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Rufledt
Rufledt UltraDork
7/19/16 2:28 p.m.

In planning for a future project, I recently fell down the scope creep rabbit hole. "Well, I need to fix rust, which means paint, also welding. Got painting equipment and a big compressor, welder is coming eventually, lined up a friend who can weld who wants to teach me. Well, now I'll need patch panels or make something. Hey look, metal working looks fun!" And so on. Who here does this? (Metalworking, I mean, I already know how prevalent scope creep is)

Looking up tools it seems like eastwood dominates the videos/marketing presence, but some of their tools have pretty negative reviews on their own website, breaking or requiring modification to work well. What does GRM suggest?

There are more expensive options like fairmont hammer and dollies with better reviews as far as not breaking, also cheaper options like HF, though I'm hesitant to get more HF stuff until they open a store closer than an hour drive away.

Knurled
Knurled MegaDork
7/19/16 2:30 p.m.

I am really, really happy with Eastwood's 110v welder, enough so that I will be buying one when I get my credit cards paid down some.

NOHOME
NOHOME PowerDork
7/19/16 3:05 p.m.

I do a little bit of this stuff.

Only 4 things you need to master for metal-shaping:

You can cut metal

You can shrink metal

You can stretch metal

You can bend metal

Stop thinking of it as a solid and more like pie-dough and you can visualize how to put shape into tin.

Various tools at various price-points to achieve the above.

In order of what I use the most: (I have 4 of these that I use for different task to avoid changing up tooling)

This thing is great. Limit is 19 gauge tin.

Cant live without these if doing bodywork

And lets not forget the star of the show. Somewhere in the Molvo build thread I have done a welding for Dorks tutorial. Not sure what page it is on

I have no quality beater/basher tools. Mini sledge, random hunks of steel and cheap body-hammers with well marred faces do the job.

The English wheel is kinda like having a grand piano in the living room; impressive, but really not earning its space. When I need it, it rocks!

If you look around in this mess, you will get a pretty good idea of what gets used when the battlefield warms up.

edit:

Since a lot of this is more installing store-bought patch panels, one of these is quite useful. You will be doing a lot of spotwelds so might as well make the hole punching easy.

Papabear
Papabear New Reader
7/19/16 3:16 p.m.

You can do basic metalworking such as patch panels with simple hand tools. I would invest in a little better quality than Harbor Freight just because the tools are easier to use and keep up. Once you get into it you will find tools that make certain tasks easier like air nibbler's, throatless shears and the such. Start simple and build up. Or go whole hog and just get a Baileigh Industrial catalog and have at it.

petegossett
petegossett UltimaDork
7/19/16 3:20 p.m.

metalmeet.com has some good tips and tutorials also.

NOHOME
NOHOME PowerDork
7/19/16 3:25 p.m.
petegossett wrote: metalmeet.com has some good tips and tutorials also.

metalmeet is a terrible scary bad place to go. Don't go there. Bad things will happen to you, your brain and your wallet. Seriously, just go get a cocaine habit.

kb58
kb58 Dork
7/19/16 4:59 p.m.

Metelmeet... well, also keep in mind that good fabrication is not the same as good engineering. I've got the battle scars from discussing the differences over there.

RevRico
RevRico HalfDork
7/19/16 6:19 p.m.

My only advice is don't buy the cheapest welder hf has. I can't even give the dam thing away.

It's a 100 amp stick welder that uses an rv looking 240 plug, and it's only real use is making welding rods explode. Thanks dad.

Keep an eye out on cl though, my buddy that does all my welding got a really nice Miller mig 110v with stand, tanks, and wire for like 650, thing runs like a champ and handles my no skill and his moderate skill pretty well.

Gary
Gary Dork
7/19/16 7:37 p.m.

Metal fab is one of the most rewarding things we can do in our hobby. And it doesn't take a lot. Start with the basics: metal cutting band saw, 110v MIG welder, drill press, belt/disc sander, big-strong vise, big hammer, and lots of files. Everything is available at Eastwood, HF, Sears, etc. I started my career in a mom and pop machine shop in the early seventies and had all the right tools available, and I learned to do everything. It was probably the most satisfying job I did in forty some years of employment. But I learned then what I do as a hobby now. Believe me, you can do a lot with a little. It might take a little more time and effort, but the end result will be just as satisfying.

patgizz
patgizz UltimaDork
7/19/16 10:26 p.m.

duckbill vise grips too, put those on the list.

