I spend a lot of time in the garage. In fact I’ve spent a lot of time in it since 1986. When we were finally ready to buy a house, my wife wanted her own good sized kitchen and I wanted a two car garage. If we got that, we’d both be happy! So with the purchase of our first and only house, I began work setting up the garage of my dreams. It’s survived many phases, a jillion projects and there hasn’t been a car parked in it for 24 years. I’ve worked in and seen shops that I’ve envied, gotten ideas from, thought I could improve on or wished I’d never visited. I’ve stolen good ideas and come up with some I’m really proud of. It’s always interesting to see people’s faces the first time they step through the door. I had one friend who brought over his new girlfriend that was a pottery artist. She took one big panoramic look, sucked up a deep breath and said, “I love the way it smells in here!” That was a first.
It started out as just a big, fun hobby shop garage and gradually transitioned into a mechanical mental therapy room. I make all the rules. One being, wipe off the tools before you return them to their CORRECT location! That’s so I can find again them after you’re gone.
I subscribe to a Japanese magazine called Garage Life. It has hundreds of glossy photos of garage layouts, tool set-ups, compressors, bike and car lifts, windows, heaters, fans, shelving, sucker systems (for exhaust evac), hoists and actual foundation and wall construction, and most of all, displays of mechanical collections. Beautiful stuff. Great ideas every issue. I look at them over and over and see more different and new stuff every time.
Now I have to note here that my garage is very functional. It’s not a “Baby Boomer’s Tool display” room. If I don’t use stuff, it gets moved out to “Building 2” or “The shed”. I need every inch of space and can’t afford the luxury of displaying things that aren’t used. I do regular “5-S” events, which weeds out unused parts, tools, materials and projects on long term hold for machining, painting, plating, hard-parts or who knows what. Out to Building 2 until their time has arrived. Sometimes I’ll bring stuff back into the garage to make sure it gets into work or to remind me of something I need to do. Other times it might just provide inspiration or it might be in need of a design solution. I’ll trip over it or walk around it until I get to it.
Which brings up organization. With limited space and an unholy amount of stuff, keeping things in order is the price I have to pay. Things need to be organized, re-organized, filtered, kept in their place lest I can’t find them when I search. If I can’t find something when I search, I may be buying a duplicate . That can get very expensive with brake calipers, electrical components or the like. I spend a lot of time putting things away, cleaning up and reassessing where the hell I’m at. Having multiple projects in work requires a lot of brain space and other domestic responsibilities can suffer.
Tools: When I worked as a commissioned mechanic in bike shops, we had a Snap-On dealer that stopped by every week. All I ever bought was Snap-On. I became a tool snob. Later, no longer influenced by the toolman’s expensive repair jewelry, I began chasing down any tool truck I saw when I was in need. Sometimes it was Matco, Cornwell or even the Sears tool department! Then I began working in aerospace, primarily doing sheetmetal work. A different set of skills and required tools. Here, it was necessary to make many of my own tools or what’s referred to as “Shop aids”. Then I needed to make some for home and the more unique the job, the more imagination required to make the tool. Most of these home shop aids live in a tub in “Building 2”.
The tools I use on a regular basis though, are all in highly visible locations and easily within reach. As I generally have a helper assisting me, there are multiple racks of wrenches and rows of sockets. Prevents searching the other guy’s tool pile for the 9/16 wrench. Early on I thought that a handsome toolbox or many, was what made a garage have clout. Now, I wish all the boxes could go to the swap meet so I’d have more room to work. I say that, but actually, some smaller tools are better off stashed out of the way in drawers contained in toolboxes. It just seems I work around them more than I dig through them.
The first week we moved into the house, I bought a compressor with a stand-up 60 gallon tank at Costco. I’m still using that same one. I quit changing the oil in it about 15 years ago and it made no difference. I recently install a braided stainless line with a shutoff valve to the water drain in the bottom of the tank. I lay the hose in the driveway and open the valve for a second. Ka-whoosh! All the water is blown out instantly. Cool! In the heavy equipment dept, I have a drill press and small lathe. I used to have a big bead-blasting cabinet, but that got way too messy around the other “clean” things I try to do in the garage. Like engines and forks and carb work. Every time I would open the lid, a huge cloud of silica dust would fill the garage. Had to go. First out to the porch and then away with a friend. A lesson learned with the BB cabinet is that if you really use it a lot, it consumes orifice tips and air bleeds like mad! Messy work like that requires an area that can get really dirty without mechanical consequences. It’s like painting a car in the garage. Ends up being a one-time deal and then it’s time to move to a new neighborhood.
I have two heavy duty wood stands I made and with the aid of a ramp, I can roll a bike right up there and either tie it down or use a rear wheel stand. Sometimes a bike project starts with just a motor and grows like a tree. Other times these stands can be used as a low bench for motor build ups or whatever. If used as a bench, I usually throw down a sheet or moving quilt to work on. No, this isn’t so the parts can sleep more comfortably, it’s so I don’t lose small parts. They’ll show up much better on a lightly colored background. I hate to kill too much time looking for the last circlip of that size in the United States that just dropped somewhere under the engine. I think it went under the engine!!
For more storage room, I told my wife that she needed one of those new stacked washer/dryer type machines because she deserved it so much. Boy was she happy! And now I have even more floor and vertical shelf space where the dryer used to sit. I built a hanging shelf that goes around the entire perimeter and recently got a long carpet remnant stapled down on a twenty foot section. Now I can slide new, unpainted or freshly painted bodywork up out of harm’s way. Sliding them up and down is easier and no risk of scratches.
Anyway, that’s how my garage works and if it works as planned you’ll get some ideas or provide some of your own.
Link: Mule Motorcycles