Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chop Saw & Cutting Grate Table

Here's a project I started in order to make cutting material in the shop easier and safer. I needed a steady platform to hold my chop saw, a grate to cut items with the plasma cutter/oxyacetylene torch and the ability to catch sparks, slag and other fun stuff that inevitably flies off these tools.  Here's what I came up with...

The frame is made of square, steel tubing mounted on casters to allow it to easily be moved around the garage.  The top is made of steel slats to allow sparks and other debris to fall through into the steel tub underneath.  The shelves hold my Hobart Airforce 700i Plasma Cutter, Grinders, extra wheels, square and other tools.

First I started building out the frame.  I used 1.5" 14 gauge square tubing.  Every cut I made was a reminder of how nice it will be to have the completed table.  Using a chop saw on the floor or perched on a small work bench is no fun.  That and the cuts never come out exactly as planned or at least that's my excuse.  We'll see if the quality of my work improves once the table is set up. The chop saw in the background will eventually reside on the new table.

As suspected my cuts weren't exactly square.  I got tired and a little sloppy working with the saw on the floor and it showed once I started laying the pieces out. I had to apply a little pressure, clamp a few places and gently "guide" things back to where they should be.  At this point I had roughly 6-8 hours in the project. I think an experienced welder would have had half that time in it, but what the heck, I'm having fun.

After a little coercion and sweet talking with a large hammer the table squared up and I was able to finish the frame. From there I started, what was for me the next truly challenging part, adding the metal tub.  I quickly found out that cleanly welding 14 gauge sheet metal with a stick welder can be tough. I ended up having to practice with scrap pieces to get a feel for temperature and speed.  Eventually I was able to get the pieces cut, placed and welded together.  I used light gauge angle iron to form the edges of the tub and help hide some of my rookie welds. Somewhere in the mix of all of this I built in heavy gauge angle iron pieces to support the cutting grate and chop saw and also added the casters.

Here's another view, at roughly the same stage as above, showing the back side of the table and chop saw in place.  You can clearly see the angle iron that I used to form the frame for the sheet metal tube.

Another view... so much more comfortable, and accurate, to make cuts with the saw up on the table rather than on the ground.  No more excuses!  Any bad cuts can be squarely blamed on operator error.  At this point I had 15-20 hours in the project.  Many of those were spent either scratching my head trying to figure out what to do next or how to undo something that went wrong.  Those are the joys of learning, but hey if it wasn't challenging it wouldn't be rewarding.

Next I added the heavy slats to finish out the torch/plasma cutter deck. This was a straight forward and fairly easy task.  I cut the slats to length using the table with the chop saw on it.  The saw deflected 75% of the sparks and debris into the metal tub as planned.  It was nice to be able to make clean cuts with out slouching over a saw on the floor and have very little mess left to clean up afterwords.  It became apparent that a foldaway backstop would be an almost required addition.  More on that later.

The table rolled into place next to the oxyacetylene setup, Hobart stick welder, and custom built welding table. 

 Closer view.  I made the cutting grates/slats out of 2" by 0.25" thick flat stock.  I used 1" round pipe as spacers between the grates/slats.  The pipe spacers are tack welded in place but the grates/slats are not allowing them to be replaced individually as needed without much work.  Note how the deck of the chop saw is even with the top of the table.  Makes cutting longer pieces easy.

I added a couple of shelves and tools.  On the bottom left is a Hobart Airforce 700i Plasma Cutter.  I used 0.50" rod to make cable and cutter gun holders. The grate and sheet metal tube work great for catching sparks debris and molten metal from the torch, plasma cutter, chop saw and angle grinder.

 Here's the finished product.  Note the backstop behind the grate/saw. It's built on hinges so that it can fold down to accommodate large pieces or odd pieces at odd angles.  I've also built all my tables and benches at the same height so that several can be rolled together to support long, large or odd shaped pieces.  So far the table works great.  The backstop and tub catch the majority of sparks, debris and slag that are formed during cutting operations.  It's so much cleaner, safer and easier to make cuts using this setup.  I wish I could say the quality of my work has drastically improved with the use of this table, but that might be stretching things thin.  Practice makes perfect... right?

UPDATE:  Here are a couple videos showing the table in action

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Barbecue Pit Project

 This was one of my first welding projects.  A friend of mine had an old barbecue pit that the body of was still in good shape but the legs had all but rotted off.  He asked that we create a frame/rack to hold more of his cooking "stuff" and could be rolled across the lawn without much hassle.  We had a good time working together to build it out and learned a heck of a lot in the process.  Here's what the finished product looked like....

Here's what we started out with or at least here's what we started out with after we amputated the legs, racks and other junk stamped metal that had all but rotted through. The pit was made of good thick gauge metal so I don't know why the manufacturer didn't carry the same quality to the legs.  In the background you can see Liffey the welding Chihuahua looking on.  She's quick with the grinder as well.

Here's all the unneeded junk.  I'm amazed that these flimsy legs supported the pit. It was harder than expected to remove this stuff or at least to remove it without totally destroying the body of the pit.  What we thought would take 10 minutes ended up taking more like an hour using, a grinder, ratchet set, hammer and bolt cutters.

Here we are laying out the framework.  In true beginner fashion we worked off more mental than written plans.  This came back to bite us a couple times.  That's me in the Blue.  It's a touch hot to be welding... typical Texas afternoon at 94 degrees.

After a couple of hours we had most of the pieces for the frame measured, cut and had started to tack them together.  We made the frame from 1.5" 14 gauge square tubing.  This shot shows the base of the frame laying on top my welding table.  The green objects are angle vises.

Things are starting to shape up. The basic frame is built out, the angle iron supports for an expanded metal top are in place and the pit has been set in place.  We ended up cutting the wood rack off to make room for the improved expanded metal one.  At this point we had roughly eight hours, spread over two days, in the project.  Included in these were plenty of learn as you go experiences and "do overs".

Expanded metal tray finished and wheels attached.  Yes we did put the wheels on the wrong side.  They eventually had to moved so that the weight of the pit would be balanced and allow one person to easily roll it across the lawn.  With the exception of welding the wheels on the wrong side this part of the project went smoothly.  I surprised myself with the ease the which the angle iron and expanded metal tray came together.  It was kind of a eureka learning to weld moment.

Twenty hard fought hours in.  Wheels on correct side, bottom rack in place and skids to level things out.

Different angle at the same stage.

The final product. After a couple coats of paint along with several thermometers.

 Brad in his backyard with his "new" grill. Works great!