What You Need for Your Fabrication or Welding Shop
Kevin runs through the must-have items for your own shop or art studio:
1) A METAL WORK TABLE. A metal table is best, but some people use a wooden table with a metal surface on it. Kevin prefers a metal table that is easier to make level and even, and that won't warp. Still, one colleague uses a stump with a 1/2" piece of steel plate on it. The stump is hollowed a bit so he can take off the metal and use the stump for shaping. That's the sort of ingenuity you can use while creating your shop.
2) A WELDER. Kevin shows two options, a MIG welder and an arc welder. For the MIG welder, he shows Longevity's MigWeld 140, which runs on 110, uses solid core with inert gas for cleaner welds, or it also runs flux core, which uses no gas and can be used outdoors. The MIG is great for thinner metal and is easier to learn. This model starts about $325. The Lincoln arc welder, or "buzz box" or "tombstone welder," is another option. You can pick one up at a big box store for $500 - 600. It's better for welding thicker metal and welding outside in the wind. It does require 220 amp service, though.
3) A HELMET. You need a welding helmet with a dark shade, a 9, 10 or 11, depending upon your eyes, where you are welding and what you're welding with. There are auto-darkening and fixed shade helmets, too.
4) GLOVES. Kevin recommends having two types: some MIG or stick (arc) welding gloves, which are thick, well-insulated and have gauntlets; and a pair of lighter gloves for when you're cutting, grinding, etc. The work gloves protect your hands, but you have some tactile feel, unlike the welding gloves, which are like wearing oven mitts.
5) A MEASURING DEVICE. A tape measure, yard stick, the span of your hand if you know its width, a piece of string - something you can measure with.
6) SOME SORT OF MARKER. Kevin shows a soapstone marker, which you can get at a welding supply store, at Harbor Freight or at Home Depot in their welding department. You can also use a magic marker, a Sharpie, a pencil or a pen (although pens don't last long), even a scribe that lets you make a good sharp line.
7) A LEVEL. You need something to make things square and straight. The one he shows has magnets that let you attach it to the metal, but there are all sorts of sizes, shapes and types.
8) CLAMPS. Kevin shows vice grips for smaller work and Bessey clamps, with their deeper throats. He says he's even used woodworking clamps at times. There are many, many different types and styles of clamps.
9) A HAMMER. You'll need a decent sized hammer, a 16-ounce or so. You need a ball peen hammer, not a carpenter's hammer, not a claw hammer. Get one with a flat pounding surface.
Once you're done welding, there's always a little clean up to do, so you'll need ....
10) A 4-1/2" ANGLE GRINDER. You can use soft pads, which come in various grits and styles and last a long time.
You can also use the grinder for ....
11) A CUT-OFF TOOL. Just take your grinding pad off of your angle grinder and put on a cut-off wheel so you have a tool you can cut with. You can also use a hacksaw for cutting.
12) SOME PLACE TO SHAPE THINGS. You may not want to run out and buy an anvil right away, but, as Kevin points out, you probably have something around you can use, such as a stump, a bumper, even a trailer ball hitch.
These items will get you started. Then, as you continue to work, you'll better understand what your space will hold, what you want to be doing, what your budget will allow. Kevin says, "Have fun, and let me know how it's going."
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