Jeff Barr's Blog

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Home Shop

For the past 6 months or so, my boys and I have been working to construct and equip a really awesome home workshop. Our ultimate goal is the construction of a mini-chopper, a ¾-scale motorcycle. We have learned some great skills along the way, we’ve gotten better at thinking through engineering problems before we cut or weld, and we are having a lot of fun along the way.

As always, there are plenty of online resources to help out. So far we have purchased the following tools, plans, and books:

  • DeWalt DW802 Heavy Duty 4-1/2DeWalt Angle Grinder. Very handy and very powerful. Don’t go cheap on this; the lesser imitations have plastic gears that will melt (at least this is what the DeWalt factory rep told me at Lowe’s). This one has been through some heavy use already; it generates some heat but works like a charm.
  • Millermatic 175 Welder – This is a fairly heavy duty unit, but I wanted it to last a lifetime. Runs on 220 volt power. As my son Stephen pointed out, this discourages people from borrowing it.
  • Welder's Handbook: A Complete Guide to Mig, Tig, Arc & Oxyacetylene Welding – Welder’s Handbook. Somewhat useful, makes welding seem a bit harder than it really is.
  • Home Machinists Handbook – Home Machinist’s Handbook – Lots of very handy tips for measuring and cutting.
  • Atomic Zombie's Bicycle Builder's Bonanza – Atomic Zombie’s Bicycle Builder’s Bonanza – Although this is mostly about building customized bicycles, most of the construction techniques are applicable to the mini-chopper as well.
  • Brake and throttle parts from Lawnmower Doctor via eBay.
  • Steel from Everett Steel.
  • Stephen also bought the engine and a torque converter online; I don’t have the URLs handy.
  • Mini-chopper plans from Solution Design, via eBay. This book includes plans for a frame jig built from 2×4′s. We tried that, and it was a huge waste of time. We ended up a building a far better jig from 2×2 square steel stock.
  • A tubing bender from another eBay seller.
  • A milling machine, from a friend. This is an 1100 lb. behemoth.
  • Assorted files, gloves, and safety goggles.

So far we have built a really good frame jig. I will post some pictures in a day or two. Now that we’ve built this great jig, construction will go pretty fast.