Welterweight Welder

Maybe you’ve been thinking about getting into welding. Perhaps you’ve had a run-in  or two with a home or car repair where you thought a welder would be just the thing. Or maybe a buddy recently modded a grill or trailer, or made a cool metal rack on the cheap with his handy-dandy welder, and you thought, ‘Dang… I’d like to do something like that.” Well, join the club. But before you go out and get the coolest, top-of-the-line welder, you need to hang on and know a few things.

  • Practice

Welding–like any craft– is a skill . It takes a lot of practice to get even close to being competent. When you first take hold of that welder, for heaven’s sake, don’t use it on something you don’t want ruined. Practice on LOTS of scrap metal– preferably around the same thickness as what your first project is going to be. You should be able to find some good stuff at your local metal or welding shop. Get used to the action and the way the metal reacts. Work on avoiding “bird poops” (the unsightly metal globs you sometimes see on rough welding jobs), and start feeling comfortable with your developing “technique.” Then, use some scrap to make something you don’t care about, like a homemade grill for a fire pit or bookends out of 350 engine pistons. Only after you’ve gotten a handle on that kind of stuff should you attempt a project that does matter.

  • Start Small

You wouldn’t learn how to ride a motorcycle on a Harley Fat Boy or start target shooting with a Tac-50. The same goes with your first welder. Welding is not a low-cost activity, so before you know you it’s something you want to get into, starting smaller and cheaper is the way to go. An ideal model with which to “get your feet wet” is the popular Chicago Electric 90 Amp Flux Wire Welder. It’s easy to set up, can weld metal up to 3/16″ thick and is perfect for small projects around the house and garage. A quick browse through the 90 amp’s customer reviews will give you an idea of what it’s capable of. Here are a few comments:

“I’m a former auto technician and have welded hundreds of times over the years using various machines. I was hesitant to purchase this item… but after doing so I am thoroughly pleased. It’s was very easy to set up. Made numerous repairs to an existing metal decorative fence. It handled the 12 ga metal without hesitation and I decided to attempt it on another project that was heavier metal. It worked flawlessly producing strong welds on 3/16 metal… Overall a great machine at a great price. I’m completely pleased!”  DennisF – Temple, TX

“Very easy and fun to use. Fabricate anything I need to my (on) trucks and machinery. Very happy!”  Landscape Designer – NJ

“Wow, this is nice. How could you go wrong with the price, well worth the money. I’m going to buy one for my boy who has never welded before. Thanks for a great product.”  Boonie – Mt. Vernon, IL

“I needed to do some light welding on my car. I figured it was either hire someone or get my own welder and teach myself. I bought this with a 25′ #12 gauge extension cord and an auto dark helmet. I had never used a welder before, I don’t even have a book except the book that came with this welder.”  Mike – Hollywood, FL

“It’s a awesome welder and works great, can’t ask for much more. I love it. I made prerunner bumpers and skid plates, also welded up a few exhausts. I even made a welding cart and welding table with welder. Overall, buy this welder and make stuff with it and sell the stuff you make well worth the money!”  T-Man – redneckville

Once you’ve mastered your 90 Amp Flux Wire Welder, you can expand to bigger projects and maybe move up to a Chicago Electric 170 Amp MIG/Flux Wire Welder or 180 Amp MIG/Flux Wire Feed Welder for more power and thicker metal.

  • Safety

Obviously, the foremost thing to keep in mind about welding is safety first. Most of it is common sense, but for the sake of health and property, keep in mind that welding can be dangerous. Welders throw sparks, they can cause fire. Be sure to remove anything flammable from the area you’re working in, and if you’re welding on the grass or near bushes, it’s probably a good idea to wet down the ground. Also, wear a long-sleeve shirt, pants without cuffs, and long Welders Gloves. Of course, also get yourself face and eye protection. I particularly like the Chicago Electric Auto-Darkening Helmet with Blue Flame Design.

