Workshop and Equipment (Updated 13th March 2018)

I've decided this page was getting a bit cumbersome! It took an age to scroll down it, so I've re-structured to make it a bit easier to read.

It must be true what they say: possessions do expand to fill the space available, as the last fifteen years or so have seen something of an expansion in my 'toolkit'...! When I bought my house in early 2002 I had one old lathe and the usual DIY array of tools, mostly for car repairs.

Now I have:-

Boxford VSL500 Lathe

Colchester Student Mk.2 Lathe (sold 2017)

Bridgeport 1ES Horizontal Milling Machine

Perrin Vertical Mill/ Jig Borer

Metrology Instruments

Oxford 120s MIG Welder

Romarc 200 MIG Welder

SMP 170A TIG Welder

Oerlikon Citocut 10i Plasma Cutter

Guyson Blasting Cabinet and Extractor

Bosch Cut-off Disc ('chop saw')

Bench-mounted sheet steel guillotine

Vertical Bandsaw

Parts washer

SIP 100L 3HP Air Compressor

Blue Point 150L 3HP Air Compressor project

Clarke SE36C270 Air Compressor

Powder-Coating Equipment

Assorted Air Drills, Grinders, Wrenches, Cut-off disc, Nibbler, Sprayguns etc.

8" and 6" Double-ended Bench Grinders

Belt & Disc Sander

Electric Drills, Angle- and Die-Grinders etc.

Lesto GEG1 Electric Shear

Sealey Metal Bender

Bosch PMF180 Oscillating Cutter/ Sander

Dremel 3000, B&D 'Wizard' Multi-tools

Electro-hydraulic mobile scissor table

Two-ton long-reach folding crane

Electric Hoists

Ultrasonic Cleaning Tank

Gunsons CO Meter

Carbtune Mercury Manometers

Tektronix 212 Portable Oscilloscope

Jones & Shipman Rotary Table

Plus all the usual hand tools you'd expect and maybe a few more besides...!

Guyson Blasting Cabinet and Extractor

One of my first Ebay finds, this Guyson DBH2 was bought from a machinery trader in Daventry. The extractor (not shown) was a three-phase unit but I had a spare single-phase motor of the right size that fitted straight onto the fan.

The cabinet needed new gauntlets; these are an absolute fortune from Guyson as they're moulded to fit the triangular openings in the front of the cabinet (presumably done to make sure you buy their spares!). I made a mould and created two 'fillers' that allowed me to fit standard long black gauntlets, £12 a pair instead of £80! I also had to replace the viewing glass as it was blasted to hell, and the blasting gun ceramic nozzle eventually wore out necessitating replacement (with a tungsten one - £30!). Add to that the price of blasting medium and it's an expensive hobby (I reckon I must have spent about £500 on the sandblast by now; that would buy a lot of time at the powder-coaters - but it's damned convenient to have!). Quite by chance I came across a bag of glass bead media; unfortunately it gets pulled out by the extractor rather quicker than the 80 grit aluminium oxide, though it gives a much nicer finish on alloy parts. I think I've found the limit of the cabinet's capacity as it was JUST possible to blast the sump from the Esprit's engine! I soon discovered that the glass viewing window needs regular replacement as it gets 'frosted' by flying grit. Taking a cue from modern cabinets I replaced the glass with polycarbonate and then went a stage further, wrapping it in clingfilm. So now I periodically just rip off the tattered clingfilm and re-wrap the polycarb and I can see what I'm doing for a few more months.

After several years the sandblaster had started to give erratic performance; the grit flow had dropped right off despite nothing being blocked or kinked. Eventually I realised that the blasting 'gun' has a tapered nozzle inside it which had stuck in position, making me think it was part of the main casting. The nozzle creates a venturi effect in the airflow which sucks the grit up from the cabinet hopper. As soon as I drifted the nozzle out I could see the problem; the inrushing grit had worn a hole through the wall of the nozzle so the air was leaking directly into the path of the grit 'lift' pipe, ruining the venturi effect. GIven that (a) I know how Guyson like to charge and (b) I had a lathe next to me, I opted to make a replacement nozzle from a buckshee bit of steel bar. Now here's a tip: if you happen to replace your nozzle, under no circumstances do what I did to test mine... i.e. stick your bare hand in front of the gun set at 100psi and press the tit...! Normal service, shall we say, has resumed.

