Home / Uncategorized / techTips | setting up your home garage part 4: power tools part 1

techTips | setting up your home garage part 4: power tools part 1

This is part 4, click the pic below for setting up your home garage parts 1 & 2

Part 4, you cry? Yeah, Part 4. It’s what you get because writing stuff about tools is simply so much fun I can’t stop!

Okay, this isn’t supposed to be on par with “War and Peace” but it has taken us this long to get into the basics of what we want in our workshops while bearing in mind we are doing this on a budget. Therefore, we are putting more careful thought into it than we would if we had bottomless pockets.

Now we have our shop sorted into what we are going to be doing in it with workbenches and it’s well equipped with basic hand tools. Now we need to be looking into power tools. Let’s go through the power tools first as they should be the most familiar tools to you in most cases. I will mention that all the power tools we are about to discuss are available as both electrical and air tools and that when you’re trawling around the various tools suppliers, you will be amazed at the apparent inexpensiveness of the air tool version compared to it’s electrical cousin. The reason for this is that the air tools don’t have any means of propulsion, they are driven by a compressor, not an electric motor. I mention this now because it will have relevance later.

As we did before with the hand tools, I’ll list the power tools we are likely to need and deal with them one at a time.

Drills, grinders, and saws.

There, that wasn’t hard. See you next week with Part 5, “The Joke’s on You!”

Oh, you want more? All right, I jest. Of course there is more to it so here we go.

Drills come in all shapes and sizes. There are drill press (AKA pillar drills) that come bench mounted and free standing. There are power drills and there are there are cordless drills.

Drills, like spanners and ratchets, are one power tool you really don’t want to buy cheap. When it comes to a drill press, it’s actually hard to buy a crappy one, because the makers don’t cater to the home handyman market so they all tend to be pretty good. If you have the space in your shop, get the biggest one that you can afford. Do this especially if you’re going to build your own frames and want to be notching tubes. Failing that, get a bench-mounted version and again, get the best you can afford. Once you have it set up, you’ll be amazed how much you use it.If you don’t like how it works, swap put the head bearings on your cheapo and be amazed at the difference.

Power drills:
These are the sort you plug in and hold on to. WARNING WILL ROBINSON! There is so much **** on the tool suppliers shelves that is “drill shaped” it’s unbelievable. This is a massive market for the home handyman and consequently everybody and their dog is making them, sadly, most of them won’t last you through a bike build.

There are two very good makes of power tools and they are DeWalt and Makita. Anything else is merely a different level of ****. Don’t waste your money. You want at least 700 watts and if it comes with a hand tightening “quick chuck,” take the **** thing off and replace it with a conventional ½” chuck that is tightened and loosened with a chuck key. “What the f**k,” I hear you crying, so I’ll explain. The drill’s purpose is to drill holes. No I won’t apologize for stating the obvious because a drilled hole should be round! How many times have you drilled through a piece of metal to attach rivets or whatever and looked at the hole and it’s vaguely triangular or oval? Remember when our builder friend bought a hub with holes so f***ed up a blinded space monkey drugged with acid could have done better? There are a couple of reasons why this happens.

First, dumbassery. There is nothing I can do about that. You’re either a dumbass or you’re not. There, I just saved a third of you from wasting your time on something that is only going to mame, kill, or get your sorry assed divorced.

Next, cheap drills built by jackwagon joe and his dog for the home handyman have poor bearing support on the chuck and consequently the chuck, after a few uses, starts to wander in the housing. This does not happen with DeWalt or Makita stuff. At least I’ve never managed to get them to do it and I try. Ever taken the metal plate out of your head to stop the voices without a proper drill and a securely placed bit? It’s a good way to go end up writing techTips for some stupid f***ing online motorcycle magazine or some s**t. Another reason is that the hand-tightening chuck has started to loosen and the drill bit is wandering might be a poorly sharpened drill bit, which can cause all sorts of trouble; torn fingers, impalement, pirate eye, and more. We’ll come back to drill bits shortly. First, a photo of Honolulu. Where right now the water is 80 degrees and everybody is walking around in shorts laughing:

We use drills for all sorts of things that we really shouldn’t do, from fitting wire brushes in them to running water pumps to move water out of a flooded basement. These things are why cheapo drills exist. I have probably half a dozen various makes of drills that get used for things other than drilling holes and they all live in a bottom drawer under the bench. My two good Makita drills that I drill perfectly round holes with, they live in the top drawer and are told bedtime stories every night. I smooch them and wish them sweet dreams. Okay, that last bit might be an exaggeration, I only breathe heavily on their handles but they do get looked after a lot better than the cheapo ones and I’ve had them for many years.

Cordless drills:

These things are a bit of a luxury in a bike workshop and we don’t use them a lot but they can be very handy at times. Again, don’t buy cheap ****, if you’re getting one, like a power drill, get at least 14.2 volt but preferably an18 or 24. The really nice thing about a good cordless is battery life. Compared to a cheap one it’s worlds apart. Like Vulcan and Romulus. One cares about co-existing and lives with logic and the other just wants to kick your ***.

