Eclectic Motorworks in Holland, Michigan, is a unique restoration business operated by Carl Heideman, who specializes in sheet metal fabrication – particularly for MGA owners. Carl’s trademark is running an extremely clean shop. His technique for keeping his shop almost spotless is one that anyone could put to good use in a car building.
Carl puts nearly everything in his shop on wheels. The car bodies that come in for sheet metal work are mounted on wooden frame-like structures that are fitted with caster wheels. This makes it easy to move them around. If Carl wants to sweep the floor where a car is being worked on, he simply rolls the car out of the way.
Almost all the machines and equipment in the shop are also on wheels. Parts like finders and door are stripped to bare metal and mounted vertically on metal racks that have wheels. Carl’s larger tools, like his English wheel, have their own wheels. Smaller tools are stored on wheeled carts. Engines and other mechanical assemblies are also mounted on roll-around engine cradles or specially built fixtures with wheels. Spare parts are kept on movable wire shelves that have been fitted with roller wheels. In other words, everything in the shop is portable.
In addition to easing the sweeping or vacuuming of dirt, having everything on wheels keeps things from piling up in corners of the shop. This also makes the shop safer; it’s hard to trip over a part left in your path if it’s been wheeled out of the way. Of course, some of the wheels Carl uses have locking devices on them, so his tool chest doesn’t go rolling away if he leans against it.
Carl’s original shop was in a small, older building that was formerly a dairy – the type of facility that tends to get dirty easily. But dirt was something you just didn’t see when Carl owned it. He has since moved to a larger facility. In moving shop equipment, the biggest challenge usually involves heavy equipment. Fortunately, the heavy stuff in Carl’s shop even has wheels.
Carl’s system of making things portable can be used to help keep any home hobby shop cleaner and safer. It works even if you start in “midstream” and can only put some of your equipment on wheels. At least that part of the shop will be much easier to take care of. For photos of the shop and to get ideas on keeping your shop clean, visit www.eclecticmotorworks.com.
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.