Shop Talk

By Robert Bowen
Mar 23, 2009 | Posted in Shop Work | From the April 2007 issue | Never miss an article

There are a couple of symptoms of true GRM-style car geekdom. One is finding yourself attracted to unloved, unwanted and pathetic project cars based on raw potential alone.

The second is constantly fantasizing about your ideal shop. There’s something very satisfying about looking for just the right combination of tools, storage and workspace. A comfortable and convenient workshop will make even the most boring tasks go much more quickly. (It won’t make body work fun, but that’s not really possible.)

Of course, for most of us our ideal shop is never the one we have now—all car enthusiasts can agree that whatever the stage in life, whatever shop is called home, there’s always room for improvement. That doesn’t mean that you need to be rich to have a nice shop, however. Some amazing cars are built in shops that were constructed on very tight budgets.

Yeah, we’d love to have the epoxy floor, four-bay home shop with two lifts, but for most of us it’s not going to happen unless we win the lottery. Money helps, but a bit of careful planning and smart shopping can get you a workable shop without depleting your retirement fund or forcing you to sleep on the floor with your cars.

First, You Need a Building

On the outside, the GRM shop at the Suddard homestead looks like your average barn-style garage.

On the outside, the GRM shop at the Suddard homestead looks like your average barn-style garage.

As for the building that contains your shop, that’s really a matter of your circumstances. You can do a lot with a flat concrete driveway and a place to store tools, but a covered carport is pretty much the minimum standard you should aim for. Even a carport will require you to compromise on many things—it’s hard to use during the winter, and you shouldn’t store tools or disassembled engines outside.

If you’re going to do any serious work on a car project, then we’d consider a garage to be an absolute necessity. You can accomplish a lot with less, but a garage makes almost anything possible.

It doesn’t even have to be a big garage, just large enough to fit one car and your tools. Even a small garage gives you the flexibility to take on projects that would make the car a driveway fixture for a couple of weeks. A garage will allow you to keep your tool investment secure. In general, the more space, the better, but a basic suburban two- or three-car garage can be used to build almost anything.

When you’re thinking about a shop location, talk to your neighbors, too. Unless you live out in the country, you’re bound to have someone who will object to your working in the garage.

The best strategy in such situations is to try to talk to your neighbors and get them on your side. It’s surprising how many people will look the other way after you help them with their kid’s bike, or come to the aid of a dead battery. If a bit of neighborly kindness and polite discussion don’t help, you might have to skip the air compressor and get used to the idea of working quietly inside your garage. Or move.

Once the necessary part of the garage is handled (that would be the four walls and roof), what about the rest of your dream shop? That’s where the fun starts. We’ll look at which things are absolutely necessary to work on car projects, which things are nice to have, and which you can do without. We’ll also try to give you an idea of how to organize your shop to make it a more comfortable and convenient place to work.

To get an idea of what the ultimate shop would look like and contain, we spoke with Bernard Juchli, a guy in charge of perhaps the coolest shop on the planet. Juchli holds the enviable position of shop manager for Jay Leno’s personal restoration and fabrication shop located in Burbank, Calif.

Thanks to a large budget, lots of cool projects, and a tool for every need, this shop is far beyond what most of us have—or even aspire to have. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to be learned, though. Thanks to his experience with what is basically an overgrown hobby shop, Juchli has a thorough understanding of the needs and wants of enthusiasts.

Hand Tools and Shop Equipment

and tools, the easier it will be to find what you need quickly. Our metric and SAE wrenches are divided, and some people go as far as to cut out a foam slot for each individual wrench.

and tools, the easier it will be to find what you need quickly. Our metric and SAE wrenches are divided, and some people go as far as to cut out a foam slot for each individual wrench.

The heart of any shop is the tool collection. Without tools, there’s no point in having even the best-designed garage or home shop. While a pro like our expert might argue that it is impossible to spend too much money on good tools, most hobbyists (or their spouses) will probably disagree.

You can get started with just a few hundred dollars if you shop smartly and buy your first tools as a set. Most of the consumer brands give a discount on tools packaged in sets, and the larger the set, the bigger the discount. Some professional brands follow this practice, but not all.

We’ll start our shop planning by looking at what tools are necessary and which are merely optional, so that you can prioritize on a basic tool kit. Once your boxes are stocked with the basics, then you can buy more specialized tools as you need them.

