that may cost you many times more than what you saved.