I always get nice comments about my work space. It is often commented on when I post bike images. So I thought I’d write quite a self indulgent post and show a few images of my tools and work space for a change instead of the bikes.
I never know what problems a new bike might come with so my workshop is equipped to deal with any aspect of bicycle mechanics, either classic bikes or modern bikes. From a simple service to wheel truing and builds, upgrading components to full bike rebuilds, frame prep and frame alignment or even frame repair, any good bicycle workshop should be equipped to handle these tasks.
Every workshop needs to have the basics, and the first of the basic needs is a good workbench. You can do lots with a bike workstand, but ultimately, you will spend a lot of time stood at the bench either cleaning, dismantling or fixing things. I think the item that has featured in most of my workshop photos is my workbench. I love my workbench. It is actually an old oak dining room table. It is ideal because it is very solid; it is also very heavy which makes it very stable.
Workshops need a workbench like this to withstand the oil, grease, debris and hard knocks from day to day use. Every scratch and dent on the surface of this bench tells a story and reminds me of what I was doing when I created that mark. A workbench big enough to hold a bike is a bonus.
A good workbench is even better with a bench mounted vice. If I’m doing any work to a frame I often prefer to use the vice rather than a workstand, the vice holds a frame securely and solidly. The vice doesn’t need to be a complicated affair with lots of adjustments and levers, it just needs to be bolted to the bench and be big enough to handle the tasks you give it. Soft protective vice jaws are a must for some tasks. I do a lot of frame cleaning and detailing with a frame clamped in the vice by the face of the BB shell; everything I need to work on and clean the frame is there, close at hand.
I’ve used several types of workstand over the years and currently use two different types. The main workstand is a Park Tools Deluxe Single Arm Repair Stand, the type you will see in many professional workshops. This is the type of stand I first used in the late 1980s. It is a great stand and the heavy metal base provides loads of stability. The small tool tray keeps the regularly used allen keys and tools just where I need them. I can’t really think of a single negative for these stands. They are expensive but well worth it for the years of service you will receive from them.
The second stand is a ‘BiciSupport’ stand that I tend to use for grotty, dirty strip downs. The model is “The Professionist”. It is very flexible and can hold a bike or frame in a variety of positions with or without wheels. The big benefit of this stand is that it is extremely stable and has a large tool tray below the bike with lots of compartments for parts and tools. It also holds the bike at a great working height.
You might be able to true a wheel off against a brake block, but ideally, you need a wheel jig. If you are wanting to build your own wheels then you will certainly benefit from a good wheel jig. Mine is the Park TS-2.2
That red toolbox that sits on the workbench is also filled with tools. They are mostly general bike repair tools such as tyre levers, spoke keys, different chain splitters, BB tools, freewheel removers, crank pullers, but also screwdrivers, pliers, spanners and sockets. You often find over time that some tools are better for certain tasks and it is good to have a variety of tools and choices. There are also more specialist tools, things like gauges, calipers and tap and die sets, all within easy reach of the work bench.
A torque wrench (or two) are really needed for some newer bikes. Although you develop a ‘feel’ for how tight something should be, it is always good to be able to say that a stem or handlebar clamp bolt is fastened to the correct torque. However, square taper crank arms and cassettes for example all just need to be ‘good and tight’!
Sometimes repairs need a bit of persuasion. That means having a big hammer, a screw driver or bar for leverage, a hacksaw, grips or even a chisel close at hand. I rarely need to come to this drawer but it’s good to have them if they are needed.
The top of the box is a mix of finishing tapes, tubes, rim tapes and tub glue/tape, cotton buds and zip ties. I also have a plumb weight and spirit level which are great for setting a saddle. The string is also used for frame alignment checks.
Hanging next to the toolbox is my handy Dremil – perfect for cutting, grinding and polishing.
Mounted to the wall are a selection of cutting and facing tools, chain tools, headset/BB spanners and cable cutters. These are kept close for frame prep and bike building.
On the other side of the toolbox are the small parts, things like bearings, cable ends and ferrules, headset spacers, crank bolts, brake blocks, small 5 & 6mm bolts and a selection of transfers together with a load of other miscellaneous parts.
Underneath the workbench is a set of drawers that I use to store groupsets. These drawers are a good size and can easily hold a full set of bike parts. These are either parts I’ve taken off a bike while I work on the frame, or parts I’m collecting for a build. Each drawer is for a specific bike that I’m working on.
Tucked away down the side of the workbench is my Silca track pump – these things just go on for ever!
The frames I collect or need to store while I’m working on them have to go somewhere. The floor was getting very crowded so I created some simple storage with hooks and threaded bar – you can store a lot of frames in a small space. These SBDU frames are vital for accurate research and blogging.
A significant part of the work I do is cleaning – frames can respond really well to a little TLC, so I keep lots of cleaning products, touch up paint and polish. I also have a stock of different wet and dry papers, emery cloth, oils and grease tucked away on the same shelves.
I also have a great set of frame blocks which are a must for holding a frame if a tube or frame part needs a repair. There is also some Map Gas, silver and flux. A good set of flat and round files and a a set of precision files are a must for some repairs.
On the work surface above the drawer containing all the files is my Campagnolo large wooden toolbox. What else do I need to say about this toolbox..
I used one of these tool kits during my bike shop mechanic career and worked hard to get another in my own personal workshop. I use my other cutting and facing tools for general repairs and builds but like to use this set for special builds. This is THE toolkit for professional bike mechanics and frame builders who work on steel framed bikes.
My workshop isn’t all about tools, I also have a good collection of books. These books provide a large amount of inspiration and reference; I love looking at other bikes, beautiful and well built bikes from different decades give an insight into period correct parts and finishes. I also have a good selection of frame building books and period maintenance books – they are outdated compared to modern bikes but spot on for the era of bikes that I like.
I’ve also collected a lot of reference material for both Reynolds tubing and the SBDU. Some of this is in electronic format and kept on my laptop, while a large amount of material is in good old fashioned hard copy format.
The final item in my workshop is the specialist SBDU knowledge in my head… this has come from a huge collection of SBDU frame data, over 600 different SB numbered or team frames collected over several years, all seen and verified and collated. I’m always very thankful to the owners who send me details and images of their bikes.
I can use this database to categorise an SBDU frame into well over 100 separate pieces of data. This type of detail is a must for looking at period frame details and frame changes that happened over the time of the SBDU. And it is this collection of data that has allowed me to write the several different SBDU timelines available on my blog.
And that is it, I hope you enjoyed the tour. I think I’ll always continue to collect as many tools and books as I do bikes!