“Start with a quality set of hand tools,” Juchli says, and that means basic sockets, screwdrivers and wrenches. It’s tempting to buy only metric or standard tools, but try to get an even selection of both so that you can work on anything in a pinch.

You’ll need some pliers and locking pliers to flesh out your collection, including angle, needle-nose and slip-joint. A couple of hammers, punches and cold chisels will get you on the way toward having a tool for every need, but don’t forget a good-quality, 1/2-inch-drive torque wrench. Check out the sidebar for a list of tools that an apprentice professional mechanic might be expected to have.

As your shop and your skills progress, you’ll find that you always need more tools as you tackle different jobs. Get used to the idea that you will never have every tool that you need. Working technicians spend hundreds of dollars each month to keep their boxes full of the latest tools just in case, but most home mechanics only buy tools as needed. You can rent or borrow some rarely used tools from auto parts stores, but get your own if you can. Owning your own tools ensures that they’ll stay in good condition and always be handy.

Safe car positioning and support are critically important in the home shop because most people don’t have a lift. “You also need some really good jacks and jack stands,” Juchli says. “Without a lift, you have to get the car up and as secure as possible.”

Other heavy-duty hand tools include some kind of hoist or cherry picker for engine work. Since you probably won’t be using it very often, it’s okay to get something that’s not super-deluxe. Just make sure it’s sturdy, since safety is at stake. “Get the folding type because it’s a lot easier to store,” Juchli adds.

Since engine hoists tend to take up a lot of space and last forever, we’d recommend looking for a used one—especially one that is in someone’s way and thus carrying a cheap price tag. Free hoists are not impossible to find.

There’s one more piece of shop equipment that you shouldn’t go without: a vise. Working on small parts, cutting with a hacksaw, and using a file are a lot more difficult without one.

“A 5-inch vise is probably sufficient for most things,” Juchli says. “You want a quality machinist’s vise.” He emphasizes that quality is an important consideration. “Stay away from the Indian- and Chinese-made vises. Most of that stuff looks okay but it really isn’t—the jaws or screw will break and then you’ll have to buy the thing twice. In the long run it might be more expensive, which is very frustrating.”

Tool Brands: Everyone Has a Preference

Nearly as important as knowing which tools to buy is knowing which brand of tool to buy, although that second point is much more subjective. Tool brand loyalty borders on the fanatical among professional technicians, but the amateur can afford to save a few bucks by going with something less glamorous.

Brands sold out of a tool truck—like Snap-on, Matco, Mac and Cornwell—are la crème de la crème of hand tools, but they can be hard for amateurs to find. The mobile dealers who provide these tools to local professionals don’t often work on weekends when the rest of us are wrenching on our projects. Most tool trucks also don’t regularly visit residential neighborhoods.

These tools are expensive, but they’re worth every penny to a professional who cannot risk not completing a job because a tool breaks. Professional tools are manufactured to be used hard and without wearing out or tiring the user. The convenience of weekly parking lot visits by dealers is an important part of the cost.

“A set of pro tools will cost you three to five thousand dollars if you go with Snap-on, Mac or Matco,” Juchli says. “They’re expensive but they aren’t going to break on you, and they’ll give you years of use.”

For the rest of us, Sears’s Craftsman is a good, solid alternative. Craftsman tools vary in quality from mediocre to excellent, but the lifetime warranty on most of them and the fact there’s a Sears store in almost every corner of the U.S. makes up for most issues.

Some Craftsman tools have chunky shapes and cheaper materials that makes them awkward to use, but it’s a small concession for the price. In particular, the standard Craftsman screwdrivers have soft tips that are easily damaged. Since we prefer not having to drill out stripped Philips-head screws, we stick with the Craftsman Professional screwdrivers that feature sandblasted tips. In our experience, these tips seem much harder and more precisely manufactured than the ones on their ordinary screwdrivers and are worth every penny of their higher price. While on the subject of Craftsman, make sure to join the Craftsman Club for periodic discounts and special sales.

Other good quality tools priced a little higher than Craftsman include Armstrong (mid-priced companion of Matco), Proto (Stanley’s retail professional/industrial line) and SK. All three are easy to find in parts stores and tool shops, and all three are excellent brands.

Some consider Lowe’s Kobalt and Home Depot’s Husky tools to be distant seconds, as neither has the reputation or selection of Craftsman. Below that, store shelves are filled with import tools of varying quality, including some with lifetime warranties. It’s not always easy to tell the quality of these tools from their appearance, so buy with caution.

