Post your hints & tips......

Discussion in '<a href=' started by 75, May 8, 2001.

  1. 75

    75 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 992

    Thought I would start this thread to provide a place for everyone to post helpful hints/tips/tricks they've come up with:

    One I used today was, cardboard is cheaper than steel! Seriously, I'm talking about making patterns out of corrugated cardboard to see how things are going to fit together.

    I was building a receiving hopper for a conveyor, and the bottom of the rear plate needed to match the contour of the conveyor belt. The easiest & fastest way was to trace the belt contour onto a piece of corrugated cardboard. I then trimmed it to size & shape & test-fitted. A couple of minor corrections were needed, once it fit properly I laid it on the 1/4" wear plate I was cutting parts from and traced around it. Cut, grind, and perfect fit first time. (Well, first time with the steel piece anyway!)

    This is also helpful when working with projects such as my truck deck, where a number of plates meet at different angles - rear corners of the deck angled back tow-truck style.

    Here's another one: If you have a number of identical steel pieces which need holes drilled (conveyor example again: small flat bars about 5" long with a 9/16" hole at one end which clamp flashing rubber on the hopper, typically at least half a dozen per hopper) stack them up, make sure they are aligned properly and tack weld them all together. Drill through the stack, then grind off the tacks, separate the parts and do a final touch-up with the grinder. Saves layout & setup time - only 1 piece needs to be marked & centre-punched, and only 1 setup in the drill press.

    Looking forward to learning some new "tricks" from all of you!
  2. Deere John

    Deere John LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    Cut cable with your welder. Without a cable cutter, hammer and edge or oxygen in your torch, you can burn a rod on a cable and do a pretty reasonable job. Turn the heat up and work from top to bottom to chase the slag out. Cover up good - it gets pretty dramatic!
  3. 75

    75 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 992

    Good idea John - along those lines, whenever we're installing bridging angle in open-web steel joist construction, we use the "stinger" to do the cutting. It's a lot easier than dragging a torch or grinder with chop wheel around up there. Bridging angle is typically 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 x 1/8, and even with regular welding heat a pretty presentable cut can be achieved.

    Here's another quick hint: Round off those corners!

    An example: a fab bench made from a piece of plate. Take the torch and round off each corner (I often use a 5" grinding disk as a template to draw the line) and give it a cleanup with the grinder. Now the corner of the table can't tear your pant leg (or YOUR leg!) if you bump into it. Looks more "finished" too.

    This approach can be used on just about project, I did the same thing on the support legs for some hoppers I built this week. Anytime you see a corner you might get snagged on, round it off.
  4. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 849

    Rob, I too have used cardboard to make templates. What I have found to be better, is aluminum roof flashing. Nice and thin, you can cut it with scissors. A 25' roll of it is cheap.

    For transferring patterns, I found a tool that you use when laying floor tiles. It's a "contour gauge" (I think) it's basically thin steel rods, sandwiched between two pieces of steel. You press it against the contour you want to trace, then just trace it onto your piece of stock.

    Another tool that is great, is a spot weld cutter. You center it on the spot weld, and it's basically a mini hole saw, that cuts the steel around the spot weld. Then you just grind off what's left of the spot weld. Makes changing body panels MUCH easier. The cutters are reversable too. I have a pic of one here.

    Pictured, is also a step drill. It goes from 1/2" to 1", made for sheetmetal. It cuts a nice clean hole.

  5. 75

    75 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 992

    Thanks for the info Chuck - especially the contour gauge. I'm wondering what size range they are available in - typically, the conveyor belts I end up building hoppers for are around 30" - 36" wide.

    And on the subject of tools, here are a couple of torch cutting tools you can make yourself: I have a small straightedge cutting guide made from 4" x 3/8" flat bar, about 10" long with a piece of angle (1" x 1" x 1/8" x 4" long) attached at one end. Basically it's a homemade square you can run the torch along - rather than lay out the entire cut on a piece of material, simply mark the location of the cut (allowing for the thickness of the torch tip) and set the cutting guide in place, clamping it down if necessary.

    The other tool is a similar one, made from a thin slice of pipe and used to cut circles or round off corners. Cut a slice about 3/8" - 1/2" thick from heavy wall pipe, de-burr it and weld a small tab of 1/4" flat bar (about 4" long) to it - the tab is for clamping the guide down. Make up a few from different diameter pipe - 3", 4" and 6" diameter are a good selection.

    Kind of hard to describe with words only - looks like I'd better take & then post some pics!
  6. 75

    75 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 992

    I mentioned using a flat bar straightedge for long torch cuts in another post, one thing you'll notice when cutting a long strip off of a plate is the strip curling away from the cut as a result of the heat.

    This is fine if the strip is the scrap piece. Sometimes though, the narrow strip is what you want to save. And you'd prefer it to be straight! An example is the 4" wide strip of wear plate, 8 feet long, that I replaced in a crusher feeder recently.

    I set up the cut in the usual fashion with the flat bar straightedge, but instead of making a continuous cut I went for about 6", left a 1" long uncut section, then continued on cutting about 18" and leaving 1" sections the length of the piece. I then let it cool down (since it was near quittin' time I left it until morning!) before cutting the 1" sections.

    Granted, this situation doesn't come up all that often but it when it does, leaving small sections uncut and letting the piece cool is a handy way of controlling distortion.

    Another application of this trick is bending plate. Another gravel pit example: cover plate for a crusher chute which was 6' by 4', and needed to have the first 20" on the 4' dimension bent to about a 15 degree angle. One way would have been to cut a 20" strip off, then re-attach it.

    The easier way was to make a cut as described earlier, leaving short uncut sections. In this case, about 2" long every 18" or so. Then heat the short sections, bend to the required angle and weld the seam back up. This keeps the plate in 1 piece throughout the operation, making it easier to keep things lined up.
  7. 75

    75 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 992

    An automotive wiring handbook I have says that when electrical stuff starts acting "weird", look for bad grounds.

