Making: Project Chunking, Stick-Welding

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.  ( 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,

22 thoughts on “Making: Project Chunking, Stick-Welding”

  1. Hi, George,

    You might consider making some of the lower cabinets with pull-out drawers for storing pots, pans, and casserole dishes. One cabinet could be a slot type shape to have the various flat cookie type sheets stored on their edge. Look into decorative metal splash guards made of copper sheeting to be installed behind the sink and maybe a stainless steel one behind the oven. I would recommend corian countertops over granite.

  2. I absolutely love to weld, George. It takes time to drag the Miller out and get set up but it’s one of the most useful and enjoyable activities I engage in. The welder is a 11.5Kw unit that’ll put out 220 if needed which is why I bought it but it can be a gas hog even with the fuel injection metering the gas as well as it does.

    I’ve been tempted to get the wire feed attachment but haven’t done it yet. The thinnest material I’ve dealt with so far is expanded metal on thin angle iron. One day I’ll run into the need to weld stainless but I’ve avoided it so far.

    Using the thin rods usually meant seeing them sticking and burning off so I’ve stayed with the standard thickness rods for everything. Just turn the amps and volts down to the lowest setting and keep it steady. I forget what the number for the rods I’ve used is but it’s whatever works on the crappy, rusted oil field cast off pipe and such you find in the pasture. I’ve picked up enough to last a lifetime in estate sales plus what’s left over from my predecessors. As long as the work lasts a generation I call it good. As with all things, though, there are good days welding and there are bad days. Kind of like bad hair days. Most of the time it’s fairly presentable – neatness equates to strength – sometimes it’s not but works. When I can’t hold the stick steady any more will be a bad day, indeed.

  3. Hi George,

    You might check this place out for your flooring needs: We put Brazillian wood in hour house 10 years ago and it still looks as good as it did on day one. I did not buy from this link we purchased from a flooring company in Des Moines so I am recommending the product not the company.

    Good luck.

  4. G – it must be Whip em Out Wednesday/WOW !

    U start us off with the term Tool Slut, followed by “if your always on the lookout for things to pick up..your creaming about” hmmm U gotta be pretty excited to be “creaming” about it!

    The tease did not end there – oh no, how about “making mood” and “fatmax”, you dirty dog.
    Talk about a “toxic male” themed write up ! Bless your heart George

  5. George

    ” Because there are so damn many ways to weld.”

    Yes there is and one way is down right spooky! I am referring to Friction Stir Welding which uses no electricity, gas or anything else but the friction of a spinning needle.

    My experience with it was with Aluminum Lithium alloy plate but it may be used with other material. It works as follows. Two plates of material about 1/4 inch thick are butted together in a very strong clamping device. There should be almost no space between the plate edges. A thick titanium needle in a super strong chuck is spun at about 800 rpm. This needle is pushed into the seam where the plates are held with a hydrolic ram. The friction that is generated causes the two plates to become plastic where the needle is. The needle is pushed through the plates similar to a ship hull passing through water. The plates become one piece of material.

    Test pieces of material when cut through the weld reveal NO discernable discontinuaty of grain structure. The welds look like flat plate with a swirl pattern on the surface but are very flat! The whole process is just spooky.

    The English developed this process. Lockheed Martin was commissioned by NASA in the late 1990’s to switch from Plasma Arc welding to Friction Stir welding for the many thousands of feet of weld on the Space Shuttle External Fuel Tank. This was done with great success and produced tanks that were very strong. The new Orion space capsule hulls are welded together with this process.

    I have seen this welding done in person and it is truly amazing and spooky! It should not be possible to do but it works.

    • Funny. When i was a kid i had a toy that operated on the same principle. Battery powered “drill” that held plastic tips. It would spin and you could “weld” plastic girders and plates to build buildings or cars. It was a clever and fascinating toy for a boy.

      Alas, as with anything fun, it was soon taken off the market. Probably “unsafe.”

