Making upgrades to your rig will range in difficulty, from a simple bumper addition, to a labor-intensive 4 link suspension install. But no matter what sort of project you decide to tackle, the tools you have on hand can make all of the difference for time, safety, and success. Here is a list of fabrication tools and supplies we think are essential for your off-road shop:
Start with Safety Gear from Head to Toe
Before we get into the rugged stuff, let’s talk about safety items. Even the most simple rig adjustments can result in injury, so always ensure your hands, eyes, ears, and feet are protected – gloves, goggles (or protective glasses), ear plugs, and steel-toe shoes are an excellent place to start. If you plan on welding or using a torch in your shop, add a welding hood, protective jacket, and fire extinguisher to that list. We know there are some fabricators out there who have regretted not wearing the proper safety devices, so don’t forget to have all of these items ready to go before you start working.
Give Yourself a Sturdy Workspace
Once you choose your shop location, you will need to assemble or purchase some type of work bench. For projects that include the use of heavy items and a lot of vibration, friction, and force (which will likely be most projects), we recommend a bench or table made out of heavy-duty steel. During setup, make sure the height is suitable for you – too low or high may prevent you from working properly and could also result in injury.
Basic Hand Tools, Metalworking Tools, and MoreBasic Hand Tools
Although they may be “basic,” common hand tools are crucial to have around (sometimes a two-dollar screwdriver can be a lifesaver), so get yourself a set of good-quality hand tools that includes all of the basics (hammer, wrenches, etc.), as well as:
- A drill (with top-quality bits)
- A flashlight (to help you see in tight spaces)
- Plenty of clamps and grips
- and a vise.
For times when you need to access and work underneath your rig, you will want good quality floor jack and jack stands. Depending on your project, you may also benefit from an engine stand.Beginner to Intermediate Fabrication Equipment
Various fabricators will tell you that “essential” tools are up to the individual, and in some ways, this is true. On the other hand, certain tools – even for beginners – will make fabrication much easier and smoother. These include:
- Air compressor
- Angle finder
- Angle grinder (preferably 4.5”) for edges and cutting
- Drill press (preferably ⅜” or ½”) for adding new holes or enlarging pre-drilled holes
For those who want to move beyond average equipment, you can add the following:
- Welder (Note: Aim for at least 220V. Also, soap stones are an excellent accessory for welding)
- Belt sander
- Plasma cutter, torch, stationary saw, or bandsaw for cutting DOM tubing, bolts, etc.
- Tube bender and tube notcher