Tag Archives: metal fab

  • How to Select a MIG Welder

    So you are ready to get serious about your metal work, and you want to add a wire feed welder to your shop’s arsenal. Good for you, a welder is one of the most useful pieces of shop equipment. Below, we take a look at the features and specifications you need to think about before deciding which one is right for you.

    Flux Core VS MIG

    Wire feed welders actually consist of 2 different welding types: Metal Inert Gas (MIG) and Flux Core. Flux core uses wire with a hollow core that releases a shielding gas as it melts. MIG uses a solid core wire and a tank of inert gas which shields the weld from contamination. Nearly every MIG machine can do flux core welding, but not every wire feed welder set up for flux core can be converted.

    Flux 90


    Eastwood Flux Core 90

    Besides the lower cost, flux core welding does have other advantages. The flux does a better job of shielding in windy or dirty environments, so it’s great for field work. No gas and no tank – That means one less consumable to buy, and a smaller lighter unit to carry around if you take it to the job site or race track. Plus, flux core actually burns hotter, so it is actually better for welding thicker material.

    There are several disadvantages of getting the lower cost, flux core only machine. First, flux core produces sloppy looking welds with lots of splatter, even in the hands of a pro. Second, because it burns hotter it is hard to weld thinner sheet metal without a lot of burn through.

    Wire feed chart

    So there's lots you can accomplish with just flux core wire, but, except for the lower initial purchase price, there is no reason to get just a flux core wire feed welder, when every MIG machine can do both. above you will see the suggested settings for the Eastwood MIG 135.  The bottom two lines of the top chart show the suggested settings if using Flux core wire.

    Choosing a MIG Welder

    MIG 175

    MIG welding (Metal Inert Gas) takes the basic method of wire fed flux core welding, and uses a solid wire instead, plus a tank of gas which provides the shielding. Many basic flux core welding set ups can be converted to do MIG welding with just a few parts. Typically, you need to add a gas solenoid, a regulator, and a tank of shielding gas, though some already come equipped with the solenoid.

    MIG works just like flux core: you pull the trigger, wire is fed, and gas comes out the tip to shield the weld. MIG welding produces cleaner, neater, more consistent welds, especially at lower heats on thinner metal. MIG is also the preferred way to weld aluminum, though you will need a special aluminum spool gun, and a tank of argon.

    110v VS 220v

    This choice may be dictated strictly by where you are planning on using it; if your shop isn’t wired for 220v, or you plan on using it on the go, 110v is the choice for you. But there are some welding units out there that run on either voltage, with just an adapter plug. This is a great compromise if you are planning on rewiring your shop in the future, or already have 220v in the shop, but want to be able to weld anywhere and everywhere.

    The Eastwood MIG 135 is our entry level MIG welder.  It is perfect for the home user that wants a shielded welder but only has 110V power source.  This welder is rated to 3/16" which is perfect for auto body and basic structural repair.

    Moving on to the next level is the Eastwood MIG 175.  This is a 220V only unit which means it will be able to weld thicker metal up to 5/16" steel.  You may think that there is not much difference between the two but the big difference is the duty cycle.  With the MIG 175 you will be able to weld on a higher setting for longer periods of time.

    Lastly we offer the Eastwood MIG 250, this is a dual voltage unit and is internally controlled.  This means that you don't need to change any settings when going from 110V to 220V, just simply plug it into the desired power source and the welder will adjust accordingly.  On 220V this welder is rated to 1/2" steel, making it great for heavy structural welding.

    But what are the advantages of the higher voltage? Obviously a higher voltage unit is more powerful than a lower voltage one; they typically can put out more heat and weld thicker materials. This is also important for welding aluminum, which requires more amperage compared to welding steel of the same thickness. If working with a lower amperage within the range of most 110v units, like 90 amps for instance, a 220v unit is going to have a much higher duty cycle. So, you’ll be able to get more done faster, with less down time.

    Duty Cycle

    Screenshot 2015-11-11 16.17.57

    The duty cycle for a welder is usually expressed as a percentage at a given amperage, 20% at 90 amps for instance. That is a typical rating for a home use 110v MIG welder, it means with the power set to 90 amps, you should only be welding continuously for 2 out of every 10 minutes to avoid overloading the welder. You could see how that would be an issue if you were building a bridge, or a tube famed chassis. A 220v machine is often rated at 30% at 135 amps, and something like 60% at a lower 90 amp setting. That means you can weld much longer without overheating the machine and having to take a rest.

