On Turning Your Garage Into a Blacksmithing & Woodworking Shop

by Darren Bush on September 27, 2013 · 43 comments

in Manly Skills, Projects



This post is sponsored by Ram Trucks. Do you have a garage in need of an overhaul? Enter here for your chance at being one of three lucky winners.
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“An object should be judged by whether it has a form consistent with its use.” – Architect Bruno Munari

In her book The Not So Big House, architect Sarah Susanka postulates that we tend not to build living structures that reflect how we actually live. Homes are sometimes built to impress the people outside rather than be comfortable for those inside. Vaulted ceilings and master suites are regal, but go to a party and see where people hang out: in the kitchen or smaller rooms.

Susanka stresses creating spaces that suit what you really do. A formal dining room may seem elegant, but unless you’re throwing dinner parties on a regular basis, it’s a waste of space. Most of my friends who live in homes with formal dining rooms end up turning them into home offices or game rooms.

We moved to a new (to us) place about 12 years ago, which more than doubled our living space. Going from an 800 square-foot two-bedroom home to one with over 2000, we were stunned. My wife and I were forced to look at things differently. We gave serious thought and reflected on how our family lives, and came up with a plan that utilizes space in a way that most reflects our values.

This is also manifested in our former garage, which hasn’t had a car in it in 11 years. That’s because my garage is a blacksmith and woodworking shop on one side, and canoe, kayak, and bike storage on the other side.

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Now I understand the allure of putting cars in a garage. If I were lucky enough to have a 4-car garage I would definitely put our cars to bed under a roof, but city life means compromises. Which to give up? Obviously we made the right decision…for our family.

If you’ve ever thought about turning your garage into a blacksmithing or woodworking shop (or both), below I offer some thoughts on how to do it, as well as why you should consider making your dream a reality.

What if I want to transform my garage (or part of it) to a shop?

If you’ve read this far and think I’m not half a bubble off plumb, let’s assume that you desire to perform such a transformation. Here’s what I did.

First, marry well.

steph

The one who made all this possible.

I’m only half joking here. Some partners would not give up their parking space willingly, if at all. My conversation went something like this:

Me: “Honey, can I talk to you about the garage?  I’m considering…”

Wife: “So what sort of shop do you want to build on my side of the garage?”

Me: “A blacksmith shop.”

Wife: “Thought so. Well, I expected that. Sure. My car is waterproof. Go ahead. Just don’t burn the garage down.”

Me: [weeps with gratitude]

Second, start sketching out a floor plan.

You don’t need to be a draftsman to lay things out. Graph paper is plenty sufficient. Think about the scale of things you might build. A friend of mine built a kayak and later found he had to saw it in half to get it out of his basement shop (don’t worry, he put it back together again). In my case, my work area is fairly compact, and the line between the woodworking area and the metalworking area is somewhat blurred.

IMGP1078

I can’t resist a piece of 5/4″ hardwood.

For blacksmithing, laying out the workspace is critical, since your medium has a working time. It’s sorta like a dance between forge, anvil, and vise. You stand in the middle of the triangle. No wasted steps.

IMGP1076

The triangle.

Also pay attention to power. If you have a welder of any size you’ll need to run more power to the workspace. I have 100 amps just going to the shop (the house gets the other 100). The welder takes 50 amps at 220 volts. Then again, I bought bigger than I needed, but you never know when you might need to weld 1″ steel plate.

I have several outlets for the welder, one near the garage door so I can wheel the whole welder to the driveway if necessary.

Third, acquire tools…slowly.

It’s tempting (if you have the cash or a big limit on your credit card) to rush out immediately and load up on all the coolest and latest. This is a mistake for a few reasons. First, you’d probably buy tools you wouldn’t need, at least for a while. It’s a common disease that occurs in people setting up a shop: the Shiny Tool Syndrome. This is especially bad when tools are packaged together. Which leads me to the second reason: you’d buy crappy tools.

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A far better approach is to purchase tools as you find you need them, and buy good tools from reputable resources. Big box stores have good tools, but you have to look, and you have to be willing to pay more.  Most of the big boxes have large sets of tools, usually packaged together. Check the label: American Eagle Tool Company might sound good but chances are they’re made in China.

Blacksmithing tools are not sold at the local box store. They are highly specialized and to buy cheap ones is to really handicap yourself from the start. There are a few really good supply houses like Centaur Forge and Kayne and Son.

