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Tips For Keeping Your Garage or Workshop Organized

Many of us have multiple projects going at one time.  Whether you are running a business or just tinkering around in your home shop, having a clean shop can have some great benefits.  Not only will you be able to work more efficiently and be more productive, but you can also save yourself peace of mind by not spending half your day looking for that tiny, but crucial part.

Here at American Rotary, we have employees that spend their free time tinkering in woodworking, metalworking, and working on their cars.  We all sat down and talked about tips that we recommend to keeping our home shops organized so we can make the most out of the time we have in our shop. Just like you, most of us have many projects going on at once. Here are some great places to start.

1. Tool Organization – Keeping your tools organized will help in your time of searching for that one tool required to move onto the next step. Everyone will have their own method of organization that works for them.  A common one was having your sockets, wrenches, and screwdrivers organized by size.  This will make it quick to find the size you are looking for.  Some other practices are keeping your types of tools together.  For example, you may have specialty mechanic or woodworking tools.  If you keep the specialty tools together this will cut down on the time of remembering where in your shop you last left your torque wrench. Depending on the person, you may find it beneficial to have each tool have their own specific spot.  This way if you see an open spot, you know something missing.

2. Keep the Parts Organized From Your Project – This is important when doing a restoration project. Whether you are refurbishing an old piece of furniture or restoring a car, keeping track of what parts you have is important. During tear down sort the pieces by relativity.  For example, if you are restoring a car, place your brackets and bolts for the rear bumper in the same area.  It is also a good idea to make an inventory list of the parts you take off and make a note of what box they are being stored in.  Not only will this remind you of what parts you have, but will also work as a reminder during assembly and help in the budgeting and planning stage.  When that time comes, you won’t be spending a good chunk of your allotted time searching for the parts you know you had.

3. Cord/Hose Management – I am sure we all have dealt with having a tangled drop cord or air hose at one point or another. Storing either of those properly can help greatly lower the risk of having to spend half of your day untangling a webbed mess of cords.  There are lots of inexpensive options out there for cord management.  Some examples include retractable wheels and cord spools.  Both are a nice option to have around your shop.  The retractable wheels are convenient because they can allow you to pull the cord or hose out quickly and have a quick clean up when you are done.  The cord spools are great for storing your extra drop cords and air hoses on a wall or in a cabinet.

4. Pegboard Use – While tool chests are a nice feature to keep your tools organized, you may find it beneficial to mount a pegboard above your work area. There are many different types of brackets you can use on a pegboard.  On your pegboard, you can store tools that you may need quick access to.  For example; screwdrivers, wrenches, tape measure, and a hammer.  Having these tools right at your fingertips will cut down drastically on the amount of time walking to and from your tool chest.  It will also help you realize if a tool is missing before you forget where you last used it.

5. Use of Open Shelves – While an enclosed cabinet is nice because it can give your shop a nice clean and finished look, they can also have a negative effect. A cabinet can give you the “out of sight, out of mind” effect.  Your cabinet may become a black hole for your tools.  If you are ever quickly cleaning up your shop, it is easy to throw the tools in the cabinet and forget about them.  When you use an open shelf system instead, it forces you to keep it organized.  It is also easier to find your tools that you are searching for since you can see everything on the shelf.  Having an open shelf can also give you more versatility to what is being stored on it, they are typically more adjustable and you can have larger items overhang the shelf.

Following these tips can give you a head start on keeping your shop organized.  We all have different ideas on what will work best in our own shops, so please do what works best for you.  Whichever tips you use to be organized will help your time management greatly.  We all know how frustrating it is looking for a tool or part, being organized will help lower that risk and allow you to spend more time making your American dream become your reality.

Top 5 Hand Tools Every Woodworking Shop Should Have

A few weeks back we took a survey about the Top Seven Power Tools that Every Woodworking Shop Should Have.  Not only did we get a lot of feedback from that survey, but also a lot of good recommendations of hand tools that a lot of the woodworkers could not get by without.  These recommendations went above and beyond your standard hammer and screwdriver set that almost every household has.  These tools are basic but important.

1. Chisel – There are many types of chisels that have different uses. They can be used for carving out wood to make designs, dovetail joints, as well as tongue and groove joints.  Some common ways you may have seen them in action are for notching out the door hinges, squaring off circular saw cuts, and to finish off the cuts of a dovetail joint.

2. Vice Grips/Clamps – Vice grips and clamps are different tools but have the same overall purpose, they hold your material together and in place. In many woodworking projects, you will need to join two pieces of wood.  These tools help you hold the material in place while you screw them together and keep pressure on them while the glue dries.  The different types are a tabletop vice grips, C-clamps, Bar Clamps, and a Hand Screw Clamp to name a few.

3. Squares – With any woodworking project, having a straight edge and squared corners is important for the foundation of your project. It just so happens there is a tool out there to assist in making those important first steps in the assembly of the project.  The square comes in many forms with many uses.  Some of the basic types of squares are a Speed Square, T-Square, and a Combination Square.  These tools are fairly basic to use but have a very important role in saving you many headaches as you move further along in your project.

