Buying nice, fancy tools that you will only need to use once pulls money out of your wallet that would otherwise go toward your primary goal of maximizing your fun at the track. A single purchase might not seem like a big deal, but getting into the habit of buying new tools on a regular basis could end up filling your toolbox and maxing out your credit card before your new creation even gets to the track. Along with making racecar parts, making your own specialty tools is an enjoyable creative outlet that will quickly save you enough money for that next set of tires. There are many more possibilities than we can cover in one article, so the examples here are only meant to start the gears turning in your head and get your creative juices flowing.

When the need to fabricate a custom racecar part arrives, the need for the tools and techniques to do the job also comes along for the ride. If you take a couple of minutes to think about how you might make the tool so that you can make the part, you may realize that all of the elements that you need to make the tool are already in your garage. That will save you time, money and the storage space for an expensive tool that you might never need again.

Like everything else in your racing program, your priorities for making your own tools should be well thought out. My priorities for everything racing-related are: safety, reliability, performance and cost — in that order, only and always. Professionally designed tools are probably going to be safer than your inventions, so be aware of the increased risk to yourself and your race car parts while you are using them.

Bending a metal sheet is one of the most basic fabrication tasks, but it requires an elaborate combination of tools. A nice result requires a bending form with a straight edge and the correct inside radius, a firm clamp for the base panel, a flat forming tool to bend the sheet over the form, and a way to amplify your strength enough to form the metal. Look around your garage. All of the elements that you need to create your own sheet metal brake are probably there already. Two small boards, two C clamps, a short scrap of 2 x 4 wall stud and a big hammer can be combined to make a temporary sheet metal brake. That will enable you to make nice bends, and then it will disappear back into basic elements, to be used for something else later. The trick to making this work is to hold the wall stud on top of the metal flange that you want to bend down at about a 30-degree angle to the flange, and then hit the stud hard with the hammer. It should only take 3 or 4 hits to form a crisp 90-degree bend in an aluminum sheet.
Bending a metal sheet is one of the most basic fabrication tasks, but it requires an elaborate combination of tools. A nice result requires a bending form with a straight edge and the correct inside radius, a firm clamp for the base panel, a flat forming tool to bend the sheet over the form, and a way to amplify your strength enough to form the metal. Look around your garage. All of the elements that you need to create your own sheet metal brake are probably there already. Two small boards, two C clamps, a short scrap of 2 x 4 wall stud and a big hammer can be combined to make a temporary sheet metal brake. That will enable you to make nice bends, and then it will disappear back into basic elements, to be used for something else later. The trick to making this work is to hold the wall stud on top of the metal flange that you want to bend down at about a 30-degree angle to the flange, and then hit the stud hard with the hammer. It should only take 3 or 4 hits to form a crisp 90-degree bend in an aluminum sheet.
If you need to form a large radius bend in a sheet like the one shown at right in this photo, anything that is generally cylindrical can be used as forming tool. A bat, a pipe, your thigh, a street light pole, and a keg can be used as a bending form.
If you need to form a large radius bend in a sheet like the one shown at right in this photo, anything that is generally cylindrical can be used as forming tool. A bat, a pipe, your thigh, a street light pole, and a keg can be used as a bending form.
Tubing_bender1 Tubing_bender2
Instead of spending money on a tool, you can use money as the tool. Bending a small metal tube, such as a brake line or fire extinguisher line, usually requires a tubing bender to prevent kinks. An alternative to that is a stack of quarters formed into a U shape and clamped into a vise. Just push the tube down on both sides of the U-shaped form to make the bend. If the tube still kinks at the bend, you can pack the tube full of dry sand, bend it, and then very thoroughly blow out all of the sand with compressed air.