For woodworking, tools are a little more straightforward. What do you need to start? That all depends. Like blacksmithing, you need tools to shape the wood. If you’re doing a lot of woodcarving, good chisels, gouges, and files are more important than planes or drills. Making cabinets? You’ll need planes, chisels, and a lot of clamps. N.B.: you cannot have too many clamps. See the fourth point below, it’ll help.

Once you know what brands are reputable, you’ll have a lot more purchasing power if you visit antique shops and attend swap meets and barn and garage sales. You might get lucky and score a nice plane for $25 that cost $200 new. I’ve found good hammers and tongs, as well as some clamps and vises this way. I once bought an entire coffee can (the smaller kind) of metal chisels and punches for $15.00 out in the middle of the desert somewhere.

The quality of the metal in older tools is superb, and steel wool, gun oil, and some elbow grease can really bring them back to full function. Naval jelly, a rust remover, can work well too, but rinse and treat soon after using it. Learn how to recondition tools and you’ll save a bunch of money.

I would, however, shy away from buying an anvil at a barn sale or swap meet. It is one of your primary tools (hammers being the other), and if it’s too far gone you’ll be frustrated.

You may not have to buy all the tools you need, either; a nice side effect of building your own shop is that people will bring you tools, sometimes for nothing. A good friend brought me a box of old tools that belonged to his Uncle Stanley. Some of the smaller tools with lots of moving parts were too far gone, but the late 1800s wood-body scrubbing plane needed only a little wood glue and a little sharpening…it scrubs wood off beautifully.

scrubbingplane

The box also included a dozen or more cold chisels and hot cutters for metal work — useless to most people, but a bonanza for me. After removing the rust and polishing them up a bit, the quality of the tools is amazing.

The cost for this box of treasures? Nothing. “I just wanted them to go to someone who would use them.” Well, that’s easy. Use them I will.

In short, spend more, buy less. Buy good stuff once instead of bad stuff twice. If you have to delay gratification, man up and wait.

Fourth, find a mentor.

Although they are getting scarce, there might be an old guy on your street who has a shop to die for. He knows how to recondition a plane, get rust off an old vise you bought at a garage sale. He also knows which brands are worth buying and which ones aren’t. My mentor taught me the value of a $45 Armstrong C-clamp over a $12.99 (or two for $19.99) Harbor Freight American Tool C-clamps.

A mentor can also critique your work and give you ideas on the subtleties of a particular technique. A book about dovetails is good; a mentor who has made dovetails is great.

larry-cooper-mentor

Larry Cooper, master blacksmith, welder, and scythe dude

Larry Cooper, my blacksmithing mentor, taught me a lot about metalwork, but he also taught me a lot about life. Being from Alabama, he was a might more laid back than I, and helped me learn to slow down and see things better. Not just when making a piece of art, but driving the backroads, eating a meal together, or just sitting and talking.

Why would you want to transform your garage into a shop?

A Shop Makes You Neighborly

Having a shop in my garage attracts attention, especially the blacksmith part. My anvil has a nice ring to it and people walk by and wave. If I stop hammering, people come to see what’s going on. Sufficeth to say when people need help, they come over. I refuse payment for little things.

I have sharpened countless lawnmower blades. I like doing that; it’s fast, easy, and generates more neighborly interaction. I’ve rolled the welder out into the driveway to tack down a broken metal bracket on a pick-up truck. A few years ago I fabricated a little aluminum arm to save a $400 stroller from the dump. Now that was neighborly.

You can also provide mentoring skills up to your level of competence. You don’t have to be a woodworking master to show a kid how to use a handsaw. Or for that matter, a friend your age who has never touched a handsaw. A lot of skills are being lost every day as time passes. You can provide a bulwark against this decline.

Men will want to gather around and hang out. I have a few folding chairs that hang on the wall of the shop. A small refrigerator ain’t a bad idea either. Just don’t drink and saw.

A Shop Makes You a Better Man

One of my favorite books of 2009 is Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford. Crawford has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Chicago. He’s no dummy. His book discusses the cultural implications of “knowledge workers” being more valued than those who do tangible things. He argues that this equation is wrong-headed and that there is indeed enormous value to manual labor — work which connects the hands and the mind.

Cultivating this connection is important for those in white collar professions who spend their days doing abstract work. Get some balance by turning to a hands-on hobby during your nights and weekends. Working with your hands teaches your brain to work better. It makes you more self-sufficient and more useful to the community. It makes you whole.

