Tag Line

"Built Dam Strong!"

31 December 2014

Tool Review Tuesday, 01: Jeepers Creepers mechanics cushion, by Lisle

What is it?

A padded, foldable mat made of comfy foam and easy to clean vinyl. It looks like this:

What does it do?

It keeps your knees and body protected from less than perfect and hard surfaces.

How well does it do it?

Very well! I used it while working on my mom's CRV replacing the front brakes. My knees are thanking me. The ground was wet and the driveway is gravel. It made the job much more pleasant. It is far superior to cardboard. It can be used pretty much anywhere, unlike a wheeled creeper that would cry for mercy with the less than stellar surface I usually work on.


-Reasonably priced.
-Sized well
-Easy to carry with a carrying handle on top
-Very visible
-Well constructed

-The foam is not as stiff as other pads I've used, so it might not be as comfortable (but it's more foldable and lighter)

Is it BBA (Beaver Built Approved)?

30 December 2014

TOS FA3V mill actually milling something!

My friend Dave and I got my mill running last night and made chips for the first time ever!

As silly add it might seem, just that little end mill cutting that piece of 1/4" thick flat stock is a whole new world opened up. :) 

28 December 2014

1G CRX Race Car Aluminum Rear Bumper Support Fabrication

I have no idea why, but the photos I took with my phone got saved in an odd spot, but I found them, so here we go!

This is the stock steel bumper support:
 It is pretty well made, solid and darn heavy.

The legs unbolt from the cross bar. I actually like the simplicity of how the stock parts fit together! It makes taking the stock stuff apart very easy.

Here is one of the legs and the new 1/4" thick aluminum baseplate next to each other:
 It was really easy to get the hole centers from the base plate and drill them to match.

The 2"x3" aluminum box tube fits into the rear bumper cover very well:
 As you might notice, the aluminum cross bar is shorter, further decreasing the weight of the bumper cover support! I have a few more tricks up my sleeve for lightening the whole assembly without loosing any of the strength and rigidity of the whole assembly.

Here I am in the process of laying out where to weld the extensions to the main cross bar and the baseplates.
The longest part of the project up to this point was to figure out how long to make the extensions and where to weld them. I had tacked them on then went to fit it to the rear of the car and somehow fudged the math up by two inches. I know now what I did wrong, but, well, it was pretty embarrassingly simple. Once I figured out where the supports were supposed to go, I re-tacked them and that was that for the day, as I had to skedaddle back home. I'll be boxing in and welding up the rest of the bumper support soon, as well as adding two upper supports for the top of the bumper cover, just like the stock cross beam has. Look forward to more updates in the new year! =) 

The Funk's H-prod 1G CRX: Fuel cell mounts and lightweight rear bumper support.

I moseyed on up to Massachusetts last weekend and got busy working on Ed and Steph's 1G CRX they are building up for running in H-Production. The main goals for the weekend were to get the fuel cell mounting figured out and move on to making lightweight aluminum bumper cover supports that could take a bit of abuse. Bump drafting is a thing. LOL!

 That diagonal bar caused us some interesting issues figuring out exactly where to mount the cell to still be able to get to it and fill it. Since this isn't a car where fast fueling is a necessity, we placed it as far back as practical while still allowing room for the mandatory bulkhead required to be between the driver and the cell itself.
You can also see where I took out the stock seat brace, which also left some patching to do:

After moving the cell in and out of the car twenty times, we got these angles tacked in place:

Since the floor is not very even going across, I added in these 1/4" spacer plates and welded everything together:

The front angle didn't need any spacer plates and was welded in, too:

The rear angle had one floor rib that came up too much to fit a 1/8" spacer, so we cut a piece of 1/8" bar stock and welded that in:

The floor was still wonky enough to allow the cell to rock quite a bit, so on the inner rear bracket, I welded in this bent piece of flat stock to provide a small but sturdy platform:

Since it is bad practice to rely solely on welds when they are in sheer, I cut a small piece of the same bar stock and welded it in place under the flat of the platform.
 The cell now fits in perfectly, with just enough wiggle room to not make it suck taking in and out, and allowing for some expansion that will come with temperature changes. What I don't seem to have photos of are the outer angle and inner plate welded in to locate the cell from side to side, but it is really just the same as the two you see above.

The cell will be secured via steel straps and threaded rod, much like a large battery tie down. The holes will be drilled through the front and rear angles, with another reinforcement plate sandwiching the floor pan from below, front and rear. This will be very secure and not very heavy. The previous mount for the fuel cell was very well made from heavy wall 1x1 square tube, but man was it heavy! This solution is lighter and easier to get the cell in and out of if needed.

Finishing up the welding was easier to do from the driver's side instead of reaching over the door bars while the car is up on large truck jack stands. I found the easiest way to get into the car as through the windshield:
 I've never entered and exited a car through the windshield before. LOL!