  6. Good Morning George,

    The old saying about the “bigger boys and bigger toys” is so true in my case. Just bought myself a “new to me” used all terrain scissors lift. I know, why do I need a scissors lift if I am not in the construction business.

    I used to be in that business. At one time, it was no problem for me to walk red iron at medium heights and never bat an eye. Then one day I was replacing roof sheets on my Dad’s barn, 40 feet up, and rode a ladder to the ground from on the roof. Good thing I stayed with the ladder, bent the aluminum ladder like a horseshoe, but it took up most of the impact. Survived with a sprained wrist and few bruises, but have never been good at ladders or heights since.

    Now, some 25 years later and older; I find that I am always needing to do something at the limit of my ladder’s reach. So I found a buy on the scissors lift, which will allow me easier access to house gables, equipment shed roof (4/12 pitch) and top of the combine. Lift will support me and an additional 1,100 pounds. Goes most anywhere with 4 wheel drive and flotation small tractor tires. Makes trimming trees a blast.

    Could I have rented one? Yes, but the rental place is thirty minutes away, lift is not always available on my schedule, and besides I needed something else to work on. Price was almost to good to be true, but found out it was cheap because a nice gentleman in his 80’s was closing his construction business and wanted this gone. Most of the problems are strictly cosmetic.

    I have found that as I get older, time is more precious than money. With this lift I can now safely do jobs that I dreaded, on my schedule, and the way I want them done. Almost impossible to hire anyone that has skills or will listen to your instructions. We have several Amish in our area, but they know one way and only one way to do things. Most of these folks (good people) don’t know what a joist hanger is and have certainly never used one. They are the only ones around who will actually work, but you have to go get them (no work trucks, etc.); and that wastes time. Can’t call them, no telephone; so it is difficult to find with them.

    So I bought myself a new “toy”, because I like doing things myself.
    I find that I complain a lot less about the contractor, if I am that person. Not that the wife doesn’t offer suggestions now and then, but after all every job needs good supervision.

    Lloyd Snider

  7. I always do the uppers first. Easier to handle without having to “lean” over the lowers, and avoids the possibility of damaging one if you drop the upper. Just my 0.02

    I can set up a table if I need a flat work surface.

  8. “(making drawers is tedious work)”

    OMG.. George.. drawers are simple and easy..
    one of my many hats was building cabinets.. thousands of drawers later..

    if you use the hardware side.. then one inch is given.. a twelve inch opening means an eleven inch drawer.. the same with the top leave an inch.. bottom hardware or flat slide ins the same except you can have a bigger drawer..

    he uses 3/4 for bottom that is overkill.. I use 3/8
    also his bottom is just stapled on the side of the sides.. I like to dado a grove for the bottom to slide in..
    finger joints are really nice but if your not use to making them is a little harder to do.. I love splining..
    for the router jig I used a biscuit cutter..
    franklin wood glue..
    this is the spline jig I own…

    I have built a few slides..

    this guy makes finger joints.. although I would get a little better jig.. I cannot even tell you how many drawers I have made this way..

    this guy is much better..

    don’t forget the sacrificial wood backer..
    hanging hardware.. the easy way is to make a board the width of the drawer put the sides back on the back board and sides in.. slide the drawer in the slides pop them in the opening and square up screw the backer board onto the back of the cabinet. then mount the front on the opening. fast and pain free.. then put the headers on..

    I built my own drawer front jig….

    for the frames.. I use a kreg jig and pocket holes..
    also biscuit but I do love my kreg..
    standdard size kitchen cab 35.5 by whatever and 24 deep..
    four inch toe.. if your going to put in wheel chair accessible then you put a five or six inch do not loose any cabinet space with a wc toe..
    biscuit joiner.. this is a common issue.. easy fix this guy shows how really well..

    hope that helps on your cabinet rebuild.. cabinet making is simple it is a square or rectangle..

