Some thoughts on basic metal working

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by Tully Mars, Jan 28, 2015.

  1. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    I have been thinking about what I wanted to include in starting this thread and found a lot of what I wanted to say had been posted a bit earlier in another thread by AirTime, and since IMO he's spot on, I'm starting this thread by shamelessly Bogarting his post:D as follows:

    "Good place to start in my opinion. Allows repairing or creating parts for various things when trying to fabricate or repair things.

    We do have a professional welder or two around here and their opinion my differ, but an oxygen acetylene torch set up is a good starting point. You can cut, weld, braze and limited heat treat. Just heating up frozen nuts and bolts to break them free is wonderful all by itself. Some of the skills and experiences can transfer and help with other forms of welding. Torch control with gas helps a bunch should you get into TIG. Understanding metal expansion during gas welding applies to electric welding. And you don't need any special electric outets wired into your garage/shop to start with gas.

    Get name brand gear like Victor or Harris. I bought my first Victor torch set nearly 38 years ago and it works as good today as when new and tips and parts are still readily available. Because these have been around for years, used one's are easy to find and cost no more than new Chinese junk.

    BEWARE buying used tanks. Often the tanks are not actualy sold buy the gas supplier and only leased. That means the "owner" can't actually sell it and this may present a problem when trying to get a tank refilled. Furthermore, they require hydrostatic inspections every five years to insure they are safe. Insist on paperwork proving ownership if buying used tanks. Leased tanks often have the owning company stamped into the metal or in raised type around the neck just below the valve. The stamped marks lower will have manufacturer, pressure rating, last inspection, etc.

    If you dont buy used tanks, shop around as the tank programs differ a lot. Some are lease programs with regular costs, some are just a simple deposit, some are buy into a pool of tanks and you "own" a pair of tanks but just swap them when needing a fill. Filling acetylene tanks takes a long time, generally 24 hours or more as the gas has to dissolve into liquid acetone inside to be stable, so swap programs can be less hassle than dropping a tank and coming back a couple days later to pick it up. Be sure you understand what happens if you were to move and cease a relationship with that gas supplier or they go out of business. You don't want to get stuck with tanks no other supplier will fill and you can't get a deposit back.

    After you get going with gas, you might want a bit more welding capabiity. A modest size MIG (wire feed welder) is a good place to start with electricity. MIG is easy to get decent welds and welds can be built up with multiple passes for thicker materials. I have watched 140 ton capacity mine truck frames made from 3" thick plate steel welded together with dozens a passes to create 6" radius fillets in the weld joint. Again get name brand such as Miller, Lincoln, Hobart, Century as there are consumable parts such as torch tips that you want to be able to buy 10 years from now. etc. I am a fan of Miller and have several Miller and Lincoln welders and cutters.

    There are small MIG welders that will run on 120 volts but I don't generally recommend those. They usually are designed to be cheap and are. Pay attention to duty cycle. This the percentage of time you can actually weld usually in a 10 minute period. I've seem some that were only 20% which means you could weld for just 2 minutes and then need to let the machine cool for 8! 50% while inadequate for making a living, gets you a reasonable amount of hobbyist welding. A lower end 240 volt MIG welder is a good starting point and if you ever outgrow it, you'll know, will have no trouble selling it, and you'll probably keep it as backup as you are probably making money welding if you out grew it. Also consider a unit that can accommodate a spool gun. This is a the torch handle device that holds a small spool of wire instead of pushing it through a 10-12 foot long hose from the welder to the hand held torch/control. This is needed if you ever decide to get into welding aluminum as the aluminum welding wire doesn't like to be pushed through the hose very far and will jam up in the feed rollers in the welder. Be sure you can use flux core wire so if shielding gas (argon or argon/CO2 mix) is not available SHTF you can still weld if your generator can power the welder (on lower settings.)

    I've had a couple lathes and vertical mills. Don't skimp on mill size as tiny toy mills take forever to do much and often chatter due to column to table flex. The are some mill/drill rigs now that are nice, just be sure to look for a dovetail column and not a round column if you can find one. The reason is if we drill a hole then switch to a collet holding a mill bit, you'll like need to lower the heads and it is a pain to loose bit/work piece registration when changing head height. I have a 16" mill-drill I use all the time, love it. Tooling will cost a bunch so plan accordingly.

