Basic tools you will need

You really do not need much in the way of tools to get going on your first engine. I consider that there are only a few truly essential tools to get the job done. There is one very important consideration you must take into account if you are planning on using your tools frequently for a lifetime - buy the best you can afford, it pays in the long run. As an example, I have owned about ten socket sets - nine shitty ones, and one which is fantastic, the fantastic one was around $A200, but although the nine sets I had to throw away seemed cheap at the time 9 times $A25 is actually more than the good set cost me.


ToolDescription & Uses
Safety Equipment The MOST important tools required for any job are your safety equipment.
Strong eye goggles or glasses made to appropriate local standards.
Leather Gloves for handling metal.
Rubber globes for handling chemicals (do not use household latex gloves).
Steel capped ankle high work boots (have you ever dropped a cylinder head on your foot - I have.
Full length overalls.
There are plenty more items of safety equipment. Your local authority may have workshop rules which you must adhere to - check and see before commencing any work.
Socket Set
The Socket Set is a set of nut drivers known as sockets and assorted handles for turning the sockets. Essentially sockets are a more advanced spanners, they can make the task of doing up and undoing nuts much quicker and often easier. There are plenty around now which cover imperial, SAE, and metric nuts with the same sockets. Check the brand they use in your local garage - chances are it is a pretty good one.
Wrench/Spanner set
Wrenches/Spanners are used to undo and do up nuts. You will need a wide range of wrenches and spanners over your restoration career.
Screw Drivers
Screw drivers as their name suggest drive screws to undo or do them up. A comprehensive set of both flat head (flat chisel like blade) and Phillips (cross or star) is appropriate. You can often pick up a reasonable quality set from your local hardware store. You are unlikely to find too many Phillips screws on an old engine but they do appear from time to time
Steel Hammer and Rubber Mallet
You will need to bash at things from time to time - even if only to make yourself feel better! The steel hammer for bashing at really stubborn hard things, and the rubber mallet when more gentle bashing is required, such as beating a hopper to remove the head from a hopper cooled engine.
Feeler Gauge / Gap Measure
A Gap Measure is a collection of thin metal (usually) strips which are machined to exact thicknesses in fractions of an inch/millimeter. Used for setting the gap on spark plugs, valves, points, etc. You use the gap measure by determining the correct gap between two points, inserting the gap measure of the appropriate thickness between the objects and adjusting the clearance until the gap measure is gripped slightly but can still be removed.

Tool wish list

This wish list is essentially the tools I use from time to time and find handy - there are a few which I do not have but would not mind chucked in for good measure.


ToolDescription & Uses
Block & Tackle
The block and tackle is used for lifting heavy items without strain (or at least much less). To use the device it should be hung from a suitably strong support such as an overhead beam. The lower hook is fastened to the object to be lifted and then the chain is hauled trough the block/pulley lifting the object. The force required to lift the object is lessened by the multiple passes the chain makes through the block/pulley.
Pipe/Box Spanner Set Pipe/Box spanners are the original socket set idea. They are tubular devices which have nut shapes formed into the ends of the tube. The tube is placed onto the nut, and turned using a steel handle which is inserted into holes in the other end of the tube. These are often handy when sockets will not reach the nut - such as long spark plug recesses.
hacksaw, hand saw, mitre-saw, jigsaw, circular-saw The hacksaw will be used for cutting bolts, steel framing, stuck keys from keyways and that sort of thing. The other saws would usually only be used during the making of your cart or sled. The jig saw may be used to cut thin metal sheet to make cooling tanks.
electric drill and drill bits The electric drill is used to bore holes in metal and wood, it also comes in handy form time to time for other purposes, such as drilling out stubborn bolts or screws. Drills can be hand held, or mounted on a pedestal. For most light engine work the hand held is most useful. If you plan on getting into your own metal work you might find a pedestal mounted drill useful. The hand held drill can also be used with wire wheels which are valuable time savers when cleaning up metal.
tap and die set The tap and die set is used for re-tapping bolt and screw holes in an engine - you would mostly do this after drilling out a bolt or screw, or rebuilding a broken down bolt hole with epoxy. The tap and die is used to make the thread which engages the bolt to hold it in tightly.
pipe cutter A nifty little tool which makes cutting copper pipe (used for fuel etc) a breeze. It consists of a cutting wheel and a roller. The pipe is compressed between he roller and wheel then the device is spun around the pipe, pressure is gradually increased on the wheel until the pipe is cut through.
vice A vice is used to grip parts whilst being cleaned or worked on.
angle grinder and bench grinder Grinders work by applying the work to an abrasive wheel, wire wheel, or buffing pad which is spinning at very high speed. Great for cleaning up parts, particularly if you using buffing pads on your bench grinder. An angle grinder using wire wheels is a fast rust remover (although you must take great care not to remove the engine itself!)
welder - either arc or oxy-acetylene An Arc Welder uses electricity to create an arc between an electrode (the working metal) and the work. The working metal and the work become molten near the arc and are fused together. An Oxy-Acetylene welder is a torch burning a mixture of oxygen and acetylene gas under pressure. This creates a very hot flame, the heat of the flame melts and fuses the working metal to the work. Welders are used for joining steel and iron and some other metals. They are also used for filling cracks, holes, and pits; building up broken gear teeth; and other assorted metal working jobs. The oxy-acetylene torch can also be used to cut metal, an arc welder cannot do this.
plumbers soldering iron and/or blowtorch The plumbers soldering iron and blowtorch are used for joining metals by soldering. This is done when the work is more subtle than that which can be done with a welder. Used for fabricating things such as water and fuel tanks. The blow torch can also be a handy paint stripper.
Multi-meter and Engine Tune-up Timing Light Used for timing magnetos and other ignition systems. The multi meter can also be used to measure the resistance of a spark plug lead.
set of files Files are used for grinding away small amounts of metal from the work. They are used for all sorts of cleaning up jobs.
gasket die cutter set while not essential (a sharp knife can cut gasket materials) a die cutter/punch makes short neat work of the task.
Rev Counter One of the best "toys" I have is an antique revolution counter (tachometer in modern parlance). Mine works by pressing it up against the centre of the crankshaft for a certain amount of time (usually one minute) and this counts the revolutions the engine makes during that time.