And for the ladies, there’s Venus and Mars. One cares but should shut up and the other just wants to kick your ***.

Make sure you have spare batteries – it’s a general rule for any cordless tool – so when you’re using the tool you can be charging the spare battery at the same time.

That’s about it for drills. I’ll summarize with a bit about drill bits. There are a multitude of exotic coated drill bits on the market that seem to be able to drill through anything with the weakest drill you can get your hands on. We’ve all seen the adverts. They are usually gold in color, but it seems we have gotten wise to that so now so the latest are apparently coated in a silvery gray and made of super strong unobtanium alloy that would enable you to walk on the surface of the sun if you coated the soles of your shoes in it.

There is a phrase for these types of products back on my planet, we call it “bollox!” Get yourselves a good set of HSS Drill Bits and good set of Metric ones as well from a reputable engineering tool supply company.

Here’s a tip; the boxes are usually red. Rattle can one of them orange or something, a different color and likewise the bottoms of the drill bits to match the color of the bin they go home in. Trust me that it will save hours of drill sorting fun later. Finally, do some research and find out what drill speed the material your drilling likes to be drilled at! Seriously. The type/thickness/size of hole alter the drilling speed. Get a Zeus Book by begging, borrowing or stealing. Click that link and not only will it make your drilling chores a little easier, but you will save a fortune by not burning out drill bits as well.

We covered bench grinders in Part 1. Nothing to add here so click that link if you forgot. Remember we had them on free-standing mountings so we can move them about, especially outside because nothing clean ever comes off a bench grinder. Well, the same principle applies to hand-held angle grinders. It really isn’t worth spending a lot of money on these, besides you don’t have a lot now because you just spent it on good drills! Again there are so many brands on the market now and they really are very cheap. I have four on the go at any one time.

I’ll explain. One has a grinding wheel on the grinder, one has a cutting wheel on it, one has a wire brush on it, and the last one has a grinding pad for gently grinding discs on it to send to Venus.

These are cheap tools and sharing the workload between them in this way helps them to survive a lot longer and secondly life in the workshop is infinitely more simple when we have tools dedicated to a single use. I don’t believe that given the cost of these things it’s even worth the time searching for different types of discs when you want to go from wire brushing to grinding. It’s much more pleasant to simply pick up the tool with the appropriate disc on it. If you are unable to do this, because you spent your money on a drill, some bits, fancy lighting, wrenches, and socket sets, then one grinder and all the heads you need will be fine.

Unless you are going to be building your own frames then I suggest you save space and money and use your hacksaw and vice to do whatever sawing the work you’re doing will entail. But if you are going to be chopping up tubes for frames, we need to talk about the ways to do it.

The three common methods are:
1.  The Chop Saw
2.  The Band Saw
3.  The Jig Saw

1.  The Chop Saw: This is very much like a slightly heavy duty version of the carpenters saw used for cutting up wooden studwork on dry walling. Our version has a slightly more powerful motor and usually a fiber-cutting wheel instead of a saw blade, although saw blades that will cut mild steel are now appearing. These things are not my favorite method of cutting up steel. On the plus side they are fast and accurate, but that’s it. On the minus side they are very messy and not only throw steel grindings out the back at a **** of a speed, but the fiber disc degenerates as it’s being used and the mess is incredible. You need to dedicate an area to this tool or the mess will very quickly spread all over your workshop. Remember our enemy is a dirty bench. If you do get one of these blades, I suggest you mount it on a move around trolley of some description and wheel it outside for use.

2.  The Band Saw:  WARNING WILL ROBINSON! There are very good band saws out there but they are expensive. There are pretty cheap band saws out there that are generally pieces of ****. There are some middle of the road-priced band saws from some of the reputable tool suppliers like Bailey that I’m told are very good. I’m afraid I cant speak from experience about these. You will have to do some research.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: try craftsman]

What I do know is that whatever make of band saw you get, the first thing you do with it, even before plugging it in, is to change the blade.

All band saws come with cheap and nasty blades that end up twisting and cutting at funny angles. It really is a ride down Misery Street. If you don’t believe me, looky here; scoot to 1:47 for what is probably inevitable if you buy one of those cheap band saws It should be noted that what replaced the one that ended up all over Billy’s floor in pieces was a proper one.

3.  The Jig Saw: Jig saws deserve a mention if we are going to be cutting out sheet steel or aluminum to make tanks. These saws don’t often go under a lot of strain as long as we don’t try pushing them through with blunt blades. Change the blade often and buy good ones. There isn’t really a vast amount of **** out there in the jig saw market for some reason. The one I have at the moment cost me about 40 bucks eight years ago and it’s still going strong. I’ve never seen the need to go for a Makita or De Walt version and spend big money on these.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of power tools you will need, it’s time to cast a glance at the more specialized tools that we may need in our future bike building adventures such as compressors, welders and how to build a frame jig.

Read parts 1 through 3 here.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: this was much too epic for one article. so much for the three-part series…]
Part 5 COMING LATER THIS WEEK. It will be something like this:

This was part 4, click the pic below for setting up your home garage parts 1 & 2

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