Def. “Tool Slut” A person of any age or gender who can’t resist having just the right precision tool for every task, regardless of how obscure.  As in this example:


I don’t know about you, but seems to me that it’s the time of the year when we can begin to eye Big Projects we want to get done in the Spring so we can enjoy them over the summer – and thereafter. A little cold for some parts of the country but there’s a warmer period coming, so the Warmists promise…

There are three projects front-burner around here in coming months.  The largest of them will be the remake of the kitchen.  Low cabinets and counters.  New floor, too.  Still don’t know if I will buy or build the lowers (making drawers is tedious work). But, the uppers are a cinch.

All the appliances are newish except for the dishwasher which will be preemptively recycled because it won’t fit the decor when done.

The first decision on any large-scale project like this is whether “chunk it” or “whole hog it.”

Obviously, one way to do the kitchen would be go whole hog and all in.  Rip out everything, down to the studs, and then insulation, rewired, new sheet rock, mud and tape. Finish tape, floating out the big boo-boo’s with a wide taping knife and then sand and prime – good to go.

Then re-level the floor as required and then roll with new base cabinets.. Upper cabinets go in toward the end so you can stand things on them. Last step would be finishing off the counter tops and then whatever the floor is.

Elaine’s not happy with laminate floor.  We’ve had a light oak in for 10-years and it has held up well, but since she may have been a bowling alley refinisher in a previous life, it takes a lot of her time….Even a drop of clean water will leave a telltale and that’s just not happening on her watch…

Doing all this as one continuous process, though is a mess.  So, the alternative is to “chunk” the project down into 6-feet, or so, at a time.

One week, you might get the free-standing bases out, floor work done, or plumbing or wiring associated with it.  On a following weekend, or a three-dayer, you’d schedule the 10-foot section where the plumbing stack and dishwasher go  Out come two base units and a corner piece, and in would go their replacements.  Sooner, or later, I’d run out of “chunks.”

I’ll be putting in some cabinets in the shop more as “proof of concept” for some design ideas.  Elaine wants to see how the colors will work out.  Going with a dark “Kona brown” and a light color floor, I’m told.

There are arguments for either the “whole hog” or the “chunked” approach.

Looking ahead to “construction season” around here, there’s an almost unlimited number of such projects to be done.  So will get “chunked” but the downside of kitchen chunking is that there’s a lot more clean up.  I mean, why not just tarp off the house and give it hell, right? It would be faster and easier to whole hog.

Chunking Your “Making” Skills

The same idea applies to any other skill you want to learn, such as welding which is my current learning drive.  Except here, you’ve got three or four options.  And that’s after reading the book my friend Ehor sent me – the original Lincoln on electric arc welding.

Let’s say that you want to “learn welding” – and you’ve read a book.

The first thing you can do is buy the necessary equipment and just “learn by doing.”  You don’t need to use welding as an example…this is how many of us learned (trial and error) on things like band saws, drill presses, and what have you.

The second choice would be to head for a local welding shop and hope you can talk them into letting you be a “helper.’  Eventually, if you persist, you might be able to pick up a rig and do some welding under a presumably better-trained eye..

Except, it’s really a lot more complicated.  Because there are so damn many ways to weld.  You have gas (ox-acetylene) , Then you you have wire welders.  The problem is that even the wire welders – and even with additional shielding gas tanks – still aren’t just the right tool.

There are some jobs where an old-fashioned stick welder is really the only right tool.

Back to methods, before we get lost:  There are some schools and community colleges that teach DIY skills – so look up the local community colleges on line.  And, the major manufacturers of welding gear also run some first=rate schools.  The formal (accredited) schools tend to cost a bunch, but if you plan a career as a welder, that’s where you get “certified.”  All kinds of certifications, too.  Everything from “nuclear pipe welder” to structural to….well, it’s a list.

Besides going through the Divers Institute of Technology to learn underwater welding….more comfortable options include:

Hobart, which makes a fine line of gear, has the Hobart Institute.  That red wire welder of ours is a Lincoln which (look surprised here) also has a fine school.  The other big name is Miller and yep,they have great training resources, too.

Yet another way to learn is hitting YouTube and going through various course offerings online.  Since I’ve already done some MIG and a bit of  gas welding (mostly cutting) my next personal challenge was to get a “down and dirty” on how to stick weld…

You;ll have to be “direct language proofed” to watch, but right here is a dandy intro to stick welding.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fUAHkUfTps if you block popups).

This leaves only the problem of which cheap stick welder to get.

Again, it depends on which project I’m trying to “chunk.”

Most of my projects seem to all involve steel and mostly thin-walled pipe.  Like welding some brackets onto the crank-up radio tower, for example.  Since 52 feet of radio tower is not something you take on lightly, a lot of research is involved. I decided on a compact IGBT (insulated gate, bipolar transistor) switch-mode type unit.  Very small and light weight.  It may “fit downstairs” on the MIG roll-around cart.

Having tried with limited success using the MIG rig on thin-wall, I decided that rather than go down to really small MIG wire (like 0.025) which would involve new tips, more money-motion and reels of wire, the small, cheap, stick welder and some 1/16th inch rod, plug a learning curve would be fun.

I know it sounds strange to non-makers, but since I can fly, sail, dive, a house-build, seems like it would be absurd to get onto the next life without having mastered the third crown in welding… (MIG/Oxy/Stick).

The welder chosen was $119 bucks for a ARC Welding Machine, 110V, 200Amp Power, IGBT AC DC Beginner Welder Use Welding Rod Equipment Tools Accessories … There’s also a pound of 6013 rod coming which is a fast freezing, low penetration rod.  Low amperage and thin rod is what this welder seems suited for, especially since I already own the title “burn through king” with MIG wire even using Innershield wire and shielding gas…

Seems like a lot of “chunking” just to weld something onto the tower.  But, things like hose clamps don’t work on the tower, so welding it is.

A couple of useful “chunking tools” if you’re always on the lookout for things to pick up for multiple projects you’re creaming about..

One is a stainless steel pocket metal gauge.  This one was about $6-bucks. Not blue IRL, just that’s how the camera saw it…

Goes on the pick-up truck key-chain so I’m never without it out foraging for stuff.  You  never know when you’ll need to see if a piece of scrap is 16 of 18 gauge steel.

The other thing useful for projects is one of those $2-buck retracting “sewing measuring tapes.”  Not too much bigger than a 3/8″ thick 50-cent piece.  But, a lot easier to pack around than a 25-foot FatMax tape.

Speaking of which…yes it’s $20 bucks for a Stanley Tools 25-Feet FatMax Tape Measure,  but, unlike thinner tapes that aren’t as broad, the FatMax will self-support out to just over 11-feet.  My older style (thinr blade) 30-footer collapses at about 8-1/2 feet out from the body.

May not seem like a big deal, but using a tape that I can reliably measure 14-feet with, as opposed to 10.5 feet is a very big deal.  Don’t have to bother the “blonde helper” so often.

Since a “Making Mood” is on, come on back Saturday and let’s see if I can which the old table saw into shape.  My cheap table saw is about to get “hot-rodded” to make it much more “cabinet making friendly.”

But let’s hold that for the weekend…

Write when you get rich,

george@ure.net

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