Shop Visit: David Bartenhagen

Hobby car shops must meet a need beyond just display. Build/modify/repair (BMR) is the essence of that which happens in The Shop. Space is always short. Everything must be integrated. And functional.

One bay in my shop is for the car under BMR. Concrete floors beneath the carpet and cardboard are oil-saturated as the heritage of this place is a machine shop. Proper jack stands allow the flow of work under and around the car. Lighting is always an issue as work progresses. A lighted creeper plus drop lights assist.

Tools in roll-around chests, flip-top tool kits, and even canvas bags allow proper application of the spanners, beaters and sockets. Air tools, cordless tools and corded tools each have tasks best suited. A small wire-feed MIG slumbers till needed.

The VW single-cab pickup was built here years ago and provides an awesome 5×9-foot workbench. Current bench work is building seat backs for the Thing.

Tables are essential to the build. During disassembly the parts are bagged for reuse/restoration/misplacement. During the rebuild the refurbished bits, the shiny new goodies, how-to manuals and parts bins are carefully arranged. As the build life gets long, gremlins have been known to hide key parts in plain sight on these tables. The hydraulic table mounts a vise, a VW engine stand, and a heavy toolbox that does counterweight duty. All are at working height.

Shelving further scatters all the components about the perimeter. Razor-sharp minds remember where everything rests. The rest of humankind circles the shop, knowing “for sure” there is a bowl/baggy/box with the needed piece there somewhere.

Take note: There are many chairs and stools. This is where friends gather. Bench racing allowed.

Essential Equipment

David Bartenhagen's shop tips:

Get a roll-around stool/chair that doesn’t tip over or hang up in every crack in the floor.

Get one of those garden pads for kneeling when sitting won’t work.

Invest in good lighting–above below portable. Even tiny flashlights make work easier.

Get a radio that has Bluetooth. When you stream music from your phone and someone calls, it rings on the radio. (Remember, you don’t have to have your phone in your pocket anymore!)

Save all parts you remove. The new part may fail early, and saving the old one could get you by till the FedEx or UPS guy brings another.

The next project may need the takeoffs. Your heirs will love this tip.

Buy a bin rack so you can have a good place for bits and bolts as you disassemble. Label clearly with tape. You can sandblast nuts and bolts in the bins to clean off rust and crust.

A dedicated shop camera would help you during assembly. Pictures taken prior to removal seem to get lost unless you have this. Options are a shop laptop to store pics on. Bigger screen is nice, too.

A hydraulic lift table (hello, Harbor Freight) serves as a solid platform for your vise, tools and such. I even mount a VW engine on a swivel engine bracket. Raise and lower to optimum working height.

Keep a small vacuum at hand. After milling, grinding or liberating tons of dirt or rust, a vac of the area prevents spreading the mess.

I pondered a tip saying to double the forecast you have for project completion time and budget, but like the insurance commercial on TV says, “everybody knows that.”


Thank you again to our shop contest supporters:

Battery Tender
Chubb Collector Car Insurance
CRC Industries

Join Free Join our community to easily find more articles.
View comments on the CMS forums
759NRNG Reader
5/3/17 9:33 a.m.

a lighted creeper!?!?!? purchased or self built?

Toyman01 MegaDork
5/3/17 9:42 a.m.

In reply to 759NRNG:

That looks like a Northern Tool creeper with added lights.

759NRNG Reader
5/3/17 11:02 a.m.

Creeper Build .....I'm in

Our Preferred Partners