    Transformer VS Inverter

    Years ago all MIG welders were transformer welders. They all used windings of wire to transform the 60hz AC voltage coming out of the wall into much higher voltage at the end of the welding torch, but still at 60hz. In the 21st century, there are now welders that use solid state inverters to step up the wave frequency of the electricity to much more than 60 cycles per second. Because of this, they can produce higher voltages with much smaller transformers. Since transformers are just windings of copper wire, the smaller they can be, the more portable the welding unit can be. The inverter technology also allows machines like the Eastwood 200 Amp MIG/Stick to exist because they can switch internally to the different electrical requirements of flux core, MIG welding and stick welding, and produce different shaped waves if need be.

    Inverter based units also need much less energy to run. If you are planning on running your welder off of a generator the inverter is the way to go. Transformer-based units require a much larger generator in order to work. The extra money you spend to move up to the inverter unit is money you will save by buying a smaller generator. The lower current draw of an inverter unit typically means you can run it on an extension cord for easier use around the shop. Your electric bill will be lower too.


    Photo Nov 11, 4 28 28 PM

    Some machines these days can practically set themselves up, while on the low end some just have “high” or “low” heat settings. Like all things, if you can’t adjust it to suit you, you are going to have to adjust to suit it. MIG machines usually have 2 important settings: wire feed speed and power. Most times the more power you use the faster you want the wire to be fed, but not always. The more basic machines usually have fewer settings, and typically are “stepped” or “notched” meaning you can’t choose a setting between 1 and 2. The better machines are infinitely adjustable; you can choose any setting between anywhere on the dial, not just the numbers 1-10. If you can’t find a setting that works with the speed you want to weld on the material you are working with, then you have the change your speed to suit the output you can get. This is where the fine adjustments can come in handy.

    Parts and Serviceability

    A welder ought to be a lasting investment, but buy a unit from a low cost generic brand that hasn’t been around for long, and you may find parts and consumables impossible to find in a few years. At Eastwood we have been here since the late 1970s and we plan on being here a long time, standing behind our products. Not only do we have quality welding units at an attractive price, but we also carry all the parts and supplies you will ever need for them, except for the gas, but if it was possible we would sell that as well. We sell replacement tips, wire, torches and more for our MIG welders. We also have technical support for you by phone and email.

    We are committed to providing professional quality welding machines at a price the home hobbyist can enjoy. You can buy more powerful welders from other brands, and you can buy less expensive welders, but we don’t think you will find a better welder for less.

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  • DIY Removable Exhaust Hangers

    Adding a new exhaust system to your ride but don't want to use the cheap parts store hangers and clamps?

    Lets face it we all know how horrible they are,  aside from just looking tacky, they almost never last.  The U-bolt clamps are just as bad, you better hope you have them exactly where you want them because chances are, once you tighten them down they are sure to be rusted shut in a few weeks.


    Here is a way to make your own custom exhaust hanger using one of those cheapo parts store hangers.  Its simple, cheap, and even allows the whole system to be easily removed.


    What You'll Need:

    - Universal Exhaust Hanger with an open, pivoting end. (It must be this style, you'll see why later)


    - 1.25 " X 1.25" piece of 1/8" steel

    - 5/16" or 3/8" Thread bolt about 1" long, lock washer, and hex nut.

    - High Temp Paint (to prevent rust)





    First you will need to cut the end of the exhaust hanger, with a Cut off Wheel, along the line drawn. This piece can be thrown out.



    After the end is cut off you will be left with a tab sticking straight down.



    Clamp the square tab to the hanger with enough room to drill a hole big enough for the bolt you are using, in my case it was a 3/8" hole.  Mark the center of where you want the hole to be and use a Center Punch to indent the metal so the drill bit doesn't wander.



    With the two pieces clamped, use a Step Bit to drill a through both pieces so the hole will remain in line.  Pass the bolt through and tighten by hand so the tab remains square. Step bits make easy work of drilling large diameter holes, an essential tool when doing any type of metal fabrication.



    Using jack stands or wire position your muffler or exhaust pipe in the location you want it to sit under the car.  It is a good idea to determine where you want to mount the hanger to the body or frame of the car first, to insure the hanger is long enough to reach the pipe. (As an example I am using a piece of exhaust tube on a work bench and the hanger suspended from a piece of metal in a vice)



    With the hanger mounted under the car, align your exhaust pipe exactly where you want it to hang.



    Tack weld the tab to the exhaust pipe or muffler.  Remove the supports holding up the exhaust and check the positioning.



    If is where you want it, finish the weld along the tab. Allow the metal to cool off before unbolting the hanger.