The frustration and injury you’ll get from broken sockets, rounded fasteners and bent wrenches is simply not worth the savings you’ll realize by buying really cheap tools. If your budget is tight, buy good, used tools. If you’re willing to put in some hours scrounging swap meets, pawn shops and garage sales, you can probably put together a set of quality, American-made tools for the price of a no-name Chinese set.

Try to pick up tools from companies that are still in business, since that makes it more likely you’ll be able to get the warranty honored. New Britain, Plomb and similar old brands made great tools, but good luck replacing a broken ratchet.

European tool brands like Facom, Bondhus, Hazet, Wiha, Stahlwille, King Dick and a few others are cool alternatives for the hobbyist mechanic who likes things a little different, but the price and difficulty of sourcing replacement parts makes them a definite luxury. Of these brands, Facom is the most widely available, since it is distributed in the U.S. by SK tools and sold by Sears and Griot’s Garage. The very fine-tooth Facom ratchets are well made and a joy to use.

A good place to find stuff like tools, machinery and equipment is eBay, but beware the “hidden” cost of shipping. What looks like a good deal on the site might turn out to be not so good when you add up the seller’s shipping and handling costs. Another good place to search is

Keep Your Tools Properly Stored

Start with a rolling toolbox and add top or side boxes as needed. Time spent planning your garage ahead of time pays big dividends in the long run.

Start with a rolling toolbox and add top or side boxes as needed. Time spent planning your garage ahead of time pays big dividends in the long run.

As you assemble your prized tool collection, the issue of storage is bound to come up. You can store your tools anywhere you want, but dedicated toolboxes offer protection and organization. Start with a rollaway box with a flat top that can be used as a work surface. Top boxes are nice, but a rollaway is more versatile.

Juchli explains why he prefers a rollaway box: “A rollaway toolbox is really nice because you can drag your tools to wherever you’re working on something. Don’t bother with a top box if you don’t need the space—the top of a big rollaway acts as a convenient bench. It saves you having to go back and forth to the bench.”

As with tools, you can spend an enormous amount of money on tool storage, but you don’t have to. Get a quality rollaway box as large as you can afford—buying a little more space in the beginning will save you from having to buy a larger box down the road.

It also helps to look for a box that comes as part of a system. You can buy the bottom chest first, and then add the side boxes as you need more space. The more modular the system, the better.

Look for heavy-gauge steel—in general, the cheaper the box, the thinner the steel used to make it. Thin drawers easily bend and jam, among other things. The nicest drawer edges should be folded back instead of just cut and deburred. The best boxes have multiple layers of steel, but this isn’t a requirement.

Don’t bother with boxes that don’t have ball bearing drawer slides. Ball bearing slides keep drawers moving smoothly no matter how many tools they’re carrying. Plain bearing slides might move smoothy in the store, but they’re guaranteed to bind up as soon as you put any weight in them.

Casters are an important part of a rollaway tool chest, so check them out before you plunk down your cash on a flashy new box. Casters that don’t roll smoothly pretty much defeat the purpose of having a rollaway box in the first place. Large-diameter wheels are a necessity, as are ball bearings and heavy brackets. A full toolbox puts a lot of stress on the poor casters, so make sure they’re strong and rigid.

For most of us, Craftsman toolboxes work pretty well. Their lower-end boxes tend to be a bit flimsy, unfortunately, but the mid-range and top-tier boxes are much sturdier.

Like tools, toolboxes can also be found at pawn shops and on the used market, often for killer deals. We’d also recommend checking the local tool trucks. They might have boxes that have come in on trade or were repossessed. Either way, it can be a great deal for you.

Once you have a box, realize that there’s no “right” way to organize it. Set it up however you like, but try to find a system that works and stick with it. An organized box will help you quickly find the tools you need as well as make it obvious when one is missing. In general, most professional mechanics put their most-used tools, such as screwdrivers, pliers and wrenches, in the top drawers. Put heavier tools in the bottom drawers to help stabilize the box by lowering the center of gravity.

There are tons of different ways to keep your drawers straight, including plastic dividers and closed-cell foam cut in the shape of each tool, but again it’s a matter of personal preference. Clip-in socket strips are cool because you can drag them around and know that you’ll have every size handy.