You don’t have to be a master woodworker or blacksmith to gain the benefits of having a shop. Indeed, quite frankly, I’m what I would call a skilled hack. I try things, and if it works, it works.  My work isn’t going to show up in Fine Woodworking or its metal equivalent (there really isn’t one), but it makes me happy.

And it’s funny how a space like this gathers men. No cracker barrel or checkers set. Sometimes we bang on metal and sometimes we don’t. It doesn’t matter.

It’s also where I play the banjo because it doesn’t bug anyone but me.

Is there a downside?

Of course, there are negative effects of turning your garage into an alternative space: your car will get wet. Last I checked, however, our cars are waterproof. UV is a problem for paints and exteriors, but a car cover is cheap insurance, especially if you go a long time without driving.

You may find it’s easier to bring in dust and dirt, especially if your garage is attached to your home. If you end up doing a lot of woodworking, you’ll probably want to invest in a dust control system, but until then, use coveralls when you can, blow your clothes off with an air compressor, and leave the garage shoes where they belong.

Other than that, what’s keeping you?

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David H September 27, 2013 at 9:44 pm

http://www.garagejournal.com/2012/11/liberty-tool/

Here is something you should check out, its a tool shop that buys and redistributes old tools.

2 Billy September 27, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Thank you for sharing the info on older styled hair gels and products, I’m only 18 but I tend to go for the old styled things because I always thought the quality of them was better, also accepting the fact that nowadays people have become more lazy in taking care of themselves…. I’ve always wanted to live in 60′s era which is also what influences me. I have a New York Italian look to me as well considering I’m from new York but coincidently not Italian, but Irish which gives me the thick hair.
Thanks again

3 Michael Moore September 27, 2013 at 11:47 pm

“you’d buy crappy tools…A far better approach is to purchase tools as you find you need them, and buy good tools from reputable resources”

I think it makes sense to buy crappy tools sometimes and have no regrets yet.

I’ve got a really cheap ratchet set that I’ve had for years and years. I needed it for some minor car repair, so I bought the cheapest set I could find. Years later I still use the same set whenever something needs ratcheting. I’m sure it’s going to break one of these days and I’ll replace it then.

When I expressed interest in wood turning I was given a 1950s lathe (with an external motor!) by an aunt. I bought the $60 set of 8 chisels from Harbor Freight knowing full well that they are low-end, crappy, chisels. It was a good way to get into the hobby. I have to sharpen them frequently but they still do they job. They let me try out turning without spending $60+ per chisel and while I have bought some nicer chisels I still use most of the HF ones too.

4 Peter S September 28, 2013 at 12:31 am

Great post! I recommended it to my friends. Thinking of starting up a forge/makerspace myself. I’d love to see more posts like this.

5 Brandon September 28, 2013 at 5:27 am

I may be working to up my ‘manliness’ but the shop I’m working on isn’t exactly a woodworking shop and far from a Blacksmith, I’m in the process of building up an aquatics breeding room, work still needs to be done (build the stands, filters, and so on) to get it fit for fish, but hey, this gave me some good ideas for setting it up! They do say, do what you love and love what you do now don’t they

6 MrBill September 28, 2013 at 7:40 am

Ya’ll know I need it more than you. Click on this link from the RAM Trucks garage overhaul and vote for my shop.
Thanks to Darren Bush for the write-up and Brett for the post. Always good to learn more and get a good kick in the pants to clean up the shop.

7 Aaron September 28, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Auctions are a great place to buy tools. I’m always amazed at the price the tools sell for and eventually everything comes up for sale. Plus, it is typically better quality stuff due to the source of where auction stuff comes from.

8 Zapato September 28, 2013 at 1:05 pm

liked it all till he mentioned blowing dust off yourself with the air compressor. worked in the trades my whole life and doing that is a good way to embed a chip or sliver into yourself. A bad habit frowned on not just employers and harmful to your skin. If you feel the need to dust yourself down a shopvac would be a much safer alternative.

9 Dave September 28, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Thats pretty awesome, definitely a hobby I want to pick up, but don’t have room for now. I can’t wait to get moved into a house and utilize the space like that.

10 Chuck September 28, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Awesome post. I love working with my hands and mentally attacking a problem to solve it physically. When things weren’t going right for me I joined the Army. I have been fortunate enough to be assigned to a unit where I get to be a farrier. I work in a shop that is a bit bigger than a household garage. I love going to work every day. Playing with horses, turning metal (that I don’t have to pay out of pocket for), and fabricating things to fix inside the barn. Just something about getting to lock up at the end of the day knowing I got something accomplished, it does something for the brain. Plus I’ve had the great opportunity to make a lot of fiends. My shop becomes the social hub of the barn. Guys come in to learn, or ask for something, or just shoot the wind. I love teaching what I know about metalwork and shoeing, and it gives me pride to see the look on someone’s face when he turns out a crappy looking shoe, but he can’t be prouder of it, because he made it.