4. Hand Saws – There are only so many cuts that power saw can do, so having a few different types of hands saws on hand can get you out of a bind. Hand Saws can get you into tight areas and make precision cuts where a standard power saw cannot.  Some types of hand saws are a Hacksaw, Coping Saw, and a Keyhole Saw.  Some hand saws have small blades that can clean up and help square off your projects.

5. Hand Plane – A hand plane is a good tool to have easy access to.  It is a great tool to have to make a quick adjustment to the thickness of the wood.  If you are joining two pieces of wood or making cabinet doors, the hand plane can help adjust the boards so that they are not rubbing and fit nicely.  A hand plane can also be used to help shape wood and add a nice curvature to the finish.

You may find that your shop may have different needs, but these tools come highly recommended.  Always remember to take the necessary steps to learn each tool’s capabilities and follow all recommended safety procedures.  Now go make your American Dream your reality.

5 Tips For Maintaining Electric Motors

In this article, we will go over five points on how to keep your electric motors running properly and help extend the life expectancy of your motors. We will go over lubrication, bearing inspection, checking your rotor and stator, motor mount, and how important keeping records are. Follow these and you should see sustained performance and reliability with your motors.


In this section, we will walk you through making sure the bearings on your electric motor are properly lubricated. Without proper lubrication, it will cause the bearings to wear out prematurely. Here are a few pointers on how to lubricate your electric motor’s bearings.

1. Don’t over lubricate your bearings. Over lubrication can cause the grease or oil to get into the windings. This will cause the insulation to deteriorate around the winding causing arcing and shorting inside the motor to the case. This will cause excessive heat and wear on the rotor and stator as well.

2. Always use the lubricant designated by the manufacturer. The use of other lubricants can do damage to the bearings, causing them to wear faster or unevenly.

3. Consult your manual or the manufacturer’s website to find out the proper interval for lubrication. Lubricating too often or not lubricating often enough could also cause premature wear in your bearings if under lubricated or degradation of the insulation around the winding if over lubricated.

Bearing Failures

Bearing failures are one of the most common and easiest problems to prevent. If your bearings fail, there are multiple things that could go wrong with your electric motor. This section will go over how to inspect the bearings on your motor and prevent unnecessary wear to the bearings.

1. Make sure your load attached to your motor is aligned properly. Misaligned loads can throw the rotation off-balance, straining one or both bearings.

2. Keep the motor clean of contaminants and moisture. You may have to blow out the motor every so often to keep it free of moisture and small particles that could work their way into the bearings.

3. Take temperature readings occasionally to monitor how warm or hot the bearings get. Compare those readings to the safe temperature range provided by the manufacturer. If the bearings are getting too hot, stop using the motor, let it cool down, and promptly inspect the bearings for damage or contaminants.

4. If you hear any abnormal sounds coming from your motor, you can use a stethoscope to better identify what part of the motor the sound is coming from. It is also preventative maintenance to just periodically use the stethoscope to listen for any abnormal sounds coming from the motor so you can address the issue before it does any further damage to the other components of the motor.

5. Check oil rings (if applicable) and keep an eye out for excessive shaft play. Excessive play in the shaft is a good indicator that you have a bearing that is defective or will be soon.

Rotor and Stator

The rotor and stator are the heart of your electric motor. Without these components working properly, your motor will function very poorly or not at all. These are a few pointers to help you make sure all is well with the rotor and stator.

1. Use a feeler gauge to check the gap between the stator and rotor for equal clearance all the way around.

2. Record the gap sizes at the top, bottom, and both sides at each end.

3. Compare to any previous readings you may have or to manufacturer’s gap specifications.

4. Any differences are a good indication that there is excess wear in your bearings and it may be time to replace those bearings.

Motor Mount

It is wise to inspect your motor mount on occasion to make sure it is still in good condition. A faulty motor mount can do damage internally to your motor and may even have an adverse effect on your load as well.

1. Check the mounting bolts for proper tightness. If they are loose, tighten them up until there isn’t any play in the mounts.

2. Make sure there isn’t any play between the mounts, whether it is between the plate and rubber isolation feet or between the plate and hard mount.

3. Inspect the motor plate for any warping or cracks that could cause unnecessary flexing under load or at startup.

4. If it is mounted to concrete, check the concrete for cracking or chipping/erosion around the anchor bolts.

5. Repair anything on an as found basis to extend the life of the motor.

Record Everything

It is essential that records be kept for your machines. It makes maintaining your machines that much easier and minimizes downtime.

1. Document everything! That way you know exactly what is going on with your motors.

2. If there are any symptoms that repeat, it will be easier to solve the problem the next time it occurs.

3. Keeping records will also help figure out the common problems so you can have backup parts if needed.

4. You might even notice a pattern so you can preemptively address a problem pattern.
Use this as a guide when it comes to maintaining your electric motors. By following the items in each of the 5 sections above, you should be able to optimize the performance and prolong the life of your motors.