And . . . it seems I don't have any pics yet of the rear bumper support. I'll remedy that when I weld it up, soon.

This is a really fun project to work on, and I look forward to doing more with Ed and Steph as they get this car ready to kick some major butt this year! 

27 December 2014

S&W Cage install in an "EG" hatch. This was NOT fun.

Be prepared for a rant. I am in a ranty mood. I think I have every right to a good, old fashioned top-of-the-soapbox rant. First, let's establish some facts.

The company:
S&W Race Cars.

It seems many people have heard of them and their cheap roll bar kits. They sell nearly any 8-point kit of EWS (Electrically Welded Seam) tubing for $199.

The Products I've personally worked with:
92-95 Honda Civic Hatchback
88-91 Honda CRX

First impressions:
The tubing is of good quality. The bends are good mandrel bends. There is very little deformation across the diameter of the tube for the radius of the bend. They do NOT send enough reinforcement plate, in my opinion. The copes and cuts on the tube are done with a plasma cutter, very likely CNC as the similar tubes are nearly exactly the same. The cuts and copes SUCK. Whoever programs the cutter needs to have his job reevaluated.

Second impressions, starting install:
The main hoop of the CRX kit fit well. The main hoop of the "EG" hatch was atrocious. The legs were bent in nearly 4 inches too much.

This picture seems to exaggerate the bends of the legs, but it was really that bad. No, welding the cross bar in did not suck the ends of the legs in much at all.

 I ended up having to do something horrifically janky and dangerous to spread the legs wide enough to hit the reinforcement plates:

That is a 5 ton bottle jack which I maxed out twice and had it fly off twice making me fear for the intactness of my nethers being permanently disturbed. I play with multi-ton steel beams all day and THIS is scarier than nearly anything at work. Springs are a magical, but terrifying thing.

Only one leg moved much, so I ended up just having to roll with things as they were and made due with what was given to me. This is the driver's side:

 Nice and proper, right?

This is the passenger side:

Yuck. remember, this is AFTER stretching the legs about 4" out!

It was hard to get a picture of the whole hoop from the front, but I managed to get the upper parts of the hoop even side to side and front to back (which was no easy feat!). I matched the angle of the door opening to make it look good, just like I did with Steve's cage.

If you'll notice in the pics above, I added in metal around the corner. This is because there wasn't much there to begin with due to some rust damage. That took a whole bunch of time to fix, which was frustrating, but not an issue with the cage itself. Here are some pics from the rust repair and baseplate install:

Lots of welding, but making the foundation for the most important part of the cage solid is really, really important. Having a pretty level base also makes installing the hoop easier, too, so it is vital to get it correct from the get go.

The only halfway decent copes in the entire kit were for the rear bars. These were the easiest to install. The copes could easily be much better with some better programming, but I guess for the price S&W just DGAF about that, preferring to pass on the labor of correcting the copes to you, the consumer.

Rear bar install pics:

I could have sworn I had taken more photos, but, well, I guess I didn't or they didn't save or something. I dunno.

Side rant:

That thing is NOT good for male tender bits. It is in just the wrong place at just the wrong angle to do all sorts of damage to the meat and veg. And rip your pants. That too. But mostly mangle your dangler. Ugh.

Now . . .  here is where I really want to shove poorly coped EWS tubing up the rectum of whomever programmed the cutter.

The center bars Sucked. That is correct. Sucked with a capital "S."

Gaps EVERYWHERE, even after a lot of rework.

It took way too long to get these in:

If you can't confidently fill vertical gaps with MIG, DO NOT purchase this kit. (Well, don't purchase it, anyway.)

This also brings up another annoyance. There are 8 connection points to the chassis. S&W only provides 6 plates. What I ended up doing is splitting the last two plates into slightly more than 1/3 and leaving the rest for the door bars, using the skinny piece for the center braces connection point. You should NEVER weld a tube directly to the body, because there is not enough surface area with enough material thickness (and thus tensile strength) for the connection to actually do anything in case of a crash. You need thicker material and wider material in order to properly distribute the huge forces applied to the tubes in the event of a worst case crash. The instructions are mum on this point, and I find it extremely poor to not include another plate with instructions to split the plate (or, heaven forbid, shear a plate in half and ship it that way) to actually provide proper connection points for all of the tubes.

I eventually got the door bars in, which was a real pain since I ran out of wire, then ran out of gas and had to pay way too much for a bottle from a supplier local to the garage I was working out of.

I managed to keep things fitting tight:
 Both doors close perfectly, but give as much space as possible. The seats fit perfectly well, too. For the record, I do NOT like side/door bars of this sort, but I am of the opinion that if you are putting in a cage, put in a real cage and stop pretending that the car is streetable at this point.

