1 June 2005

Improving Your Workshop

Summertime is a great time to work on cars. Before you pick up a screwdriver or wrench, the first step is to get your workshop in order. You can’t work efficiently or safely in a sloppy shop, so here are a dozen rules for improving your workshop environment:

  1. No matter how small or large, the space should be devoted to one purpose only. Clear out toys, lawn furniture and garden tools. An inexpensive storage shed can give such items their own nice home.
  2. Every shop needs a good, sturdy workbench. Commercial versions are available. Your local building supply store should have inexpensive kits to build a simple-but-sturdy wooden workbench.
  3. Stacking things on the floor leads to clutter. Hang tools on the wall or keep spare parts in overhead storage bins to clear floor space.
  4. Pegboard is the car restorer’s friend. Plaster the walls with it, insert hooks and hang up your tools and equipment. Tools arranged neatly on pegboard are handier than those dumped in a toolbox.
  5. Keep plenty of trashcans in your garage, shop or building. As you work on different projects throughout your workshop, having a trashcan nearby is the best way to prevent clutter.
  6. Shelves keep clutter off the floor and provide additional storage space for parts, tools, supplies and equipment. If you’re mounting shelves on a wall, anchor them well. Inexpensive steel and plastic shelving always seems to be on sale. Tip: Don’t buy the cheapest shelving in the store; quality counts.
  7. Small parts roll off shelves. Look for cheap containers that fit on your shelves. You may find sturdy cardboard photocopy-paper boxes with lids available where you work. Cleaned plastic peanut butter jars are great for storing nuts and bolts. Cupcake tins are great for organizing small parts.
  8. When it comes to equipment, long-lasting items like engine hoists, jack stands, engine stands, vises, etc. can often be found at auctions, garage sales, liquidators or on eBay in “good used” or “remanufactured” condition. Several national catalogs also offer remanufactured tools.
  9. Equip your workshop with safety gloves, safety goggles, earplugs, shop aprons, coveralls, face masks and sturdy work boots. Adequate ventilation is important, too. Keep a box of rubber gloves handy. A first-aid kit is also a must-have item.
  10. An old radio or TV will humanize your workplace and break the monotony. You might not know who’s winning the football game, but the sound of a human voice is still good company and keeps you alert in the garage.
  11. Buy several sizes of sandwich bags and keep them in your shop. As you disassemble a car, put the small parts in the bags. Toss in a note or sketch that will help you identify the parts inside for reassembly. The bags will keep small parts from rolling and getting lost.
  12. Go in with a plan. Be organized right from the start. If you put parts in a plastic storage cabinet, label the drawer as soon as you fill it.

John “Gunner” Gunnell is the automotive books editor at Krause Publications in Iola, Wis., and former editor of Old Cars Weekly and Old Cars Price Guide.


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