The Legend of the Double Cut Saw… and How to Build a Grill Out of a 55-Gallon Drum

Billy Kulakowski was a mean griller, everybody in the cul-de-sac agreed. Every block party weekend, Billy was given a wide berth as he worked his magic on his meats and wood chips and butt rubs. When he was in the zone, Billy was like a wild-eyed chainsaw juggler jacked up on Pepsi Max. Head down in the smoke and sizzle, flipping tongs, spatulas, sauces, spices… his little water spray bottle keeping the furious flames at bay… no one dared approach him, not even to offer him a cold one. Story’s told, one time somebody did, and there was an incident. Something about a misheard word, a scuffle and– things getting out of hand like they oft times do– an airborne super-duty wiener fork took out a bounce house. Three kids were never found. It took a while (a couple of months, I suspect), but the cul-de-sac moved on, and so did Billy’s grilling.

Yeah, Billy Kulakowski was a mean griller. A man’s man. Word had it, Kenny Rogers was even writing a song about him.

Then one day, a family of five bought the old Johnson split-level– the Kleeburgs from Huntsville, Alabama. When the father, Joe Kleeburg, heard about the block party coming up, he peeled out of his driveway and some time later returned with three 55-gallon drums, some angle iron, mesh metal and a Chicago Electric 5″ Double Cut Saw from Harbor Freight Tools. Ducking into his garage, he wasn’t seen again for the rest of the week.

Nine o’clock the morning of the block party, everybody was setting up their usual station. Billy took his designated double-wide spot; 10 aluminum charcoal starters filled to the brim with cooking coals lined up on the sidewalk in front of him. No sign of the new neighbors. But then at 9:22, the Kleeburgs’ 3-car garage came to life and the doors slowly rose…

Billy didn’t have a chance. And, after considerable effort, Kenny Rogers managed to fit “Joe Kleeburg” into “Billy Kulakowski”… but, that’s another story.


The Chicago Electric 5″ Double Cut Saw cuts through plywood, sheet metal, galvanized pipe, flooring, plastic, paneling, Formica, and so much more, without burning, chipping or melting. Its portability makes it great for tight spots and on-the-fly work, and it’ll save you hours from having to cut steel with a grinder. Packing a powerful 7.5 amp motor, this saw cuts forward or backward with the same power and precision– with no kickback! And for just $59.99– even less with your 20% off coupon!– it’ll be a lifesaver around the house and garage over and over, again.


Bare Bones Method of Building a Grill Out of a 55-Gallon Drum 

Things You Will Need:

  • 55-Gallon Drum
  • Masking Tape
  • Chicago Electric 5″ Double Cut Saw
  • Angle Iron
  • Chicago Electric 170 Amp MIG/Flux Wire Welder
  • Mesh Metal
  • Metal Rod
  • 1/2″ Steel Box Tube
  • Two Heavy-Duty Hinges
  • Steel reinforcement plates
  • 2×1″ steel ro
  1. Find a 55 gallon drum. Sometimes you can avoid buying a new one by checking out Craigslist or other local classifieds, pet shops or weed n’ feeds. Try to avoid one that housed toxic chemicals, but just to be sure, when you cut off the lid, build a large fire inside of it to thoroughly burn out any lingering harmful substances. Then, once cool,  dump the ashes and give it one last thorough hosing.
  2. Next, you’re going to want to divide the drum into quarters. Use the masking tape along the sides and ends of the barrel, make sure all the quarters are even. Lay the drum on its side and, using the double cut saw, carefully cut one of the quarters about 3 to 3/12″ from the barrel’s edges– this is going to be the lid for the grill.
  3. Build a large fire inside of it to thoroughly burn out any lingering harmful substances. Then, once cool,  dump the ashes and give it one last thorough hosing.
  4. Next, take some angle iron and weld a rectangular shape out of it. Then weld it into place in the middle of the drum. This will provide as a rest for the grill.
  5. Find a good mesh that can be used as the grill surface, preferably a heavier gauge metal, and one where the edges are flattened so there are no sharp points sticking up. This will also make it easier to scrub after grilling. Weld metal rod along all the edges, and add cross bars so the mesh will retain its strength and shape. Cut out a piece 1/8″ smaller than the opening of
  6. Take two lengths of 1/2″ box tube and make relief cuts every two inches so you can bend them to the shape of the barrel. Once you’ve got the shape you desire, weld the cuts smooth. This creates a sturdy cradle on which you’ll be attaching the legs. Then weld the half moon shapes to the barrel.
  7. Attach hinges to the barrel and lid, and reinforce it with steel plates on the inside.
  8. Determine how high you want your grill to be (3-ft. is good) and accordingly cut the 2×1 into legs. Cut relief marks throughout the legs, too, to allow the grill to have a little bit of give. This will make the legs bend outward and, ultimately. give it more stability in the long run. Attach the legs and you have your very own, cheap and efficient 55-gal. drum grill.