Once you get the hang of it, working on welding projects can be a blast– for the home, the car and all kinds of hobby projects. And Harbor Freight’s got the perfect, low-cost way to start!

Truckin’ Magazine: The Ultimate Work Truck– with Harbor Freight Tools

The Ultimate Work Truck Stocks Up on Harbor Freight Tools

If you thought “ultimate work truck,” how do you envision it might be outfitted? The staff at Truckin’ magazine recently took up that challenge, and in their October and November 2012 issues ran a 2-part series on creating the “Ultimate Ford F-150 Work Truck”– with a little help from Harbor Freight Tools!

Taking a 2012 F-150 SuperCab in Part 1, they installed a cool bed slide, a monster ladder rack (capable of holding 1,000 lbs) and a sweet commercial-grade diamond-plate toolbox.

In Part 2, they went on a shopping spree at Harbor Freight Tools and picked up a Predator 4000 Watt Portable Generator– to which they installed a shock/motion-activated alarm in the back of the truck, lest any covetous individuals think bad thoughts– a 17 Ft. Type 1A Multi-Task Ladder as well as a full stock of tools for the toolbox:

Then to fortify their heavily-equipped new rig, they installed a ladder lock, and secured the toolbox and everything else with a myriad of cables and locks, including the hitch. The end result: a “certifiable worksite on wheels.”

Take a peek at Truckin’ magazine’s drool-inducing articles– with lots of pics– and while you’re at it, check out the low prices and great reviews of the aforementioned tools on Harbor Freight’s website!

The Affordable, Rugged Pickup Truck Crane

A Central Hydraulics Pickup Truck Crane is like a smartphone (girlfriend? TiVo?): For years you’ve managed without one, but once it came into your life, you can’t imagine going on without it.

This brute lifter mounts to your truck bed– or other solid base– swivels 360 degrees and can lift up to 1,000 lbs! Lift scrap metal, firewood, motors, heavy machinery, beehives and more. It’s a favorite tool among Harbor Freight customers and, rather than me going on pitching the sucker, I’ll let them tell you how awesome it is:

“Bought it and put it in my Dodge to make it easier to load scrap… does a very good job lifting motors and scrap metal, in and out of my truck.”

How about for at the dock?

“I mounted this to the stern of my boat to lift my dingy and motor out of the water. It is perfect for this job. I also had it powder coated for corrosion.This is the best buy I’ve made in a long time. Thanks Harbor Freight.”

Or transporting heavy equipment?

“Bought this crane and mounted it to my welding trailer about two or three years ago, and about a month ago I used it for the first time to lift my engine-driven welder off the trailer. The crane works very well. Very happy with it.”

A common modification is to switch out the manual winch with an electric one, such as the Badlands 12-Volt 2,000 lb. model

“This works great on my log splitter. Put an electric winch on it and makes job much easier. Also made base for trailer to load big wood on it.”

…or adding an electric hoist, like the Best Value Chicago Electric 1,300 lb. Electric Hoist:

“I  bought this truck crane & mounted it to my 9′ deck behind my house to raise loads of firewood off the ground. Reconfigured it with an electric hoist and built 2 wooden boxes for the lift. The crane mounts through the floor near the deck railing & with the proper angle swivels out and clears the rail. My wife operates the winch from above. While I’m loading the lower box from the woodpile she’s unloading & stacking the other load to the deck woodpile. What a backsaver. Great product for the money!!!”

Whatever your load, the Central Hydraulics Pickup Truck Crane at Harbor Freight will make your life a whole lot easier.

Tailgate Warriors… Come Out and Play!

Football! The season couldn’t have come fast enough. I was getting sick hearing nothing but politics and hopscotching around TV reruns.  But– hallelujah!– it’s time once again for Pac-12 and pro ball (Go Big Blue!)– clear the boogie boards and swimming noodles out of the man cave, kick the PS3 crap off the floor and fill the chest freezer with wings, poppers, bacon and shredded cheese. And more importantly, get ready for the blacktop!