Few home shops are so large that a tool cart is a necessity, but a cart can be useful to keep tools and parts handy while you work on a particular subassembly. The most stylish tool cart in the world is the one made by Hazet and loved by factory-trained German car mechanics everywhere. It features an iconic ribbed lower section and collapsing shelves, making it a great practical cart that is also a cool piece of European design.

More Power: Power Tools

While air tools are still the quickest and most powerful tools in a garage, cordless electric tools like this Ingersoll Rand impact driver are catching up quickly.

While air tools are still the quickest and most powerful tools in a garage, cordless electric tools like this Ingersoll Rand impact driver are catching up quickly.

Most power tools fall into the “nice to have” category, but there are a few that are more important. The brand name is just as important here as with hand tools.

Shop around to find out what is available in your price range, but again try to avoid the low-end stuff. Most shop tools are air-powered; check the side story on air compressors and air tools for a more complete shopping guide. Big improvements have been made in recent years regarding battery-powered tools, too, meaning an impact gun no longer has to be tied to a compressor.

The first tool on most lists would be a hand drill. Get one with a 3/8-inch-capacity chuck that is reversible. Cordless is nice, but there’s no reason not to buy an AC-powered drill as your first one. You can always add a cordless drill/screwdriver later. After a drill comes a bench grinder, drill press and wet-dry vac, in no particular order.

The next biggest purchase for a home shop is an air compressor and air tools. Once you have a compressor around the shop, it’s hard to imagine going without one. Many air tools are sturdier and faster than their electric counterparts, and compressed air is a necessity for working with tires and bodywork.

According to Juchli, the best companion for an air compressor is a sandblaster. “You will definitely need a good air compressor and a sandblaster,” he says. “Sandblasters consume a huge amount of air, so you’re going to need a big compressor. If you have the space, you can get a hand-held blaster for cheap.”

You’ll need to find a welder if you want to fabricate parts or build a race car. As Juchli says, the welder is a fabricator’s best friend. “The heli-arc [TIG] welder is probably the one thing I couldn’t do without, although it’s probably too expensive for a guy working at home. Here we probably use it more often than any other tool,” he says.

A TIG setup would be the ultimate for a home shop, but as he noted, it’s expensive. You can get very good results with a cheaper setup, however. For most of us, a good oxyacetylene rig would be nice to have, as well as a wire-feed MIG welder. These have come down in price enough that it’s hard to justify not having one in a home shop. (Once again, you can save some money by buying used equipment and then upgrading as needed—let someone else eat the depreciation, and basically use the tools for free.)

If you’ve got real money to spend, machine tools are a home shop luxury. The ultimate crowning tools for any home shop are a lathe and a milling machine, in that order. The first to get is a lathe—something with a five- to six-inch swing will let you build lots of useful small parts.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of lathe work, you can move on to the real heavy stuff, like a milling machine. A mill is far more of a tool than most of us need, but it might pay off if you want to have bragging rights down at the track. Otherwise, you’ve got to have a pretty big need for it to pay off in purely economic terms.

Whether you own a mill or not, it helps to know how to run one. “Learn by starting to fabricate stuff,” Juchli says. “Learn how to weld, to run a lathe and milling machine, and you’ll be able to build almost anything.”

Shop Layout and Organization

The main principle to keep in mind when you’re ready to fill a new shop is to designate different areas for different tasks as much as possible. You don’t want to be running back and forth across the shop to grab a tool that’s needed at the workbench, so try to consider what things belong together. Use common sense in laying out the rest of your shop and you won’t go wrong.

“Keep things you use together, together,” Juchli says. We couldn’t agree more. Things like sandblasters and solvent tanks are natural pairs, just as cutoff wheels, welders and scrap steel all go together. The two most important items in the shop, your tools and a workbench, go together like, well, tools and a workbench. Keep them close together so you can work efficiently.

Don’t forget about orientation, either, as light is vital to working efficiently. Pay attention to the location of any windows, and place your workbench so that you get the most natural light available.

The second most important issue to keep in mind is cleanliness. Plan to keep stuff that generates dirt and grit away from clean areas, such as engine assembly areas and machine tools. If you have a sandblasting cabinet or bench grinder, put them together in a separate area or room—preferably away from areas that you need to keep clean.

The grit thrown off by a sandblaster or grinder is toxic to the precise surfaces of machine tools like lathes and mills. If you’re lucky enough to have a lathe or mill, keep it covered when you’re using the gritty stuff.

