CALGARY — Across this country, gearhead hobbyists work with their hands, fabricating, painting and rebuilding. Most of these enthusiasts require a workspace, be it a shed, a garage or an airplane hangar. Now, in what will be a semi-regular series, I’ll be checking in with builders by going from my regular column On the Road to In the Garage, if you will.
First up is Jason Brunner of north Calgary. He has a detached 576-square-foot two-car garage on his property that was built with help from several family members, including his dad, brother and brothers-in-law. For Brunner, the garage is an important place. Some of his earliest memories are of visiting his late grandfather, Gordon Berg, and spending time in his garage. Brunner started off just pushing a broom but was soon lending a hand turning wrenches or shaping wood.
In his own garage, Brunner has packed the space with tools and several projects from six motorcycles (three completed) to one Volkswagen Type III Notchback.
Here’s our conversation with Brunner about his workspace, tools and projects.
Q: What tools are in your collection and where did they come from?
A: I have the old red Snap-on toolbox that belonged to my grandfather, and it sill has his name on it. He was a mechanic and did all sorts of different things; the family even had Berg Motors in Oyen years ago. I have a 1940’s era South Bend metal lathe that I bought locally. The drive belt on it, and this is the way I bought it, is actually an old leather belt that someone once used to hold up their pants. I’ve got MIG and TIG welding equipment, a 1960’s era band saw that was my grandfathers, a 60-gallon air compressor, sandblasting cabinet and quite a few sheet metal fabrication tools. Many of the smaller hand tools were my grandfathers, too.
Q: Which tool or tools do you use most often?
A: My favourite tool is a small ball pein hammer that was my grandfathers. It’s not a hammer made for pounding something into submission, but for more delicate chores like tapping a bolt through a hole. When I’m cleaning up the garage it’s the one tool I’m always putting away. Where I’m at on a project, though, dictates which tools I’ll be using. If I’m making something for a motorcycle, it’ll be the welders or the lathe. If I’m assembling something, it’ll be the smaller hand tools.
Q: How did you learn to use the tools? Did you go to school, did someone teach you, or do you watch YouTube videos?
A: I’m mostly self-taught. When I bought my first motorcycle, I was talking to a friend about needing a welder. He arrived with a box that I thought was filled with bricks, but he gave me a MIG welding machine and I taught myself how to use that by working on scraps of steel. I’ve always been hands-on that way. Same thing with the metal lathe, I taught myself how to use it, but a good friend who is a bit more technical has shown me some finesse when turning out pieces on that machine.
Q: What’s the most important project in the garage right now?
A: Ha. The most important project is whatever I’m currently working on. If it was riding season and I needed to get one of my Triumphs on the road that would be priority. But, the biggest and most important project is my 1969 VW Notchback. I’ve had the car for 15 years, and it’s the one my wife, Shelley, and I drove away from the church after our wedding. It’s always needed a complete restoration, and I had somebody working on the body but it got sidelined. It needed a significant amount of rust repair, and if it weren’t for the sentimental value of the car I’d have let it go long ago. But now, the body is off and I’m working on restoring the pan. Before that, I taught myself how to make patch panels and was welding those into the body. Basically, the car sat for so long until I felt I had the skills that I could do it justice.
Q: Is there anyone else in the house interested in working in the garage?
A: I have two young boys, and they’ll come out to work on a project if it’s something that interests them. For example, my oldest and I machined up aluminum parts to make a Nerf gun, and together we’ve also made a patch panel for my dad’s truck. They’ve both laid claim to the motorcycles – I tried to sell one once and they wouldn’t let me.
If you have a workspace filled with tools, projects or memories and are willing to share, let me know; I’d be pleased to write it up.
Greg Williams is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Have a column tip? Contact him at 403-287-1067 or [email protected]