Rufledt
Rufledt UltraDork
7/19/16 10:37 p.m.

I was looking at Eastwood mig welders, I like the idea of infinitely variable wire feed and power. Most of the ones I saw for sale locally (at the nearby Airgas place) were much pricier and only had a few presets for adjustments. I'm a noob so the fine tuning will likely be lost on me, though.

I'm basically planning on starting small and going from there if I indeed get really into it. I don't have a super high budget but once the dust settles from this move I will have regular income, so buying more stuff is possible in the future.

I was thinking to start with go with what I saw in a few demo videos, the mallet and sandbag, then basic hammer/dolly set, maybe one of those anvils that clamps into a vice, and possibly the stretcher/shrinker combo. How does that sound for basic starter stuff? I already have a grinder and a vice, and although some other cool stuff looks awesome and useful, I'm trying not to stretch the budget a huge amount. Right away.

I also had an idea, would it be possible to make any of the anvils out of hard wood? I've seen some work done on aluminum that used wooden tools, but my project will likely be in steel (it's an old ford, WAYY pre-aluminum bodies). I have done lots of wood working so I'm pretty confident I can make some wooden lumps but less confident I can bash steel sheet on them without wrecking the usefulness of the wood. Hard maple in a butcher block arrangement is pretty resilient, but other potentially better options can raise the price into "just buy a metal one" range.

NOHOME: that combo brake/shear/roll thing looks pretty awesome, what do those usually go for? Also, that English wheel looks huge! I was looking briefly (until I eyed the price) at some English wheels, but I kinda liked the Eastwood one as it is bench top mounted and thus removable and storable off to the side a bit more out of the way. When do you find it to be indispensable? One video I saw had a guy hammer in some walnuts to stretch a piece, then smooth it all down in seconds using the wheel, while another video showed a guy doing the smoothing and shaping all hammer and anvil style with similar results (though not as smooth of a finish).

Rufledt
Rufledt UltraDork
7/19/16 10:38 p.m.
patgizz wrote: duckbill vise grips too, put those on the list.

Are those the ones that can be used like a mini brake?

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
7/19/16 10:52 p.m.

Lincoln welders have always worked well for me. Very consistent. Years ago I learned to weld on a snap on 240 volt unit. I was spoiled with that machine but it made me appreciate a goid welder.

Spend the $$$ on a lincoln or other equal quality unit. The infinitely adjustable heat settings is not needed. My lincoln welder has either four or five heat settings. I get it in the range and then use the wire speed to dial it in. Think of the heat as the rough setting and wire speed as fine tuning the final setup.

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
7/19/16 11:01 p.m.

Another thing that will help is using the correct wire thickness. I like the thinner .030 for sheet metal body work and exhaust work. I go to .032 or thicker for welding larger things.

Metal fab will open up a whole new world. I have conference in my welding as I have had some training from some very experienced people. Making your own control arms or welding new spring mounting perches on to axles is very rewarding.

NOHOME
NOHOME PowerDork
7/20/16 3:34 p.m.
Rufledt wrote: NOHOME: that combo brake/shear/roll thing looks pretty awesome, what do those usually go for? Also, that English wheel looks huge! I was looking briefly (until I eyed the price) at some English wheels, but I kinda liked the Eastwood one as it is bench top mounted and thus removable and storable off to the side a bit more out of the way. When do you find it to be indispensable? One video I saw had a guy hammer in some walnuts to stretch a piece, then smooth it all down in seconds using the wheel, while another video showed a guy doing the smoothing and shaping all hammer and anvil style with similar results (though not as smooth of a finish).

Whenever you feel like you need a blood blister on some part of your hand, the E-wheel is the go-to tool!

I have yet to use a sandbag/walnut-maker for any metal shaping other than to prove that it works. I use the e-wheel to do all the stretching.

Anytime you want to make a patch panel with any crown in it, it is wonderful to have.