    A small lathe is nice but get at least a 6 inch swing and 12-14" if you have room and bucks. 18 inch between centers is a min. There are smaller lathes great for model building, but if you want to make a part for your car or something, those will often not have enough capacity. Note the swing is the diameter of work piece that can fit over the bed but NOT over the carriage. Swing over the carriage (the device that moves on the bed with the cutting tool) can be half of less of the rated "swing." So, roughly a three inch diameter object is the maximum size item you can turn on a 6" swing machine.

    I got my first drill press and metal lathe 40 years ago and first mill/drill 20 years ago. Knowing what I know now, I'd probably recommend getting a mill/drill first unless you know that the work you plan to do needs the lathe.

    Don't forget basics like a robust work bench with at least a 5-6" jaw vise, drill bits, Drill Doctor bit sharpened, etc."

    Anyway, a few misc. thoughts.
    Have fun.
    KAS, Bear, melbo and 4 others like this.
  2. sec_monkey

    sec_monkey SM Security Administrator


    [beer] @AT and @TM
    Tully Mars likes this.
  3. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    As far as oxygen/acetylene outfits go, I lean hard towards the Victor brand or those that are interchangeable with Victor. Nothing wrong with Harris, I just feel more comfortable with Victors. Tips/replacement parts are,as a rule, cheaper as well and more often stocked in smaller farm supply and auto parts stores than the Harris stuff. Bottle exchanges are not nearly as big of an issue as it used to be. Most outfits will take different makers bottles in exchange nowadays. I have bottles that I brought from ND and exchanged in AL and several places in between. You should check 1st though to be sure. All smaller bottles nowadays are owned by the purchaser and can be exchanged at any welding supply in my experience.For most home setups the Victor JR set of gauges/torch is just about perfect. It's light enough to keep your arms from cramping up during long welding/brazing projects yet with the proper tip will weld/braze any material thickness a person is likely to come across. The cutting head will cut up to 3/4" plate again,with the proper size tip. You're going to need several tips for cutting. I'll dig up a tip guide and post it here later. Torch leads(hoses) need to be at least 25' long. I carry 125' on my truck and have 200' for the shop torch-most folks won't need near that much. I won't go into propane torch set ups now as they are a different animal.

    When I was starting out, we had to master gas welding/cutting before we got to even look at the arc welding and I would urge anyone interested to do the same. Gas welding does indeed help greatly when learning the basics of T.I.G. welding. Very similar hand movements. A person with some practice can really do a lot with a gas set up, and the old story of using a metal coat hanger for welding rod really can work. A basic rule of thumb is that you will use two tanks of oxygen for every tank of acetylene with all but the smallest of tanks. While oxygen tanks can be used while laying on their side, acetylene tanks must be in the up right position to be used safely. The book says that if a tank has been on its side for any length of time it should be left standing up for 24 hours before use.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2015
    Bear, melbo and kellory like this.
  4. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    As far as arc welders go my preferred weapon of choice is Lincoln, and that's my pipeliner background coming out but honestly that's what it is, a choice. Lincoln/Miller/Hobart=Ford/Chevy/Mopar. Nowadays especially any of the big three will be a good choice. While AirTime is correct with regards to the duty cycle issue, I will respectfully disagree a bit on the 120 volt welders. Now I'm ONLY referring to the aforementioned big three here-the Harbor freight crap is exactly that. I've had very good luck with Lincoln and Hobart 120volt M.I.G. and SMAW machines over the years. In a PSHTF world 120volt may be the only power available to you. The 130 amp series in both work very well for light duty material up to 5/16" and you can weld up to 3/8" material if you preheat and multi pass using flux-core(FCAW) wire. This is especially helpful if you are on a budget to get started. Almost all 120volt wire machines come set up to run flux-core wire. This wire doesn't need a gas shield and the finished weld will have a slag coating the weld like a stick weld does only thinner. This slag has to be removed before the next pass can be properly laid down. M.I.G.(Metal Inert Gas) or hard wire welding uses a solid wire and needs a shielding gas, C02 or Co2/argon mix. While its a bit more per bottle, I strongly suggest C02/Argon. MUCH better weld with a lot less spatter. You will need to buy a bottle like with the torches and a pressure gauge/hose if it didn't come with the welder-some do, some don't. I didn't mention Miller ONLY because I haven't used their 120volt welders. That is soon to change as my wife's uncle just picked one up like new for 200 bucks!!

