THE SHED, AND ITS PLACE IN A BLOKES LIFE
The Shed. “A haven where a bloke can maintain and repair his sense of identity” (Mark Thompson*,……. Blokes and Sheds, Harper Collins 1995).
I think that Thommo got it pretty right. With the probable exception of the Pub, there is nowhere more fitting in the urban landscape for a fella can find true bliss than in his shed, shop or garage. Although the modern concept of a garage is as a storage module for the family SUV, we blokes know better. It is an all encompassing reflection of what we are all about and seeing that you are reading this on the McCook site we’ll assume that dirt bikes are a big part of that “sense of identity”.
If that’s the case here is a bit of a guide to getting the most out of your shed. The first and most obvious thing is that there is no room for a car in the well planned shed unless it’s a Gullwing Mercedes Benz or that ’32 roadster that broke 150 at Bonneville in ’48. . That’s why carports were invented. You can fit six bikes into the space a family car takes up. The same goes for stuff like lawn mowers and other domestic tools of destruction. That’s the reason garden sheds are called garden sheds. Bung one of those little aluminium box thingies up the back yard for that stuff. Now, having set the ground rules, let’s look at setting up a perfect motorcycle shed in closer detail.
The Bench. The bench is the operating theatre of a well laid out shed. The ideal bench should be big enough to hold a complete motorcycle, to sleep on when you are banished from the marital bed, strong enough to hold a big block Chevy engine and be a of a height so you don’t have to crouch or reach to far to work comfortably. My bench is 1 metre high, 3metres long and 700mm deep and has plenty of room for just about everything including the Triumph Metisse I am currently working on. Bolting the bench to the floor and the back wall gives it the stability you will need when you are shaking the shit out of that rusted bolt. A backplate at the rear of the bench is also a good idea to prevent dropping little fiddly stuff down the crack between the wall and the bench. A barstool is also a handy option for those tiring overnight engine rebuilds. A bloke needs a vice but don’t fall for those pissy little cast iron pieces of crap you get at the cheapy discount stores. They crack the first time you put any decent weight on them. Splurge out and get brand name forged quality item. They are expensive but you can find them second hand at farm or engineering auctions for a fraction of their original price. I picked up my 6 inch Dawn brand vice for about $20
Lighting. There is nothing worse than crawling around on the floor with a flashlight looking for that piston circlip you dropped on the floor. Good lighting is a must. At least 4 big fluorescent tubes spaced equally over the ceiling are the minimum for an average sized shed. A bright spotlight or quartz halogen light mounted over the bench makes it so much easier to see. Try and mount the bench light so as to avoid shadows. I have a quartz halogen streetlight acquired from a ‘secret government source’ over my bench and a halogen reading lamp clamped to the rear of the bench. Overkill, sure, but I don’t lose much stuff anymore.
Storage. Bike folk are by nature pack rats. We tend to accumulate all sorts of “useful stuff”. Ditto with tools. A bloke can never, ever have too many tools. The trouble however, with having all of this stuff is that we need somewhere to put it. Under bench drawers and lockers are a great idea. Old kitchen cupboards are perfect and can be found at most home wreckers or even places like the Salvation Army thrift store for beer money. You can buy sturdy, lockable steel lockers at engineering disposal yards or auctions for around $50 for a double. I have two and I keep my bike parts and engines in one and disposables like oils and cleaning stuff in the other. I would be lost without them.
Tools. Like I said earlier, a bloke can never have too many tools. Electrical tools are getting cheaper these days so there is little excuse not to have at least one of the following....A good powerful, cordless electric drill, A big half inch chuck drill, A 4 inch grinder, an orbital sander, A jigsaw and an electric welder are a good start. A bit of a warning here about welding. It’s no good owning a welder unless you know how to use the bugger. As a restorer I have seen some unbelievable bird shit jokingly called welding. Not only is poorly done welding plug ugly, It could eventually result in a major injury when the weld eventually breaks. And trust me folks. It will. Those little 12 amp welders are pretty useless on frame work unless you’re well trained and even then run a distant third behind a well operated TIG or MIG and oxy acetylene welding and brazing. These are specialist operations that take a trip to trade school to learn properly. If you can’t do it, take it to someone who can.