11 Willy Cunningham September 28, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I dont recommend combining the two unless you are very good about keeping the saw dust and wood shavings cleaned up. More than one shop has burned because of sawdust building up in a belt-sander, sparks from metal you know..

12 Tex Adams September 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm

As a welder of 21 years and blacksmith hobbiest, I really appreciated this article. We have a ranch that takes up quite a bit of our off time and having skill with my hands has came in handy more often than not. I really enjoy getting out and just tinkering. A lot of times I will start messing around and before I know it I will have something useful made. Plus, it gets me out of sight and the boss lady thinks I’m actually being productive.

I highly advise every man to find something you enjoy doing with your hands. It doesn’t matter if you are any good when you start off, skill and talent will come. Being good with your hands is something people respect and a good women enjoys having a man around who can do things. Also, it gives you something to claim as your own. A skill or craft that you enjoy gives you something to do that will help keep things in proper persective too. My work has taken me on into management, but I still enjoy building things in my off time. Having a shop and a skill will allow you a way to connect to others too, especially kids. Kids, and boys expecially, like to learn how to work with their hands. Even if you aren’t the greatest at your chosen craft, the young ones don’t know that. They just know that someone is taking the time to teach them something one on one. What’s better than having the admiration of those coming up?

Set the remote down and get out in the garage. Create your own space and do what brings you enjoyment.

13 Christian Schmidt September 29, 2013 at 8:36 am

A dream of mine.
I’m slowly working my way to owning a handful of good quality tools, spending a set budget every month. Only thing missing is a room, but I guess that’s something I can figure out in a short time.

14 Zeb September 29, 2013 at 9:31 am

Definitely like to see more articles along these lines. Good stuff. Stay manly!

15 AZDuffman September 29, 2013 at 3:55 pm

The easiest advice is don’t buy *anything* at Harbor Freight. The place has lots of cool looking stuff of the lowest quality. How they do it I do not know.

Actually I should not say don’t buy *anything* just don’t buy anything you plan to use more than once. Sometimes a cheap tool is all that is needed, but this is rare.

Don’t overlook used tools! I am learning to check out flea markets and estate sales to avoid this.

16 Darren September 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm

@Willy: You’re right, except I only have one tool that generates sawdust and I roll that to the driveway when I use it. So the show is relatively sawdust free, at least the airborne kind.

@Zapato, yep, you’re right. I am generally just blowing off my shoes. I don’t use it on skin for sure. Probably should have added that. A good shop vac (and I have a wall-mounted one to the right of the woodworking bench) would be preferable.

17 Darren September 29, 2013 at 5:45 pm

@Michael Moore; you make an excellent point. If you only use a tool periodically (and the good ones would be expensive), you’re well-served by inexpensive tools. Even so, a good set of sockets can cost as little as $60.00, not much more than the cheap ones.

It really does depend on the tool. Some inexpensive tools will do the job up to a certain point. Inexpensive chisels may allow you to try something new, but at a certain point they may limit your abilities.

And a well-tuned Stanley plane is better than a poorly-tuned Lie-Nielsen or Veritas. I took a plane tuning class at a wooden canoe rendezvous and my planes and spokeshaves were never the same again.

18 James September 29, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Great article. I’ve always wanted to have a shop for wood working. I live in an apartment right now, but when I do have a garage I’ll definitely be doing it!

19 Bob Keyes September 30, 2013 at 10:56 am

The importance of a mentor in learning the art of blacksmithing cannot be overstated. The answer to one simple question can spell the difference between sucess and failure. Having become a smith in 1985 and attaining my mastery in 1992 it has been my pleasure to help others learn the craft. I will be contacting Brent off line for help in presenting my services to any one who wants to learn blacksmithing

20 Jack September 30, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Great article, now that my wife has declared we have completed furnishing the inside of our new house I have a small budget approved to upgrade our detached 1-car garage which has become my de facto workshop!

21 Willy September 30, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Darren, good on you for monitoring that dust. I have the sander on a stand with wheels so it can be positioned to send dust out-doors when doing wood.

