Tag Archives: flap disc

  • Patch Panels with a TIG Welder- How to use your TIG welder for rust repair

    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!

    -Matt/EW

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  • How to repair rust- Fixing a rusty windshield cowl

    So you decided to give your car a refreshing new look and it's time to strip it down to prepare the car for paint. You can count on finding some sort of surprise when tearing the vehicle down. Whether it's hidden accident damage, previous repairs, or the mummy of a dead animal; it's always an adventure when stripping a car or truck down for paint or bodywork.

    I recently started tearing into my "clean" (for the east coast at least!) 1977 VW Scirocco I've owned for a few years. It had some wear and tear and some bubbling paint I wanted to address before it got a fresh lick of paint. When I began removing the fenders I was pretty surprised to find some rot in the inner fender and windshield cowl. I decided to take some photos as I repaired this area and share some tips for making a repair that will look original when done.

    Here is the offending area when I removed the fender. The worst rot was in an area that sandwiched between the fender and cowl and was covered with weather stripping. So from first glance it just looked like some bubbled paint, but that was the tip of the iceberg.

    I first cut out the area that was rotted until I got to solid metal and a nice seam where I could weld and blend the panel into the original metal.

    I started making my patch panel by bending up a piece of construction paper to the rough size I needed, then I transferred the rough shape over and cut it out of 20 gauge aluminized steel. Next I measured the other side and marked out the bend line I needed to make.

    In order to make a clean bend in the new metal I needed a metal brake. I decided to use the Versa Bend Sheet Metal Brake and put a crisp 90 degree bend in the panel on my line.

    With the patch panel now formed into the rough size I needed, I took it to the car and trimmed it to fit the opening. It's here that you want to make sure the patch panel fits tightly so that you don't need any excessive welding to fill voids.

    I then setup the MIG 135 with .023 Solid Core MIG Wire so I could lay small, flat spot welds on the patch panel. Setting the machine up on a similar piece of scrap metal helped me get my spot welds laying flat and penetrating correctly. After finessing the panel with Eastwood Hammers and Dollies and blending the welds with a flap disc on an angle grinder I was satisfied with the repair. I'm happy to say the patch panel looks close to original and the repair should be invisible once it has primer and a top coat on it. Now onto the next surprise!

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  • Chopping the top on a 1950 Dodge Pick-up – Eastwood’s Project Pile House- Part 1

    One of the next big projects planned for Project Pile House is performing a mild chop and smooth job on the cab and roof. We started the process in a previous post where we showed you How to Shave and Smooth Unneeded Holes in the bed and cab. Today we decided to really dig into this next part of the project.

    Since the roof will need to be worked and modified in a number of spots, I decided to use our 7 Inch Cleaning and Stripping Disc Kit on an Electric Angle Grinder to quickly strip the top half of the cab and doors down to bare metal. This will allow us to easily mark, cut, and weld the roof as we get it situated in it's new, lower position.

    Next I decided to remove the drip rails. This modification isn't a new one in the Hot Rod, Street Rod and custom world, but it's definitely one that's always debated. The original drip rails were in pretty sad shape, and I prefer smooth customs; so I decided to remove them with the angle grinder. I'll come back with a Flap Disc and bring the rough-cut edge flush with the roof. The drip rail is composed of 2 pieces of metal pinched and folded over, so I will have to weld the two pieces together and blend them before the truck is "done", but we'll wait until the chopped roof is back in place to finish that portion of the job.

    While we were on a roll, Mark R. (of Eastwood R&D Corner fame) helped me measure out the lines for where the chop would take place. After a little head scratching, and test fitting me (the driver) in the truck, we decided on a 3" chop that would take place below the rear windows and bring the lower "reveal" or contour of the rear window openings down to match the height of the lower door window sill. This would also bring the roof seam down to match with the top of the door, and make the size of the side door glass close to the that of the rear and cab-corner windows (I really like symmetry in custom cars!). With the lines laid out with painters tape, I'll be gearing up to make the cuts in the next week or two. Stay tuned, we'll be filming and posting a DIY video showing how we chop the roof. We're excited to see how Pile House looks with a fresh chop and shave!

    -Matt/EW

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  • Customizing a Chevy Corvair Van Bumper to Fit Project PileHouse

    PileHouse is starting to shape up and we can now envision what the truck will someday look like when it's "done". But I still felt that the front end needed "something more". After staring at it over lunch one day, I decided that the truck needed a custom bumper to "complete" the front end. My only rules were that it had to flow with the grill trim and relatively flat front end. So I took some measurements, snapped a few reference pictures with my Iphone, and headed off to one of my favorite places; the New Ringgold U-Pull-It junkyard. This place is HUGE and they're nice enough to drop all of the "classic" cars and trucks in one section where you can rummage around. It's there you'll find everything from a 40's Ford to an El Camino or even obscure European classics like a Renault LeCar. This place is a hotrodders dream! All you need is a battery powered reciprocating saw, some hand tools, a tape measure, and a good imagination to find parts for your custom project.