The tailgate party is a sacred ritual, much like a holy pilgrimage or pantsing the new kid. And like any ritual that requires serious reflection, one needs to decide how they will prepare for it. For example, go with the beer shorts, don’t go with the beer shorts? Obviously, if the beer helmet is out, it leaves you looking for a viable alternative. Also boning up on your cornholing and knowing the ACO regulation cornhole rules.

To throw a successful tailgate party for a bunch of your swellest buds, you’ll want to bring awesome gear. Of course a lot of what you bring depends on your power source, if any. A gas-powered generator can bust your options wide open– and there really are a ton to consider: a crock pot for the Lil’ Smokies or nacho cheese sauce, an electric grill for burgers and dogs, a portable oven for pizza, a mini-fridge, a heater or fan–depending on the weather, a string of lights or lanterns, a radio or other sound system, an LCD TV with portable satellite receiver, a PA (“attention, fans of other team…”}, a blender or margarita machine, coffee maker… hey, you could be there as long as 12 hours, man. Gear up for any possibility.

That said, my recommendation is getting the Chicago Electric 3050 Watt 7 HP Gas Generator. It runs quiet, it’s great on gas and it’s got all the juice you need to make it a helluva party! This is Harbor Freight’s most popular generator, and the proof is in the praise:

“I use this to power my refrigerators and freezer during outages, as well as charge and run needed electronics. It is very nice for this application since you can run for 24 hours on 10 gallons. She is very quiet… fires up easily and runs smoothly. Very nice product. “

Another customer had this to say:

” I use it mainly (for) hunting and camping, but have used it for power outage. It run a 5th wheel camper AC during day and furnance at nights with TV, frig, lights, PC, water pump, with no problems, and the 4-gallon tank runs it for approx 6 hrs. with over 50% pull on it. A sweet generator for the$$$ for sure. “

Besides football tailgate parties, this generator’s the perfect companion for rave parties, swap meets and fairs, rock concert tailgates, camping, and as I previously pointed out, areas of paranormal activity.

While you’re at it, I suggest you pick up an 8″ Never-Flat Generator Wheel Kit or a slightly-more-economical Mover’s Dolly along with a handy-dandy Swivel Handle. You’ll thank me, I promise. And finally, grab a 10′ x 10′ Popup Canopy while you’re there. Unless burn is your team color.

A Gun Gal’s Review of the Dual Rock Tumbler

Last month I compared different methods for cleaning used gun cartridges (“Cleaning Brass: Tumbler, Ultrasonic, or… Cement Mixer?” Jul 25, 2012)  that are practiced out there, and pretty much left it up to the reader to decide which one would be best for them. Well, I recently came across this video made by “GalsnGuns” that she admits is a “novice review of the Harbor Freight Dual Drum Rotary Rock Tumbler.”

I was really impressed by how she took us with her on her journey, experimenting with media, cleaner, different caliber shells and other things to get the best performance out of her tumbler. Her video– which is almost 8-1/2 minutes long– made a believer out of me that the Chicago Electric dual rock tumbler is a solid contender for cleaning gun brass.

A DIY reloader of .38, .357, 9 mm, .223, .556, .45 ACP, .44 magnum, 7.62 x 39 and 7.62 x 54, GalsnGuns has her work cut out for her, so– as she puts it, “first things first”– making sure she uses ready-clean shells is of the utmost imporatance.

Check out her video, and while you’re at it, take a look at the incredibly low-priced single and dual drum rock tumblers on HarborFreight.com, read the reviews and see if this sounds like just the ticket for you.

 

Harbor Freight does not endorse any other business or organization or any technique in any customer video or blog post. Always follow all of the instructions and warnings included with our products. Harbor Freight makes no representation or warranty of any kind by including the information on this website.

