Ever notice how the most popular person among your hot rod friends is usually the one with the most tools? Or it’s someone who bought a house that coincidentally has a four-bay garage in the backyard. And that person has more friends than the best looking cheerleader in high school. Funny how that happens.
Hot rodding is a constant progression. What was satisfactory yesterday will be wholly inadequate tomorrow. It’s an entire hierarchy of needs; as one level of needs is met, a new level materializes. Once you have an area to work in and a selection of hand-tools, the need for more work space and the desire for air tools becomes inescapable. It’s never ending, but that’s okay. If you read last month’s installment, maybe you’ve found a place to work and now it’s time to fill that toolbox.
Once you have a car, every hot rodder’s core requirement is tools. You can’t have too many tools. Most tool companies offer a “starter kit,” which includes a wrench set, ratchets, socket set, pliers, and screwdrivers. Start with the largest tool set you can afford and plan on adding to it later. There are other specialty tools you will also want. This includes an air compressor and air tools. Realistically consider what you will be using your compressor for before you buy one. See our “Compressor Power” sidebar for more on this.
Organization will become increasingly important as you add to your tool collection. In our shop sketch, room is provided for two heavy-duty workbenches, one “clean” and one “dirty.” The dirty bench is for disassembly and cleaning, which should be located conveniently close to a parts washer and blast cabinet. The other workbench is located in front of the parking bay to be handy when working under the hood. When organizing your shop, try to isolate “dirty” from “clean” work by keeping tools specific to each in separate areas of the shop.
Keep a set of tools within easy reach, such as hung on a pegboard above the workbench. Air tools and enough hose to reach the other side of the shop can be kept in a cabinet by the air compressor. The compressor itself should be located where it receives fresh air and is convenient to an electrical outlet.
TYPICAL AIR-TOOL REQUIREMENTS
Tool cfm psi
air ratchet 4.0 90
1/2-inch impact wrench 4.0 90
dual-action sander 6.4 90
conventional spray gun 6.0 50
HVLP spray gun 11 100
Other tools that could be added include testing equipment to diagnose why your V8 is only firing on six holes and tuning tools such as a timing light to keep things in the best condition possible. Safety is also very important and requires at least one fire extinguisher, safety goggles, welding gloves, and, perhaps, hearing protection.
Also, as you add more tools, they will become more specialized toward the type of work you do regularly or would like to do. If you are constantly building engines, precision engine tools make sense. And if you are handy at paint and body work, a hammer and dolly set along with water traps and a spray gun will inevitably find their way into your shop. Your shop is a reflection of your skills and abilities. You can think of it as an extension of your personality. It should be custom built and outfitted in a way consistent with your needs.
Take a look at the ideas and tools we present this month and decide what you want and can afford. The rest can go on your Christmas list. Then get to work! Next month we’ll dive right into the hardcore items that we all dream about and aspire to obtain someday. Don’t forget that someone out there is going to win many of the tools we are featuring in this “Build a Shop” series, which will make a great start on a shop! Stay tuned for details, and watch next month for our grand finale!
Hand-tools are the foundation for working on a car. There is little point in obtaining any other items for a shop before a good selection of hand-tools. We started with a Truecraft 160-piece set, which includes ratchets, sockets, end wrenches, screwdrivers, two hammers, and an assortment of pliers. We added a few Vice-Grip tools from American Tool Companies, Stanley levels, a rubber mallet set from Harbor Freight, and safety goggles to this starter kit for a well-rounded basic tool set.
As we quickly learned, to build a shop and the fixtures in it, a certain amount of woodworking tools are necessary. Most of these tools can also be used later to work on your car, but break them in now on 2x4s, 4x4s, and plywood to build yourself a heavy-duty workbench. The tools include Stanley levels, planes, and tape measure and Skil saber saw, circular saw, and cordless drill. Add to this a square, a hammer, and wood-boring bits, and you’re set!
Once the workbench is built, the first thing that should be added is a grinder, preferably one fitted with a grinding wheel and a wire wheel. This Chicago Electric grinder from Harbor Freight is very economical and has enough horsepower to handle most jobs. Always wear safety goggles when using the grinder and treat it with respect; it can brutalize fingers if not used properly.
