The Forward Look – Garage Workmanship

Hands-On Garage Workmanship is the Best!

photos by: Rick Seitz and the author 

While I was working on the article about choosing a lift for your home garage, I started thinking about other cool story ideas for home muscle car builders. It makes sense, since most muscle enthusiasts try and do some of their own work, if not all of it. I mean, sure- not many of us can paint a car at home (although I’ve seen some amazing paint jobs done that way) and most of us farm out the upholstery (again- I have seen exceptions to this) but there is a lot of top quality garage workmanship that routinely gets done by owners at home.

To get the best-possible result, cool tools can sure make the job easier. The lift story got some great responses to that effect, with people telling me how much their lift helped them get jobs done, to other guys sharing how they’ll be buying a lift soon after having to accomplish another job under the jack stands, and hating it.

Another pal told me how much more he liked working in his garage after coating the concrete floor. He explained how it made a difference in several ways- from making cleanup easier to making the whole garage brighter by reflecting so much more light. Speaking of light- upgrading the shop lighting out there can really make a difference too! Another friend of mine made a solid investment in used heavy-duty industrial fixtures, and I couldn’t believe how much better it was to work in there afterwards.

One of my gearhead pals wired extra outlets all the way around his home garage/shop. There were a couple on the workbench, too – one had a common wall light switch wired into it as an emergency shutoff…that was a pretty smart move that came in really handy. He also had the great selection of extension cords I’ve ever seen, which sounds pretty funny until you’re working with electric tools and you can’t find one. I guess that happened to him enough times to never, ever want it to happen again. That, or he had an awful lot of Christmas decorations.

So I’ve talked a lot about the garage, but not too much about tools. I’ve got a solid selection of hand tools and all the power tools I should need to accomplish pretty much anything I plan to do at home. But, I still can’t stop looking at the used tool ads in the local swaps and online. I’ve found some amazing deals on used stuff, and if you’re looking to round out your specialty equipment, pick up some backup air tools, or supplement your existing hand tool selection with some premium quality tools you’d normally have to get off a dealer truck, the used market is an ideal place to look.

Let’s face facts here- wrenches and sockets can wear out, but they normally don’t. If you can score a complete set for less than half what they charge for new ones, it’s probably worth consideration. This is especially true if the tools you’re currently working with are less than premium quality. You can step up for a low price if you find someone selling a toolbox full of Snap-On or Matco goodies for a couple hundred bucks. Take a look on your local Craigslist and see what’s out there! You might be pleasantly surprised. (Take a look at used lifts for sale while you’re on there.)

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I look at a lot of used stuff before I buy new. I’ve always tried to find the best-possible deal, and lightly used components, whether they are tools, light fixtures, or intake manifolds, always seem to work just fine for the price. A close inspection will show whether I want it or not and I love saving money. On the flip side, I sell used stuff once I’m done with it or have no more use for it.

I try to ask a reasonable amount so it will sell quickly and without hassle. It’s so nice when a buyer recognizes a good deal and pays the asking price with a smile and a “thank you.” It’s so insulting when someone emails a low-ball offer without even asking a question about the part, let alone inspecting it in person. If you’ve ever done this, please stop it. While it might work with some garage sale items or something, when it comes to quality garage equipment, power tools, or muscle car parts, all you’ll do is anger the seller.

The big swap meets used to be the best place to buy used parts and tools, and while the bigger events are still full of great deals, I do a lot more shopping online. This is especially true with the local online sites, since I don’t like to pay shipping and I really like inspecting whatever it is before I pay money for it. There are exceptions, of course, like really rare stuff or auction items. But those kinds of purchases are pretty rare for me. I’m not a parts dealer or professional car builder.

I have a couple projects I’m working on, and I know what all my friends are building too. I keep my eyes open for them as well, and they do the same for me. There’s no better feeling than finding a great deal for a good friend! Helping someone like that is really rewarding and my pals will tell you that I regularly clog up their email boxes with good deals I find, whether they want them or not!

Like me, my friends are working on their own cars in their own garages. We help each other out when we can. We go to events together, enjoy a cold beer together, and do our best to keep projects moving closer to completion. We share knowledge, tools, and BBQ recipes. Having a decent shop really helps when it comes time to pull an engine or replace a clutch, and it’s sure a lot easier with the right tools and some good friends.

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