22 John G September 30, 2013 at 8:16 pm

auctions can be a great source of older tools. Keep track of what you bid is. Don’t over bid. Make friends with other bidders. I was at an auction bidding on a an anvil that quickly went over my budget. An older gentleman near me was buying cast iron cook ware and wood stoves. We struck up a conversation and he asked me if I’d be interested in a anvil he had. The next saturday found me at his farm with three anvils in front of me to choose from. I managed to buy a very old welded anvil 50 lbs heavier than the cast anvil I had been bidding on at the auction. While there I mentioned my shop had no electricity and I was also looking for a old fashioned hand powered drill press. There was one in a pile of stuff next to his barn. I paid half the going rate for that. A year later the same guy called me with a Champion forge blower at a very reasonable price.

That same guy introduced me to our local steam and gas engine association. That turned out to be an ever better source of older high quality tools.

23 Todd October 1, 2013 at 12:29 am

Start that Fine Metalworking magazine yourself! I’m pretty sure the world needs it!

24 Kevin October 1, 2013 at 5:23 am

A man can never have too many clamps. I REALLY get a lot of use out of my Bessey adjustable clamps. I love ‘em. The whole name is the VarioClippix® (XV) variable spring clamp.
http://www.besseytools.com

No, I don’t work for Bessey.

25 Dan October 1, 2013 at 8:30 am

I recommend installing a smoke detector in the garage, they type that’s usually installed in kitchens to avoid the false alarms. All it takes is for a spark to smolder in the corner to set things on fire. Keep the shop tidy! All of my blacksmith tools were bought on craig’s list or I forged them myself, that’s one of the things I love about the hobby. And you don’t have to start with an anvil, just the biggest chunk of steel you can find will do to get started. Find a mentor, join ABANA or an online community like IForgeIron.com. Be safe!

26 Darren October 1, 2013 at 8:49 am

@James, start where you are! You can get a few carving tools and work at your kitchen table. I’m writing a few things about projects and handwork you can do in an apartment.

My son has a tiny workbench (2′x3′) in the basement of our house. He produces some lovely jewelry there.

@Bob Keyes, you are a mensch. Thank you for being so generous.

27 Jeff Williams October 1, 2013 at 10:04 am

Having your own shop is such a great way to learn. Mine is also in my garage. I’d love to have a dedicated outbuilding but I’m not complaining. It used to be just my woodshop space but recently my wife spends just as much time out there. She works on her craft and decorating projects and I work the wood. It’s a great way to bring families together. I can’t wait to teach my son about tools and construction.

28 Jim Kath October 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Great Post, Thanks!!! I too have purchased tools because I thought I needed them then realized I never use them. One crappy tool that I like is the clamps from Harbor Freight; I think they’re blue. For 2.99 for the six inch “F”-style clamp they beat the $25 I’d spend on a pony. I have tons of them and have had them for years and they’re great. Half my garage is my guitar shop and since I only build one at a time, it’s perfect and God bless my wife for agreeing to it. Some of my more needed powertools are much better quality, but I’ve done well with stanley planes and Grizzly powertools (they’re made in Taiwan, but the quality is good enough for the amount I use them.)

29 Miguel October 1, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Hey, I really enjoyed reading this article! I’m a young man ending college and I’m really interested in learning one or both of these trades, but I don’t know anyone around my town who has a shop, so it is hard to get started… Also, I am afraid of making an investment, since I seldom finish my projects, but that’s something I want to change on my way to being a man!
Any words of encouragement? Maybe some of you were in the same situation as me?
Thanks!

30 Andrew October 1, 2013 at 7:27 pm

I was able to take a semester of Blacksmithing at my local arts center during a year between High School and the Army. Instant addict. Now three years later i am getting ready to make the transition back into the civilian sector for college. This article is a huge encouragement for me to start this passion as i go to college.

@ Miguel From one young man to another i have some ideas to help.
Look into the classes offered at your local arts center or the electives at your school. It’s great way to get introduced to the trade with minimal investment. This will help you network; possibly find a mentor; and find out if you like the trade enough to continue after the class is done.

On multitasking and finishing projects: I suffer from the same thing. I have 3 partially finished projects in my house right now. What works for me is when i see myself slowing down on one i go back to one of the previously set aside ones with a zealous enthusiasm. Before i know it that one is done and i can take out one of the others. Keep your focus and work them into your schedule. Hope that helped.

31 John G October 1, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Also don’t go too crazy buying tools in the begining. The mark of a true blacksmith is the ability to make your own tools.

