Moving into a new shop (garage/workspace/cave) can prove to be mix of exhilaration and drudgery.
On one hand, you’ll experience this brand new or new-to-you blank open space canvas—something fresh that allows you to enrich your quality car wrenching time.
On the other, you’ll likely have a mountain of things to move, including big shop tools, tool boxes, air compressors and boxes of stuff—all kinds of stuff. And it’s all heavy.
We’ve all been there but it helps to have a vision. Because of that, we compiled a dozen tips with products and ideas geared toward making “move-in day” (and the time right after it) more enjoyable.
Basically, they’re ideas (in no particular order) to make your garage work better.
1. Figure Out Where The Big Pieces Go
If you’re like many racers and hot rodders you likely have some good sized (often huge, extra large) pieces of shop equipment that must be moved and re-installed in your new shop. Those can include air compressors, lifts, rolling tool chests, and so on. It’s a good idea to figure out where you want those pieces before you install or move them. Some of those pieces can prove to be really heavy and you don’t want to move them more than you have to. Often, the exact positioning of those items is dictated by power supply locations, door locations, window locations, and so on.
Bottom line here is, plan before you move.
Every shop needs at least one heavy duty workbench and it must be sturdy enough so that you can beat on it with a degree of confidence. There are plenty of workbench options out there too. Some have thick wooden tops. Others have steel tops. Most of them are based upon heavy steel frames. Some offer storage capabilities. And some, like this one from Titan Tools, include leveling legs. This particular bench has a weight capacity rating of 1,200 pounds—so it won’t crumble if you set an iron big block on it.
3. Nail Down Your Compressor
Shop compressors are often heavy and difficult to move. For this writer, installing the shop compressor came with an extra headache: The garage floor is radiant heated (hydronic system operating off a boiler).
There is no road map of where the heating lines are routed under the concrete and a large air compressor must be solidly secured to the floor by way of concrete anchors. Obviously I couldn’t drill the holes helter-skelter. The solution was to have the lines located by way of a thermal imaging specialist.
A machine locates the lines by way of heat, and then a laser provides a visual image (in addition to a thermal image snapshot). Basically, the laser outline is traced in chalk as you see in the pic above, so you can see where the lines are located before dragging out a hammer drill.
4. Organize Little Parts & Tools
Everyone has little parts. They can be nuts, bolts, washers, carburetor parts, ignition parts and so on. If you toss them all into one big drawer, you’ll spend a ton of time trying to find the elusive piece you’re searching for. A better approach is to use small parts cabinets or drawer organizers.
A good example is something like the Homak cabinet shown in the pic above, part number HMS-HA01018001. This particular cabinet has 18 different compartments, but they’re available with up to 39 compartments.
In the photo above, you can see the drawer organizer I’m using for bolts and hardware. A tray, tool, or drawer organizer works great for tools, clips, electrical connectors, O-rings, and other small stuff.
5. Wall Organizers
Drawer and cabinet space isn’t the only location for organizers. Wall organizers for trailers can also be used in your shop. A couple of examples include the Pit Pal part number PIT-320A pictured above. It’s designed to hold chemicals and oil. Additionally, it accepts a couple of paper towel rolls.
Another example is this handy cable, hose, and cord holder, Pit Pal number PIT-223.
6. Electrical Outlets & Power Strips
In a shop, you can never have too many electrical outlets (no secret we’re sure). Even in a well laid out shop, there’s often a need for extra power sources.
In my case, my shop has a lot of outlets, but I prefer to have more than one near my work bench. Aside from cutting up the wall and calling in an electrician, the solution was this 10 plug electrical power strip I located at a home building supply company. It’s five feet long and is fastened directly to the bench.
7. Garage Floor Coatings/Covering/Repairs
When moving into a new (or new-to-you) shop, it’s a great idea to get the floor in shape before you bring in your tools, parts, and heavy equipment.
There are lots of different options out there for garage floor coatings, often sold in kits that can typically cover around a 450 to 500 square foot garage floor. When working on an older floor, it’s possible to patch any damage. There’s a “Rock Solid” kit from Rustoleum designed just for that purpose.
By the way, once you work on a nice floor, it’s difficult to imagine going back to bare, chipped oil stained concrete.
8. Anti-Fatigue Mats
Anti-fatigue mats are no joke. They reduce the stress of standing that can create neck, leg and foot pain. Small ones are great for moving around the shop and temporarily placing them where they’re needed. It’s also a great idea to keep them in front of work benches and tool boxes. Many different sizes and configurations are available, including this one from Summit Racing.
9. Hose Reels
If you have an air compressor, then you’ll probably have (or want) a hose reel.
We’ve covered them in the past, but it’s a good idea to ponder them in your new shop setup. Because they’re heavy, they need to be mounted solidly. In my case, I sandwiched two pieces of half-inch plywood to craft a mounting plate. In turn the hose reel bolts to the mounting plate. The whole assembly is then screwed to the wall.
Here’s something else to consider when mounting your reel: Wall studs are often established on 16 inch centers. This means the center of the stud to the center of the next stud measures 16 inches. If the reel is mounted over a window (such as my case shown here), then the stud spacing is 12 inches on center.
10. Mount Your Vise & Bench Grinder
You’ve got all sorts of mounting options for important shop tools, such as bench grinders and bench vises. They’re offered with a wide range of features and price points.
It’s not uncommon to mount a grinder on a separate work stand. If mounted independently, the stand should be beefy. The Sunex example shown here (part number SXT-5003) is built from steel and is pretty stout. Another common setup is to simply mount the grinder and the vise on a workbench. Just keep in mind a vise is not an anvil.
My preference is to mount each close to the edge of the bench so that you have room for handling different materials.
A long time ago I was a struggling writer. I built a garage but couldn’t afford to wire it before jumping into my next race car project. To make the work somewhat more manageable, I “wired” the garage with extension cords and lit it with multiple clamp on incandescent lights augmented by trouble lamps. It wasn’t pretty and in truth, it was still pretty dim, but the race car ended up being successful (it won the US Nationals shortly after I finished and sold it).
These days, I much prefer a well-lit environment. LED fixtures are common and honestly, the amount of light you get from them is incredible. My new shop has white walls and half a dozen long LED fixtures. Even with a 10.5 foot ceiling and aging eyes, it doesn’t lack for light. The bottom line is, the more light and better light quality you have, the better off you’ll be. Check out the shop lighting at SummitRacing.com.
12. Parts Storage
No matter what sort of project you dig into, you’ll be sure to need some form of parts storage. It can come in the form of storage racks or hidden in shop cabinets. I’ve used heavy duty warehouse storage racks in the past. I’ve also used wooden shelves and built in cabinets. They all work. It all boils down to a matter of aesthetics.
Most folks will tell you can’t have enough cabinet storage space. It does a good job of keeping parts off the floor. And when parts are off the floor you’ll be more organized. And besides, you can’t trip over them. My personal nod goes to enclosed storage cabinets.
…And yes, judging from the boxes in that pic above, you can see I’m still moving in.