Of course, you’ll probably want to add handles, a couple of vents, a hole on the bottom for dripping. If you came this far, though, I trust you can take it from here.

Hammer Time

I’ll admit, Harbor Freight forced me to adjust my philosophy on buying. For the longest time, I (and I’m sure I’m not alone) hung onto the credo, “You get what you pay for.” That’s why we lay down the heavy dinero for bigger name brand clothes, shoes, watches, mayonnaise, dining experiences, hotel rooms, guns and tools. Heaven forbid you cave to the temptation of saving some bread and end up with a dog of a purchase. More than a root canal, I hate when that happens. But, like I said, Harbor Freight Tools readjusted my mental state. I still look for the better guns and mayonnaise, but now when I look for a tool, I first go to the HFT website, check out my options, prices, ALWAYS the reviews, and more often than not I come away sold on something– and I have yet to be disappointed with this formula.

Which brings me to the Chicago Electric 5.2 Amp 3-In-1 1″ SDS Plus Rotary Hammer (upgraded versions now available). A friend recently bought a house and considered renting a rotary hammer to rip up his concrete patio. The best price he could find locally was $48/day. As luck would have it, he mentioned the plan to me before he took the plunge, and I told him about Harbor Freight’s SDS rotary hammer, priced $99.99 (even less with a coupon!). The beast will pound 2920 blows per minute through concrete, masonry, stone or pretty much any other hard, brittle material. Whether it’s for drilling holes, chiseling or chipping, it won’t let you down. Plus, the stop-hammer feature on this powerful SDS rotary hammer lets you drill precision holes in wood, too. I told him to check reviews on Google and on the HFT website to get an idea of what other owners of the rotary hammer thought. It was an easy sell:

“As a heavy/civil engineering construction inspector, I was on a job 3-4 years ago when the contractor showed up on site with a HF SDS unit (this was on a project with a contract north of $6 million). I made some sort of wise ass comment about the quality of his tools and he said, these things are great and if you drop them, so what? He drilled hundreds of holes 1/4-5/8″ with that thing and it was still going. I went out and bought one as my roto-hammer was an old Milwaukee hex shaft with dull/broken obsolete bits. Damn thing has been great!”  OldWino,

“I was apprehensive about buying this tool because of the low, low price compared to similar tools of different name brands prices. I called the rental store and they wanted $50.00 a day for rental, plus buying the bits. I drove to the store and bought this tool including all the bits for just a little more than the rental store was willing to rent for their tool for 1 day. I have used this tool for drilling, tearing out brick columns, taking up ceramic tile, spudding built-up rocks off the roof for flat roof repairs, and it has not let me down yet. I did purchase the 2-year warranty for just in case but have not had to use it yet. This tool has easily paid for itself.”  Valdosta Repair Man, HFT customer review

“My wife and I own an HVAC company . I have had one of these for at least 5 years and use it pretty regularly going through brick to run flue pipes and line sets for HVAC systems… I have a plumber buddy who has had to have his Bosch rebuilt twice in the time I have owned my HF and mine still works like it did the day I got it .” rickairmedic,

“This drill does it all. It is more like a home demolition hammer drill. It drills, it hammer/ drills, or it just hammers depending on how you set it up. Other posts talk about it being metric bits. I don’t see the issue. Just like all drills there are thousands of bits. You can buy a any size standard “SDS Plus” (Shank Size) bit at any big box chain home improvement store or industrial supply store. You can by masonry chisels, dirt digging spades, bull nose chisels, along with any size drill bit you can think of. I have used mine around the house for many extreme projects. It has a built in grease cup which must be filled ever so often as part of maintenance. I service mine before ever use and it has not let me down. I also bought the extended warranty but have not used it yet. It could be broken if it was just thrown down, but they all can. I take care of my tools and they take care of me.”  Rider7767, HFT customer review