I am sure there are other tools which people will think of from time to time. I have not included any machine shop tools such as lathe, milling machines and that sort of thing. I do not think the average restorer can afford that sort of equipment. Over the years I have made friends with a number of people who have small machine shops. I suggest you do the same - it is cheaper and more fun than going it on your own.

Setting up a shop

You can set up a shop almost anywhere. I have three areas in my home which I use. I have a large 4m by 5m shed which houses my tools, some parts, and a model railway (yep, a train freak :-). I also have an undercover work area close to the house (the wife calls this our pergola/entertainment area - I call it my machine shop and engine storage area!). My third area used to be a large bird aviary, but is now a storage shed. I keep all of the parts which do not need total weather protection here. Actually, there is also a fourth area, my web pages - I keep all my bullshit here :-).

You will need somewhere where you can work which is clean and tidy. Sooner or later you will drop some critical small part, if the area is messy you may never see it again. Bright lighting is essential. I prefer to work outside as ventilation is also very important. To avoid the troubles I have had over the years, agree the area of work with your partner if you have one.

A strong work bench (while not essential, plenty of restorers work on the kitchen table) is ideal. I have two - one for general work which is made out of wood, and one which is made out of metal for welding and painting.

Make sure you can lock up your tools someplace, and have somewhere to keep partly finished work. If you have children (which I do) then you need to be able to keep chemicals, sharp objects, etc locked away out of reach. Just as an aside, I alway remove the spark plug lead from my engines when they will be unattended - I would never want to come home to find one of my sons has had is arm torn off by a run-away crank. If you make the assumption your children WILL play with your toys, then you can make it safe for them. This paragraph is getting onto the next area of Shop Safety, so let's move on...


Shop & general safety


Fuel storage

is very important - you could lose your home or your life through a few seconds of carelessness. The best fuel containers I have found are fuel/petrol/gas stations - leave the fuel there until you need it. I keep around 10 litres of ULP (unleaded petrol), diesel, and two-stroke petrol in my workshop. Each type of fuel is stored in a jerry can made of the same plastic as modern automotive fuel tanks. Some fuels, especially the more volatile ones like petrol, expand with heat and contract with cold to a great degree - a metal can may spring a leak on a hot day, or worse yet explode.


Fuel container filling

should only be carried out at a fuel/petrol/gas station or properly earthed tank or barrel/drum. Never fill a fuel can which is sitting in your car or on the back of your ute/pick-up truck. Fuel companies have warned that this can lead to static electricity build up during filling and may lead to fire. Never force the pump latch open with some device while filling a container. Use only an approved container. Keep the nozzle in contact with the fuel container at all times.


Re-fueling your engine

should only be done with the engine off, never refuel a running engine as there is too much chance of explosion. Never smoke when working with fuel or engine.

Be warned that most old equipment has asbestos gaskets - never break or crumble the asbestos and never throw it in your rubbish bin. Avoid using asbestos - there are modern gasket materials of similar properties - please do not be pedantic and insist on its use, it is very dangerous. My local authorities demand asbestos is wrapped in thick plastic and totally sealed using either a heat sealer or duct tape. They will then pick up and dispose of the material.