Many DIY lovers and engineers want to build something cool in their garages. What’s cooler than a kit airplane? In this setup, the builder receives parts and puts them together in their own space. There are a wide variety of different types of airplane kits. Some require riveting and other metalworking skills. Others require a pop-rivet gun and more minimal metalworking. Classic kit planes use wood and canvas. Some common vendors include Van’s Aircraft, Kitfox, and Bearhawk Aircraft.
No matter what type of airplane you choose to build, you’ll need a good setup. In this article, we’ll show you how to set up your garage so that it becomes an efficient airplane workshop.
Prepare your Work Space
Unfortunately, most garages are not designed to function as an airplane workshop. There is typically space set aside for storage, and you may even have to accommodate a car. As your plane reaches completion, it may not even fit in your garage anymore (you would probably need a double-length garage door to get it out unless it has folding or detachable wings.)
However, when you’re just getting started, you can usually work in a one-car garage without issue – as long it’s set up properly.
Most garages are not the cleanest places, which makes them unpleasant to work in. Having a clean space will not only make you want to hang out there, but it will also make it easier to find a rivet that you’ve dropped on the ground.
Clean floors and walls are a great place to start.
If you want to have an even cleaner feeling, try painting the walls and floor white. Be careful about what type of paint you use. Most garages don’t have much drywall (which is what is normally painted). You’ll need to find a paint specifically for concrete. It will last longer if you seal it. (If there’s still a car in the garage, the paint will need to stand up to some wear and tear!).
While you can work in a one-car garage, airplane parts require a lot of space.
Just storing the parts from each kit can take up most of your space. The parts are also often odd shapes, like narrow little spars that are nine feet long. These parts need to be kept up off of the floor if your garage is prone to occasional flooding.
You’ll also need to make room for the tools required for assembly. A metal airplane will require a drill, bandsaw, pneumatic tools, and more. These items take up a lot of space in your airplane workshop. Just the air compressor alone can take up a whole corner!
Note your Outlets
You’ll need power to run the tools. If you only have one (or no) outlet in the garage, you may want to invest in having a few installed. It will cost money to have an electrician install them, but it will be much simpler and safer than having a nest of extension cords everywhere.
Most garages don’t have enough lights to work on the details required for airplane building. A cost-effective solution is to add LED shop lights* over the spaces where you’ll be working regularly. This is easy to manage if you already have enough power outlets in your airplane workshop.
Maximize Storage and Workspace in Your Airplane Workshop
Building an airplane kit requires a bit of room because you need to have space for all of the following:
- The parts received in the kit
- The parts you are actively working on
- The assembly drawings
- The tools you’ll be using
You can store the parts received in the kit by having a lot of shelving around the perimeter of your work area. Note that wider shelves are typically better in an airplane workshop because some parts are wider than narrow shelving units.
For the rest of the items, you’ll need some workbenches.
Workbenches can be expensive if purchased at a typical box store. However, it’s not too difficult to make your own out of plywood and 2 x 4s. You can even use the box that the parts came in as a tabletop.
Add as many workbenches as can fit in your space. It’s easier to work if you can leave out the parts you are actively working on and the appropriate assembly drawings for them. Some tools are also difficult to move because they are heavy, so they’ll need a permanent home on a workbench.
Garages can be a difficult place to work in the heat of the summer or the chill of the winter. Make sure that you have the means to keep yourself warm or cool as needed. Otherwise, you won’t want to spend your time in your airplane workshop.
Make sure you have a place to sit down. While you’ll be up and moving around a lot, having a place to sit can extend your work time. It’s nice to relax while you review the assembly drawings for the twentieth time. Rolling stools can be a good option because you can move them around your airplane workshop as needed.
If you want to build a kit plane in a one-car garage, it’s definitely possible, but you have to make good use of the space. Your airplane workshop needs to maximize usable working space while also being a pleasant space to spend your time.
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