Tag Archives: Dolly
In the last update I was working on cutting out metal to make the firewall and mocking up my new brake pedal setup from Speedway. Since then I've been pretty busy making something from nothing. I had to initially tackle how I was going to mount the brake booster and pedal assembly under the cab. The first problem was that where the pedal bracket needed to live the S10 chassis started to pinch in and put the pedal on a weird angle. This kit was made for an earlier frame that's mostly straight/flat and like anything with a custom build, I had to get creative.
I first used some jack stands to hold the brake assembly in place and eyeball up the position it needed to be in. I then traced out the area that the mounting pad for the pedal bracket needed to sit. I decided I could make a "cheese wedge" shaped mounting box that I could sink into the frame rail so that the pedal bracket would sit straight and everything would jive. I used 1/4" plate and copied the mounting holes to the base plate and welded the mounting bolts to the plate since they'd be hidden once the box was built. I used our Small Magnetic Welding Jig Set to square up the pieces and welded them together with the TIG200 DC Welder. The result was a strong mounting box I could sink into the frame and mount to the pedal box. I made my cuts in the chassis and mounted the box into the frame. Once I was sure it was square, I tack welded it into place with the MIG175 Welder.
Now that I had the shiny Right Stuff Brake Parts mounted in place I dropped the air suspension and checked my clearance when aired out. The booster sits a couple inches below the chassis, but even when the body is sitting on the ground the booster has 4 inches or more of clearance. I'd probably rip the front end off before the brake parts were touched. That would be a BAD section of road even here on the east coast!
My celebration of having a brake setup was cut short when I slide the Speedway brake pedal on and found that the brake pedal landed where my throttle pedal should be. I like to heel-toe my brake and throttle when driving.. but this was unacceptable! I decided to cut apart the brake pedal arm, shorten it, brace it and move the pedal over a few inches so that it sat where a brake pedal should. I also had to "clock" the mounting tab for the linkage under the pedal so that the pedal sits up high enough that it won't contact the chassis when I am pushing the pedal. I again used 1/4" steel plate and the TIG200 DC to box and brace the pedal to handle the force of pressing the brake pedal. Don't mind the rough floor in the photos, we just welded that in temporarily to keep the cab from flopping around while we worked on the roof chop and the firewall.
With the brake parts mounted in place I could finally turn my attention back to the firewall and engine/transmission tunnel. I started by making the back side of the firewall setback. I used one of our Adjustable Profile Gauges to transfer the radius of the top of the TCI Auto Transmission to the panel. After tracing out my pattern I cut the rough shape out of 16 gauge steel with our Electric Metal Shears. Now the electric shears work really great for cutting laser straight lines and gentle curves, but when you need to make a tighter radius cut those shears are out of their element. I decided to mount up one of our Throatless Shears to make the cuts I needed. The nice thing about the "throatless" shear is that you can go as slow or fast as you want so that you can make some really clean, accurate cuts. I cut out the top curves to match the top panel I made on the english wheel, then cut the transmission tunnel radius and I had my second panel of the firewall made.
Now with the back panel of the firewall channel made, I decided that I wanted to ditch the panel I made on the english wheel and form the panel out of one piece. I decided to use 18 gauge steel and form the piece using our Shrinker Stretcher Kit to make the panel match the radius of the main portion of the firewall we had made already. I cut a piece of 18 gauge a little longer than I needed and broke a 1/2" bend on each side of the panel. These edges will allow me to work them with the stretcher to get the radius I need on the panel. This panel was a little more difficult to make as I had to evenly stretch each side little by little as I went to get the shape the same on the entire panel. I actually went a little far when initially stretching the shape I needed and I had to work backwards with the shrinker in a few spots to get the panel back into shape to match the panel. That's the nice thing with metal is that you can always undo what you've done if you stretched or bent the metal a little too much. Once I got the shape close, I used the hammer and dolly to match the rolled edge we made earlier match with this new panel. Then I used Cleco Clamps to hold the pieces together.
Now that I have the pieces in place I can start to see everything taking shape. I need to tackle making the wheel tubs for the front wheels and the transmission tunnel next. I'm hoping I'll be able to start melting all of this metal together with an Eastwood Welder shortly! Thanks for watching!