 “Harbor Freight’s SDS Rotary Hammer – I am handyman/audio video guy. I have used this to bust thru concrete walls to run cable, etc. It comes with bits and a chisel. Has already paid for itself in savings over the Bosch units I would rent. For my occasional use it is great. There is nothing quite like a hammer drill to make short work of drilling thru concrete, if you have ever tried even small holes (like ones for tapcons) with a regular drill, they are a major bear! This tool makes very short work out of it!”  OKnewguy,

Of course, my buddy bought the Chicago Electric rotary hammer with absolutely no regrets. He made short order of the old patio, and has since moved on to creating his dream backyard… well, his and his wife’s dream backyard…

Drill, Baby, Drill! Yes, Dear.

If you have a honey in your life, chances are you wake up to a “honey-do list” every morning, too. Many’s the Saturday I secretly wish the Mrs. didn’t feel like overhauling the domestic decor or replacing hinges on doors which were perfectly fine standing at slight angles and only needing a teeny lift to open and close. Alas, such is the price of having a honey: you do.

That said, it’s admittedly a much more pleasant experience with power tools– especially cordless power tools. Take Harbor Freight’s best-selling Drill Master 3/8″ Cordless Drill/Driver with Keyless Chuck and 18V NiCd Battery. Just $19.99, it’s the perfect size– has got the perfect amount of power– for taking care of the home. I use this drill for everything, including auger bits, spade bits, heavy drilling and driving tek screws. When I first started using it, I was so impressed I bought a second one just to keep another battery charged. I mean, when you think about it, with some of the big name brands a replacement battery can cost $40 or more. Me, I’ve got two complete drills and chargers, and I’m never out of power.  The chuck is tight (no wobble), love the LED light, torque works well and the spindle is true. The electric brake is way helpful, too.

You’re not going to find a better value for such a quality workhorse.

But here’s a tip: Don’t overcharge the battery. Charge it six hours and take it off the charger. The theory of letting the battery charge all the time so it’s ready to go, is a fallacy and it kills the battery. Six hours, no more.

So here I go, hanging African masks and mounting curtain rod brackets, earthquake-proofing armoires and, yes, replacing hinges… happily, eagerly. After all, she WILL eventually run out of stuff to do. Right?

Reciprocate With Brute Force

You live long enough, you start building a list of stuff you’ve done that you never, ever want to do again. Like eat something on a dare that sounded gag-inducing before you even looked at it… because it also sounded fun. Or go on a blind date with someone you met on the Internet whose profile pictures consisted only of her cat, arched eyebrows and Sweet Polly Purebred from the Underdog cartoons. Or maybe (on a more relateable level) like spending an hour struggling with a hacksaw on pipe.

Well I can’t help you with your bonehead dare acceptances or harikari methods of courtship, but I can  tell you how you can affordably retire that hacksaw. Introducing the Chicago Electric 6 Amp Reciprocating Saw with Rotating Handle. Don’t let the low $29.99 price fool you. This saw has a plethora of power to get the job done! It cuts like butter through tree roots, limbs and stumps, plastic and metal pipes, cast iron, deck planks– nails and all!–and so much more.

A customer in the Southwest recently gave the Chicago Electric reciprocating saw a zumba workout and came away very happy:

“I’ve been using this saw for a few months now. I’ve used it for demo (cutting 2×4’s with nails) and recently put it to the test by using it to cut an entire 30′ tree down with the HF 9″ pruning blades, which worked really well. The quick blade change is very nice and saves time. Overall, really good value in my opinion. Handle rotates completely through 180° with five positive stops at 0, 45° and 90° left, and 45° and 90° right for comfortable and controlled cutting from any angle.”  Gringo – Phoenix, AZ

Another guy who hails from the Beehive State had this to say:

“Used this tool to cut lattice for an inclined ramp at my parents house. It worked better than I could imagine. Made the job go extremely fast. I was worried about how I was going to get the job done quickly and having this tool made all the difference between a day job and a 3-day job. Highly Recommended!!!”  Tim – Utah

