Tag Archives: welding table

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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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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The Quest, Part 1

holygrail

I’m on a quest for the perfect welding table.

Since I lack the funds to go purchase one of the many high quality precision commercially produced systems out there I’ve already accepted the fact that my “perfect” welding table will be one made by my own hands and within my meager budget. But that’s what DIY is all about, right?

So obviously a key feature of what makes “perfect” for me in this context is it being financially attainable and after the usual holiday assault on my bank balance, I’m left only a few hundred dollars to spend on my “perfect” welding table. Considering you can easily spend thousands on a professional table, a few hundred is a paltry sum and would get me laughed at by most tool snobs.

Other key design features or points:

  • Big enough to build something… big. I’m thinking 4’x8′ but that isn’t written in stone.
  • Sturdy legs for stability and a sturdy surface so I can firmly clamp pieces to it to prevent heat distortion.
  • As perfectly flat and square as I can get it to make setting up projects easier and more precision.
  • Capable of being used with fixturing like clamps and stops. A precision grid system would be awesome and drastically speed up project layout.

With those features in mind I’m in the planning stages of my table and have searching the Google for ideas to rip off inspiration. I could try to mimic one of the commercial systems which would allow me to use their tooling packages but going that route requires some precise hole placement and a lot of room for costly error. I am currently waiting for a quote to do that part from a local waterjet facility. If the cost is reasonable the finished product will look something like this:

holes table

However, waterjet machines are amazingly complex so the owner/operator may have to charge more than I can afford because he/she has a family to feed and an expensive machine to pay for which leads me to plan B:

welding table slats

By using slats or several individual flat bars of steel with a gap in between, I can clamp a piece about anywhere on the table, however the lack of a precision grid system limits the amount of easy fixturing one can do. That makes me sad.

Regardless of which design I end up going with there is a lot to be said for building your own table. What you lack in funds can often be made up for in sweat and there’s the pride of knowing you did it yourself. Though I’m not a great wood worker, I really respect how the building of one’s own woodworking bench is almost a rite of passage within that community.

Anyway, stay tuned and watch me pull my hair out with this project!

Finally, here’s a little waterjet porn to illustrate how awesome these machines are:

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