Made in Baltimore.
My first “studio” was our two-car garage. Living in the city, a two-car garage is very literal; it fits two cars and not much else, but after employing some very clever shelving and Tetris-like strategies, I was able to cram in both of our cars, as well as my ever-growing list of tools. But working in there meant removing one or both cars, deploying my tools, setting up work areas, and putting it all back at the end of the day to park the cars again. That workspace served me well for almost seven years. Every time a neighbor would walk by, they would ask, “What do you do with all these tools?” I was always proud to walk them around our house, show off the latest projects and things on our next to-do list. Although, it was a very convenient (and cheap) space, I was finding I was limited in the size and scope of my projects.
My first “studio” was our two-car garage.
As I became more proficient, one-day projects turned into weekend projects and eventually morphed into month long (or more) adventures. This wasn’t an issue during the summer, but would become frustrating during snowstorms when we really needed to park inside or when I would have to periodically stop and clean all the wood/metal dust off everything else we stored in the garage.
Once I became more established, I took time to work on my passion, and expanded by obtaining a flex warehouse space where I could set up a larger area to create some bigger pieces and begin building up an inventory. Monkey in the Metal now had a permanent home.
MY TOOL MANTRA
I am an advocate for buying vintage American made tools. In my opinion they are the best when it comes to the large pieces of industrial equipment that get the job done well. Some of the items I buy will be heirloom items that I can pass down to my grandkids when the time comes. There’s just something about a vise made in 1942 that can’t be duplicated in today’s world at a price that is obtainable. I spend time every day (and I really mean everyday-even vacations) scouring the Internet for vintage American made tools. If you want to build something great, I’ve found out the hard way, you need to invest in tools that let you create to the best of your ability.
MY TOOL INDEX
Metal Working Tools
Buying a Welder
Tube Benders / Press Brakes
I decided I was going to get an American made saw even if I had to buy it new. But the prices were shocking- for a hobbyist. You had to willing to part with $3,000+ before you really entered the realm of ‘just ok’ saws. I couldn’t justify the cost, but time was important to me and I needed something to step up production and get better accuracy. After months of scouring the Internet, I found someone selling an US made Ellis 1800 bandsaw. This thing was massive- almost 700 lbs- and way more saw than I needed, but he only wanted $500 and these go for $3500 new. So, I rented a truck with a lift gate and drove 90 miles to go pick it up. I show up and this thing looks bad, I mean, it looks like it was used in demolition derby bad. I had done my research ahead of time and knew that all parts were still available for it and it could be rebuilt from the ground up for less than the price of new. So, I haggled him down to $400 and got it on the truck. I tried my best not to think of where I was going to store this thing when I got back to my garage at home.
The second one is a magnetic drill press that I got from an auction of the contents of the Bethlehem Steel Mill. It's great for taking the drill to projects that are too big for my stationary drill press. This Black and Decker mag drill is built like a tank, weighs close to one, and makes me happy to own a piece of Baltimore history every time I switch it on.
One day I would love to own a Bridgeport Mill that can perform as a drill press and milling functions, but that is probably a little down the road.