And for having such a low price, the heavy-duty reciprocating saw’s got a ton of great features:

  • Powerful 6-amp motor with a variable speed trigger
  • Handle rotates 180° with five positive stops
  • Shoe plate pivots up to 30° for increased stability
  • 1/2″ twist-lock blade chuck for fast, easy blade changes
  • Rubber grip for comfort and durability
  • Variable speed trigger with switch lock-on button

I also definitely recommend you use the savings to stock up on extra special-use blades. Harbor Freight Tools stocks incredibly durable sets that require little investment and big performance:  Warrior 5-Piece 6″ Wood-Cutting Bi-Metal Reciprocating Saw Blades, ideal for cutting nail-embedded wood; Warrior 5-Piece 6″ General Purpose / Demolition Bi-Metal Reciprocating Saw Blades, this blade can be used to cut a wide variety of materials, including wood, metal, plastic, pipe and drywall; Portland Saw 5-Piece 9″ Wood Cutting Bi-Metal Reciprocating Saw Blades, longer blades designed to accommodate a variety of wood-cutting operations; Portland Saw 2-Piece 8″ Diamond Grit Reciprocating Saw Blades, for cutting into the hardest materials, including cast iron, clay pipe, brick and marble. Plus, many more in our stores and on our site.

A New Polisher Outshines the Competition

New Product Alert!

Always known for finding a great solution at a better price, Harbor Freight Tools recently introduced  its new Chicago Electric Platinum 6″ Variable Speed Polisher #69924. This dual-action, random-orbit dynamo delivers the same professional mirror finish as the machines used by car dealerships and detailers– but at a fraction of what the competitors are asking for while on sale at $59.99!

The 6″ Chicago Electric Platinum polisher has six variable speed settings, a two-position side handle for optimal control, a hook-and-loop pad attachment, and powers up to 6400 OPM for supreme performance. It includes a 6″ backing pad, spindle wrench and carbon brushes.

To fully arm this bad boy for all contingencies, add a Warrior Compound/Cutting Foam Pad #60311 for applying polishing and rubbing compound for deep scratches, a Polishing Foam Pad #60309 for applying polishes and cleaners to remove swirls, marks and water spots, and a Finishing Foam Pad #60310 for the final step, applying waxes and sealants.

Destined to be a Harbor Freight Tools bestseller, the Chicago Electric Platinum 6″ dual action polisher is already getting accolades from customers:

“This was nothing short of amazing. I have been buying harbor freight for a year now. I can’t believe what I have been missing before! I was shopping for a good DA Polisher for about 3 months online and everywhere else. Out of nowhere I thought of Harbor Freight. I could not believe they had one. Unless you are willing to spend over $300 on a German-made polisher, this is the best money can buy, hands down!” NickyG- Scottsdale, AZ

“This tool is great– especially for the price! Porter Cable has this same style of tool in their line up, but it’s $129+ and the body is really big and not very comfortable to hold. I have pretty big hands and it’s still big for me. This one has a much smaller gripping area that makes it easy to hold on to. It doesn’t have forced rotation of the disc so it works more like a regular random orbit but it has a much larger orbit diameter so it cuts pretty fast when sanding. When using for polishing, it spins really nice and makes buffing out finishes really easy. I used it to restore the headlights on my car. Got some of that headlight restore compound and it worked great in conjunction with this tool and the buffing pads… Buy this tool!!!”  Ronnie Ron- Seattle, WA

“This thing rocks! Polished my motorcycle and an acrylic aquarium… looks like glass!”  Pleaser- Phoenix, AZ

“This thing took the water spots off of my truck, quick and in a hurry… this works just as good as the expensive ones for the fraction of the price!”  Paul- DeRidder, LA

You don’t have to do hard math in your head to realize you’ll be saving $100’s by staying away from the auto spas and getting professional swirl-free finishes on all your vehicles at home. Add the new heavy-duty Chicago Electric Platinum 6″ variable-speed dual-action polisher to your tool arsenal while this low price holds!