    Once it is cool to the touch, remove the bolt.  Creating this custom exhaust hanger will cost about the same as using those tacky U-Bolts, and it makes exhaust removal a breeze.  All that is left to do is a quick coat of High Temp Exhaust Paint and you'll have a simple rust free solution to mounting your exhaust system.


    Check out the Eastwood Blog and Tech Archive for more How-To's, Tips and Tricks to help you with all your automotive projects.  If you have a recommendation for future articles or have a project you want explained don't hesitate to leave a comment.

    - James R/EW

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  • Sheet Metal Cutting Tips and Tricks

    Working in sheet metal can be fun, and it can be frustrating, but if you like old cars eventually there will come a time when you will need to cut, and eventually even weld sheet metal. At first glance it seems as if it would be like working with paper or cardboard, just a little tougher, but paper products don’t stretch and deform like metal does when you try to bend, shape or cut it. Here are a few simple rules to make metal work easier.

    When working with sheet metal, always wear long, thick, leather gloves because it only takes a small slip to be cut to the bone with the sharp edge of a metal piece you are working on. Long welding sleeves are not a bad idea either, because sheet metal can cut deep, and accidentally slashing your wrists can be a very serious injury. Eye and face protection is a good idea as well.



    Tin snips or Aviation snips, are just like scissors for metal, and are great for smaller cuts or lighter gauge sheet metal.

    3 pane  

    Snips come in left, right and straight versions, color coded in a nautical fashion:

    Left = Red

    Right = Green

    Straight = Yellow

    Cutting with snips can be time consuming and physically taxing on your hands and arms, but great for cutting complicated, small shapes. Snips also leave an edge that is often a bit ragged and curved from the cutting.


    For longer cuts, or just getting the job done faster and neater, there is the Electric Metal Sheer. An electric motor moves a small block up and down, pinching the metal between it and a fixed block on the other side.  The uniformity of the cut is much better with the electric sheer, and the quality of the edge it leaves is better too. Plus it takes no effort and a lot less time to use.



    The small cutting blocks, compared to the size of the jaws on the snips, make it easier to use the sheer to cut out tighter curved lines in metal parts. Most electrical powered sheers have no problem cutting though up to 16 gauge steel, which can be nearly impossible with a pair of manual snips.



    Clamp your sheet metal securely to the table or bench so you have both hands free to maneuver the sheers around. This will make things much easier.  Straight lines and even fairly tight curves are much easier to make with the electric sheers.  To smooth out the slight curve the sheers sometimes leave, if you have an English wheel, you can just use the flattest bottom anvil, and roll the edge through with minimal pressure.


    Just like any cutting tool, electric sheers will eventually become dull over time.  We sell replacement jaw sets for our electric sheer but don't worry, you wont need a new set for a long time.

    So these are some basic tips that should help you to cut and shape metal pieces for your next project quicker and easier. With a little practice you’ll be able to cut metal as if you were a school kid making paper snowflakes.

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  • DIY Custom Spoiler End Plates

    Car enthusiasts are always looking for a way to have their car stand out from the crowd but buying off the shelf parts will only go so far.  There is a good chance that someone else out there wive the same combination of parts.  The best way to give your car a one of a kind look without fully custom fabricating is to buy something off the shelf and modify it your self.

    spoiler before

    Thats exactly what I did with this aftermarket spoiler that a friend put on his Sentra SE-R.  Of course this look isn't for everyone but there is one flaw that is more than apparent.  The endplates that this spoiler came with do not fit the rest of the part, and they had to go.  Sure there are numerous companies that sell "custom" end plates that you can easily swap out, but again anyone can buy those same ones, what's unique about that.


    Spoiler 1

    After some brainstorming we came up with a design that he liked and sketched it out on a piece of 14 GA Aluminum.


    Spoiler 2

    With one edge of the metal clamped down on the edge of a bench, I used my Air Body Saw to cut out the first plate.  I used the first, cut piece to trace the second one, so I would have two exact pieces.


    Spoiler 3

    The tricky part was determining the bolt hole locations. With the old end plates mounted we held up one of the new ones to its respective side and traced the old endplate onto the new one with permanent marker.  We then unmounted it and marked off the bolt holes with the old plate lined up to where it was previously traced.


    Spoiler 4

    I determined the correct hole size my test fitting different size drill bits into the old plate until I found the one that fit the best.  I then used a small drill bit as a pilot hole and then drilled the new plate to the proper size.

    To get the holes in the same place on both pieces I matched up the first plate to the second and used a marker to trace the holes.  I drilled these out the same as the first.



    Spoiler 5

    With both plates drilled I wanted to test fit them on the car to make sure the holes were in the correct spot and that both were matching.