  9. decision overload and accompanying paralysis:
    *the red lincoln tombstone shaped stick welders are said to last forever so a used one is good for a home user.
    *what about tig? versatile but expensive.
    *pulsed arc? saves a lot of hard knocks school learning after spending some practice time
    *most will say that if you don’t have a welder, a gas rig comes first. it welds and cuts most stuff, doesn’t need a wall outlet, heats stuck parts and can melt some metals for casting.
    *used generator/welder combos come up occasionally. Tempting because it doesn’t need a funny high voltage circuit, works as just a generator if needed and works out in the back 40 without a 600 foot extension cord.

    I say no chunking. You know what the whole project is, so spend the time to plan it from crow bar to polish so it goes smooth and quick, even to the point of having a stack of finished parts in the barn ready to go before starting demolition. That also saves a lot of setups and takedown/cleanups. And you’ll feel better spending the time to wall off the area with plastic sheeting to control the dust. If you get tired of 10 hour construction days, you’ll get your money worth out of a helper if it’s all ready to go.

    What the hell did you do to wear out your walls, insulation and wires?

    • What the hell did you do to wear out your walls, insulation and wires?

      It’s basically a mobile home that I’ve ‘upgraded” as I’ve gone through it. Most of it has second layer of 1/2 sheet rock on it (makes the house dead quiet and acoustically great). And the wiring is mostly 14 so I try to upgrade the point to point with 12 gauge and…well…so it goes…

  10. re; table saw,
    For all but the softest woods, most saws run way too fast.
    The manufacturer does this because it is not easy to put a larger pulley on the arbor shaft. High speed motors are cheaper, half the number of stator windings, and ‘speed’ noise sells.
    Why do I say this, too fast? Well try to cut a hardwood and see, it will likely be burned by the blade and leave those awful marks to be sanded off, or worse. Woods have ideal cutting speeds to avoid heat, just like metals.
    That high tech ‘must have’ carbide tipped blade is also a problem, just not as sharp as a quality traditional high speed steel blade, which has a better tooth angle, more acute, and usually a thinner kurf, and is easy to touch up with a triangle file to sharpness.
    On older saws, check the shaft bearings, if worn, they will allow the shaft to rattle sideways and a good clean cut cannot be had.
    Sometimes the table or fence metal will leave marks on the freshly cut wood, Aluminum when oxidized is especially bad for this, I know I had a wonderful Shopsmith, i finally reduced the problem by coating and wiping of the table and fence with WD-40.

    How to reduce the blade speed;
    A slower RPM motor.
    A smaller pulley an the motor.
    An adjustable pulley on the motor.
    High tech, a variable frequency power supply-
    Shaft drive table saws get a slightly high blade profile up through the table, good for cutting thick stock, that shaft pulley does limit somewhat. But no easy way to change speed.

    Make up a few throat plates out of the correct thickness of plywood, they will provide more complete support, just cut the slot in them by raising up the blade running through.
    Sometimes an extra fence or hold-down guide will make the cut much safer, easier, sometimes the guard will make the job more dangerous getting in the way. But table saws are fairly safe as you always know where that blade is.

    I really liked my Shopsmith, I could do al kinds of mass production mortising, tenon, rabbit, etc., it was all just in the set-up, was necessary to plan the process so as to not have to flip the ‘smith around all the time. Very good for window frames.

    Well, whatever,

    Table saws can do much with wood, very much safer that the ‘cut your arm off’ radial arm saws! I refuse to use one of those beasts.

    Also, always use a push stick or 2, make these up and keep handy, they with help you keep your fingers away from that blade! I cut my thumb once turning to pick up another piece of wood stock, I felt the blade hit the bone, made it very difficult to do just about everything, including to pull my pants up, so there.

    Oh yeah, don’t believe all the Advertising, its all just to sell more crap.
    Review traditional, it is still how to get good work done.

    Re; your cabinets,
    If you are wanting a clean modern style, consider some re-purposed steel file cabinets, they are being thrown out all the time, and have nice sliders. A smoother durable paint finish is easy to achieve.
    Try to find some other way than the self rimming sink, these have never drained the counter at all like the older enamel counter integrated sinks from the ’50s. At least slope the counter to the sink very slightly so the tile or whatever will drain into the sink. Modern self rimming standing proud is just another bad idea to sell sleazy- easy.