The Multitasking Multifunction Tool

It was a really dumb procrastination. A broomstick, cut to be a patio sliding door jamb as an added security– except it was about 1/2″ too long, and for the longest time, just propped up at an angle. It was an eye sore, classic jerry-rigging in the spirit of the copper penny and chewing gum. I told my wife for weeks that I’d take care of it, but the thought of sawing that little stub off the end sounded like such a royal pain, I kept putting it off.

Of course I knew about the Chicago Electric multi-function tools. They’re some of Harbor freight Tools’ bestsellers and favorites in the toolhead community. It’s just another thing I was putting off– going out to get the tool. Ha!

There are different models to choose from, all with the same professional-quality performance:

Why buy several power tools when one incredible tool can tackle so many jobs by itself? The corded Chicago Electric Multifunction Single-Speed Power Tool is the basic weapon of choice for all the small-to-midsize cutting, scraping, sanding and sawing projects on your to-do list.  This professional quality, yet very affordable, multifunction tool powers at 21,000 oscillations per minute, putting to put some real muscle into the tough jobs. The multi-tool easily cuts through cable, air ducts, downspouts, plasterboard and pipes… sands down cement, concrete, stone, plaster, tile adhesive, paint and wood . . . it can even saw through wood up to 2″ thick! It’s the “go-to” tool for remodeling and repair jobs, as well as hobbies, tile, car repairs, even scraping freshly painted windows or old floor coverings!


For a little more money, you can get the same versatile tool with variable speeds— raging from 10,000 to 20,000 oscillations per minute– and including 4 multi-function attachments! The Chicago Electric Multifunction Power Tool, Variable Speed Oscillating features the same rugged die cast aluminum gear housing and sealed bearings, and with the variable power and included attachments, it becomes even more power tools-in-one!


Going forward, we move on to the Chicago Electric Cordless Oscillating Multifunction Tool. If there isn’t a convenient plug around, or you just like the freedom of a cordless tool, this is the ticket. With speeds up to 15,000 oscillations per minute, this cordless tool is fast and tough enough to handle the difficult jobs as well as fine detail work. Like the others, it can cut through plastic, cable, air ducts, downspouts, plasterboard and pipes. Its unique spindle and blade arbor design positively locks the blade in 7 forward positions for added versatility. Attach the sanding pad and sand down cement, concrete, stone, plaster, wood, tile adhesive and paint. This cordless multifunction tool is ideal tool for home remodeling, auto repair and a whole lot of other jobs! Be sure to get a second battery you don’t find yourself with downtime in the middle of a project.



Finally, we come to the Central Pneumatic Variable Speed Multifunction Air Model. Whether it’s a tough job or detailed work, the variable speed multifunction air tool provides the solution. A great, little tool for the hard-to-get-into areas, it’s ideal for cutting cabinets, underdoor frames, ABS pipe, for Terrazzo restoration & more. The multiple attachments make it easy to cut wood 3/8″ deep… plastic, wallboard and more, scrape away linoleum, laminate and adhesives, remove grout, sand wood or metal– the list goes on! The unique spindle and blade arbor design positively locks in 7 forward positions for added versatility. At 90 psi air pressure, it powers up to speeds of 17,000 OPM!

Whatever style you choose, you’ll find your Chicago Electric multifunction tool to be an invaluable addition to your DIY arsenal. Also, be sure to check out the collection of available attachments to accommodate any and all your mutlitool needs.

Tools for a Good Marriage

Ah, young love. My 21-year-old nephew just got married last weekend to his girlfriend of 3 years. It was a nice affair: the cake was delicious, the decor tasteful, the gift tables stacked high with juicers, crock pots, cookware, towels, bedding, crepe makers, dishes, salad tongs, fondue pots– the usual. My opinion, the kids are never going to use a lot of that stuff. It’s a pity, they don’t know what they really need. And let’s face it, the bride put the registry together. No offense, she’s not the one who’ll be going to the hardware store a dozen time later on to get tools for putting the home together.

May I make a suggestion? The next wedding you attend for a young couple (or even a not-so-young couple), go rogue on the registry and give them a tool kit. For less than $100 with a coupon, you can put together a complete set that they’ll use  all the time, maybe even for the rest of their lives. At least longer than the kettle corn maker they got.

