Tag Archives: panel
Recently our friend Sean at Empire Fabrication sent us some pictures of a custom airbag tub for a bagged VW Eurovan he's building for a customer and we had to share. Follow along as he shares the Eastwood tools and process he used to build the custom bag tub.
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.
The crew at Honest Charley garage have been kicking butt on the body of this once-rotted 51 Ford Shoebox Ford. After replacing the rotted lower quarters, they moved on to making some subtle modifications to smooth out the body of the Ford while they have it in bare metal. Below Richard from Honest Charley shows you how they butt welded, lapped, and plug welded some of the patch panels on the car and a neat way they're reusing the OE Ford taillight while smoothing the rear quarters.
After shaving and smoothing the exterior of the car, the crew moved to the interior to address the issues that stemmed from channeling the body over the chassis to give it the sleek, low ride height they desired. The first issue is that they needed to make a new package tray that didn't interfere with the four-link suspension, and looked original. After rolling some beads and fitting the piece in they have a strong, OEM-looking package tray that both looks good and is functional as well.
With the floor pans and package tray in place, the team moved back and began working on the trunk. When channeling the Ford they ran into typical problems, and the rusty trunk floor had to be removed to raise it up to clear parts of the chassis. They made new patch panels and deleted the spare tire recess so that Jerry Dixey could cram all of his stuff in the car while he's driving it around the country. After rolling beads in the metal to stiffen the new trunk floor they welded they floor back in and they now have a factory looking trunk floor that doesn't hit the chassis.
Stay tuned for future updates, we can hardly keep with how fast these guys work! More body mods and a roof chop are to come!
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!
The entire process of chopping the roof on a vehicle is quite long. Along the way there are a lot of tricks and tools that will make your life a lot easier; especially if you work alone. Since I wanted to keep my A-pillars in the stock configuration I had to make a filler panel to fill the gap between the front and rear half of the roof. The filler panel runs the width of the roof and it's pretty tough to hold this in place by myself as I test fit it. I found that it was much easier to hold one end in place, drill a small 1/8" hole and insert a cleco every few inches. This pulls the panel in place and I can manipulate my panel to fit exactly how I want. This also allows me to stand back and visualize how the final profile of the roof will look. Once you have a pack of clecos in your toolbox you'll wonder how you worked with out them! Check out our selection of blind panel grips here: Cleco Blind Panel Clamps