Shop equipment

Bike stand or platform

You'll need somewhere to store your project bike while its under construction and a small arsenal of basic equipment to facilitate the job.

A build platform is very helpful and beats working on cold concrete in the middle of a cold winter.  These can be constructed simply from hardware store timber (construction pine and plywood is great).  Look at this as one of your first learning exercises.  You’ll have to learn to measure out material, cut it accurately, and nail or screw it all together.

Of course, you can buy a hydraulic lift platform - which can cost north of one thousand dollars - but most people are on a budget. What’s more, you can build one fairly easily and for under a hundred dollars.

Workbench and vice

A workbench and vice are two of the most important elements of a successful working space.  A workbench can take any form, but an old door resting on crates won’t be conducive to producing your best work.

Ideally, you’ll have a sturdy metal framed bench around hip height (about 1 meter or 3 feet), or if you have a vice bolted to the surface, the top of your vice should be just under your elbow. This is the perfect height for comfortably filing or sawing a workpiece in the vice.  A solid wooden top that is at least six feet long by two feet (180cm by 60cm) deep is great. You can purchase a completed bench, a kit, or build your own. Don’t forget to check your favorite internet marketplace for second-hand items.

Of course, you must make do with what you have. If you don’t have access to a welding machine, substitute a metal frame for a timber one. Perhaps even an old desk would suffice, although it would be a little low. You may need to get creative to find something that works with the space you have. Even a plastic-topped collapsible table is better than nothing.

A vice is another essential item to add to your workspace. Invest in the best (and generally largest) vice your budget will allow. Most expensive vices swivel in one or both axes, which can be helpful for setting up parts at the exact angle you want. Some vices also have a secondary set of jaws on the underside which are designed to grip cylindrical items like tube and pipe. Again, check the classifieds for a second-hand vice in your local area.

Most vices have hard steel serrated faces on the inner jaws to help get a good grip on the part being held. However, this can damage parts and softer metals, such as aluminum. A little tip is to get a couple of strips of about 12- to 14-gauge aluminum and bend them to cover the serrated faces to protect more vulnerable parts from the serrated faces. You can bend or mold them so they can be slipped on and off to get the best of both worlds.

Another option for removable inserts is get a couple of aluminum 90 degree angle bar and cut a couple of pieces to drop into the jaws.

The advantage of having a nice sturdy workbench is that it gives you a great surface to mount your vice.

Face it, you don’t want to be yanking on a part in your vice and having your workbench fall over on you or collapse in pieces. You can buy vices that clamp onto benches, but where possible, it's going to be safer to bolt it to your workbench.

If your bench isn't suitable, fabricate a vice on a stand. Using a length of 3 foot (900mm) square tube (say, 4in or 100mm square), a couple of flat plate sections about the size of your vices bolt pattern, an old car rim and a welder, you can make a freestanding vice like that can be moved out of the way when not in use

Parts cleaning equipment

There are many ways to clean parts, particularly if you have to do it manually. There are the usual cost-effective options such as wire brushes, scrapers, paint stripper chemicals, drills or grinders with various wire wheels or strip discs. Solvents like degreaser, acetone, WD40 or even paint strippers can assist with moving the process along.

But quicker ways normally involve a machine of some sort.  And who doesn’t love a machine to do the work for you?

Some degreaser and a pressure washer are great for those heavily oiled greasy engines or blasting off flaking paint. If you have to wash a lot of dirty engine or suspension parts on a regular basis, a parts washer will be a worthwhile investment. But it the gunk is stubborn, you’re going to have to step it up to something more abrasive.

There are some DIY handheld options such as small sandblaster and soda blaster guns. Both will require a compressor to run and make quite a mess. Soda is far less abrasive than sand and works well cleaning aluminum surfaces to as-new condition. Sandblasters take more material off due to the coarser nature of the sand. However, sandblasting should be avoided around assembled engines and carburetors due the risk of sand getting into the engine and forming a grinding paste that rapidly destroys your internals.

If you’re going all out or planning to do several builds end to end, it could be worthwhile to invest in a sandblasting cabinet. Once again, you’ll need a compressor to run it, but the great advantage is that everything (I.e., all the sand) stays in one place.

There is a trend in more recent times to vapor blasting. Done in a similar fashion to a sandblasting cabinet, water, with a small amount of sand or similar media mixed in, is shot at high pressure at the part. It’s a softer way of cleaning than sand blasting. While this is typically an industrial process, an online search will locate successful conversions of cheaper sandblasting cabinets into vapor blasting units.

If you can get access to one, for small and delicate parts such as carburetor internals, an ultrasonic cleaner is a very cool option. These devices use high frequency sound waves to oscillate the cleaning fluid (often just water) and this vibration loosens the deposits on your parts. 

The ”Parts Assessment” section of this book covers these various cleaning methods in more detail.