Here are some basic tools to throw in the kit. It’ll make their lives a whole lot easier:



  1. Hammer – Nothing fancy, just a simple, sturdy claw hammer. This one from Pittsburgh has a shock-absorbent fiberglass handle that won’t splinter or split.
  2. Screwdriver Set – As you know, if you don’t have the correct-sized screwdriver, it can be a bad experience. It keeps slipping out of the slot, stripping the slot, etc. That’s why getting a set of comprehensive slot and Phillips screwdrivers is the way to go– and this 32-piece screwdriver set is perfect for whatever household job comes up.
  3. Wrench Set – Just as a screwdriver, you need just the right fitting wrench. That means you’ll want both SAE and metric on hand. This low-price 22-piece combination wrench set accommodates the most widely-used sizes and comes with a handy rack for quick access.
  4. Tape Measure – When putting up pictures and wall decor, measuring for furniture space or executing most any home improvement, you’ve got to have a tape measure on hand. Like this 30-ft. one from Harbor Freight, they’re cheap but they’re invaluable!
  5. Level – Got to make sure the family portraits are up for when the relatives come over– but you can’t do it right without a level. At $6.00, the 9″ Magnetic Torpedo Level will save you a lot of headache for vertical, horizontal and 45-degree leveling.
  6. Socket Set – A wrench set is great to have, but for some jobs a socket set is so much sweeter. Pittsburgh makes a good, long-lasting 64-piece set at a low price, which includes both SAE and metric, with 1/4″, 3/8″ and 1/2″ drive. It comes with a rugged custom carrying case for storage and transport.
  7. Screws, Nuts & Bolts – Hey, it’s at least one less trip to the store, right? Probably a number of trips– a 1,001-piece set with wood screws, sheet metal screws, nuts, bolts, washers, lock washers and cotter pins. Definitely worth the 12 bucks.
  8. Tool Box -You’ve got to get one– the ready-made gift box that keeps on giving. The 20″ Stainless Steel Toolbox from Storehouse is a Harbor Freight best buy, with a dent-proof, high-impact base, heavy-duty tray and strong rubber-grip handle. With a full-length piano hinge, two sturdy latches and a brushed steel finish, this toolbox is built to last.
  9. Cordless Drill – OK, so this isn’t going into the toolbox, but it certainly completes the set. If there’s any power tool the new couple’s going to need, it’s a cordless drill, and the low-cost Drill Master 18 Volt Cordless 3/8″ Drill With Keyless Chuck is a rugged, reliable addition to the arsenal.

So, when the top tier of the cake disappears in the freezer under some ground chuck, all the returns and re-gifting’s been done and those crazy kids go one with their lives, they’ll remember you every time there’s an outlet plate to replace or a bicycle to build, an armoire to secure to a wall or a tiki mask to hang in the bathroom… the wedding guest who had the good sense to ignore their registry.

Essential Tools for Your First Apartment


It’s June– and as with every June, a new herd of college grads is cut loose into the world. This means new apartments, new (or new old) furniture, new roomies, and a whole slew of new domestic responsibilities. Something every grad should consider getting is a decent tool set. Yes, you’ll probably have a landlord that takes care of that kind of stuff. But landlords are not your parents and they sure won’t always be around when you need them. Sometimes you’ll have to take care of things yourself –and wouldn’t it be great if you could? That’s where Harbor Freight Tools comes in.

Here’s a list of just the most essential tools you’ll be wanting:

Design – Decorating is the most likely thing you’ll be doing on your own. Here are some tools that’ll help with that:

Plumbing – this should really be left to the professionals, but sometimes things happen and help is nowhere to be found. When you have nowhere to turn these items can help prevent a disaster.

All Around Necessities – some tools are just plain useful to have around. You never know when you may need to screw a doorknob back on or put together a new piece of furniture.

Lastly, you’ll need a nice toolbox or tool bag to store the stuff in so you can find them when you need them!

Car Restoration Tools Every Garage Needs

It’s funny how, as you get older, you start doing all the cool stuff you wanted to do when you were a punk teenager. Back in the 70’s we were all car crazy, and many’s the time I envied the guys in the neighborhood who were out on their front lawns, working on their Dodge Challengers or GTO “Goats”—

—not just because they HAD them (which would have been enough), but because they could actually work on them. Somehow, they managed to have the tools and supplies it took to keep their wheels “cherry.” Nowadays, though, when you hear (and feel) a carb-powered 426 Hemi thundering down the road, it’s a geezer you’re more likely to see behind the wheel than a punk. And chances are that geezer is one of us.

