Shop Visit: Andrew Haidet

My garage is 24x20, just under the 500-square-foot maximum allowed by local ordinances. When we purchased our home in 2008, I wanted a larger shop but decided that this would be an acceptable starter and force me to stay organized.

I grew up with my parents’ equally sized garage, which was always a mess–which I contributed to. I vowed to keep my space cleaner, organized and functional.

In engineering school, I spent four-plus years on the Formula SAE racing team with a full machine shop; we could make anything. The FSAE, in addition to teaching me important design and fabrication skills, also significantly raised my performance expectations for an autocross vehicle. I needed a space where I could create and build a car on par with my FSAE experience.

My garage was a blank slate when we moved in. I added 100- amp, 220-volt electric service with 18 double-duplex outlets. (Most people thought I was crazy.)

Next, I insulated, drywalled, painted and installed heat. French cleats went on the walls for flexible storage. Cabinets and shelves went above the garage doors. I built a custom workbench with hitch receivers installed in the front for holding a variety of bench tools. I embedded strut channel in the top for clamping welding projects. I plumbed in my 60-gallon air compressor with black pipe and six outlets for air tools.

I’ve spent more time adding functionality to my shop than working on car projects over the last few years. I built a do-ityourself CNC milling machine from a bench-top mill and an old computer. I also built a 3D printer from a kit for making random brackets, gadgets and tools. Now with the garage outfitted, I’m building my autocross car: a 1993 Miata with a 1.8 turbo swap.
–Andrew Haidet

Back to Basics

Andrew Haidet has some tips on how you can make your shop just as shocking:

I always take a few minutes to clean up after working in my garage. Cleaning the shop can be therapy after a rough day or getting stuck on a project.

Since I have a small shop and a lot of larger equipment, I try to put things on wheels so that I can rearrange them depending on the project I’m working on. Wall storage is handled using DIY French cleats, which allow a variety of things to be hung on the wall and easily moved. All this mobility comes in handy when painting cars; everything I don’t want overspray on can be pushed into the driveway.

Growing up, my parents’ garage was almost always a mess, and I was partially to blame. I spent more time looking for tools and hardware than working on the project I needed them for. The old saying “a place for everything and everything in its place” is one I firmly believe in. I built my tool cart using a Harbor Freight threeshelf cart (with middle shelf removed), a Craftsman toolbox and some metal pegboard. I roll this cart next to the area I’m working on so that when I’m done with the 10mm wrench, it goes back on the cart instead of getting left on a fender where I won’t find it again for 20 minutes.

When I built my workbench, I knew it was going to be the heart of my garage and had to be a jack of all trades. My workbench has a T-slot top built from strut channel, a material often used by electricians and plumbers that can be found at Lowe’s or Home Depot. This allows me to rotate bench tools like my arbor press, compact bender and hand tapper. I can move or completely remove any of these bench tools in a few minutes and then use the T-slot to hold down parts for gluing or welding. Three hitch receivers are mounted on the front of the workbench, and I mounted my bench vise on a 2-inch steel tube so it can be mounted in any of the receivers or completely removed. Other tools, like shears or a shrinker stretcher, can be mounted on these tubes as well in the future.

Technology is a great tool even in the garage. I have my old laptop mounted in a sliding drawer above my workbench. I use it to search for parts and look for help online. I have an LCD TV from a Black Friday sale with a Chromecast for watching how-to videos on YouTube. Sure beats reading an old black-and-white repair manual.

Digital fabrication tools are as affordable as they’ve ever been. I have both a homebuilt CNC milling machine and an FDM 3D printer in my garage. The CNC started life as a bench-top manual mill. The plans and idea to build it came from the DIY CNC forums. I have used it to make brackets and parts for my turbo Miata and my buddy’s stock car. The 3D printer is an open-source model that prints in ABS, nylon and PLA. I have used it to make parts to mount switches, gauges and USB ports to the interior of my turbo Miata.

I try to work as safely as possible. Be sure to have a working fire extinguisher in the garage, especially if you’ll be doing welding or grinding. I always have a bunch of safety glasses so I’m not tempted to do a quick job without them. They’re cheap enough, and you only get one set of eyes. My wife even bought me a portable eyewash kit from Amazon for around $20 that I have mounted on the wall for a just-in-case moment.

Don’t be afraid to make your own tools or storage. With a small garage, I often have to make my own storage that uses the space as efficiently as possible. I built a powdercoating booth using another Harbor Freight three-shelf cart and some plywood. The cart doubles as storage for the powdercoating equipment.


Thank you again to our shop contest supporters:

Battery Tender
Chubb Collector Car Insurance
CRC Industries

Join Free Join our community to easily find more articles.
View comments on the CMS forums
admc58 Reader
6/4/16 7:36 a.m.

Nice setup Post some detail photos and links to the CNC diy, please?

Our Preferred Partners