“Keep machine tools away from that stuff, because if the sand gets on the ways, it will wear the machine out,” Juchli explains. “But don’t forget that machine tools are not totally clean, either. They produce lots of chips that you don’t want getting into your clean area.”

If you want to assemble engines, keeping a clean area is especially important. “If you want to do engines, a clean area is nearly essential—it will help you avoid problems later,” Juchli explains.

The ideal engine assembly area is one that you can keep clean; it doesn’t have to be big, but you want it to be separate from everything else. Ideally you’ll be able to close a door and separate the clean room from the rest of the shop. Engine assembly room essentials include a small solvent cleaner for final cleaning of small parts and a supply of compressed air.

Of course it’s difficult (and not really necessary) to have a separate engine assembly room in a two-car garage, unless you’re building a lot of engines. We prefer to build a temporary “clean room” by cleaning the garage, including mopping the floor, and covering all the grit-producing tools and dusty storage.

Build the engine with the garage door closed and keep a tight plastic cover on the engine while you’re not assembling it. (Heavy-duty garbage bags work really well.) Work quickly to minimize dust exposure and try not to work on anything that might stir up dust or grit. A little preparation and planning can get you 90 percent of the way to a clean engine build, and get you past many local machine shops.

This brings up another point about shop layout: A bigger shop can obviously have areas dedicated to specific tasks, while a smaller one will have to make do with multi-use space. When you’re laying out your new shop, try to think of ways it can be used for different tasks. Think about putting casters on machine tools, compressors and storage bins so that they can be moved around if necessary.

While the basic principles of keeping related items together and separating the clean things from the dirty things are important, there is no right shop layout that works for everyone. The best layout is one that’s familiar and, obviously, works for you.

When you’re planning a new shop, it helps to draw out a floor plan on graph paper and play around with the location of various critical tools. Yeah, it sounds dorky, but it really works. It’s a lot easier to move around little pieces of paper or redraw something than it is to move the real thing if you don’t like the way it’s situated.

Finally, make sure that your work area is comfortable. When designing your bench, play around with the height to find one that works perfectly for you. The better your workspace makes you feel, the more efficiently you can work. This includes using old carpet (cheap) or heavy closed-cell floor mats (not as cheap) in front of the workbench to keep your feet, knees and back happy.

Also under the topic of comfort are heating and cooling. A cold garage is miserable in winter, so make sure you buy some kind of heater for your space if you see cold winters. Stick with electric or “low-intensity” gas heaters so you don’t asphyxiate yourself, and make sure that whatever unit you buy is rated for indoor use.

Air conditioning, on the other hand, is less critical but still nice to have if you live where it gets hot and humid. Make sure to take your heating and cooling plans into account when you’re working on your shop’s electrical wiring.

No matter what your climate, consider insulating the walls and ceiling. It will keep you comfortable and save money, too. It can also help keep the noise in or out, depending on where the source is located.

Workbenches and Storage

You can count on spending a lot of time at your workbench. The top of a good toolbox makes a handy work surface, but a big, sturdy bench is an absolute necessity for a home shop. The bigger the better, but temper your enthusiasm by making sure there is space to get around the bench with a car parked in the garage or with a partial project spread all over the floor.

You can buy a good workbench, but the best ones are expensive (unless you find a good deal on surplus). We’re inclined to agree with pro Bernard Juchli, who suggests building your own. “Build a nice, sturdy workbench with lots of 2x4s and mount it to the wall.”

A workbench is a project that even the most wood-hating car enthusiast can handle with basic tools. Use screws wherever possible (this is where your cordless screwdriver comes in handy) and use lots of wood to make it as sturdy as you can. For the bench’s top, spend the $50 or $100 for a big piece of 18-gauge, hot-rolled steel. Shop the scrap metal yards for the best deals.

You can save some money by shopping smartly. Don’t waste your money on finished wood in the frame. A solid wood door makes a good top, or you can build an even sturdier one with layers of plywood or particle board. Keep the 2x4 scraps that are left over to use as spacers when you’re pounding on the bench.

With a workbench sorted, give some thought to storage. Here, again, the general rule is the more the better. A disassembled car takes up a lot of space, so get more storage than you expect to use.

For shelves, check out industrial and warehouse surplus dealers for sturdy metal and angle-iron shelving. The stuff you find will be cheaper than buying new, and usually stronger. Mount shelves solidly to your walls to prevent them falling over when you’ve got them loaded to the gills with heavy car parts. Store the heaviest parts near the ground so that you don’t get tired or risk hurting yourself when you get them out.