Classic car restoration is more popular than ever, and with the help of online parts stores, chat forums and YouTube videos, guys who thought they’d never get to rebuild their favorite classic rides are now living in their garages (and on their lawns), doing just that.

If you’ve decided to restore a vehicle yourself, I salute you. Not only will you save thousands of dollars, you’ll be embarking on a long, challenging– even therapeutic– journey that will reap dividends for years to come. But before we start doing that victory lap to “We Are the Champions,” let me suggest some basic tools you’ll want right out of the gate to make the dream a reality (unless, of course, you like repeatedly going back & forth to the store when you’re in the middle of something):

The Must-Have Tool

The Air Compressor will quickly become your best friend over the course of your restoration. It’s the first thing you’ll need to get for your arsenal. Between the Die Grinder, Paint Sprayer and Impact Wrench, you’re going to get a lot of use out of it and, believe me, you’ll thank yourself every time you’ve got a big chore that you don’t have to do manually. It needs to have a decent enough CFM—at least 5-6 CFM per minute at 90 psi– so that the long bursts of sanding, buffing or cutting won’t wear too hard on the compressor. You could get the job done with a 29-Gallon Tank Unit, but if you can swing it, go for a 60-Gallon Compressor, with power to spare. By the way, the Die Grinder is great for polishing the inside of the head ports, cleaning up metal and using with a cut-off wheel to repair panels.

Engine Work

A Compression Tester will help diagnose vital motor issues, such as worn piston rings, burnt valves and bad head gaskets.  This is a great first tool to use when you get your new project car home. You can even take it with you to test a car before you buy it!

While it’s not vital for the project, you may want to consider picking up a “cherry-picker” Engine Hoist, especially if you’re planning to restore more than one vehicle. A good 2-Ton Shop Crane should be sufficient, and will more than pay for itself in the long run.

Most likely, you should have the cylinders re-bored. A cylinder bore gauge is needed to check for taper, out-of-round and oversize on the cylinders if you are rebuilding the motor yourself. Any critical wear on the cylinder can be reached with this gauge. An Engine Cylinder Hone will de-glaze the cylinder walls and give them a nice, smooth finish.

Next, you’ll want a valve spring compressor to remove the valves for a rebuild. Also a cheap valve lapping tool, with grinding compound, helps reseat the valves.

Piston Ring Pliers will help you remove and replace the rings on the pistons without breaking them. A Piston Ring Compressor is needed for the installation of the pistons. Also, a piston groove cleaner will remove the carbon crud from the piston grooves.

A Dial Indicator is used to measure run-out on things like the flywheel, and endplay on the crankshaft. While there are various types of mounts, including magnetic base and screw mounts, I recommend the clamping mount because it’s faster and easier to work with.

Next, a Stud Puller is a must for removing stripped, rusted and otherwise stubborn head studs, as well as exhaust & intake manifold studs.

Another tool you cannot live without is the Torque Wrench—two, actually. Get both a 1/2″ drive and 3/8″ drive for your tool cabinet. These are essential to torque all your bolts to factory specs.

Have a complete Tap and Die Set on hand, preferably with both SAE & metric. You’ll find this invaluable for cleaning up old bolts and restoring rusted holes.

A good Digital Micrometer is needed to precisely measure anything.

Body Work

MIG Welder. You won’t get through a restoration job without it. Why a MIG welder, as opposed to another type? Well, for starters, if you’re new to this kind of project, the MIG is the easiest to learn. Also, they work with the most common types of metals, overhead welding is easier, and the MIG welder works fast.

You’ll also want a Hammer & Dolly Set, otherwise known as a “Body & Fender Set.” These tools go a long way in repairing and straightening steel panels, and all-around custom fab work. This one, made by Pittsburgh, probably has the best price you’re going to find, and one look at the customer reviews should convince you there’s no need to keep looking.

A Step Drill is essential to make quick, clean work out of drilling large diameter holes for auto-body jobs such as installing chrome trim, and for firewall holes.