Another shot showing how wonky the main hoop is, as it really doesn't utilize the shape of the car at all well:

After install conclusion:
I will NEVER install another S&W cage knowingly. The fitment is poor. S&W's instructions are poor. S&W's customer support is poor (reference issues with Steve's CRX cage: the center bars are clearly coped for a straight cross bar, not the angled crossbar they supply with the CRX kit, and they just DGAF about correcting that). The price makes the kits appealing, but you have to have well above average fabrication and welding skills in order to install the cage so that it is an actual safety device. This, IMO, makes these kits dangerous, as having a false sense of security is worse that not having a darn cage. One caveat: As you can see, I have only worked on two Honda cages. Their fitment might be better for other makes and models of cars. However, the consistently terrible coping likely carries across all of their products and as such, I cannot recommend you become a guinea pig for them, or you risk your life if you aren't confident that you can fit tubes properly or make them fit as best you can to ensure that you are going to come out alive in the event of a crash.

So, S&W Race Cars cages are NOT Beaver Built Approved. They are cheap monetarily but horrifically espensive in time and consumables. I went through almost six pounds of .030" wire between the rust repair and gap filling. I also used up over two whole 33CF C25 bottles. That adds a somewhat hidden but very significant cost. A well fitting cage would use less than half of that, take less time and probably be safer in the hands of someone who isn't very experienced with welding and fitting tubes.

Just SAY NOT to S&W Race Cars cages. 

12 October 2014

Oh, boy. I have a long way to go.

I'm so very out of practice. I'll be putting in a lot of arc time. It is just frustrating to have let things go for this long. It isn't so wonderful. Oh well, I will be re-learning everything. I have plenty to practice on.

A few more pics of some more steel welding this morning:

 Can somebody say undercut? Ew.

Practice practice practice. 

11 October 2014

Initial review of my new Everlast PowerTig 200DX, along with some crappy photos of crappy welds.

Yesterday I picked up most of the rest of my welding stuff from Dave's place in Brooklyn. With the back seats folded down, the Fit really does live up to its name!

Not stuffed to the gills, but the back end was sagging significantly:
Eventually I'm gonna have to get some stiffer springs. This is pretty typical of a stock Honda.

Today after a lazy morning with pancakes and bacon, I got to unloading what I needed to get welding. I even remember to bring my shield home, too!

I got the welder hooked up to power and argon and connected the foot pedal, ground and torch. These are all the items that came in the "deluxe package" (well, not the gas of course, but the regulator fits normal bottles, not that weird metric stuff that came on my previous welder).

So, setup is  pretty easy. I am a huge fan of direct turny-button things. I am NOT a fan of the modern digital controls that most brands are moving towards. I really detest having to go through menus just to make simple changes. That actually goes for more than just welding machines. Phones, cameras, electronics of all sorts just SUCK when it comes to this kinda thing. Burying things in menus just makes no sense. Anyway, I don't have to deal with that with the simple and newly designed layout on this welder. I like the layout. I like the clear cover. I WOULD like the finger notch for the clear cover to be larger, though. With thick gloves on, you cannot open the cover easily. If I have gloves on, I don't want to take them off just to tweak the amps or flip switches.

I ground some 1/8" 1.5% Lanthanated (black) tungsten, as that is what I had for testing. The torch itself is actually decent! The cable is decently flexible, but it is not flexible enough to wrap around your forearm or hand like most welders to to support the weight of the cable without having to grip the torch itself hard (and thus shaking all over the place). The DINSE connector is actually very good. The fitment into the socket is excellent. The machining of the threads for the collet body and cap are excellent. Everything fit well together. The body is grippy. It comes supplied with a switch. I actually like switches for tacking. Bop the switch, and you have a tack. (As long as your fitment is good, that is.) The switch action is positive. It is placed well. It even came with a zip on cloth cover! I actually like the cloth cover more than the leather cover I have for my normal torch. The only gripe I have about the torch setup is that no one should ever be supplied with a a torch that is less than 25ft. long. this one is about 12. It is useable, but, it's not long enough for "real" work.

The "deluxe" pedal isn't. It is much more compact. It has a decent length to the cable, with a connector on each end making extending the cable easier, if necessary, and it might be, as the length is, again, decent, but not as long as I would like. I may still be getting used to it, but there seems to be an annoying "hitch" on the very "low" end, just before the contact switch clicks. This is REALLY annoying when trying to taper off. I think I might try the clunky pedal with this machine to see what happens. (If the impedances don't match up, it might have low end control issues.) The clunky pedal, while huge and not particularly smooth, did not have any weirdness like this "deluxe" pedal.

The ground clamp is also decent. It has a wide clamping range and enough (but not so much it is hard to open) tension in the spring. The contact points a decently thick copper. The connector between the contacts is, oddly (at least in my experience) a solid sheet of copper instead of your more typical flat braided copper ground strap. The DINSE connector fits very well and locks in solidly. The cable crimps are well done. Again, the cable length is not as long as I would like, but with the ground, it is typical to have it be shorter than the torch whip, anyway.

