Some Antiques Just Keep On Keeping On

| October/November 2000

3931 S. E. 80th Street Ocala, Florida 34480

Why, that sounds like an old John Deere. I thought it would sound like a real engine. This was my brother Harold's fun-poking remark the first time he heard me crank up my latest project.

Over the last forty years I have built about 15 different portable shops on trailers. These units consisted of, first of all, a good-sized steel work table fabricated of 3/8' steel plate with a good vise on the corner. Mounted on top of, or under, the table would be a welding generator, an air compressor, a 120 volt AC generator, and an engine or two to power all of this. Somewhere on the trailer would be a place to mount oxygen and acetylene tanks. Underneath the outer edges of the work table would be cabinets and drawers to hold hand and power tools.

A man could go to the field with one of these units and tackle almost any kind of equipment repair or fabrication. There is a reason for building the shops on a trailer. In the early days of my business as a job shop operator, I had built an elaborate portable shop on a truck chassis. This seemed like a good idea at first, but experience brought out a couple of things I didn't like.

If you were out on a job and found you needed some material from town, before you could use the truck to go to town, you had to put everything away. Roll up the welding cables, the oxyacetylene hoses, the air hose extension cords, store the grinder, the impact wrench, the drill and the trouble light. Don't forget your welding helmet and your gloves. Now close and lock all the cabinets and drawers.

Make the run to town, then come back and string everything out again. But that's not all. Sometimes I would have a helper along. If I was going to take all the tools away there wasn't much he could do until I got back, so I usually wound up paying him to ride to town and back with me. All of this led me to build on trailers. This allowed me to just drop the tongue and go.