A Spot Weld Cutter works great in restoration projects and does just what its name implies. Also, a Plumber’s Torch is great for softening and shaping metal.

As you work on your project, you’ll find a Bench Grinder and Drill Press are extremely helpful in the auto restoration process.  Plus, a Wire Wheel on the grinder is a must and makes cleaning up parts quick and simple.

Additional Work

Make sure you include various Brake Tools, a Tubing Bender and brake flare tool.

Finally, get a Creeper, Paint Stripper, Transmission Jack, Dent Repair Kit, and a Comprehensive Mechanics Tool Kit, and you’ll be equipped to tackle most everything involved in your car restoration, as well as many other future projects. Of course, you’ll inevitably be needing cleaners, sealants, lubricants and the odd part along the way, but consider yourself the proud owner of an equipped auto restoration garage.

Now, get out there and make that Vega Funny Car a reality!

A Marriage Made on Wheels

In the March/April 1939 issue of Popular Homecraft a story ran, along with detailed plans, for something that was dubbed the “Honeymoon House Trailer…”

…designed and built by Louis Rogers of Pasadena, California. He had literally saved his dimes and built this little gem back in the 30’s, to take his new bride on their wedding trip. The 8’x4’ floor plan was had tongue-and-groove flooring on a pine chassis, and Rogers used a Chevy front axle with 28” wheels and 1926 rear fenders.  The odd little trailer slept two and had a raise-up deck lid for a rear kitchenette, with ice box and stove. A curtain-enclosure outside the starboard entry served at the “dressing room.” The teardrop trailer was born.

DIYers went crazy. They used Rogers’ plans, and soon added touches of their own. After World War II, the trailer evolved with models sporting Jeep wheels and exterior skins made from bombers’ wings. After the 50’s, their popularity started dropping when larger RVs appeared, but then returned with a vengeance. Today you can find a number of websites for plans (some free!), photo galleries, forums and clubs. Teardrop trailer enthusiasts believe that creating, renovating and modifying their own models are what give the little campers their timelessness—and the most rewarding way to own a teardrop!

I first noticed the teardrop trailer when surfing for a tent trailer to take on road trips. From time to time, “teardrop trailer” results would pop up, and eventually I started clicking on them. My first impressions: These critters are small… they’re cute… wow, they’re equipped… oh wow, they’re cool! The best of the bunch, IMHO, were the homemade models. They remind me of the Pinewood Derby race cars we made as kids—there were always a couple that hijacked the event, they were so amazing.

I also saw that the Harbor Freight utility trailer was a favorite for the frame, particularly the Haul-Master 1195 lb. 4’x8’ foldable trailer

Harbor Freight Utility Trailer

…and 1720 lb 4’x8’ Super Duty model.

Harbor Freight 4 x 8 Utility Trailer

There seems to be a controversy over whether or not a foldable utility trailer should be used, but as is shown in the above photo, they’ve proven to be very capable. This model

–aptly named “Woody,” is a simple, classic example of the DIY teardrop trailer. When I asked Steve Edling, the site owner, to use a picture of Woody for this article, he graciously consented and added that a number of Harbor Freight tools were also used in its creation. Indeed, Kuffel Kreek, a provider of teardrop trailer plans, lists several must-have Harbor Freight tools one should get before starting, including a brad nailer, air shears and angle grinder.

Type in phrases like “teardrop trailer harbor freight” on Google and you’ll get tons of sites—including a few YouTube videos—that talk about using Harbor Freight’s utility trailers in their projects. This isn’t just because the trailers are inexpensive—it’s because they’re rugged, reliable, durable AND inexpensive. I mean, if you’re going to invest all that time, sweat, and money (and probably a pint or two of blood) in this labor of love, would you risk the integrity of its frame? Neither would I.

The American-born DIY teardrop trailer is more than just a cool, little camper. It’s a gratifying project of personal expression, something you can climb into and go to sleep knowing, you built this! It’s not an easy project—as noted on Kuffel Kreek, “Anything that bounces down the highway at 65 MPH isn’t easy”—and if you’ve never built anything before, forget it (I should probably hone my skills a tad more before I attempt it), It also takes space and time. But the payoff is awesome, and your teardrop trailer will retain its value much longer than any other RV on the road.

Check out this great photo gallery which includes several teardrop trailers!