It seems like all we talk about when working on Project Pile House is the rust and body damage it has.. but again today we're covering the repair of more rust that's on the truck. This time it's on the sides of the fenders where the cab mounts attach to the fenders. Originally they sandwiched multiple pieces of metal together and riveted the mount through them for additional support on the fenders. This spot is very prone to rusting on these trucks and should definitely be addressed. On Pile House both fenders were rusted badly and the rot was covered with a heavy coating of body filler to hide the damage. In my effort to clean up the exterior of the truck, I wanted to get rid of the rust and rivet heads when making the repair. In the end, I modified the cab-to-fender mounts so I could spot weld them to the fenders after positioning the fenders to get an even gap where the doors and fenders met. This was pretty boring, time consuming, and hard to photograph.. so I'll save you the winded post about that process in this update, and focus on repairing the rust and smoothing the fenders.
The first thing I do when making a repair like this is to use painters tape to mark out the area I want to remove and repair. I usually tape off just a little further out than the rusted area so I can be sure that I'm into good metal when welding the patch panel in place. It's really difficult to weld thin, heavily pitted metal, so it's best to remove a little more so you can get a clean area to work with.
The other nice thing about the painters tape is that it gives a nice straight line to follow as you cut out the area you're repairing. I chose a 4 1/2" Electric Angle Grinder with a cutting disc to make the cuts. I just put the edge of the cutting disc against the inside edge of the tape and followed that as I made the cut.
Once I had the cancerous areas removed, I cleaned the area surrounding the hole with a flap disc. With the area prepped, I could then make a pattern of the patch panel I needed. I chose to use a manila folder as my pattern, although you can use thin cardboard, chipboard, construction paper, or any other thick paper product. Chipboard is often the best to use as it behaves the most like sheet metal, but construction paper or a manilla folder will work ok as well (and is easier to find). Once I traced and cut out the patterns for each patch panel, I transferred the pattern to the metal and cut the rough shape from 18 gauge steel with the Electric Metal Shears. Once I had the rough shape cut, I could then trim the piece to shape with a set of Eastwood Aviation Metal Snips. After I had the patch panel close to the size I needed, I used the curvature of the fender to give the patch panel a slight contour to match the fender. Alternatively you could use a pipe form, a Slip Roll, or even an English Wheel to shape the panel. But in this case, the curve needed was so slight, using some muscle and the fender as a form, gave me the shape I needed.
On this repair, I chose to use a set of Intergrip Panel Clamps to gap and hold the patch panel in place. Then the Eastwood MIG 175 to weld it all together. The key with using the intergrips is to use the aviation snips to carefully cut the panel just a bit smaller than the opening so that the mounting plate for the intergrips can slide between the old and new metal. This allows your welds to bridge and fill the gap.
Once the new metal is clamped in place with the Intergrips I used a flathead screwdriver to get the panel centered in the opening and began laying a few quick tack welds to attach the new metal in place. From here I like to move my intergrips around and tighten them in place after each tack weld to get the patch panel flush with the surrounding metal. On a curved panel like this it's important to make sure the curve of the seam matches. Once the patch panel is tack welded in place and lined up correctly I removed the Intergrips.
Now that the patch panel is tack welded in place, I began stitch welding the joint closed. I like to jump around the panel making quick, hot welds. On a patch this small I had to be careful not to introduce too much heat into the panel and warp the metal. I like to keep a blow nozzle from the compressor handy to hit the welds and metal with cool, compressed air every few welds. I make sure the panel is warm or even cool to the touch before I continue laying stitch welds. If the metal is too hot to touch with your bare hands, you shouldn't introduce anymore heat into the panel until it cools. After some time I ended up with fully stitch welded patches that didn't have any major warpage.
After I've made sure the panel is fully welded, I used the flap disc on the angle grinder to grind the proud welds down. The key is to grind across the welds so they're flush with the surrounding metal. If ground too much, the weld joint will be thin and weak. With this repair method you should be able to grind the welds pretty much flush with the surrounding metal. I then used the Eastwood Pro Hammer and Dolly Kit to bump up any low spots from welding. For now I sealed the repair area with Eastwood Self Etching Primer until I'm ready to lay body filler, primer, and top coat.
When we're attending SEMA we talk to a lot of pro builders and fabricators. We want to know what the new trends, techniques, and products are that they used to get the results we've seen at shows and in the magazines that year. This is one of the ways we can bring you professional tools and products at affordable prices.
This year we noticed a trend with a lot of the builders. Getting the metal work "close" isn't enough anymore. Builders are now striving to make repairs and modifications that are literally seamless and invisible when they're done. Some of the photos I've seen are incredible. These guys are craftsman and the way they form, shape, and finish metal is an art. While I've been using MIG and TIG welders on and off to work on Project Pile House, I've slowly been learning that a TIG welder can be a really great tool for thin gauge sheet metal work.