32 Geoff Engel October 1, 2013 at 10:29 pm

For inexpensive, quality chisels I really like these: http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=49989

They’re Czech. Despite the price they take a remarkably good edge and hold it pretty well.

33 Ashton October 3, 2013 at 8:04 am

Hide and Seek Wallet in cocoa please!

34 Jason Koller October 7, 2013 at 10:08 am

I just inherited a tool box full of goodies from my grandfather who was a machinist.
I’m looking forward to setting up my own shop, even if I’m still in an apartment.

35 seba October 8, 2013 at 10:38 am

You know what is the hardest part? “Slowly” acquiring tools. One does not simply slow down in a market full of toys… I mean tools :-)

36 Drew October 13, 2013 at 10:34 am

I totally agree with your assertion that hands-on work makes you a better man, and that workers who do tangible work do provide tremendous value and insight. I might have to pick up that book, sounds interesting. Oh, and, great workshop!

37 Wes October 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Good article. My garage is my blacksmith shop as well(which is detached). I would really encourage those that want to try it to find a local class that teaches blacksmithing so that you can try it out. A substantial time investment will be made on your part otherwise. Try your local ABANA chapter for classes:
http://www.abana.org/

@Miguel – Don’t wait around trying to find the best tools that you can. Find an old piece of railroad track and a decent ball peen hammer and get started. Build your old propane forge, as it can be done on the cheap. Go here: http://www.zoellerforge.com/
I have a forge based on the square body design, but you can build a forge from a coffee can if you want. If you want to do it, just do it. I can’t stress that enough.

38 Jordan October 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Brett, could you share any more photos of your shop? A sketched layout would be even better. I’m struggling to figure out how to lay out my garage shop and I really liked what I saw of yours in the pictures in this article.

Would love to see the same from any other guys with a garage shop as well!

39 MCM November 5, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Love this article and the idea that a shop makes you a better man. I’ve had my own wood/metal shop in some form or another for almost 20 years. I move around a lot and the biggest hassle is always the Shop. One thing I’ve learned is it’s not the tools in the shop but what you make with them that counts. I recently moved spaces and had to sell off half my free standing tools (Jointer, planner, bandsaw, etc.). It hurt, but I found a community wood shop not far from my new place and am able to the heavy lifting there and the fine work in my private shop.
For those of you that may dream of your own shop but lack the space, funds, or skills at this point in time, I recommend finding a community college, art center, or even checking the industrial areas of most major cites and finding a community shop where you can start building. It’s not what you’ve got that let’s you do, it’s what you do with what you’ve got.

40 bugnuker November 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm

I gotta tell ya. Harbor freight 4″ and 41/2″ grinders are pretty much bullet proof, at least the 5 I’ve had for 10 years are. Meanwhile my buddy , who buys only Metabo grinders, (close to 200.00 a pop) has replaced his 3 times. I use them for cutting,sanding , grinding and shaping. Spend where you will … but for my money I can buy
10 harbor freight grinders to 1 Metabo, and it’s nice to have all the different tools mounted on different grinders for quick use.

41 Miils December 7, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Just found this site today and am exploring. I am now a professional smith who started in the garage in a very similar fashion to what you describe in your article. I find your article to be on target and is very close to the same advice I stress with guys that want guidance or when I hire for larger jobs. I do use a lot of cheap tools when conditions are favorable for them. Cheap wrenchs that I am going to shape into a different, dedicated tool. C clamps that I will cut in half and weld to pieces for special hold downs. For my day to day need it to work every time I buy the best I can afford, Milwaukee grinders run about 125 reconditioned on the net and I like to have 4 on my ‘IV’ stand each with something different on it. Tongs are all made by me as needed same with punches, chisels and most everything else.
I really like this site. Its neat that you are just up the street in Tulsa.

42 Peter Thompson January 23, 2014 at 6:07 pm

This was an excellent article, exactly the kind for which I visit this site. I liked it so much, I read bits to my wife.

Her first comment was, “Why is he putting the metal shop in his WIFE’S spot?” I told her your spot contained the wood shop, and she laughed. :-)

43 Dan March 6, 2014 at 4:42 pm

“I’m what I would call a skilled hack. I try things, and if it works, it works.”

This is by FAR my favorite line! I can definitely identify with this one, as I do the same thing with electronics for TVs (I’m an electrician by trade)

My only question is this: where would you recommend getting a good anvil, what weight is good for most small to mid-sized work, and about how much should I expect to spend?

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