    So I set off with my bag filled with Eastwood Hand Tools and the portable reciprocating saw in hand. After a couple hours measuring bumpers, and scratching our heads, my buddy Matt R. and I narrowed it down to two vehicles. Eventually we chose the front bumper off a 60's Chevy Corvair van (obscure enough for you?!). The length and shape was pretty darn close to the stainless grill trim on PileHouse, and I was sure I could make it work. We quickly got down to business and cut the bumper off so I could bring it home.

    With bumper and truck meeting for the first time, I can see that although the size was "close", the bumper was still going to need a few inches chopped off, and the radius changed to match the front of the truck.

    I started by marking the corners of the bumper where I wanted them to sit and noted some measurements of the bumper and the front end while on the truck to give me some reference points throughout the project. Next I pulled out the angle grinder and cut the bumper in half in the center, and laid it back in place.

    After test fitting the bumper halves, I overlapped them in the center to give me an idea of what had to be removed to get the bumper to the correct length. Once I cut the excess off I found an additional cut had to be made to allow the bumper halves to lay back to match the curve of the front end. With this last cut made, they were sitting exactly how I wanted and I spot welded them in place until I could join them together. Finally, I welded some small strips of metal in place to join the halves temporarily.

    With the bumper now shaped to fit the front end of PileHouse, I removed the tack welds on the corners and put the bumper on the work bench to add braces to the backside and ground off the temporary front braces. Next I had to fill the opening that was created when the radius was changed. I found that the last piece I cut off was a good fit after a little sanding. With the filler metal set in place, I began welding it all together with the Eastwood MIG 175. After welding the seams up on both sides I took the angle grinder with a flap disc and blended the welds. A few minutes of grinding I had a smooth, invisible transition where I had modified the bumper.

    With a complete front bumper bar, I test fit it one more time. I'm happy to report I now have a bumper that fits perfectly and I'm only out about $30 and a few hours of work! From here I'll fabricate some simple bumper mounts to bolt it to the chassis, and then we can move on to the next step in making PileHouse road worthy!

    -Matt/EW

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  • How to Fill and Shave Unused Holes in Your Project

    When building a custom, or resto-mod vehicle one of the most common modifications you can do is to "shave" or fill unused holes in the body of the vehicle. While I was waiting on metal to finish the Custom Running Board Build on Project Pile House, I decided to start shaving some of the unused holes in the bed of the truck. Since this truck was used as a farm truck most of its life, it's had countless brackets, hooks, and other do-dads added that left holes when I removed them. Even though the truck looks pretty rough in its current state, I have pipe dreams of this thing being a nice, solid truck someday, so shaving these unused holes is still progress!

    There are a few ways to fill unused holes in the body of your car or truck. The techniques really vary on the size of the holes. The key tip is to make sure you take the time to setup your welder for nice flat spot welds and leave time for the metal to cool between each weld.

    The easiest holes to fill are small holes about the diameter of a pen or smaller. For these types of holes I start by cleaning the area around the hole with an Angle Grinder and Flap Disc. Sheet metal on the body of cars and trucks is pretty thin (usually 18-22 gauge). So you won't have much forgiveness if you try to pile weld in the hole and you can end up with a bigger hole than you started with! For this reason I always like to use Copper Backers and Welders Helpers to back up and quickly fill the hole. MIG wire doesn't stick to the copper backer directing the weld to the edges of the hole and quickly filling small holes. Be sure to hit the trigger of the welder for a few seconds at a time. Properly adjusted MIG welders should make filling small holes only take a few seconds. A trick I use while the metal is still hot, is to take a Hammer and Dolly and flatten out the spot welds while they're still hot and soft. This will save you time and unneeded heat into the panel when you finish grind the panel with a flap disc.

    Shaving larger holes and openings in the body takes a little more time and care, but can be done with minimal tools. I again started by cleaning the area with a flap disc and angle grinder, then I took some metal from our Patch Panel Kit and traced the opening I was filling from behind.

    Once I had the basic shape, I roughly cut it out with Tin Snips. A grinder or power metal shears would work as well if desired(I've found for small pieces that tin snips work best). With the shape rough cut, I took the small piece to a Belt Sander or Grinder and carefully sanded the metal until it was just smaller than the opening I was filling (leave a small gap for the weld to bridge across).

    Once the patch panel is a good fit, I used a Magnetic Welding Jig to hold the metal in place for the first couple tack welds. Once the patch panel is lightly tacked, I removed the magnet and again use a copper backer or welders helper while spot welding around the hole. When welding these larger holes you need to make sure you jump around and weld in an "X" pattern allowing the panel to cool in between welds. Like the smaller holes, I like to hammer the welds with a hammer and dolly to flatten them out as much as possible.

    Once the hole has been filled and all of the gaps are closed, I took a flap disc and blended the weld into the surrounding metal, again stopping along the way to allow the metal to cool and avoid panel warpage.

    With some practice you can shave and fill holes on the body of your project and leave no trace of your work. Below you can see how the repair area is almost invisible and would only take a little more sanding and a small swipe of body filler to have the panel ready for primer and paint.

    Now that I have a few holes shaved on the bed of Pile House, I have officially caught the "smooth" bug and I'm already looking for other unneeded holes to fill and clean up the overall look of this project. Stay tuned for more updates as we keep working on turning this farm truck into a head turner!

    -Matt/EW

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