    If your budget allows, by all means get a 240volt machine. It opens up a lot more possibilities. The last one I bought for my shop up in ND cost me $1,700.00 and that was a 225 amp machine with the hook up for a spool gun.

    If anyone has questions on what/where to buy how to set up ect, I'm a PM away and will do my best to help.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2015
    Bear, melbo, Airtime and 1 other person like this.
  5. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    Have Welder Will Travel-for beer:D
    Bear, JABECmfg, kellory and 1 other person like this.
  6. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    I worked as a welder for several years. If you are bench welding/ assembling, a sewing machine motor and foot peddle makes for a beautiful weld/ feed speed as it turns the work for you.
    A fountain pump works very well for recycling a cooling water/oil mix.
    Bear and Tully Mars like this.
  7. KAS

    KAS Monkey+++

    the only difference in cutting with propance or acetylene is the tip and propane doesnt burn as hot .. but still gets the job done ...

    Aslo if you have a set of bottles check with your local company and see if they will take them ...
    I know in my area airgas has bought up 90 % of the companies so they will change out almost anyones bottles...
    Bear and Tully Mars like this.
  8. KAS

    KAS Monkey+++

    I fully agree on the 3 major brands .. even thought i have been watching and reading alot of reviews on some of these chinese and jap welding machine and they are getting good reviews... like from chckie2009 and a few others so it had me wondering ... but funyy this post came up i just bought a 76 big 40 miller yesterday ... its an old machine but for 1500 bucks you cant go wrong and i know the guy i bought it from... its a gas machine but since its for hobby and work around the house its fine for me and another generator source...

    there are also alot of good deals out there on inverter machines... but be carefull i recently purchased a miller xmt300 from a ship yard going out of business got it home and plugged it in and it didnt work so i took it into the shop and they said it works fine but its a 220 3 phase u must have 3 phase so now its sitting in the garage ... So try explaining to your wife you are buying another welder when u have one in the garage that u dont use ...
    This new miller is not easy to hide...
    Easier to ask for forgiveness then permission!!!!
    Bear, Yard Dart and Tully Mars like this.
  9. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    You pretty much inventoried my shop. The new electronic cutters are also nice to have.

    Bear and Tully Mars like this.
  10. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    Indeed they do Kel! I've built a few powered rollers using the above. I have a a set up where I've used this to power a 3 jaw chuck from an old lathe for when I reweld shortened drive lines and axles.
    Bear, KAS, Airtime and 2 others like this.
  11. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    Well actually the mixing chamber is a bit different and you have to use hoses rated for propane or the gas will break down the rubber. The propane cutting set up I have will cut through 5" of steel faster and easier than my oxy/acetylene outfits. Propane will burn cleaner and as hot if not hotter if set up properly. Uses WAY more oxygen to achieve this though.
    Bear likes this.
  12. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    Haven't got to the plasma cutters yet..;)
    Bear likes this.
  13. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    What's been your experience with MAPP gas?
    Tully Mars likes this.
  14. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    My first portable was a 70's big 40! EXCELLENT machine for most anything except for pressure pipe. Doesn't "dig" like a dc machine does-Lincoln pipeliners are a dc GENERATOR type machine vs the Miller Big series which are AC machines. The big 40 runs low/hydrogen rod(7018) like a friggin dream. Parts are everywhere for them if you need, LMK. Not sure what your aux power rating is on that machine, but should supply a good bit of power.

