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30th May 2008


Opinion: Shed-Dwelling
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Classic bike enthusiasts can often be found in garages and workshops. How can you make the most of your spannering? Karl Bentley muses upon sheds and other places of violence...

As the adage goes, itís not what youíve got, itís the way that you use it, and this could be applied to our sheds and workshops. Now, I know some folk still dream of a few feet of indoor working space and I appreciate it, I really do as I too have been at one time a kerb-side mechanic. But for now Iím talking indoor workshops. No, come back! Iím not going to go over the same old ground, you know clean spaces, fluorescent lights blah, blah. No, Iím more interested in what Ďweí can do to our fettling space to make them more amenable (aka pleasant, fun even).

Okay; I need a workbench, worktop or whatever. Iíve used everything from purpose-made benches to the good old work-mate and everything in between. The best ever bench I had was made from cut up railway sleepers, others have been made from old kitchen worktops. However you do it, you really need a flat space. Why? Well, so you can inspect all that gouged out metal that was once an engine or gearbox, plus itís a handy place to put a RealClassicô mug of tea or coffee.

A clean bench, yesterday...

A really good bench is one you can bash things on and to help you a vice can be very handy. Now vices are not something you buy very often, so save up and buy the biggest one you can. I do have a love of big vices, I blame my apprentice days for this. The best place Iíve found for a vice is at the end of a bench and if you can have more than one bench, put it on the one thatís going to get dirty. Hacking, filing, chopping and bashing stuff always leaves a mess.

This is KarlB's one and only vice...

One trick I picked up is to keep my hacksaw next to my vice, along with a flat file. It saves you a lot of time looking around, trust me.

Also, tidying up makes things seem better. Even if I havenít fixed anything, clearing up the bench and brushing all the bits of metal away somehow sets me up for the next bout of the spanner and hammer dance.

This is KarlB's magnificent chest...

Once Iíve sorted out my workspace and got a bench or worktop, my next problem is, where do I keep all these tools that I need to inflict mayhem and carnage on poor unsuspecting motorcycles? I have to admit here that Iíve had the same set of spanners from Halfords for years and years.

Most modern chrome vanadium type steel tools will last you a lifetime, if they are used for their intended purpose. The use of tools and their selection is well outside this bit of shedology but smarter folk than me will back me up and confirm this.

Stuff to put in your shed

What makes life easier in the shed is where I keep this rag-tag assortment of tools that Iíve gathered around me over the years. A big box you keep everything in is a start. I keep my spanners in roll-up pouches so that I can carry them around. My sockets live in a socket set case, again so that I can carry it to the work. The next stage is some sort of tool cabinet with drawers and trays. It is a lot easier to have screwdrivers in one place and pliers, etc, in another.

The more 'specialist' books are kept elsewhere

I must confess Iíve never gone along the pegboard route of hanging ordinary tools up, but I believe it works for some folk. I do hang up specialist tools and some of the more bulky items. I use big nails for this, driven into big sheets of marine ply mounted on the wall for this purpose. The tools that some folk forget are the drills, grinders and the more fragile measuring instruments. These go under the bench in cupboards so I can find them when I want them but donít keep tripping over them.

You should have seen it before he tidied up...

All my hammers I leave lying against the bench ready to hand, wellÖ you always need one to tap something into place. Finally, old habits die hard and I always wipe off my tools and put them away each night. Thatís the thing to remember to do, put them all away each night. It might sound daft but over the years Iíve found it easier to keep track of everything and itís amazing how it makes you rethink a mechanical problem if you have to get the tools out once again. It also seems to make a piece of fettling that was taking so long last night finish up quicker today.

Now Iíve shared my bit of shedology, whatís yours?

That's the shed sorted out. Now, where are you going to put this lot?...

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