JP Magazine: Axle Upgrade with Harbor Freight Tools

If you like to play hard in your Jeep, you’ll definitely want to soup up your front axle– not exactly a light-duty job. Nevertheless, JP magazine shows us how to do just that– affordably and professionally– using tools from Harbor Freight! In an article entitled “Straight and Narrow,” in the Sep 2012 issue, JP editor Cole Quinnell takes us through the steps of getting it done in a weekend and be ready for work Monday morning. To do the job, however, Cole advises that you first need to collect a few special tools:

“In addition to the normal selection of hand tools, you’ll also need a Pickle Fork, a Ball Joint Press and a 35mm Socket to fit a spindle nut, all of which we picked up at Harbor Freight.” (capitalization added)

He added that you’ll need a decent MIG welder capable of welding 1/4″ steel. The Chicago Electric 170 Amp MIG/Flux Wire Welder would be a quality, affordable tool for the job. Of course, gearheads across the country already know, when you’re looking to do a  heavy project, Harbor Freight’s your tool headquarters.

This is a great article for prepping your Jeep to “handle all but the most abusive off-roading on 35-inch tires”– and no one knows their stuff like JP.  So get yourself a copy of their September issue and check it out!

Lighten Up Close and Personal

It’s the little things… that drive you nuts when they limit you in your work or hobby!

Whether you’re making jewelry, doing fine repair work, building a model, soldering circuitry or inking a bro, you’ll always be grateful for the day you headed down to Harbor Freight and picked up that Chicago Electric Fluorescent Magnifying Lamp.

 

 

The best of all worlds– a hands-free magnifying glass with light– this pro-quality, daylight-spectrum fluorescent lamp comes with a precision ground lens, providing fine detail and excellent clarity. Its 3-diopter magnification enlarges pictures, text and pieces to 1.75% their actual size and comes with a lens cover to protect against dust and particles. The magnified lamp also sits on a sturdy spring-balance arm which can extend up to 38″, and easily swivels and maneuvers to all your needs.

A great aid in so many situations, the Chicago Electric magnifying lamp is cheap, reliable and available at Harbor Freight now.

 

Sol Train

Great Caesar’s ghost– what IS that?!

It all started when Michael Jordan a.k.a. “Big Moe” decided to power his barn. He’d been using it as a workshop for his cars and other projects, and he wanted to get juice over there without having it tied to the grid. The barn did, in fact, have its own meter, but Big Moe opted to keep it turned off. Instead, he started clipping Harbor Freight coupons and bought 45 Watt Solar Panel Kits. After a year, he had purchased 45 kits– that’s 135 solar panels!

“I could have purchased larger panels from other sources, but I felt that the affordability and flexibility of buying from HF was better for my budget.”

Big Moe then created an on-roof rack system and installed all of the solar panels to it. Once the system was built and all the bugs were worked out of the inverters and battery banks, he found he had a lot more power than he needed in the barn. But, he made sure none of it went to waste.

“At that point I decided to also power my house. I now power my home and my barn from the HF panels. To be fair, I do not power the home 100%. I still run all of the 220v appliances from the grid, but all other aspects are run from my solar arrays.”

 

How Big Moe Did It

  • The solar system consists of two arrays with a total of 135 HF 15w panels (75 panels on array #1, 60 panels on array #2).
  • 2 @ 80 amp solar charge controllers
  • 12 @ 2v batteries in a single battery bank that holds 2220 AH of power.
  • 1 @ 5000w pure sine inverter for the barn.
  • 2 @ 3000w pure sine inverters for the house.
  • 1 @ Chicago Electric 400W Continuous Power Inverter for an outside security light
  • The panels are wired in series/parallel in sets of 3. This allows for a 43v input at load and 62v open circuit voltage. The controllers drop the voltage and up the amperage for the 12v battery bank.
  • 2/0 welding cable for wiring and the battery bank is connected to each other using copper bus bars.
  • 2 @ wind generators to help diversify for wind and solar. They are a 600w and a 800w wind & solar unit.
  • The wind generators are connected to one wind and solar charge controller.
  • The power to the home is fed through service wire to a breaker box that is located in the home, but is seperate from the standard breaker box.