    All is not lost on your 3 phase machine. Contact Granger or Graybar Electric for a phase converter I think they are called(not 100% on the correct term) It will take your single phase and do voodoo to make it 3 phase. I have no idea how they work, just know that they do.
    Bear and KAS like this.
  15. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    MAPP Gas is good for smaller projects IMO. It's clean, burns hot, works great for silver soldering firearm parts with the right tip..;) Down side is in a lot of places its expensive for larger projects.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2015
    Bear likes this.
  16. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    I asked because on a couple power plant construction contracts, we piped it thruout the plant to save the effort of moving oxy-acet bottle carts all over. (Served the system from bottle banks out in the yard.) Didn't use it so much for welding, but sure did for cutting and burning on both structural steel and pipe.
    Bear, KAS and Tully Mars like this.
  17. KAS

    KAS Monkey+++

    Mapp gas and propane is what is used for scrapping in the south ...Also use also of liquid oxygen which is a pain in the ass cause u loose most of it do to the outside air temp!
    We must get differnt batches of torches down here cause all we do with out torches is change the tips and let her rip potato chip...

    Of corse we have been know to do things a little ass backwards down here
    Bear and Tully Mars like this.
  18. Airtime

    Airtime Monkey+++

    Nope, I wouldn't really put a plasma cutter in the category of "basic metal working." And I would suggest that if one has a gas torch, then metal can be cut and a higher priority would be for bench grinders (I have several but two is good, one with course and fine grit wheels and one with wire wheel and buffing wheel), drill press, hand tools (that would be a good list to start), dovetail mill and maybe even a lathe and air compressor. Then consider a plasma cutter if space, funds and wife permit. They are very nice.

    Two thoughts on plasma from a survival perspective.
    1. They have lots of electronics, especially the inverter based units that are nice and small, easy to use and very efficient. EMP could render them junk but you don't have to keep it out and plugged in all the time. Store it in a metal box/case and it should be good to go.
    2. They only need electricity to power them and an air compressor. No propane, acetylene, oxygen, map, whatever. So as long as you have a generator or other power generation capability and compressed air storage capability if you can't run both a compressor and plasma cutter simultaneously, then you can still cut metal.

    I recently bought a small Miller Spectrum 375 that is oh so sweet.
    Spectrum 375 X-TREME with XT30 Torch - Plasma Cutter - Miller Welding
    It is rated to readily cut 3/8" steel at a reasonable speed and if needed, can be coaxed up to 5/8" by going slow (and truth be told pushed a bit past that even). It only weighs like 20 pounds and is about the size of a shoe box my boots came in. What's extra nice, is I can run it off a 240 circuit or with some reduced capability run off 120 volts. I specifically chose this with grid down operation in mind, so it was both a prep and a tool to use now, hard to beat that rationalization though the wife wasn't convince. The duty cycle on 240 volts is 35% which isn't make a living with this rating but for a farm, small machine shop, hobbyist, it is just fine.

    I am confident that Lincoln, Hobart and Esab (the big four) make similar machines. Again you want a name brand so 15 years from now you can still get the consumables that these require or sell it easily if you really mess up and have to buy the wife jewelry to salvage your love life.

    Have fun.
    Bear, kellory and Tully Mars like this.
  19. scrapman21009

    scrapman21009 Chupacabra Hunter

    The good thing about propane is that you can get it anywhere if you run out on the weekend. Around here gas shops are M-F only, Ace hardware has kept me up and scrapping all weekend long a few times;)
    KAS, Bear, Tully Mars and 1 other person like this.
  20. Tully Mars

    Tully Mars Metal weldin' monkey

    This is a bit bigger than mine its a newer model mine is a 75 series that will cut 3/4" and sever 1"-actually I have cut over 1" with new tips and going really SLOW. Hypertherm
    Bear and KAS like this.
  1. Motomom34
  2. Meat
  3. Dont
  4. Dont
  5. Dont
  6. Dont
  7. Dont
  8. Dont
  9. Dont
  10. Dont
  11. Dont
  12. Dont
  13. Airtime
  14. Brokor
  15. dragonfly
  16. Bear
survivalmonkey SSL seal warrant canary