    Spoiler 6

    Since the edges were still rough I used an 80 Grit Flap Disc on an Angle Grinder to smooth out any minor imperfections in the cut and round off the edges.

    I then went over both sides of the plates with 400 Grit sand paper to create a level surface to paint on.  The sand paper also helps the paint adhere to the metal because it leaves small scratches allowing the paint to also have a mechanical bond with the metal.  After both sides were completely sanded all it takes is a quick wipe down with PRE Painting Prep and they are ready to be primed and painted.


    Spoiler 7

    Before applying color I sprayed the end plates with EW Self Etching Primer with will create a better bond to the metal than just the paint would by itself.  For color I used EW 2K Satin Black Aerospray, this two part catalyzed aerosol spray paint is like having real automotive paint in a spray can.  Once it hardens it creates a much more durable finish that will not be affected by solvents like a normal spray paint would.


    IMG_3069 IMG_7273

    After they have been mounted on the car the difference is drastic,  the shape of these fit the spoiler to now have a consistent look.  No one else will have these endplates making his car truly one of a kind.  With the right tools and a little creativity you can fabricate parts for your ride so it'll stand out from the rest.


    Check out the Eastwood Blog and Tech Archive for more How-To's, Tips and Tricks to help you with all your automotive projects.  If you have a recommendation for future articles or have a project you want explained don't hesitate to leave a comment.

    - James R/EW


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  • Shaved Fender Vents on 08-10 Super Duty

    Shaved Fender Vents on 08-10 Super Duty

    Version 2

    The fastest way to make your vehicle stand out is with exterior modifications, but in order for them to look good it must be done the proper way.  Adding new pieces such as wheels, tires, bumpers, etc. is one method but it can easily be over done and just look tacky.  How many times have you seen a car with parts that just don't belong? I've seen way too many.  The other, and sometimes more difficult method is to remove parts that were originally there.  Not only does it make the vehicle look more seamless it also separates it from all the others.  From the factory this 2009 Ford F-350 Super Duty came with chrome plastic fender vents that stick out more than 3/4" from the panel.  Some may like this look but it ruins the body lines of the truck.  Just like Hot Rod guys shave door handles you'll see step by step how to remove these vents and make it look like they were never there in the first place.



    These are the vents I'm talking about, yeah they are flashy and catch your eyes but they don't do much for the over all look of the truck.  With these removed the side of the truck is stream line all the way to the tail lights.



    Using a plastic trim tool to pry off the vent, the recessed area underneath is revealed.  Having a recessed area the exact shape of the vent provides a great starting point because it will be much easier later on when I weld the new piece in.  As you can see in the above picture the fender is slightly curved so not only will the patch piece have to be the correct size it will also need the bend to be exactly the same to appear seamless.



    I started by making a templet with a piece of poster board, to do this I cut a rectangular piece slightly bigger than what I needed and with masking tape attached it to the fender so the the vent area was fully covered.  Then using a marker and my finger I pressed on the edges of the recessed area and drew "+", one in like with the edge and one perpendicular to the edge.  I did this along the whole outer edge of the vent area and using a ruler connected all of the intersecting points.  Note that I did not once use a tape measure, on most patch panel fabrication an exact measurement it pretty much necessary but for a small piece like this the method I just described takes a lot of the guess work out because you are using the actual panel to get the shape.  Using a ruler and an exacto knife I cut out the shape using the marks I made earlier.



    The template was was a perfect fit,  I want the panel to sit as close to flush as I can, this will reduce the amount of filler and body work later on.



    Next using a piece of 18 GA steel I carefully traced the shape on to the metal. For the first side I wanted to use my Versa 40 Plasma Cutter to cut out the shape.


    Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 3.41.38 PM

    The plasma gives me the ability to cut the curves of the piece near exactly but for extra assurance I used two pieces of 1/4" Bar as a guide to make the the cuts perfectly straight.



    Using a  60 grit flap disc attached to a 4.5" Grinder I removed the burrs, beveled the edges, and removed the surface rust.  when making patch panels like this its very important to bevel the edges, this gives the allows for a cleaner weld that will lay much more flush with the panel.


    Version 2

    Next to get the patch piece to match the slight curve of the factory panel I used my Bench Top English Wheel  to gently curve the panel.  Be very careful to only apply forward and backward pressure on the panel in line with the wheel.  Putting too much side pressure on the panel will give it a dome and not match the contour of the fender.  One way to eliminate giving the panel a domed effect is to put a rubber band over the upper wheel.  This reduces the side to side stretching of the metal because the band stretches instead of the metal.