Parts washer

Tucked away in the corner is my parts washer: bought new from an importer in Tyneside, I think it cost £27! It's a 10-gallon tank with recirculating pump, exactly the same as sold by Machine Mart and others. I use Jizer degreaser in it; the tank makers don't recommend you use anything other than water with a mild detergent but what bloody use is that? As you can see, Jizer does a good job of stripping paint as well as muck and oil. The collection of baskets, trays etc. helps prevent losing small items in the layer of 'clart' (as my grandma would have called it!) that collects at the bottom of the tank. Unfortunately, and bearing out the makers' advice, after about ten years of being immersed in Jizer the pump housing disintegrated. It's only a cheap pond pump, but rather annoyingly I threw out a spare pump that I'd had for years, about a fortnight before this one died.

 

Ultrasonic Cleaning Tank

This old American-made unit was written-off by being connected to the wrong mains voltage (not by me!) which fried all the control electronics, but it transpired that the driver PCB that generates the high-frequency waveform to make the quartz oscillation pads work was repairable. I found an old mechanical timer from a washing machine (hence the large brown knob that looks suspiciously like it came from a Hotpoint!) and cobbled it together. A wire basket from Tesco's kitchen department provides a means of dunking grubby parts in and I use the usual detergent that is sold for use with these cleaning tanks; the only downside is that the heater doesn't work but for the odd occasion I use it, it's not important.

Compressors and air tools

The generous mate who gave me the MIG welder also gave me his old air compressor! Originally a SIP 'Workshop' range unit, its 100 Litre red receiver had been repainted a fetching shade of metallic green. But did I care? Not likely! Paul had decided that his car-spraying days were over as he'd met a guy who could do the work for him at a price too good to miss, so the compressor was duly heaved into my van and took up residence here. I blew the cobwebs off, cleaned out the filter and, er, well that's it, really! It sits there and compresses air. Next, of course, I needed some air tools.... and once again, Ebay is your friend! :-D

Well, apart from the larger pistol-grip drill, which my dad gave me. He'd been given it by one of his clients years back, but his portable compressor couldn't run it. Made by DeSoutter, it's in fine working order, though it must have lain unused for 25 years! The only problem I had was finding a chuck key to fit it; it's a bizarre size.

The sprayguns were gifts too, from a mate who did custom paint jobs on motorcycles. Essentially they were old guns he'd thrown in the cupboard after they got choked with primer once too often, but with a good clean they're more or less serviceable. Here's the 390SE's rear bumper just after I resprayed it (with the gun shown at right, above - I used cling film as a lid!)... the various lengths of steel tube and box etc. on the floor are normally hidden by the car!

Bumper spraying

Ebay turned up most of the other air tools: two DeSoutter 1/4" drive wrenches, angle grinder, straight drill, small pistol-grip drill, impact screwdriver (all DeSoutter), grease gun (even NuTool can't go far wrong with a grease gun). The tyre inflator was a B&Q clearance special when they were switching from SIP air tools to Rockworth or whatever Chinese junk it is they do now. I also have one of those SIP cut-off tools with the small (80mm) disc and a micro die-grinder. On the subject of junk, Aldi and Lidl stores have periodic 'special offers' of pneumatic equipment. Normally I'd have given this stuff a wide berth, but there are mitigating circumstances, not least the three-year warranty that they offer... and given that several of the items they were selling seem to be identical to those sold by Machine Mart at twice (or more) the price, I'm prepared to give them a chance. So to my air-tool cabinet I've added a spare regulator/filter/oiler; an impact wrench; another cut-off tool; a sheet-metal nibbler, needle de-scaler and a spot-blasting gun!

I acquired another compressor from my son-in-law: he got it as a project but it was too big for his space. It was too big for mine really, but the intention was to get it serviceable then sell the smaller one. In the event, it took me so long to get it running that my daughter and son-in-law moved to a bigger house and he 'found' space for it! Compressors are bloody expensive things to buy parts for. The link pipe between cylinder head and tank cost me £68! Then it needed a pressure switch (£17) and a motor start/run capacitor (£10) and when I eventually got it running it smelled very oily as though the piston rings were worn out! It would only get up to about 80psi. Eventually we realised there was an air leak from the top end and on stripping it discovered the head gasket had blown and all the non-return valves were choked with dust - looked like lots of overspray. As a quick and dirty fix we dolloped some Araldite in the split and bolted it back together; hey presto, full pressure, and still working a year later. The unit is a 'BluePoint' device with a 150L tank but the pump unit (made by Abac) is identical to the one on my SIP. For some reason the Italians seem to have the market in compressor pumps; at least spares are easy to get!

