Jan 24, 2010

The Shop

This winter I have been delighting in hanging out in my basement workshop. I have been collecting a variety of tools for years now, but the recent restoration of an older Trek has helped me to fine-tune this setup and fit it to my current needs and my current house, so I thought I would indulge myself with a virtual tour of what The Spouse refers to it as my "man-cave".

This is a view of the workshop part of our basement. Unfortunately, we have a small basement compared to most houses in MPLS, and that small basement has been chopped up somewhat, but the main part is mostly shop. If you were to venture down there, here's what you would find...

I have a kind of junker workbench (acquired from my father) that is a cast-off from an Ace Hardware store that my father, my brother Johann and I have all worked at some point in our lives. Mounted to the bench is a mid-sized vice mounted to the bench. I also have a jewelers scale (from an Estate sale) on the bench, but it's more of a toy than a tool because I am by no means a weight-weenie. To the left of the bench is a Craftsman rolling tool chest full of spare parts, cleaning equipment and other miscellaneous junk. On top of the roll-around is a 4-drawer tool chest with most of the day-to-day tools in it.

One of the most prominent features in the shop is the wheel truing stand. I sprung for a Park Professional stand two years ago. Yes, these are expensive, but I really, really like this truing stand. It's a real step up from my first stand (a Minoura that I got on mail order over 20 years ago). I initially mounted this to the work bench, but subsequently attached it to a very heavy piece of scrap butcher block to make it both stable and portable. This set up kicks ass - I can leave it where it is most of the time but can easily move it aside if I need more space on the workbench.

The tool box with most of the interesting stuff in it is a Craftsman 4-drawer model that I got at a serious discount at a pre-Christmas sale last December. It's virtually brand-new, but so far, so good. The top compartment holds bulky items like a rubber mallet, a hack saw and a tin snips. It also has some miscellaneous items like the flat tire/tube repair kit (tire levers, patches), plus a box cutter, some electrical tape and an assortment of zip-ties.

The top drawer of the tool box contains the few precision tools that I have (a digital caliper and a micrometer) as well as some small tools such as spoke wrenches, third-hand tools, freewheel and sealed bottom bracket tools and chain gauge. There's also a multi-tool that's too limited to carry on a bike but too handy to get rid of in there.

The second drawer has most of the bike-specific tools such as a cotterless crank remover, a crank bolt wrench, a cable/housing cutter, and a cable puller (I picked the cable puller up on a lark but it's handy as hell - I use it for zip ties more than anything, but it's great for brake cables as well). There is also a chain tool, two pin spanners and a nice socket wrench handle I picked up at a auto-parts shop in Black River Falls a year ago, as well a set of hex wrenches and a multi-head screw driver in this drawer.

The third drawer is for open end wrenches, cone wrenches, an adjustable wrench and two channel-lock pliers. I also have an ancient ice pick that's been around our house since forever, which is surprisingly handy for a variety of applications (poking crud out of tight spaces, grabbing a chain to pull it through a front derailluer, etc.).

The bottom drawer is for larger tools and specialty wrenches, and includes a pedal wrench, some headset and bottom bracket tools, a chain whip, some miscellaneous open end wrenches and a cheap tubing cutter. There's also a small tackle box that corrals the various small hardware items such as washers, nuts and bolts that would otherwise get lost.

In the near future I will be hanging some peg-board on the wall above the bench and probably hanging up a cork bulletin board as well for a calendar, gear-inch table and other assorted guidance.

There is a lot of satisfaction in setting up a shop that works (in fact, getting ready to do-it-yourself can be almost as enjoyable as actually doing-it-yourself if you get into this sort of thing). Doing it all on a budget certainly adds to the challenge, but if you have the patience to look for bargains, it is absolutely preferable to buying your way into home shop nirvana (and that's not even an option for most of us anyway).

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