I haven't used the electrode holder yet, but it is a proper clamp type instead of those disgustingly annoying twist type. (I HATE THOSE!!!) For a stick welding whip, the lead is so short it is laughable. I wouldn't even bother trying to use it without getting a longer cable. If I am stick welding something, it is likely going to be in a horrible spot that I wouldn't want to lug my TIG box to or expose it to all the sparks and spatter from stick welding. I really would prefer to see 25ft. leads for everything. I consider that the bare minimum useable length.

The regulator is actually rather good. The machining is just plain excellent. All the markings are neat and very readable. Everything fits perfectly. It adjusts very easily. It seems to be very consistent at holding the set flow rate. Overall, this is a hugely improved accessory.

The NEMA 6-50 to standard 110V outlet adapter is a bit clunky, but, well, it kinda has to be. That being said, it is very well made with molded rubber ends and it fits securely together.

So, for the accessories that come with the deluxe package, they are all a DEFINITE step up from the base stuff. It is useable, even if the leads are short. I am impressed with the overall quality, fit and finish of them and feel that they represent a good value, but not a great value. I have my reservations about the foot pedal. This is the only disappointing part of the bunch. I will work with it more and see if I can get used to it, but I already have a US made pedal in my sights, though it will have to wait a bit as they are $160. If I am remembering correctly, the whole "deluxe package" is about that price if you are paying retain. Since I bought this welder while there was a special going on, I was upgraded to the "deluxe package" for free.

On to the welding! As a reminder, I am currently using this on a 20A 110V circuit. That is the primary reason I bought this box. I can just plug it in and go nearly anywhere! The box WORKS. VERY VERY well. The adjustments are easy and correct, meaning turning knobs does things in the expected manner, in the amount of the turning. Low amp start, even with the silly large 1/8" tungsten is good, and I expect it to be much better with a more reasonable tungsten size for the lower amperage. On of the best features of the newer models is that it has a "real" fitting for the gas hose instead of a barb fitting. This does a few things. First, it reduces stickout in the rear. I transport welding crap often, and having a fairly flush fitting in the rear instead of the barbed fitting that sticks out a good bit is actually a relief. This also makes for a simpler setup. You only need one tool (an adjustable crescent wrench) to set it up instead of a screwdriver and an adjustable wrench (or multiple wrenches for the regulator and gas hose fittings). Simpler is better!

I am simply way out of practice. Geez. It SUCKED welding today. The box itself functioned flawlessly. I was just plain awful for most of it. Here are some pics of the crap I was putting out:

 Note: The scrap isn't the cleanest . . . and I accidently welded the steel to the stainless bench topper . . . That's going to be annoying to get apart. ARG!

I noticed that when welding aluminum the fan pitch changes, especially when I am cranking on it to get a puddle started on cold aluminum. I suspect that it won't do that on 220V. HOWEVER, it did not effect the welding at all. That was rock steady!

Steel multipass:
 Ugly because I didn't clean it up much and I also have to relearn WTF I am doing. Geez. It's gonna take a lot of practice, but I am going to put the time in!

After finding a thicker piece of aluminum, I started to get some decent welds without burning through. I started running multipass welds to just work on my angles and timing and motion:

 I actually started to get some decent beads in.

As you can see in this last picture, I am having issues with cratering. I am attributing that to the hitch in the pedal. I have not had that issue before when I could taper off normally. I'd expect it on the thin piece, but not so much on the ends of a very large multipass weld. I am going to have to figure that one out. Maybe it really is just me!

Overall, the PowerTig 200DX is EXCELLENT. The Deluxe package is a decent value as you can actually use everything right out of the box to hook it up and get to making welds. That's a pretty important step up in quality and usability, especially if you are just starting out with a TIG welder. I'll report  in on the pedal, if it "breaks in" or if I just want to chuck it in the bin.

So, there you have it. So far one 110V, I can do 90% of the work I would ever do with a TIG welder. That's very impressive. Everything works and works well. A few minor gripes is all I can muster. The handle on top of the box feels a bit loose. The handle on my PowerTIG 250EX was not. The accessories had a fairly horrific oily rubbery smell at first. It subsided overa  few days, but holy crap! I wish the Chinese manufacturers would realize we don't want to smell how terrible things are right away. Other than that, it is excellent!

I'll have to modify the tool cart in order to fit it on the bottom shelf, as the handle makes it too tall to fit in the self space, but I was anticipating that and already have a plan. In the mean time, I am going to gather up all my TIG tools and put them in the cart which will be AWESOME to have all of them in one place. I'l be ordering steel soon for the cart and new work benches! YES! Lots to look forward to. Lots of welding to do. I'm on it!