We have also successfully used old kitchen cabinets in our shops—sources have ranged from kitchen remodelers to the curbside trash. (We have no pride.)

Juchli reminds us that organization is important: “Keep parts from a project together. We use rolling carts with plastic bins beneath them so that things don’t go missing.” You can do the same thing if you can get your hands on some janitorial service carts or similar at a surplus shop.

For storage of a complex project, nothing beats self-sealing plastic storage bags. Buy the cheapest ones you can find, and use them as you take apart a subassembly. Put small parts into a bag, label it, and put it in a box that contains the larger assembly. Label the box, and label the shelf or cart where you store it. That way you don’t need to go digging for all the parts related to the right head, when all you can find is the left head. Yeah, this stuff adds time during the disassembly stage, but it will make your life easier later. Trust us on this one.

Juchli has one more piece of advice: Keep those bags and boxes separate through each step of whatever process you have planned. “Clean the parts bag-by-bag so you don’t have to sort through 10 pounds of hardware that you’ve forgotten all about.”

Shop Electrical Wiring and Lighting

Electrical wiring can be dangerous for the inexperienced, so please use your head and do your own research when it comes to this topic. We’re car nerds, not electricians, so if in doubt, hire people to do your wiring for you. The following information should help you know what to do, or what to tell the pros.

Wiring a shop can be trickier than it looks. You need enough power to cover everything that you plan to use at the same time, including lighting, plus a factor of around 20 percent, depending on local wiring codes. This means that you will probably need more than one electrical circuit in your shop—one for lighting, one for bench tools, and one for everything else is a good starting point.

Keep lighting separate so that if a tool blows the circuit breaker, at least you still have light to keep yourself from standing in a dark shop. Machine tools and welders often run on 220-volt power, so this should be taken into consideration, too. An air compressor may also need its own circuit depending on the size of the motor.

Most shop circuits should be wired for 20 amps, again depending on the tools you plan to run on it. Motorized electrical tools draw a huge spike of power when they’re first turned on, so circuits need more capacity than ordinary household circuits.

When you put your shop together, take a few minutes to plan the location of power outlets. Install as many outlets as possible so you don’t have to rely on power cords. Getting power from a wall outlet is always safer than using a cord—there’s nothing to trip over, and the wiring in the wall has more capacity than an extension cord.

Shop lighting is also very important. “Nothing is worse than working on something you can’t see well,” Juchli says. “You just can’t have too much light. Otherwise you have to use a drop light, and it’s never in the right place.”

Put in lots of overhead lighting to keep your work area bright. Four-foot-long fluorescent light fixtures and tubes are inexpensive and work well, although the cheap ones can be cranky in cold weather. The solution? Either buy some better equipment or mix in some incandescent lamps.

Put in as many lights as you can, making sure to place fixtures strategically above your bench, toolbox and other critical areas. So-called “task lighting” keeps dark corners at bay and cuts down on eye strain and fatigue. Painting the walls and ceiling gloss white will also help brighten things.

If you have a large shop, light each area separately so that you can turn on only what you need. “We light the machinery area and the assembly area on separate circuits so that we can light only the area we’re working on,” Juchli explains.

Now Go Build Something

So there you have it, pretty much everything you need to know to find, stock and lay out the ideal shop for an automotive hobbyist. All you’ve got to do now is start looking for the ideal workspace, and start saving for all the tools and equipment you’re going to want when you get it.

Shop Safety

We could write an entire article on the topic of shop safety—in fact, we ran one in our May 2005 issue—but in the interests of space here are the basics.

Consider safety from the beginning when you’re laying out your shop. Do not build it without a smoke detector, and do provide adequate ventilation. If you can, think about installing an exhaust fan to keep fumes and dust out of your face while you’re working.

Make a place for a first-aid kit and keep it there—and keep it stocked. The same goes for a fire extinguisher: keep it mounted on a nearby wall and replace it periodically.

At the risk of sounding like your high school shop teacher, we’ve put together a short list of commonsense rules that should keep you safe in your private shop heaven:

• Wear eye protection whenever possible.
• Wear ear plugs if you’re making a lot of noise.
• Dress appropriately for the job. (Leave the sandals for the beach.)
• Keep your work area clean and organized.
• Don’t work alone, or if you do, have someone check on you periodically.
• Don’t drink alcohol and work. (Save the beer for afterward.)

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