    You can see the difference in the two panels with the one on the right being the one that I ran through the wheel and the one on the left has not been touched.  Even though the curvature in the fender is very little, the extra time rolling it through the english wheel will save a lot of time later on when it comes time to apply filler.



    Before prepping the fender for welding I used a magnet to hold the patch piece in place and look at the fitment and gaps from multiple angles to make sure no corners were too high or out of place.  After taking it off to grind a few areas down I was satisfied with the fitment and sprayed the back with Self Etching Weld Thru Primer to prevent rusting from the inside.



    To prep the panel for welding I used a flap disc on a 4.5 ANGLE GRINDER and removed the paint down to metal all the way around the areas where I would be welding.



    Starting with the top edge I used my MIG 175 on a very low setting to tack weld the panel in to place, making sure the panel was seated in the right place before tacking in.



    If you find that after your first tacks the panel is no longer sitting flush with the opening there is a way to save the welds without having to cut the piece out.  To do this use a wide flat blade screw driver putting half of the blade on the new piece and half on the original.  Press the panel so it sits just below flush with the opening then place a tack weld right above the blade.  In the event that the panel sits too low in the opening you can use a very fine flat blade screw driver to pry the panel up to the desired depth.



    The first step in the filling process I started by using Contour Short Strand Fiberglass Filler.  This filler is infused with fiberglass which makes it much much stronger than ordinary filler allowing it to be applied much heavier to fill larger gaps and depressions. Before application I wiped down the fender with PRE Painting Prep to remove and contaminants that would affect the adhesion of filler.  I applied the Short strand on all of the weld seams as well as the top section of the patch which were the lowest areas that needed the most support.



    While some say this material is hard to work with because it gets too hard too quick making it more difficult to sand.  I've found that the ideal time to sand is about 10-15 min after application using 40-60 Grit to knock down the high spots then 80 grit PSA to level the rest.  Be aware that this is a very tough material and will harden very quickly so make sure you get all of the sanding



    After the Short strand is leveled I applied and block sanded Contour Glazing Putty to finish off the panel.  I would have only needed one pass of Putty but I went too light with the short strand in the lower corner. To knock down the high spots I use 80 grit PSA  on a  11" x 1 3/8" Durablock, this block is great for smaller areas like this because it is easy to hold and is long enough to be able to slightly bend so all areas of the block are in contact with the panel at all times.



    Now that the filler is blocked down flush it is time to apply primer to seal the area.  First I again wiped down the with PRE then used 2K Urethane Primer Surfacer using the Evolution Paint gun with a 2.0 tip.  This primer will not only seal the panel but also build up enough that I can come back with 320-400 Grit on a block and do a final blocking in case there are still any imperfections.  The best way to apply this primer is to start from the outside and work your way in, as you can see in the picture I taped off the area about 5 inches off the filler edge this will prevent primer overspray from getting on other parts of the panel that do not need it.  I am not using the tape to create a hard edge and will never have to primer in direct contact with the tape edge.



    The final step before paint is to block the whole fender with 400 grit to remove and sanding scratches and scuff the existing paint so the base coat will stick.  Additionally I scuffed the whole fender with a red scuff pad to create a uniform painting surface.  Wipe off the panel with PRE and then with a tack rag to remove any dirt or lint from the painting surface. You MUST use a blow gun and move as much dust and dirt away from the area surrounding the panels.  Even dust on the floor nearby can get kicked up by the paint gun and get trapped in the paint.



    I sprayed the base with the Concours Pro HVLP Gun with a 1.3 tip. The color I used is a Ford color code UD which was mixed at a local automotive commercial supply store.  Although these stores supply to collision shops most will mix as little as a quart of color matched paint at a reasonable price. I was lucky enough that this Ford UD Ebony color was a very common mix and a quart was just under $25.  Depending on the color code and the additives that go in prices can go as high as $200 just for a quart.  After three coats of base with about 15 min flash time and a wipe down with a tack rag between each its time for clear.



    I applied 3 wet coats of 2:1 European Urethane Clear also using the Concours Pro HVLP Gun with a 1.3 Tip. I mixed the clear 2:1:1/2, the 1/2 being urethane reducer. This helps the clear flow a lot better and lay on the panel much nicer.  I applied 2 coats allowing about 15 min flash time between coats, because it was about 85 degrees the flash time was greatly reduced.






    The fenders still need to be buffed to remove some small dirt specs but other than that there is no reason a job like this cant be done at home as long as all the preparation is done properly.  Post a comment about what you think, or any questions about the project!

    - James R. / EW


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