Picture a rectangular piece of tin, and you want to put a fold on one side. Only the fold is not a straight line. ) Using the e-wheel and a flat lower anvil, you can fold a 44 degree angle along the curve and then finish with a hammer and dolly. You can also do this with a bead roller and a tipping wheel.

The other thing I like to do with the e-wheel is put a thick rubber band around the upper wheel. When you do this, you can roll a piece of tin into the curve of the lower wheel and make a U channel. Very useful whan you have a long thin piece that cant be put in the slip roller. I actually show this in the Molvo build thread where I had to fabricate the PS sill because I could not buy one.

Note upper wheel has a high density foam cover to provide a soft surface

And a bit of curve to the new rocker panel. Note that if I turn the rule 90 degrees the panel is still flat. Normally an e-wheel is used to put a curve in both directions

And the finished job. Keep in mind that I am just a hack at this game, but I do enjoy the challenges that come up and the results are very satisfying when I do win.

I WONT show you the scrap pile!

I could get by with a much smaller and much cheaper e-wheel (Hosier wheels and adjuster were about $1000) but I confess a weakness for tools and Hoosier supposedly makes good stuff.

Combo metalworkers go for 300 to 800 depending on what brand of Chinese you buy. They are a hobby tool, make no mistake.

Shaping metal is an endless exploration of creativity. You can do it with your bare hands or a hammer and block of wood. Hell Ferrari got started with a bunch of Winos beating alloy on wooden stumps. Once you start, if you catch the sickness, your desire to learn more and feed the need will dictate what tools you want or need.

kb58
kb58 Dork
7/20/16 6:40 p.m.

I've built two cars from scratch (Google "Midlana" and "Kimini"). The idea of the brake, roller, and shear combo is great but I don't own one. Look carefully before buying because most can only handle really thin material that's useless for most applications. You can run through my build blogs to see the mostly hand tools I use.

Rufledt
Rufledt UltraDork
7/20/16 9:47 p.m.

I'll definitely be reading through some more build threads and posting questions as i come up with them. I've seen the midlana build, very impressive btw.

I have a questions about thickness of metal, now that you mention tool limits- how does one form much thicker stuff (like, frame thickness metal)? is it just a lot more force, or is there heat involved, or something? Is it just easier to cut pieces and weld them together?

Dean: i have read a little about wire thickness being a factor, but i still have no experience with the differences. Some of what i've read says even smaller than .030 is used for sheet metal. Are you able to use .030 for thin sheet metal? I'm just going off what i've read but i'd trust someone here who actually does build things to whatever i find elsewhere on the internet from who knows who. In preparation for welding i got a book on automotive welding and i've been reading through the free pdf that lincoln electric offers, but some of it seems like gibberish since i can't visualize what the thing is saying. It's probably because i've never actually tried it, but that will change at some point.

Also, what kinds of considerations go into making structural parts like control arms? I would assume the design is just as important as the weld quality, but i don't know exactly what that would mean. Does it require more care for getting proper weld penetration or not overheating the materials? I'm definitely going to start metal working and welding by building some non-car stuff. Probably a welding cart or small things to screw around, then moving onto small patch panels for my van as practice, so nothing seriously structural, i'm just curious.

NOHOME: what kind of english wheel is that? i haven't seen that particular one before. Did you make it?

oldtin
oldtin PowerDork
7/20/16 10:21 p.m.

Mrs. oldtin got me a 50 lb anvil for a present. It's been really handy for beating on thicker stuff and shaping patch panels. Yesterday I reworked the rear leaf spring pack. Made rivets from 3/8 rod and pounded into place on the anvil. Just got a 30" hf bending brake to make up a fuel cell can. It worked out nice. Also a plus 1 for the pneumatic hole punch/flanger. So much faster than drilling a zillion holes.

Too much of my stuff isn't on a stand so I'm on the floor all the time. I hate that. Good tool stands and stuff on casters is where I'm headed.

My go to stuff: grinder, 14" cut off tool, Lincoln 110v mig (don't get the Home Depot version, the plastic guts break), lots of clamps and vice grips, drill press, joint jig for roll bar work. Bunches of hammers, cheap dollies.

NOHOME
NOHOME PowerDork
7/21/16 5:40 a.m.

The e-wheel is homemade. Design came from metalmeet. Some hs a spreadsheet for the design that predicts frame stiffness based on size of wheen and material thickness.