Save one drawer in your toolbox for a quality tap and die set. These are not only required to repair thread damage, but can save you from destroying threads by simply cleaning them before assembly. This is especially true when working with aluminum, which is much softer than the fasteners. There are plenty of affordable, quality sets on the market, such as this basic set from Vermont American.
Often, much of the work we perform on our hot rods is diagnostic. This requires a minimum amount of test equipment. Actron makes the extremely useful digital multi-tester shown at top left as well as the vacuum and compression gauges. Continuity testers help with electrical diagnosis, and when combined with the multi-tester can help find nearly any electrical problem. The Flaming River timing light is self powered and extremely handy, while the Jacobs timing light offers a dial-back-to-zero feature that makes checking total advance extremely easy and accurate.
Some people may never feel comfortable welding, but with a little instruction, anyone can be quite talented in a short time. This Miller 115-volt household current MIG welder is a great starter unit that can handle practically every automotive welding application. This one is set up for flux core wire, which doesn’t require a separate inert gas tank to weld with, making it even simpler for the beginner. The Hornell Speedglas welding helmet darkens automatically when an arc is struck, meaning there is no movement to lower the helmet after the important placement of the welding tip. Finally, the HTP belt sander is perfect for cleaning welds, especially tight spots where a grinder can’t reach.
Don’t overlook good-quality pliers when shopping for handtools. Locking pliers, such as these Vice-Grips from American Tool Companies, are often the third hand needed during repair work, or the extra grip necessary to tighten or loosen an item. If you weld, a couple of extra C-clamp pliers will come in extremely handy. Channellock offers the adjustable pliers shown, which provide the best gripping surface regardless of what you’re working on.
It’s track time and you’re raiding your shop box, throwing all the tools you’ll need in a plastic bucket, and off you go, only to lose a couple of tools each outing. A better idea is a reasonably-sized toolbox that can hold everything you’ll need, including extra small parts that will give you one less thing to worry about at the track. This Snap-On box is filled with Snap-On goodies such as 3/8- and 1/2-inch socket and ratchet sets, a screwdriver set, nut drivers, a torque wrench, and Flank Drive Plus end wrenches. A good tire-pressure gauge should also be thrown in.
GENERAL COMPRESSOR RATINGS
hp cfm psi cfm psi
@ 40 3.0
@ 90 2.0
@ 40 4.6
@ 90 3.5
@ 40 6.4
@ 90 4.0
@ 40 6.4
@ 90 5.0
@ 40 9.0
One of the most likely components of your car to be removed on a semi-regular basis is the engine. An engine hoist (commonly called a cherry picker), engine stand, and an engine dolly make engine removal, disassembly/assembly, and storage a breeze. Note the Spectre lift plate attached to the aluminum intake on this iron-headed big-block: these lift plates work well, are easy to install, save you from messing with a chain or strap, and will not pull the threads out of the intake. The dollies are also available from Spectre, while Harbor Freight and Lakewood, as well as others, offer engine stands and hoists. Now that you have a ton of tools, it may become difficult to keep them from sprouting legs or becoming confused with your friends’ tools when working together. A little time spent with a Dremel engraver can save confusion and arguments later. Plastic has come a long way in a short time. These new shelves from Plano are plenty strong to support the relatively heavy Dorman bolt selection drawers and cases of Valvoline oil. Plano also offers heavy-duty toolboxes, work trays, and organizers to help keep your shop as orderly as possible. The three-drawer toolbox is heavy duty enough to throw a good set of tools in and keep in your trunk. Now that you have a shop, keep it clean. Untreated concrete floors will need an oil absorber such as Petro-Free. Painted or epoxied floors will require a broom, mop, and grease-cutting cleaner (Simple Green works great). Our Precision Epoxy floor does show scratches, which could be buffed out, but we’re happy just to have a floor that doesn’t soak up oil spills or chip every time we drop a wrench! A large trash can, available from Rubbermaid, and a good shop vacuum are also prerequisites. This shop vac is from Harbor Freight and packs plenty of pulling power. COMPRESSOR POWER There are a few tools that require planning to avoid regretting a purchase decision a few years down the road. An air compressor is one of those major decisions. Consider how the compressor will be used in five or 10 years and buy for those needs as well as your present needs. Also, take a look at our “Typical Air-Tool Requirements” chart to help determine just how big a compressor you need. The chart is a generalization and may vary according to manufacturer, delivery system, and motor type. Campbell Hausfeld uses a star system that indicates what compressors will operate which tools. A thee-star compressor will operate all Campbell Hausfeld air tools marked with three stars or less. The three horsepower portable compressor shown here is available only through Montgomery Ward and can provide plenty of air for the air accessories shown except the high volume, low pressure (HVLP) spray gun from Eastwood, which requires a high-horsepower compressor and large tank to provide a huge volume of air. To get started with air tools, get a 1/2-inch-drive impact wrench and 3/8-inch-drive ratchet. The ratchet can reach places an impact wrench can’t, but the impact wrench packs the punch necessary to break loose stubborn fasteners. The Ingersoll-Rand air ratchet is a “Knuckle Saver” that absorbs kickback when the fastener tightens. When using an impact wrench, always use impact sockets (usually identified by their black oxide finish) that are much stronger than standard sockets. The sockets shown are Wright products available through Ingersoll-Rand. Later, you can add the air grinder (which will become a favorite tool quickly) and spray guns. Eastwood offer both the inexpensive Eclipse spray gun and the HVLP gun, as well as touch up guns, which are great for shooting details or underhood.