Instead of spending money on a tool, you can use money as the tool. Bending a small metal tube, such as a brake line or fire extinguisher line, usually requires a tubing bender to prevent kinks. An alternative to that is a stack of quarters formed into a U shape and clamped into a vise. Just push the tube down on both sides of the U-shaped form to make the bend. If the tube still kinks at the bend, you can pack the tube full of dry sand, bend it, and then very thoroughly blow out all of the sand with compressed air.
Ring_hole_saw1 Ring_hole_saw2 Ring_hole_saw3
If you don’t have a hole saw that is the right size for what you need, drill a ring of several small holes just inside the final diameter, break out the center portion, and use a round or a half-round file to finish the job.
If you don’t have a hole saw that is the right size for what you need, drill a ring of several small holes just inside the final diameter, break out the center portion, and use a round or a half-round file to finish the job.
If you need a heat source to cure a small amount of resin in a cold garage, an incandescent light bulb will do the job for you.
If you need a heat source to cure a small amount of resin in a cold garage, an incandescent light bulb will do the job for you.
Water-jet cutters and laser cutters are widespread and inexpensive to operate. If you can create a flat pattern of the shape that you need, there are probably several local metal fab shops that can cut the parts for you precisely, inexpensively, and faster than you could do the job by hand.
Water-jet cutters and laser cutters are widespread and inexpensive to operate. If you can create a flat pattern of the shape that you need, there are probably several local metal fab shops that can cut the parts for you precisely, inexpensively, and faster than you could do the job by hand.
If you have a garage bay that you need to convert to a paint booth, all you need is a big roll of wide, clear plastic sheet from your local paint supply store, several lengths of PVC plastic pipe, and several three- and four-way elbow fittings for them. Three-quarter-inch PVC pipe is the smallest size that will make a self-supporting frame. Half-inch can just barely be made to work by leaning the frame against a wall. Start by taping a sheet of plastic on the floor, then dry assemble the PVC frame without any adhesive. Drape plastic sheet over the top and all sides of the frame, and you have created a non-ventilated paint booth. Use a good painting respirator and take a breathing break every few minutes.
If you have a garage bay that you need to convert to a paint booth, all you need is a big roll of wide, clear plastic sheet from your local paint supply store, several lengths of PVC plastic pipe, and several three- and four-way elbow fittings for them. Three-quarter-inch PVC pipe is the smallest size that will make a self-supporting frame. Half-inch can just barely be made to work by leaning the frame against a wall. Start by taping a sheet of plastic on the floor, then dry assemble the PVC frame without any adhesive. Drape plastic sheet over the top and all sides of the frame, and you have created a non-ventilated paint booth. Use a good painting respirator and take a breathing break every few minutes.
Forcing grease through needle bearings or taper roller bearings can be done with a purchased tool, or it can be done with a heavy duty sandwich bag and a hose clamp. Form the bag over your index finger, fill the inside with grease, hose clamp it onto the bearing, plug the inside of the bearing if it isn’t on its shaft, and squeeze the bag. However, forcing grease through a bearing is really difficult. It will take about a minute of your maximum grip strength to get the job done on each bearing.
Forcing grease through needle bearings or taper roller bearings can be done with a purchased tool, or it can be done with a heavy duty sandwich bag and a hose clamp. Form the bag over your index finger, fill the inside with grease, hose clamp it onto the bearing, plug the inside of the bearing if it isn’t on its shaft, and squeeze the bag. However, forcing grease through a bearing is really difficult. It will take about a minute of your maximum grip strength to get the job done on each bearing.
If your craftsmanship is particularly good, it is possible to do simple lathe machining operations with a drill motor and a file. The example in the photo is a cylindrical spacer that I needed on very short notice, so I made it by cutting, drilling, and filing a grade 2 bolt.
If your craftsmanship is particularly good, it is possible to do simple lathe machining operations with a drill motor and a file. The example in the photo is a cylindrical spacer that I needed on very short notice, so I made it by cutting, drilling, and filing a grade 2 bolt.

Neil Roberts is the author of “Think Fast – The Racer’s Why-To Guide to Winning,” a guide book on how to overcome competitors’ bigger budgets and finish ahead of them. It’s available at Amazon.com.

http://www.amazon.com/Think-Fast-Racers-Why-Winning/dp/1451558759

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Images courtesy of Neil Roberts, Andy Roberts and Aaron Roberts