Good Shop Practice #3: Get the Right Tools.

There’s an old saying that “it’s the poor craftsman who blames his tools,” but remember that most old saying are bullshit.  The right tools are not only critical to doing a job well, they increase your enjoyment and reduce your frustration in getting jobs done.  Cheap tools or the wrong tools are just nightmare makers.  A crappy screwdriver can ruin your whole day in an instant.  Sometimes we have to make do because a specific tool is unavailable or simply because tools are expensive.  It takes time to learn the tools you like and to acquire a good tool library, but whenever you have a choice, get the best quality tools you can.  If you half-ass your choice of tools, you are half-assing every job you will ever do with them.  Work piece by piece to build that library.  Appreciate the honest aesthetics of well-made tools and do not abuse them.  This investment will pay rewards to your machine and your soul.

Good Shop Practice #2: Read the Manual.

It is so tempting to dive in.  All those pert, shiny bolts to be turned and coy covers to remove.  The interfaces of most consumer products today are so well designed that user’s manuals are superfluous, making the temptation to play with the machine even greater.  Experienced mechanics are the most prone to this temptation, particularly with maintenance operations that we have done many times.  But for new and experienced mechanics alike, the step of reading through the shop manual is a vital step of training or re-training, respectively.  In addition to providing specific tolerance, quantities, and procedures, a good shop manual give you insight into the designer’s intent.  Very little on your machine is superfluous, and understanding its why is the only way to understand its how.  Good shop manuals are real pleasure reading.