Spanners or wrenches as you Americans so quaintly call them, are a tool junkies true obsession. A bloke can spend his pay check every week on the latest trick spanners. It would be nice to have a complete set of Snap Ons but these days they are only for the financially fortunate. A good complete set of metric open ended, a full set of ring, a quality set of metric sockets, a quality set of screwdrivers and a mixed variety of pliers is a good starting point. From there you can build your set with all sorts of gear ranging from ratchet ring spanners, T wrenches, and so on. A couple of quality Crescent wrenches, an impact screw driver and a variety of hammers should complete the starter kit. From there on it’s your choice.
Tool Box. Of course one needs somewhere to put his jewels. A good multi drawer lockable workshop toolbox is the neatest way to keep your tools easy to find. I have a six drawer Toolsafe brand box that is bolted to my bench for security and a smaller three drawer Taiwanese copy that I take to the races. Shop around, there are some very cool toolboxes available these days.
Creature Comforts. If you spend as much time in the shed as I do you need it to be as homey as possible. First up is probably the most important single item. The Beer Fridge. I shouldn’t have to explain the importance of such an appliance. Working on bikes requires the occasional frosty ale and garage bench sessions require even more. The fridge should be equipped with a workable amount of your favourite brew, A smattering of boutique and foreign beers to impress first time visitors and at least a bottle each of rum, bourbon and Tequila as well as a couple of bottles of mixer for those “cocktail moments”. A mate of mine once said that “a naked fridge is an ugly fridge” and he was right. No fridge is worth its existence unless it is covered with stickers. My personal sticker collection has totally covered the fridge and has spread to the toolboxes, lockers and shed side door. I need more space.
Posters and memorabilia. It is considered uncool to have any naked wall space not covered with posters and memorabilia. I have all sorts of race posters, framed Maico brochures, girly calendars and signs procured from various race tracks adorning the walls. I have fairings from Mick Doohan and Emilio Alzamoras GP bikes hanging from the ceiling. Get all of your shit out of those boxes and put them up for show.
Milk crates. What would we do without these plastic wonders! Available for free from the usual outlets, they are useful for storing parts, sitting bikes on (vintage only), and overflow seating for those Saturday afternoon bench sessions.
Directors chairs. For bench sessions, working on the bike and just plain kicking back. These can be folded and stored away when you are in full work frenzy.
Sound. It’s pretty hard to spend any sort of time in the shed without some sort of outside stimulation. My personal work music is cool jazz or some blues and a seventies era “hi fi” unit with cassette deck dispenses my Muddy Waters quota admirably. Football and other sporting aren’t missed and you can be transported into the land of the weird ultra right with late night talk back radio. I reckon that a decent sound system is almost as important as the fridge.
Security. Unfortunately there are scumbags out there that think that your stuff would look better in their sheds and have no qualms about knocking it off. Luckily, security gizmos are much cheaper these days and are a well-spent investment. I have robbed twice now and have learned the hard way. I now have four motion sensor alarms mounted in various corners, and a couple of other secret gizmos set up. My toolbox is bolted to the bench and is kept locked. Electrical tools are locked away in a locker and I keep the windows closed when I’m not working. A good idea is to
immobilize your bikes by removing a wheel or chaining them all together and to a firm mounting point. Don’t leave stuff that would be easy to sell off in the Pub or eBay laying around. Sometimes making your shed thief proof is a pain in the ass but once you have been ripped off by these vermin you won’t mind the extra time it takes to make it hard for them.
There is a shitload of other stuff that one can include to make your shed the little suburban Shang Ri La of your dreams. Compressors are very handy, a raised bike stand makes maintenance more comfortable, a lathe is useful ( like welding, if you can’t use a lathe, save your money and take your parts to someone who can), A parts cleaning sink is handy and a TV/DVD player is a nice little creature comfort. You’ll work out what you need in time.
No matter what you do in your shed it should be as enjoyable as possible. Beside riding them, there is hardly a more enjoyable Saturday afternoon than to be working on your bikes, a cold brew by your side, the football blaring on the radio and a couple of mates giving you a hand. I guess you need to be a bloke to understand.