I have been working on and restoring motorized vehicles for over 20 years now. In that time I have found many tools that make my life and restorations a lot easier. I am not going to focus on basic hand tools here and these tools are used on my big red restorations on a regular basis. Here we go:
1.Air Compressor/air tools – My IR 5HP 80 Gallon compressor is used in my shop every day. I can use it to fill tires, run an impact gun to break loose rusty bolts, run an air sander to restore fenders and gas tanks, run a cut off wheel to cut off frozen bolts, run a paint gun, blow out dirty carburetor passages, and operate my lift table. Like any good tool buy the best you can and once you have one you will not understand how you did without it.
2. Lift table – I am approaching 40 years old. Yes I can still bend over to work on things but as I got older I found that being comfortable doesn’t make you soft – it makes you more productive. My choice of lift table is Handy. I have two Handy lifts and they have not given me any issues over the many years I have owned them. I figure if motorcycle dealerships trust and use them on a daily basis they should last me a lifetime. There are many cheaper lifts than the ones made by Handy but at this point in my life I am trying to buy tools that will last me until I can’t turn wrenches anymore. Also Handy lifts are made in the USA. The Handy lift is pneumatically operated so you will need an air compressor to use it.
3.Parts washer – Most BIG REDS I have worked on have 30 years of dirt, grease, and grime on them. After disassembly most parts go to the parts washer before the media blaster. The parts washer uses cleaning solvents that work well to remove all that grime. It has a pump and a flow through brush to aid in cleaning. It has a big enough tank where I can let the really dirty parts soak for a few days to make cleaning easier. The cleaning solvent lasts me about a year. For me a parts washer is much more efficient and cost effective than using other methods of cleaning parts.
4.Media blast cabinet- A good paint job is accomplished with a good prep job. When dealing with BIG REDS that are typically over 30 years old you run into rust and sometime multiple coats of paint. I media blast cabinet is used to clean the parts to bare metal all while recycling the abrasive. The great thing about media blasting is that it can clean all surfaces easily since it is like spray sanding. Small crevices that would be very difficult and time consuming with sandpaper or a wire brush are easily cleaned with the media blaster. Now I have a media blast cabinet that I can fit a BIG RED frame into so my paint prep time is drastically reduced. You will need an air compressor to operate a media blaster. This is an expensive tool but for me it is worth the investment.
5.Welder – Right now I have a MIG welder and it comes in very handy to repair frames, exhaust, gas tanks, and cargo racks on BIG REDs. It also allows me to fabricate brackets that may not be available. Having a tool like this allows me to make a repair on the spot and continue on with the restoration. In the past I had to wait on someone with a welder to make a repair.
6.Computer with internet access – I tell you the internet has made restorations easier (and maybe more expensive) as compared to the past. I am old enough to remember the times before the internet where you had to search through newspaper classified ads and blankets full of old parts at swap meets to find replacement parts for restorations. Now I can get on the internet and find new parts looking through the old microfiche that has been scanned in or search used parts on e-bay. Either option I can get the parts shipped right to my door.