Category Archives: Design

The Art of Compromise and Using What You Have

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.

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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.

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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.

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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***.

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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.

 

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Cold Casting Small Stuff

No, I’m not dead…

Anyway, check this out! Cold cast using a mixture of real powdered metals and clear resin. He starts with a 3D printed original but there’s nothing saying you couldn’t had carve a piece out of wax, etc.

 

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Doddies Zoomer

Check out the tutorials on Doddies Zoomer’s Instructables page on how to build fun and unique outdoor wood burners. They are the kind of thing that will make your neighbors jealous, win you friends, and impress your boss.

He also touches on this important safety note:

Firstly make sure your bottle is empty, remove the brass gas tap from the top and fill with water. This will displace any left over gas and make it safe to cut into.

This can not be over stated. Even if a container you are going to cut into only had a semi-volatile liquid in it, fumes from that liquid could still be combustible and combustible fumes + enclosed container + sparks = emergency room hilarity.

Use water to flood the containers then get cutting and make something cool!

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Temperature Controller

I have an old PID controller I used for a blade heat treating kiln I built but I haven’t been making knives in quite a while. I have, however, been learning to brew and an accurate temperature control system would be really helpful and since I basically have all the parts on hand, why not?

PID controllers are amazing little devices because they learn how a system responds and adjust themselves on the fly. For example, my furnace was set to 1700 degrees F and you could watch the controller kick on and start adjusting when it powered the heating elements on and off until it would hold within a couple degrees. It really was amazing considering the unit was less than $30.

Anyway, here’s a good explanation of how to wire them up. The applications are only limited by your imagination.

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The Quest: Part The Second

So my welding table is still only in planning stages since steel is expensive and my kids insist on eating. Self centered bastards…

Anyway, I’d read of guys setting up a system wherein they could add and remove tools like chop saws, vices, etc. Here’s one of the best illustrations of that concept and how to build it I’ve seen so far.

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My bicarbonate of soda brings all the tannins to the yard…

My lovely wife found a couple vintage washboards at a second hand store and, based on something she saw on the Pinterbooktubespace, wanted me to make her a small table or lamp or some combination thereof. So, we made a trip to Home Depot and picked up some small brackets, a porcelain light fixture and plug, and a rough hewn cedar fence board.

I would have rather have salvaged a piece of barn scrap rather than buy a new board but my normal source for that kind of wood wasn’t available.

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This post isn’t so much about the how-to to construct the little table because that was about as simple as it gets but is more about aging new wood to more closely match the old wood of the washboards. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos that suggested different chemicals and voodoo magic and decided to try this method instead which is to simply use baking soda and water.

I cut two roughly 12 inch pieces of the board and used a knife and sandpaper to smooth it and round corners and make it look worn and old. Wear and tear on something is rarely symmetrical so go crazy and embrace unevenness. I also just eyeballed the length of the boards because they shouldn’t match exactly in keeping with that repurposed look.

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I deviated from the linked tutorial above a little and used way more baking soda than he called for. I basically made a paste of baking soda and water and slathered it all of the boards and let it set for about an hour while I attached brackets and wired the light fixture. I also wrapped the slathered boards in a wet towel to prevent the paste drying out.

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And what happened next, will amaze you. Okay, maybe not amaze…

I rinsed the paste off with tap water and threw the boards in a 250 degree oven to dry them. The coloring caused by the reaction of the baking soda with the tannins in the wood was great. I would rather have let them sit a lot longer but I was working in a very compressed time frame, however, even with that issue the boards turned out awesome. There’s grey patina that is hard to see in the photographs that is just what I was looking for.

Here’s a before and after shot:

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Here’s the board I artificially aged with the two washboards that are 40 or 50 years old. Like I said it could have used more soak time but still, I’m really happy with how well the baking soda worked.

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After the boards were dry I screwed the whole thing together. I also used a piece of welding wire as a wire brace on each side for extra stability and to add some character.

My lovely wife was thrilled with how it turned out and it was a fun little single day project.

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The Mario Bros. would approve of this table.

Here’s a pretty decent video on how to build a simple table using lumber and pipe. People are using pipe in a lot of DIY furniture products I think because it’s readily available at the big-box stores and is pretty easy to build with, yet still has the industrial look that is all the rage right now.

In my opinion the biggest downside of using threaded pipe from the stores is that you’re stuck with whatever dimensions and lengths they have on hand and if you’re trying to make something fit in a particular space, you may be out of luck if that space is an oddball dimension.

For example, what if you’re a young married couple who bought their first house that was built in the 1940’s and it had multiple additions done by someone who clearly had no idea what they were doing and not a damn thing in the house was square, level, or plumb and you spent more time trying to unf*ck what the previous owner did than you did making any actual improvements? And since nothing was square or level, what if any shelving you installed basically had to be custom fitted and some day you’re going to find the home inspector who was probably on the take and said the place was great and punch him square in the dick?

I mean “theoretically”.

Sorry.

Anyway, so what’s the solution? Use unthreaded pipe and socket weld fittings to build your project.

Here’s Jody from Welding Tips and Tricks building a chin up bar using unthreaded pipe and socket weld fittings. Though not quite as easy to use as threaded pipe, you have tons of flexibility and complete freedom to use whatever length of pipe you want. Also, these types of joints are incredibly strong. The only major downside is once it’s welded, it’s pretty much there forever so if you ever want to change it, it’s going to take some cutting.

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