Project Pile House had a VERY hard life and it was a true work truck before I got ahold of it. It's been used, abused, and modified to get the job done. This included adding lights, mirrors, hooks, brackets, and anything else that "Whitey" (the original owner) felt would help him along the way. This has required a LOT of patch panels to be made up. With the arrival of our new TIG 200 DC Welder, I decided to show you how to make a nearly (I'm no magician yet!) invisible patch panel with it.
The key to strong, visually appealing welds on any project is good "fit-up" of what you're working on. This is especially important when using a TIG welder. Some guys aren't even using filler rod! They're melting the two adjacent metals together only using the parent metals. This means they're making a patch panel that is such an exact fit that it's almost an interference fit (press fit or slightly larger than the opening). This allows the pieces to be melted together with out adding any filler metal. It also requires almost no grinding and yields a perfectly blended patch panel. In this tech article I'll show you the basics of how you can do this, but we'll stick with using filler rod sparingly for now.
This is the area I'm working with above. The truck had some marker lights added on the top of the fenders that were drilled and sandwich into the fender with a second piece of metal under the fender and a nut. Over time the light was bent and broken off, damaging the area around the mounting hole. Rather than work with the pre-existing metal, I decided to cut out the surrounding damage and make a new patch panel. I started by taping off the work area and using the cutting disc on the angle grinder to remove the damaged metal.
You can see above the piece I cut out and the slight curvature to it. I like to keep the original piece around to use as a basic guide for my new patch panel. Next I traced out the shape of the piece I removed (remember we want a tight fit and the part we cut out will be slightly smaller) and transferred it onto some aluminized steel out of our patch panel repair kit. I then used a set of electric metal shears to cut on the outside of the lines I made. This gives me more than enough metal to fit in the opening.
With the rough-cut patch test fitted, I marked out the estimated area that needed to be removed. I then trimmed it down with aviation metal snips and sanded it on the belt sander until I had a very tight-fitting patch panel. From there I put a slight curve in the panel to match the fender and used a metal file to smooth out the opening in the fender. The key here is take off enough metal that the panel will fit snugly without distorting the patch panel or the metal around it.
Now that the patch is in place I set the TIG 200 DC to about 80 amps max. If using the finger switch on the TIG welder, I like to set the machine to a fixed 50-60 amps for sheet metal work. With the pedal I'm able to fluctuate the amperage to get exactly the size weld and penetration I need. I use a 1/16" "red" electrode and either .030 or .035 TIG filler rod. The thin filler rod allows you to make a very small puddle and takes very little heat to flow (melt) the filler rod into the weld puddle. This is nice for thin gauge butt welds like we're showing here. If you need to fill a small void (bad fitment, blown through joint, gaps between welds) I've used silicone bronze filler rod to smooth out a patch panel joint. This filler rod is extremely soft and easy to hammer weld and grind.
After jumping around and fusion welding each side of the patch panel (and happy with the fitment), I began laying very short welds around the panel. Ideally you should only run 1" passes at a time at most (less depending on the patch panel size), letting the panel fully cool between welds. You can also decrease the heat soak across the panel by using thermal paste around the work area.
In between weld passes it's a good practice to "hammer weld" the seam. This is to both flatten the soft weld bead, and also flatten out or correct any heat warpage at the joint. Some like to do this after the panel is fully welded, but I feel it's easier to keep a handle on warpage by hammering the welds as you go. I used the Eastwood pro hammer and dolly kit since it has the hammer and dollies I needed to work the patch panel.
Once the seam was completely welded, you can begin flattening out any "proud" (taller than level) welds with a flap disc on the grinder or with a hand file. If possible try and grind across the weld and only knock the weld down to level. If you are too heavy-handed with the grinder you can easily burn through or warp the metal surrounding the work area and cause a bigger mess than you started with!
Once the seam is pretty level and the panel is free of warpage, you should have a patch panel that is pretty close to invisible. At this point you may even have a panel that is ready for primer and top coat. But for us mere mortals, you can now choose to use body filler or body lead to fill in any small imperfections before primer.
After you pick up the basics of TIG welding thin gauge steel, you can begin welding up patch panels without all of the extra heat, sparks, and mess of a MIG welder. I won't throw my MIG welder away just yet.. but I'm enjoying the lack of holes in my clothes from the sparks and slag it produces!
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