    Flooring, well, there is real hardwood, but be aware that oak will naturally black mark where wet from the tannic in it, maybe try to get maple, it is a nice light color, and then prime and finish with the traditional Deft nitrocellulose Lacquer, never polyurethane. Poly-plastic is not re-coat-able, and impossible to refinish. Put as many coats of the Deft on as you want for the top shine.

    One more suggestion about wood flooring in general and especially outside or in damp climates, is to coat, seal, entire all surfaces including down side before installing. That can be done by dipping in a rain-gutter made from trough. Thin as necessary.
    Caution when using Lacquer, the solvents are very flammable, and do not breath, ventilate. But it dries in minutes, not like the day for varnish.

    For less hard use, consider Shellac for furniture, the Chinese have used it for centuries, 6 coats for high gloss, it is natural from bug skins, and the alcohol solvent is not as toxic, mostly ethanol with some denaturing methanol.

    Well, whatever,
    Enjoy your work!

  11. George,

    Regarding flooring for your kitchen, you might consider tile. I have also seen beautiful tile arrangements installed behind the sink as a splash guard that runs along the length of the counter top just under and around the windows and cabinets. Since you have a lot of humidity in East Texas, I wonder if bamboo flooring would work for you. It is not recommended for the dry climates of New Mexico or Arizona.

    • Ceramic and porcelain tiles look great, but if they’re on a floor, there needs to be less than 1/360 deflection. That may not be easy to accomplish on a former mobile home floor. I like the look personally, but it’s really labor intense and best done over a masonry base. I wish I could say otherwise for my own situation.
      Something like floating vinyl floor planks might be an option. Nothing to stain like wood or laminate. Just my opinion though, and I’m not known for having any decorating taste at all.

  12. Let’s see a common person or common Criminal could steal something like I was at $100 that’s a felony he can do that three times 300 bucks now has a spend the rest of his life in prison but does bankers still paying Centralia and they’re not even disciplined Factory warded they get bonuses for doing that. yep time to tear down the system and start over again.

    Everything’s a lie isn’t it

    • Oh, Bryce, you are gitting behind thee times: in our nice little big liberal city, any crime under $1,000 is not punishable by jail, it’s kind of a get out of jail free crime. Our city copied the California law. Times they are a changin.

  13. George, if there’s only one welding process that you can do, it should be stick! I’m not a great welder, but my welds are strong and very rarely break. I use thicker material – minimum 14 gauge up to 1/2″ plate or more, and lots of amps! Usually 10% more than suggested by anyone. I’ve built trailer hitches, trailers, towbars, and lots of one-off fabrication, along with fixing equipment, including cast iron. I own a MIG and never got around to using it yet, though it’s on the list. Gas is great for cutting, though plasma is cleaner; but a stick welder with high amps and 6011’s can cut too, when push comes to shove. TIG holds promise, but it’s yet another task to learn!

    The old tombstone Lincolns are great, IMHO, though they’re not the finest – just the most reliable. Even better if you have the DC option. You can get a hernia by dragging them around though. Sadly I broke one of mine – probably the main switch. It’s on the list to check out. Meanwhile the other, much older one keeps buzzing along.

    I won’t comment on cabinets. I can frame all day, but the finish carpentry is best done by others.

    And yes, doing a kitchen when living with a wife is best handled as a single chunk. Budget for things to keep Elaine happy and out of the kitchen too. Perhaps BBQ’s on the deck with drinks once the weather breaks.

  14. George,

    Granite countertops are elegant, and I have seen some beautiful ones. However, you need to be careful when placing glassware and stemware on it. Corian is “softer”, and I have a beautiful corian pattern for my kitchen countertops. I think, but am not 100% sure, that granite countertops can handle hot pans and pots placed upon it with no harm. It is just a matter of personal preference, so please check all options. Thanks.

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