Motorcycle Workbench Workout: Facing the Trash, Finding Some Treasure

Honda CB500K2 resto project.
It was all worth it—I now have enough open bench top space to begin work on my 1973 Honda CB500K2 resto project.

Top 14 Trash and Treasure Items Found on Workbench

Admit it - we have a workbench problem. If you have a workbench it is likely there is only a small percentage of the work surface actually available for any kind of work. If this is not the case in your shed, then you may not be trying hard enough.

The remainder is buried under defunct parts of this and that, greasy, forlorn motorcycle shop manuals, random tools buried under other tools, non-descript junk and shop rags, now-useless packaging of parts and other stuff, motorcycle magazines opened to how-to articles for motorcycles you don’t even have, empty and near-empty cans of chain lube, graphite lubes, pop cans, water bottles, roached-out spark plugs, power tools, some of which still work, scattered drill bits and drivers, and on-and-on.

 One look at the workbench and it is clear that chaos reigned.
One look at the workbench and it is clear that chaos reigned.

I finally resolved to man-up and face the mess on my workbench. I would force myself to move methodically down the length of the workbench, excavate the mounds of misbegotten what-not, discard that which is really beyond use and find a way to organize that which is left.

As I plumbed the depths of my workbench’s accumulation of, um, stuff, it became apparent there were some things there that I really should have paid more attention to and put to use.

Some of the stuff I unearthed is down-right cool. Some of it will definitely come in handy in the future and some would have come in handy at various times in the past—if only I was even aware I had it. Here are the top 14 trash to treasure items I found as my reward for finally getting the workbench clean-up done (clockwise from lower left):

1. A really slick folding Gator-grip multi-size socket and ratchet, including a ballistic nylon carrying case. If you haven’t used one of these, they are a very handy socket that uses spring-loaded rods to auto-adjust to fit a range of hex nut sizes. I can’t recall where or when I even got this thing, but I give myself credit for doing so, even though I apparently forgot its virtues and hadn’t used it in a while. For now, I’m going to keep this in my newly reorganized tool box, but if I decide to go on a really long road trip someplace, I may move it into a saddlebag.

2. A pair of pocket-sized folding multi-drivers. One of them I got from BikeMaster, though I have no idea how long ago. If you are a fan of clever little folding tools that may or may not fit the fasteners on your bike, car or anything at all, these represent a quantum leap in tiny-tool tech if not in actual utility. However, if you have one of these and it actually fits one or more fasteners you may at some point need to be able to loosen or tighten, they are golden and take up little space in the tool kit, saddle bag or tank bag.

3. One of those multi-driver screwdrivers with not only the little rubber ring that holds extra screwdriver bits, but a hollow handle that holds more driver bits, including small hex-nut sockets! I don’t recall where I got this thing, but I’m pretty sure I had carried it in the saddlebag of my 1975 Honda CB500T for several years but took it out when I sold the bike. After that it kinda got shoved to the back edge of the workbench.

4. A strange spherical LED light. I think I got this as a gift somewhere along the way and it is a novel item. The tag attached to it says Risk Racing. The thing has tiny magnets all around it and that allows the user to stick it on any ferrous metal surface at an angle to direct the light where it is needed. This is now magnetically attached to the front of my bench-top tool box ready for use. I use flashlights a lot when I’m tinkering with old bikes, so this little gizmo will come in handy.

5. A safety strobe - another combination of a magnet to allow instant placement on any ferrous metal surface with a bright LED light, this time centered in a red taillight-like lens. It also has a slip-clip on the back to allow the user to clip it to clothing, tail bag flap or something similar for instant improved visibility or as a warning light at an emergency stop or breakdown and for added visibility in a low-light situation. Turn it on and the brilliant red strobe flashes rhythmically. Not sure where I got it, but now I keep it in my compact emergency bag that goes on every trip I take.

6. An old pill bottle stocked with a variety of blade-style mini-fuses and a spare battery fill plug. I’m not sure which bike I had in mind when I put this little item together, but it’ll come to me…

 These handy items are my reward for finally cleaning up my workbench.
These handy items are my reward for finally cleaning up my workbench.

7. A nifty wrist band mounted magnetic part/tool holder. The surface is shiny enough to double as a mirror to look into those otherwise inaccessible parts of the bike. This had apparently fallen behind my benchtop toolbox and languished there unused I don’t know how long. I’ve now used it a couple times and find it so much more convenient to be able to stick tiny nuts, bolts and other bits on it than drop them, feel hit them my shoe, guess which direction they shot off in when they glanced off and search for them for an hour in complete futility realizing no hardware store will stock the item—nor will any motorcycle dealer.

8. As I sweated and swatted mosquitoes during my bench-clearing brawl with junk, I stumbled across exactly what I needed at that moment: a tiny pump sprayer of 100 deet bug dope. After I gave myself a coating of the toxic-smelling stuff, I resolved to carry that along in my saddle bag. BTW—don’t get that stuff on your face shield, riding glasses or anything else made of plastic. I don’t know what the dope is made of but it melts some kinds of plastic in contact; but not the little plastic tube it comes in!

9. Golf tee. I don’t know why I have this thing because I don’t even golf. Nope, pasture pool is not my thing, but as I putz with old bikes and their fuel systems, I have found golf tees come in handy for quick fuel line and vacuum line plugs.

10. A nifty tiny Columbia brand jackknife with not only a razor-sharp blade but the best tiny pair of scissors I’ve ever seen; I think their secret of effectiveness is in the serrated edges. Usually these little scissors are worse than useless but not these.

11. A pair of hook-and-loop cable binders. I’m not even sure where I got these, or what I’ll use them for other than bundling the mass of wires under my computer desk—maybe I’ll use them somewhere out in the shed on a bike for something like holding a sagging part of a wiring harness up out of harm’s way. We’ll see. One thing is, they are quick and remarkably strong.

12. Tiny bungee cords I picked up a long time ago at a liquidator shop. These were languishing under a pile of old shop rags and they are now in my saddle bags for the purpose of helping to secure those odd-size items I sometimes get at junk shops along the road that are just a little too big to fit in the saddle bags. Or something like that.

13. A pair of pet collars. These come in handy for securing throw-over saddle bags and I have used them for that many times over the years, but the also can be used for other odd attachment applications. They are tough nylon with—in the case of these—reflective strips on them—and nylon quick-connect buckles. With their adjustable length, these little items can solve a number of load security problems on the cheap, not to mention making it possible to control the movements of your pet whatever.

14. Last but definitely no least, I uncovered a slick, saddle bag-size pair of folding binoculars, complete with carrying case. They are marked Clear Point 8 x 21 and are not the chintzy plastic-bodied, plastic-lens items often sold in this size of optics. These are the real deal. I don’t even recall where I got them or what I paid for them, but I have used them on day trips along the Lower Wisconsin Riverway and the Mississippi River for eagle and crane watching and getting a better look at other wildlife along the way.

Honda CB500K2 resto project.
It was all worth it—I now have enough open bench top space to begin work on my 1973 Honda CB500K2 resto project.

There may be more—I haven’t cleaned out all my cabinet space on the workbench nor have I taken on the really hairy mess I have stacked under the workbench. Maybe this fall. Right now, riding weather is here and I’ve begun the restoration of a 1973 Honda CB500K2, which is part of the reason I needed to clear some workspace in the first place!