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The Workshop and Tools

The workshop is one of the most important things to consider when deciding to build your car. After all, you are going to spend the best part of a year in there starting with a box of bits and finishing with a complete car.

My workshop was a single garage integral to the house measuring 19' x 8'8". This had a side access door meaning I didn't have to keep using the main front door to access it.

Whatever the size or location of your workshop, keeping it clean and tidy improves safety and also improves your efficiency by helping ensure that you know where your tools are.

Work Areas and Shelving

It is important to have an area to work on away from the car. For this purpose, I installed a bench across the entire rear of the garage. This was made from a cheap B&Q kitchen worktop supported on 2x2 battons screwed to the wall with a couple of 2x2 legs at the front for support.

You will also need storage areas. I have several shelves for boxes of tools and parts and an old office drawer unit for things like sockets, files etc. The storage bin units you can buy for attaching to the wall are very useful for storing common items such as nuts and bolts in. I also made a tool wall. This consists of a piece of 12mm MDF attached to the wall with screws to hook spanners, pliers, saws etc. on and a rack for screwdrivers.

Storage Bins
Storage Bins

Tool Wall
Tool Wall

Lighting

A very important aspect of the workshop is lighting, of which you can never have too much.

If possible, you want as much natural light as possible, though you have to offset this against being in a greenhouse where you will slowly cook yourself! With an integral garage, natural light is difficult to come by. The top panel of the side access door was glazed and that was pretty much all the natural light I could get. I had two 100W 5ft strip lights across the garage which were adequate and installed a small 60W 1ft strip light above the workbench.

I also have a small flexible angle 60W spotlight mounted to a piece of wood with an extension lead so I can place it where I need extra light. This is RCD protected in case I drop anything on it and break the bulb.

To complement the lighting, I painted the breeze block garage walls white. Rather than the blue/grey breeze blocks sapping light from the area, the white reflects the light and improves the brightness. I used around 10 litres of exterior masonry paint and liberally applied it using a shaggy paint roller.

Power

You will need electricity in some way for building your car. Whilst theoretically possible without (i.e. candles and hand drill), it makes it so much easier and we all know that men need power tools.

It is important to have plenty of power sockets around the workshop to avoid the need for lots of extension leads which are always in the way. Installing additional sockets isn't particularly difficult, but if unsure, get an electrician to help. Also, be aware that you will probably want several sockets over your bench.

Try to protect your electrical systems using an RCD. If you are wiring from scratch, then I would recommend taking the feed from the main house/workshop system to a wall mounted RCD device and then supplying all sockets in the workshop from this. This then gives you a single point through which to turn off the supply to the workshop and also has the added benefit of all circuits being protected. If you aren't, then fit an RCD onto any extension and use RCD plug adaptors with your power tools. They could be the difference between life and death should you accidentally cut/drill a mains cable.

Flooring

I had previously painted my garage floor with grey garage floor paint. Ben had said that fitting a carpet was a good idea but I just thought he was mad ;o) Whilst stripping down my donor components, I had been kneeling down a lot and didn't find working on the concrete floor very comfortable. I also realised that it was heading towards winter and that concrete floors are notable for how well they retain the cold, making them even more uncomfortable to work on.

I then had the opportunity of obtaining a carpet for free. I duly collected the carpet and fitted it, building it up in a patchwork arrangement. It was a very nice shade of orange, but definately worked, being comfortable to work on and feeling warm. One downside was that swarf and bits of wire brush got stuck in the pile. This carpet served me well and was only replaced recently when I had the opportunity to obtain some grey industrial carpet tiles, again for free. These are so much more suitable than the carpet as they are lighter, so the workshop looks brighter, have a lot shorter pile and can easily be replaced one by one if they should get anything spilt on them.

Rather than carpet, you could lay a wooden floor (chipboard or MDF, not laminate flooring) over your garage floor. These are warmer than the concrete as they act as a layer of insulation and are also easy to clean, but they are still a hard surface which can become uncomfortable if kneeling for periods of time.

If you have none of the above, then I recommend obtaining a carpet sample or doormat and using it as a kneeling mat. You will appreciate the 'comfort' in the long run.

Heating

During the winter months, the garage or workshop can be an unpleasant place to be, with the cold temperatures, so some form of heating is required.

Prior to installing any form of heating, any steps to reduce the amount of draughts should be taken. Mine consisted of some pipe lagging above the top frame of the garage door to fill a 2" gap and some standard door sealing strip across the top of the garage door in addition to some rubber car boot seal across the bottom of the garage door.

The main problem with having heating in your workshop is that the combination of dampness and heat greatly speeds up the rusting process of metals. This is particularly the case if heaters that burn fuels are used as the material being burnt causes water to be evaporated into the heated air. This water than condenses on cold metallic surfaces.

To counter this heaters that don't burn fuels can be used. These are typically electric heaters. The most common is the good old fashioned electric convector heater. These work remarkably well and can be bought for very little money. If a little more is spent you can get them with fans to help circulate the air and thus warm it up quicker. These do cost a fair bit to run, but generally are only really needed to remove the chill from the work place as when you start getting stuck in you quickly generate your own heat and you will definately appreciate the heater being present.

To aid the removal of moisture from the air, a dehumidifier may be used, though these aren't particularly cheap to buy or run, ideally being left on permanently.


Tools

"A man can never have too many power tools" - A Mann

As far as tools for building your car go, they fall into two categories, the "must have" and the "nice to have".

What I consider to be the must have tools are:

  • Spanner Set (imperial and metric)
  • Socket Set (imperial and metric)
  • Torque Wrench
  • Screwdriver Set
  • Pliers / Mole Grips
  • Hammer / Mallet
  • Bench Vice
  • Clamps
  • Tin Snips
  • Hacksaw
  • Stanley Knife
  • Pop Rivet Gun
  • Wire Brush
  • Electric Drill (Mains Powered)
  • Drill Bits (get lots of 3.2mm ones for rivets)
  • Files
  • Trolley Jack
  • Axle Stands
  • Safety Glasses / Goggles
  • Respirator
  • Soldering Iron, Stand and Solder

The nice to have tools are:

  • Deep Socket Set
  • Ratchet Spanner Set
  • Ratchet Screwdriver
  • Electric Jigsaw
  • Black and Decker Powerfile
  • Angle Grinder
  • Bench Grinder
  • Rivnut Tool
  • Electric Drill Wire Brush Attachments
  • Engine Stand
  • Engine Crane
  • Brake Pipe Flarer
  • Ball Joint Separator
  • Spring Compressors
  • Callipers / Micrometer
  • Gas Blow Torch

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