As far as welding is concerned, find the welding tutorial in my build thread and have a go. I used to think that wire thickness was a big deal and have come to the conclusion that if you follow my method, it does not really matter. In the past I did all bodywork with .023" wire because that is what the internet said. One day I was doing structural with .035" and am still using it on the same metal projects; it is all in the feed rate.

I hate grinding and lack of weld penetration. as such, I encourage more heat than most people use when doing tin. There were the settings that for doing the sill install. Using .035 wire. 19 gauge tin.

Note the very flat spotweld on the pichweld. No grinding required thank you.

Weld bead on the front using my welding for dummies tutorial. I always use butt-joints for restoration work unless the factory did a lap joint.

Same weld on the back

Metalshapping is all about problem solving. What is important to get started is to get a project and run into a challenge. Look around ask around and solve the challenge with what you have or can afford. Then grow from there.

stafford1500
stafford1500 Reader
7/21/16 6:40 a.m.

Lots of good info in this thread.
I have been working on my current project for about 16 years now and have been collecting tools and knowledge the whole time. As mentioned in several other posts, you can get a lot done with some fairly basic tooling. My short list of tools is: Grinder/cutoff tool, hand shears (tin snips), body hammers and dollies, a long-ish metal straight edge (angle) for bending edges, welder, and the inevitable big heavy vise/anvil.
One of my first big projects after cutting the car in half length wise was to make fenders. I tried to make them as a single piece which meant lots of shape being added to the flat sheet. I tried the hammer and shot bag approach because it was the cheap option. They are pretty close in shape left to right, but if (when) I redo them, they will be made of smaller sections and welded together. The surface is not as smooth as I would like, but it is passable.
I work with some amazing fabricators (NASCAR guys) that can make panels with crazy shape faster than I can think of how to start. Granted, they have a bit more experience and are doing this type of work everyday. They are the ones that showed me that using many smaller (easier to make) pieces will give a better final result than trying to make large single pieces. A lesson well learned. Also, I have made more scrap than the material I have put on my car.

kb58
kb58 Dork
7/21/16 10:29 a.m.

People use portable grinders to fix a multitude of sins but I can't stand them; noisy, messy, they throw glowing grit everywhere in the garage that can start a fire, you MUST wear a full-face helmet, and perhaps worst of all, the fine grit floats around ready to be inhaled because none of us use the mask that we know we should. It's one reason I went with a TIG welder as the welds are good enough as-is and don't need to be "prettied up."

NOHOME
NOHOME PowerDork
7/21/16 12:41 p.m.
kb58 wrote: People use portable grinders to fix a multitude of sins but I can't stand them; noisy, messy, they throw glowing grit everywhere in the garage that can start a fire, you MUST wear a full-face helmet, and perhaps worst of all, the fine grit floats around ready to be inhaled because none of us use the mask that we know we should. It's one reason I went with a TIG welder as the welds are good enough as-is and don't need to be "prettied up."

Agree with all of this. That said, the Lincoln 180 TIG welder has not been fired in years because it takes a day and a half to do what a MIG does in ten minutes and welding anywhere but on a bench is a pain. I have decided I just don't have the patience for TIG. It does make a good repository for all that grinding dust.

BrokenYugo
BrokenYugo UltimaDork
7/21/16 4:21 p.m.

All I have to add is if you go with a 120 volt welder, you're gonna have a bad time if you plug it into 16 gauge extension cords or 14 gauge 15 amp branch circuits. You want it on a good 20 amp circuit and if absolutely necessary a heavy extension cord of minimal length.

Rufledt
Rufledt UltraDork
7/21/16 11:29 p.m.

i'm planning on running (i.e. having a pro do it) more power to the garage, preferably a small breaker box dedicated for the garage with a few 120 circuits and at least 1 240 (for my compressor, possibly another for an AC unit), so power shouldn't be a problem.

So mig welding requires more cleanup, and also make harder welds that are difficult to work from what i have read, why not just do tig welding? is it all just the time/difficulty?

Run_Away
Run_Away HalfDork
7/21/16 11:41 p.m.

Reading, taking notes. Will have to read again and maybe bump this up when I start trying some.

Thanks for starting this thread!

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