Cool Tools


     In my job as a Cartographer, I use all sorts of tools to make useful maps. When my co-workers gather from around the state the atmosphere is a lot like that of a VW car show. We all gather around to show off our latest projects and talk about the methods we used to produce the display. We have a session during our meetings titled “Cool Tools” where we share tips and techniques that help make our busy lives easier.

     With that title in mind, I wanted to write an article to share some of the cool tools I have made or collected that help make restoring my Oval window VW easier (or at least more fun which is the whole point)

     It would be great if this topic inspired other members to write in with their cool tool ideas and we can all benefit from the exchange…..So jot some ideas down and send them in!

     Ok, here goes. I am currently working on a 1957 Type1 deluxe oval window sedan. Its original color is Polar Silver with a brick red interior. Its 36hp motor needed a full rebuild, so with some help from ‘the VW Idiot book’ Muir and I pulled the motor.

     The first set of cool tools I put together before doing anything was the safety gear. These are the most important cool tools because we are dealing with very heavy objects, flammable liquids and power tools all of which can maim or kill you! 

I made up a good first aid kit with lots of tape and band-aids, a large fire extinguisher rated for grease/fuel fires, hearing protection, filtering face mask, rubber/leather gloves, face shield/goggles and water to rinse eyes/cuts in emergency situations. Supporting the car properly is vital! Don’t try to just use a rolling jack. These can collapse without warning and people have been killed doing this. Heavy duty stands are a must!

A telephone within reach is a good idea too. I also feel a really cool tool is a well lit, well ventilated work area and bench. The job goes so much easier if you can see what you are doing! Taking safety seriously makes it a fun hobby for a long time.

     After getting this greasy monster out it occurred to me that I needed a way to move this blob around the garage, because like most people, no matter where I put it, its always in the way. So the next cool tool I built was the handy rolling engine stand. There have been stands like this published in past issues of the newsletter and in other magazines made from wood and angle iron. This can be a good choice if you don’t have a welder and need something you can bolt together. I have a small MIG welder (definitely a cool tool in itself) and so my approach was to use inch and a half angle steel and make a U shaped frame the size of my 36hp case. I made a short bar across the U opening that bolts on to give it more rigidity and it can be removed to get a jack under the case for lifting which is handy. Another neat tool I came across came from the owner of a local VW repair business. It is a remote starter mount. It is basically a piece of transmission bell- housing which has the mount for the starter. This one however has been modified by an ingenious person to be a fully self contained remote test stand. It has an oil pressure gauge/low pressure light, starter button, voltage regulator and a bicycle shifter for the throttle connection. With the engine on the rolling stand and the remote starter you can move it anywhere and test run it too!

     To clean all the gunk off the parts I have a borrowed parts washing basin with a motorized pump to spray the fluid onto the part. A cheaper way to go would be to buy the pump from a mail order tool place like Harbor Freight Tools and an old deep sink from a


Second- hand store. I also picked up a fine mesh stainless strainer and Tupperware containers for cleaning parts and sorting them.

     Also to clean off the parts I wanted a sand blaster. The problem was that I couldn’t find one big enough to put really large parts in like the gas tank. So, I built my own. I used scrap plywood to build the box and lid and bought rolled galvanized metal to line it. I also used a 4”x10” metal duct to collect the sand and funnel it into a bucket below the box. I sloped the inside bottom about 45 degrees and used one quarter inch stretch metal as the platform to rest the parts on. It’s stiff enough to hold the parts but allows the sand to fall through it. I put a fluorescent light in it, rubber door seals around the lid and a replaceable window to see through plus I use my Shop Vac to suck dust out making visibility better. I bought a set of long blast cabinet gloves to go through the front to finish it. The total cost was around $200.  I bought a blasting gun from Eastwood’s Automotive Products which is a suction feed gun (pulls media out of a bucket by a suction tube) With this set up I have been able to clean all the engine tin for powder coating with a small powder coating gun and spare oven. (See even old ovens can be cool tools)

     Some other cool tools I have come across that have become a mainstay in my tool box include:

     Dental tools …. great for picking at seals, gaskets and small parts.

     Forceps … neat tool for pinching off fuel lines or clamping wires together.

     Golf tees … wood ones work the best for plugging lines.

     Zip ties, … these hold just about anything and make wiring nice and neat.

     Wire … soft steel and stainless almost as useful as duct tape.

      17mm bolt … don’t have a 17mm Allen key? Use a bolt with a nut welded on or vice grips.

     A chunk of rail-road iron makes a great anvil too.

     J-B Weld … a type of metal epoxy that works wonders, can be drilled or filed.


That’s all the cool tool ideas I have at the moment. Have a look around your own shop and send in your own suggestions. I know you have all had to solve a tricky restoration problem at one time or another, let us know how you did it!


Curt White, Forks Washington

P.S. did I mention that I have a spare refrigerator in the shop for home brew?, that’s a Cool Tool!!!