There I was, minding my own business several months ago, helping my best buddy load some steel for a now forgotten project when Angela, the super cool person who works the office and keeps things running smoothly at my favorite steel supplier, pointed out a couple piles of heavy duty steel U-channel scraps and told us to take as much as we wanted so she wouldn’t have to deal with it.
Several hundred pounds of steel loaded into the back of a pickup later, my buddy and I set off and eventually offloaded the scraps in my garage. The steel was all 6 x 2 1/2 by 3/8ths thick and the bulk of the usable length of the scrap was 30 inches. I had to trim off some angled cuts the fabrication guys had made in building whatever real project they’d contracted to build but that was pretty easy thanks to my Harbor Freight band saw.
So, I have this pile of heavy duty, beefy as f*** steel in desperate need of a project and it dawned on me that as a wannabe welder, I needed a good table on which to work. If I butt welded a couple pieces together I could have a 48 x 30 table which was really perfect for my garage.
So, I butt welded a couple pieces to create the main horizontal support pieces. One thing to note is that a real professional welder would be able to assure that their weld is as strong as a continual piece, I’m an amateur at best. I’m going to use physics to help ensure my table is as strong as possible. Notice in this photo I intentionally put the welded pieces at opposite ends so any weight on the table would be more of a sheering force, rather than a bending force that would focus on the weak spot: the weld.
Also, in the above photo, you can see a trick to ensure everything is square. Using squares is great and gets you pretty darn close, but measuring opposite corners can get you very close to perfect. In this case, it was less than a 16th of an inch difference between one set of opposite corners and the other. I went into more depth in this post about making sure things are flat, level and square. Read it so I don’t have to copy and paste the whole thing.
Additionally, if you’re working on a normal garage floor, keep in mind that most garage floors are poured with a downhill slope to ensure any water runs out of the garage, not in. You can see in these photos that my level showed it was off, yet it was consistent with the floor.
After I tack welded the two horizontal pieces and the two cross pieces, it was time to lay out the rest of the table. Given what I what I had to work with and mathing it, 2 3/8ths inch space between each piece of steel worked out to pretty close to even spacing.
I welded the legs on first to give myself an easier work space, then set to welding the rest of the cross pieces.
A couple things to think about on a project like this (free) is your materials will dictate a lot of your design. If that simply won’t work, don’t be afraid to do a hybrid wherein you buy some key pieces and use your free stuff for the rest of it.
Once it was all done, this thing was heavy as hell and sturdy as f***.
The advantage of a table like this, with gaps between the crosspieces, is that I can clamp pieces anywhere, even in the middle, to fight heat distortion.
Now I have a really strong table that cost me just a few dollars for electricity, gas, and welding wire.