Sooner or later you will encounter the same problem we did. Your garage will be too small for all your projects (or your only project). We dreamed of moving out of town to a house with lots of land and a big shop or barn to house all of our projects. After years of dreaming though, it is still just a dream. It might have something to do with our buying another project vehicle every time we have spare money in our pocket, which makes the issue of space worse rather than better.
While we still hold on o our dream of the house in the country with the giant shop, in the meantime we have settled for a much more realistic solution: renting shop space in town with a friend. The shop we rented is a modest 900 square feet, but it has a lot going for it. The rent is reasonable and the location is in the industrial part of town close to auto parts and welding supply shops, where they don’t mind the sounds of cutting and grinding or a little oil leak here or there. As a bonus, now that the yard art has disappeared at home, our neighbors have even started to wave at us instead of scowling.
10 Must-Have Shop Tools
Angle grinder, 4 1/2-inch
Floor jack, 2- to 3-ton rated
Welder (and auto- darkening helmet)
11 Items We Use Most Often
Electric nut driver
Sharpie permanent marker
Sink or hose for cleanup
Top Tools for Fabrication
Lots of clamps and/or a good vise
Shop press or brake for bending metal
Top Tools for Gear Work
Must-Haves for Your Man Cave
Mini fridge Off-road posters
Our first stop was to the local salvage store to buy used pallet racking. Since they have different racking in stock at any given time, we wanted to ensure that we bought enough for our shop the first time. It wasn’t cheap, but the racking is strong and freed up a lot of storage space.
We bought these metal cabinets used; you can find them on Craigslist fairly regularly. They are great for storing and organizing all of your paint and fluids. Having consumables like gear oil and grease on hand means that you will spend less time running to the parts store.
You can get most jobs done with a floor jack and jackstands, but adding a two-post lift makes nearly every task easier. We scored a deal on this Ammco lift from a local mechanic that was closing up shop. Four-post lifts are great for exhaust work, but you cannot easily remove axles or wheels like you can with a two-post lift. We situated the lift towards the back of the shop and spaced it wide enough to fit fullsize trucks but still narrow enough that we can move equipment around each side of the lift.
If you like ice cream as much as we do, now you have an excuse. These Talenti containers make excellent hardware storage with their clear plastic construction and threaded lids. We never throw any hardware away, whether it is screws, nuts, bolts, or washers. You never know what you might need for a future project.
Keeping your tools organized is a big time saver. We bought this 44-inch, 13-drawer U.S. General toolbox from Harbor Freight Tools when it was on sale. It was bigger than we thought we needed, but we filled it up quickly with tools, so we added an eight-drawer chest to the top of the toolbox. Although it is on wheels, we rarely move it around the shop.
Lighting is one of the most overlooked aspects of a shop. You can never have too many lights, too many electrical outlets (110 or 220 volts), or too many air hose attachments. Our only complaint about lighting in the shop is that the rollup door covers half the lights when open. A coiling door would not have this issue.
Have you caught on yet how much we like organization? These plastic storage totes are inexpensive and easy to stack. We label them for each project vehicle and keep everything in case we need it in the future.