Actron Mfg. Co. Dept. HR11 9999 Walford Ave. Cleveland, OH 44102 216/651-9200 American Tool Companies Dept. HR11 301 S. 13th. St. #600 Lincoln, NE 68508 402/435-3300 Campbell Hausfeld Dept. HR11 100 Production Dr. Harrison, OH 45030 513/367-4811 Channellock Dept. HR11 1306 S. Main St. Meadville, PA 16335 814/724-8700 Craftsman contact your local Sears store DeWalt Industrial Tool Co. Dept. HR11 626 Hanover Pike P.O. Box 158 Hampstead, MD 21074 800/4DEWALT (433-9258) Dorman Products Dept. HR11 1 Dorman Dr. Warsaw, KY 41095 606/567-7000 Dremel Dept. HR11 4915 21st St. Racine, WI 53406 414/554-1390 The Eastwood Co. Dept. HR11 580 Lancaster Ave. P.O. Box 296 Malvern, PA 19355 215/640-1450 Flaming River Industries Dept. HR11 6482 Ridge Rd. Cleveland, OH 44129 800/648-8022 HTP America Dept. HR11 261 Woodwork Lane Palatine, IL 60067 800/648-8022 HTP America Dept. HR11 261 Woodwork Lane Palatine, IL 60067 800/USA-WELD Harbor Freight Dept. HR11 3491 Mission Oaks Blvd. Camarillo, CA 93011-6010 800/423-2567 Hornell Speedglas Dept. HR11 2374 Edison Blvd. Twinsburg, OH 44087-2340 800/628-9218 Jacobs Electronics Dept. HR11 500 N. Baird St. Midland, TX 79701 800/627-8800 Lakewood Industries Dept. HR11 8700 Brookpark Rd. Brooklyn, OH 44129 216/398-8300 Miller Electric Mfg. Co. Dept. HR11 P.O. Box 1079 Appleton, WI 54912 414/734-9821 Petro-Free Dept. HR11 500 N. Michigan Ave. #1920 Chicago, IL 60611 312/828-0404 Plano Molding Co. Dept. HR11 431 E. South St. Plano, IL 60545-1601 708/949-5758 Rubbermaid Dept. HR11 1147 Akron Rd. Wooster, OH 44691 216/264-6464 Skil Corp. Dept. HR11 4300 W. Peterson Ave. Chicago, IL 60646 312/286-7330 Snap-On Tools Corp. Dept. HR11 2801 80th St. Kenosha, WI 53141-1410 414/656-5200 Spectre Industries Dept. HR11 922 N. Ninth St. San Jose, CA 95112 800/821-4868 Stanley Dept. HR11 1000 Stanley Dr. New Britain, CT 06053 203/225-5111 Truecraft Tools Dept. HR11 615 Pierce St. Somerset, NJ 08875 908/805-1800 Vermont American Dept. HR11 P.O. Box 340 Lincolnton, NC 28093 704/735-7464 Wright Tools Dept. HR11 1 Wright Pl. P.O. Box 512 Barberton, OH 44203 800/321-2902