Setting up a new shop

Occasionally, the question appears on these forums “we are setting up a new shop at our school to build the robot - what tools do we need to get?” Random responses then pile on, suggesting the purchase of everything from a dynamically stabilized plumb bob to a left-handed garstuckle remover. In an effort to provide an appropriate answer for those that may soon be seeking such advice, I have sought out the most sage and expert advice I could access. I recently posed that query on one of the metalworking/machining forums I frequent. Attached below is the accumulated wisdom of several grizzled and shop-savvy machinists, and their suggestions on the lengthy list of tools you’ll need to get started when setting up a new shop:

DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your drink across the room, splattering it against that freshly stained heirloom piece you were drying.

WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench at the speed of light.

ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age.

SKIL SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.

PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads.

BELT SANDER: An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.

HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

VISE-GRIPS: Generally used after pliers to completely round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

WELDING GLOVES: Heavy duty leather gloves used to prolong the conduction of intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

OXYACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your shop on fire.

WHITWORTH SOCKETS: Once used for working on older British cars and motorcycles, they are now used mainly for impersonating that 9/16- or 1/2-inch socket you’ve lost.

TABLE SAW: A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.

HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake pads, trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

EIGHT-FOOT LONG YELLOW PINE 2x4: Used for levering an automobile upward off of a trapped hydraulic jack handle.

TWEEZERS: A tool for removing wood splinters and wire wheel wires.

E-Z OUT BOLT AND STUD EXTRACTOR: A tool ten times harder than any known drill bit that snaps neatly off in bolt holes thereby ending any possible future use.

RADIAL ARM SAW: A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to scare neophytes into choosing another line of work.

TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect.

CRAFTSMAN 1/2 x 24-INCH SCREWDRIVER: A very large pry bar that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end opposite the handle.


TROUBLE LIGHT: The home mechanic’s own tanning booth. Sometimes called a drop light, it is a good source of vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin,” which is not otherwise found under cars at night. Health benefits aside, its main purpose is to consume 40-watt light bulbs at about the same rate that 105mm howitzer shells might be used during, say, the first few hours of the Battle of the Bulge. More often dark than light, its name is strangely appropriate.

PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids and for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

STRAIGHT SCREWDRIVER: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws.

AIR COMPRESSOR: A machine that takes energy produced in a coal-burning power plant 200 miles away and transforms it into compressed air that travels by hose to a Chicago Pneumatic impact wrench that grips rusty bolts which were last over-tightened 30 years ago by someone at Ford, and instantly rounds off their heads. Also used to quickly snap off lug nuts.

PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 cent part.

HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to make hoses too short.

HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent the object we are trying to hit – or thumbs, whichever are closer.

MECHANIC’S KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts. Especially useful for slicing work clothes and fingers, but only while in use.


Haha, this made my day Dave. Thank you.

I think someone posted this list in a “Jokes” thread a couple years back… Still relevant! (Oh, and the description of the straight screwdriver is accurate. Don’t ask how I know.)
[EDIT] Yep. Not quite complete, but the last two come with the person setting up the shop.

I’ve actually gone through setting up a new shop last year and this year. I found the white paper by 1902 to be very helpful especially if you have a Harbor Freight nearby.


May I suggest the addition of…

Drill Index - Allows you know absolutely, that you do not have the drill bit you need.

This is why, annoying as he may be, WE LOVE DAVE.

Thanks for brightening my day, Dave.

This is wonderful! Definitely going to post it in the 114 shop as a joke list of tool uses. :smiley:

But wait, Dave posting something without a hint? Head explodes as he tries to read through this whole thing, looking for hints

TOOL CHEST: Whatever you do, don’t put your tools in this thing. That way, when you need a tool, you’ll know one place it isn’t.

HAMMER: Used for enforcing discipline.

We should keep adding to this!

Combined definition:

HAMMER: Originally a weapon of war, now used to locate the most expensive parts near what you are trying to hit with it. If there are none, it settles for a thumb. Also used to enforce discipline, bend robot frames, and, in its role as “fine adjustment tool,” make sure things slide just a fraction of an inch too far, necessitating multiple applications in both directions.

Heh. My college roommate used to live by the slogan “if it won’t move, hit it harder. If it breaks, it needed fixing anyway.”

Needless to say, we had a lot of broken stuff in our apartment.



Radial Arm Saw:

Ever see Big Mike’s arm?


Unnofficial Team 100 Moto:

“Measure it with a micrometer, mark it with a peice of chalk, cut it with an ax.”

Now how did we wind up on axes again :rolleyes: oh right, my fault…

Thanks Dave this made my day

ZIP TIE: Also called band ties, cable ties, or occasionally Bar-Loks (you know who you are…) Used for holding fingers of freshmen together, binding an unsuspecting student to the chair he fell asleep in, or holding broken fragments of an ill-conceived arm together.

here some more

HAMMER: Originally a weapon of war, now used to locate the most expensive parts near what you are trying to hit with it. If there are none, it settles for a thumb. Also used to enforce discipline, bend robot frames, and, in its role as “fine adjustment tool,” make sure things slide just a fraction of an inch too far, necessitating multiple applications in both directions. also gets broken things working.

GUERRILLA GLUE: Glue with amazing capabilities for bonding the parts being glued together to the clamp holding them together.

LOCTITE: Guaranteed to always be on the bolt you take out of the misc. hardware bin when bolting Lexan parts together.

CHUCK KEY: Always missing. Can usually be found inside a hole in the wall (neophytes left it in the chuck) or with the lathe chuck key.

I’m adding “Typically used to make the lives of mentors miserable” to this definition (see photos)

ALLEN WRENCH: A tool used to turn hex-shaped holes on the end of screws into round holes. Beware, these wrenches are shy, and tend hide in dark, hard-to-reach areas.

SOLDERING IRON: A device for volatilizing any toxic chemicals in its close proximity. Also useful for shorting out live circuits and verifying that expensive integrated circuits live up to the heat tolerance specified on their datasheet (or don’t).

SAFETY GLASSES: A multi-purpose tool that can protect the forehead from sharp, high velocity projectiles.

MAGNETIC WAND: Used for wiping the memory of any devices that you happened to drop a small screw near.

CNC MILL: Used to inflict large doses of pain on unsuspecting freshman when they stand next to the handles on “rapid move.”