    The same can be said for welding, since the current has to go from the machine, through the electrode/gun/etc, through the workpiece, and back through the ground clamp and to the machine. (A bit over-simplified, but you get the idea)

    If the ground clamp doesn't make a good connection, you may not be able to strike an arc at all. Or, you may hear the ground clamp buzzing and sparking as you're welding. This will cause the welding heat to fluctuate up & down (the arcing at the ground clamp is amperage (heat) you should have at the weld itself)

    Since I often work on "outdoor" projects, there is often rust/dirt/scale/limestone dust/etc on the workpiece. I've gotten in the habit of always grinding a spot clean for the ground clamp. Nothing more frustrating than getting set up to do a weld and having no ground/poor ground.

    Another thing to keep in mind: When working on equipment with bearings or bushings, make sure you ground to the piece you are welding to. For example, when working on a loader bucket I ground right to the bucket. If I also have to weld on the loader's frame or lift arms, I move the clamp to the frame or lift arm. If I didn't, the current passing through them could damage the bushings attaching the bucket to the lift arms. Customers don't like that! :angry: Bearings on mowers would be another example, and yet another one is the electronic measuring & calibration equipment on the gravel pit's platform scale for trucks.

    If it's difficult to put the ground clamp on a piece due to size/shape, I snap the ground clamp onto a small piece of flat bar and tack that to the workpiece. Once I'm finished, it's a simple matter to break the flat bar off & grind the tack smooth.
  8. Larrytow

    Larrytow LawnSite Member
    Messages: 44

    To Everyone: Rob is so right with all the tips he is giving; please pay attention to what he says! It _IS_ the details that sepperate the professionals from the ametuers. He has posted good ideas that I use regularly, and they work. I want to remind everybody to disconnect the batteries on any vehicle before welding on it. Sometimes you can get away with not doing it, but you never can tell for sure.And if you guess wrong it can cost big $$$$$!

    BTW, just a coupple of weeks ago I fixed the frame on a 85 Toy PU. Rusted out right infront of the Rt side Rr spring hanger. Box frame, crap in it from 4wheeling,never dries out and just sits in there and rots the frame. Made a good fix, but lots of putsing and cutting and fitting of pieces. Had to drop the fuel tank to do it also. If anyone owns one , check it out.

    Sorry I dont post more; will try to do better.

    Regards, Larry
  9. 75

    75 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 992

    Thank you for the kind words Larry - and you're 100% right about disconnecting the battery(s). Especially with all the electronics & computers on modern vehicles.

    Rust repair has to rank as my least-favourite part of the job. I know exactly what you mean about the box frame holding the crap in & causing rusting - and no matter what they say, those never turn out to be "little jobs". "Rust" is truly a 4-letter word, and even it's Spanish counterpart "oxido" bothers me!

    Not much you can do about the design of a vehicle frame, but if you are using tube (fancy "technical" term: Hollow Structural Section, or HSS) for a project that will see outdoor service here's a few things you can do to help control the rusting-out process.

    Use a fairly heavy wall thickness (.188 or even .250) rather than the lighter stuff. The problem with doing this is that you lose the advantage of lighter weight for equal strength that is a characteristic of HSS.

    Cap the ends & seal up all the connections so crud doesn't get in. One of the aggregate companies I have worked for in the past likes using HSS for a lot of their projects & they insist on everything being capped & sealed. Seems to work well for them. It also gives the finished project a good clean appearance

    Provide for drainage. The headache rack on my '75 is made from 2 x 3 x .125 HSS and the two uprights are open on the bottom. Water runs right out & doesn't get trapped.

    The last option is don't use tube in the first place. The welding truck I drive at work right now has a deck that came with the truck when we bought it. It has 2 x 2 x .125 (or maybe even .100) crossers and the rust is really getting at them. When I build a new deck for it, I'll use angle for the crossers and tube only for the front & back rack, leaving them open at the bottom of course.

    Now, if stainless weren't so darned expensive...............
  10. 75

    75 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 992

    Sometimes it's necessary to splice 2 (or more) pieces of material together. Especially in repair welding, when cutting out a damaged area & replacing it.

    Keeping the splice straight can sometimes be tricky, and a big "dog-leg" in the finished product doesn't look too great.

    Here's a couple things I do when making splices:

    A piece of angle (straight, of course!) at least 12" long is a handy tool for joining things like pipe & square/rectangular tube. The size of the angle will depend on the size of the pieces you are joining, you want to be able to clamp the angle securely to the parts. By clamping both pieces tight to the angle, the connection will be kept straight. To add strength to the splice, you can also sleeve it with a piece of pipe/tube that slips inside the pieces you're joining. Don't forget to leave a gap of about 1/16" - 1/8" in the joint so you get decent penetration with the weld. Tack the connection at several places (at least 3) before you start welding to help prevent warpage.

    Because angle has a fillet on the inside, it's not practical to use another piece of angle as an alignment tool. For splicing angle, I like to use two straight pieces of flat bar (at least 1/4" x 2", preferably a bit heavier) again at least a foot long. One for each leg of the angle works to keep things aligned while tacking - don't forget the gap! Flat bar is handy to align splices in beams & channels also. To strengthen these connections, you can "fish-plate" them with short pieces of flat bar welded across the joint. (Same idea as the "double frame" on big trucks - one layer inside the other)

    Obviously, the above information is pretty generalized but the basic idea applies. For some jobs, even a 12" long piece of angle/flat bar may be too long - "make it work" to suit!

    Vise-Grip chain clamps and C-clamps are handy for this sort of work - you can never have too many of them in your inventory!

Share This Page