This is the beefiest compressor in my collection (bought for me as a gift!). It's a Clarke SE36C270 3-phase, 7.5HP, 30cfm unit with 270L tank. It's a handful of years old and in superb condition (albeit dusty) and runs perfectly. The previous owner had sited it away from the workshop it served so that it wasn't sucking-in fumes and dust.

Powder-Coating System

One day, I went to a local powder-coating place with some components from work. We'd used them for years but this time the owner was really shirty about 'those bits of crap' so I went elsewhere. I got one of the lads to demo the actual process to me, and that led to me mooching round the 'net looking for equipment. Professional kit of course costs a fortune, but I came across this system from 'Electrostatic Magic'. In essence it's a modified blow-gun fitted with a 'paint' hopper and an electrode system that applies a charge to the plastic powder as it's blown through by compressed air. The charge (several kV!) is generated by the power supply unit when a footswitch is pressed.

Obviously another Chinese product with a manual written in gobbledegook, it retails for about £100. Now I know that would buy quite a lot of time at the powder-coaters, but that bloke pissed me off so I'd rather he doesn't get any more of my, or the company's money (in fact several years later I still haven't been back and still refuse to recommend them to anyone). I'd had the powder-coating system for several months before I finally got round to using it; the results of my first attempt can be seen here!

Electro-hydraulic scissor table

With 300Kg lift capacity, the table is pictured here bearing a spare RV8 that was later sold:

Folding engine crane

I've acquired another crane, this time a 2-ton long-reach monster. Identical to this one, it's the one I used to lift the Esprit engine in and out; when I returned it to the owner, he said he thought he had no further use for it and I could have it for half what he'd paid only a few months earlier! Well, it would have been rude not to, so I did.

3-Phase Hoist

Whilst we're on the subject of lifting gear, here's an electric chain hoist I bought for the workshop:

One of those chance finds on Ebay, and according to the seller was originally used for hoisting cows in a slaughterhouse! Quick rewire as the old cable was perishing and it works fine. Not telling how much it cost but put it this way, you'd struggle to get drunk on that much money ;o) The seller claimed it to be a Morris 500Kg unit but the two data plates had been painted over so I wasn't convinced. I prised out the rivets, removed the plates and laboriously scraped-off the paint. One plate states "1/2 Ton" and the other says "Morris Chainmaster" so I guess that's that settled!

I bought this Clarke (Machine Mart) toolchest from a work colleague: he'd bought it but never even taken it out of the box! I wouldn't normally go for something like this (i.e. cheap and Chinese) - and, in fact, I struggled to find space for it in the workshop, which is why it's pictured in the lounge - but at 30% less than than he paid for it I decided I could live with it ;)

Gunsons CO Meter

One of those bits of kit for which there's probably no substitute. If you're going to twiddle with your fuel injection (and I do :D) then you need an idea of what the car is chucking out at the back. Ye olde Rover V8 has no fancy closed-loop lambda-sensing save-the-children-and-think-of-the-kittens control on it so it's easy to get the thing running, but way out of adjustment. I bought this meter new, way back last century and it's had little use over the years - but it's there if I need it (or rather, it will be if the last person to borrow it ever brings it back).

Morgan Carbtune (Mercury Manometers)

Yes, another piece of equipment without which the addicted tinkerer would struggle :D This set was actually a xmas gift many moons ago and, like the CO meter, has spent many years tucked in a cupboard... but when your carbs are out of balance (or an engine fault makes it appear that way) there's no substitute. Morgan haven't made this variant for years owing to some namby-pamby nonsense about mercury being a hazardous substance that can't be sent through the post... I mean come on, when did you last hear of Postman Pat dying from quicksilver poisoning? ;o)

Tektronix 212 Portable Oscilloscope

Quite possibly my favourite bit of test gear of all time. We had some of these scopes at work a couple of decades ago and when I started making modifications to the TVR's injection system and wanted to learn more about what was going on I decided I needed to be able to look at the injector pulses etc. whilst on the move so I saved up my pocket money, watched Ebay and eventually picked up this one (admittedly not the cheapest deal I ever got but sometimes you just have to push the boat out). The scope has only one real drawback and that is that being American it is a 110V-only unit so can't run or charge from UK mains without a transformer. A small price to pay!

 

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