Along with your toolbox, you need a space to work. A well-stocked and organized workspace can only enhance your experience of building your own bike. Creating a dedicated workspace is the ideal situation, as it will be set up specifically for the work at hand and you’ll save time without having to worry about setup and teardown as much
Apart from a location to park and work on your bike, you also need to consider details like storing tools, parts and equipment. Let’s dive into the details.
There are some important considerations for setting up shop. Yes, before we can get to the bike itself, we must engineer our shop for safety and efficiency.
Building motorcycles may not be as dangerous as riding them, but there are still plenty of opportunities to get cut, burned, or electrocuted. A smart layout can drastically reduce the chances of these unfortunate events and keep you in one piece as you build. In short, keep things that make sparks, like grinders and welders, away from things that explode or ignite, like solvents and fuels. If you can, store flammable materials in a cupboard, box, or cabinet to seperate them frome stray sparks.
Make it a habit to wear the right personal protective equipment (PPE) when you're working on your bike like safety glasses, ear protection, and gloves. Store these in a convenient place so the hassle digging them out doesn't become an obstacle to wearing them every time you work. Sturdy boots are another great addition to your PPE uniform. You never know what might fall from your workbench, like a poorly secured steel vice.
Leave protective guards on equipment, particularly high-speed tools such as grinders. While it might be tempting to remove them to improve visibility of your workpiece, or to grind at sharper angles, you don't want to pit your skin and bones against a spinning grinder disk.
Be aware that sparks from grinders or welders can melt things. So, don’t grind next to flammable or important possessions. The constant stream of sparks that emanates from these tools can also melt (or even ignite) light fabric like nylon on contact. Wear cotton clothing that can protect you during use, as synthetics melt when they meet molten metal or spark. Even cotton clothing will catch fire when exposed to a stream of sparks from a grinder (ask me how I know).
In addition to your own safety, think about the safety of others in the household. If other people access the area where you work, such as a shared garage, take time to keep the floor clear of debris and tools safely up on benches. Power tools should always be unplugged when not in use, especially if children frequent the area.
If you are working indoors, consider ventilation when using chemicals or painting. Even grinding or welding galvanized surfaces can give off noxious fumes and particulate matter that isn’t great for your lungs.
Of all the things you will do on your bike, cutting metal with grinders or jigsaws, or any sanding operations, such as preparing a surface to paint (and obviously the painting itself), are by far the messiest things you’ll have to do.
If your space can manage it, having a specific area where you can make all the mess in the world while keeping the remaining area of your workshop clean is a huge benefit. This might be a separate room altogether, like a shed, or just a corner you can screen off when needed. If you don’t have any space at all, perform dirty tasks outside in the open on a stable and clean surface. If you can’t create a ‘dirty’ area, or can’t go outside because of say weather, then obviously you’ll need to try and keep the mess contained as much as possible and clean up frequently.
Now that you have a dirty area squared away, you want to maintain the rest of your workshop as cleanly as possible. The area around your bike is especially important to keep clean in order to prevent dirt, metal chips, and other contaminants from entering a disassembled engine or ruining any chrome or paint finishes.
If you’re sharing your workshop space with materials for other projects, be extremely cautious or consider working in a different space if possible. Sawdust from a neighboring woodworking project can spell certain doom for your recently rebuilt engine. Additionally, your storage area for parts and tools should be well organized and free of debris – bonus points if you keep these items on shelving or in clear plastic tubs.
During the teardown and even early fabrication phases of your build, you’ll be measuring things up against the bike. This means your clean space will get dirty. However, as you move towards the final stages of your bike and assembly, when nicely painted or polished parts make an appearance, you’ll have to be even more vigilant of keeping this area clean.
So, how clean is “clean”? Your workshop is likely doubling up as your garage or shed, so there is some wiggle room here. Make sure you’re following the below guidelines as often as possible:
- Keep the area free of dust and sparks
- Avoid leaving loose hardware, corded tools, and other trip hazards lying about
- Do not leave anything lying around that could cause damage to your rapidly improving project bike
One place that often oscillates between clean and dirty is your workbench (or whatever equivalent you have). If you are cutting up metal, drilling holes or putting parts together, it can quickly become strewn with grinding dust, metal chips and tools. Here are three great ways to combat the mess.
Put tools away: It seems obvious but get in the habit of putting tools away as soon as you’re done using them. Not only does this keep your bench clean, but you’ll know exactly where they are next time you need to use them. This saves 10 minutes, which may not seem significant, but adds up tremendously over the course of a build.
Clean up after every task: Similarly with dust and scrap created from your work, clean up after a task as soon as you can. Having a brush and dustpan hanging within easy reach and bin also nearby will help to facilitate this. Try to get in the habit of cleaning up at the end of your session, rather than leaving for the start of the next. This has a benefit mentally and emotionally to having a clean workspace, with a clean workspace more inviting and you’re likely to want to get on with work on your bike.
Organize and store small components: A great tip if you are trying to do several tasks in parallel (such as disassembling a carburetor, doing some wiring or assembling pasts) that have lots of different bits you must keep a track of, get yourself some large plastic or metal trays. That way each task can be done on the tray and when you need to swap to something else, you can pull out the relevant tray in seconds.
These tips will get your work space in order and keep it that way. Not everything will be perfect all the time, but fall back on these concepts when it feel like your work space is out of control!