He can feed any circuit in the home with either grid power or his own alternative power. So if the battery bank is running lower he is able to selectively change circuits from alternative to grid power.

Been thinking about adding a power source to your property, campsite or other location? Consider Harbor Freight’s solar panel kits, individual 15 Watt Solar Panels and other Chicago Electric solar power equipment for your project!

You can visit Big Moe’s page on the DIY Solar Energy Forum for more information, or if you have questions.

 

The Solar Toolman

I found Larry “The Solar Toolman” Taylor’s video recently on the Do-It-Yourself Solar Energy Forum site. In a quiet, confident tone—no script, no teleprompter– Larry gives “workshops,” demonstrating how someone can run multiple power tools, juiced by a solar panel kit and a cleverly assembled solar system, using hardware from Harbor Freight.

Click on the video’s YouTube link on the lower right, and it will take you to three more Solar Toolman videos, explaining how, with some low-cost modifications, a modest home solar system can power a swamp cooler, a refrigerator-freezer, a 5000 BTU air conditioner, TV, DVD, VCR, and more. For those who are looking to live more “green,” prepare for emergencies or just want to “get off the grid,” there are a lot of valuable tips to be gleaned from these few instructional videos.

When I showed this first video to a friend who’s really into DIY projects, he said, “If I decided to use solar power on my pool filter, these are the videos I’d watch to help me figure out what I needed to do it.”

While you’re at it, browse the rest of the Do-It-Yourself Solar Energy Forum and check out other interesting solar panel project videos and articles– contributed by innovative alternative-energy users! You’ll find a lot of them using the Harbor Freight 45 Watt Solar Panel Kit, 15 Watt Solar Panels, as well as the 100 Watt Solar Charge Regulator, the 30 Amp Charge Controller, power inverters and other Thunderbolt and Chicago Electric solar system hardware.

Great job, Larry! Keep those solar panel videos coming!

Mega Cool Tool Cabinet Project

When I was a kid, around the holidays, I always got excited for the Sears “Wish List” catalog. When it finally came, I would carry it off into my room and go over each page carefully, like a monk poring over the scriptures, carefully marking each treasure I really, really wanted (the BB gun and mini bike got circled every year… finally got the BB gun). That magic feeling’s faded over the years, and now that I’m an adult, I tend to harbor a more pragmatic view of what I can and can’t have. The tummy just doesn’t twitter anymore… until I saw a post last week in The Garage Journal:

A forum member with the moniker “blasto9000″ submitted pictures of a project he recently completed, bolting three US General 44″ 13-Drawer Roller Cabinets together– essentially building a 39-drawer supermax workbench!

I Want!

Since the uneven floor in his garage was an unsuitable spot for the rolling cabinets, he first removed the casters, cut various-lengthed legs and capped them with leveling feet to match the floor’s contour. To bring the tool cabinets together, he left the side handles off and bolted the cabinets together with cut lengths of T-slot.

The original idea was to build the rack out of hot-roll steel, but as 80/20 is around the same price, and a lot easier to work with (plus, if you make a mistake, you can just unbolt it and re-do), he chose that instead.All the cuts were done with a cutoff saw, much like the Chicago Electric 3-1/2 HP 14″ Cut-Off Saw.

Here’s a list of the materials used:

1010 extrusion, 96″, 8 pcs.
1030 extrusion, 36″, 1 pc.
6-hole joining plate p/n 4166, 6 pcs.
End fastener p/n 3681, 12 pcs.
Leveling foot p/n 2192, 12 pcs.
1/4-20 x 0.5″ BHSCP, (a lot)
Economy tee nuts (a lot)
M6x1.0 cap screw, 12 pcs.
M6 nuts and washers, 12 pcs.
1/4-20 plug tap (2 flute), 1 ea.

It’s impressive how this guy kept the parts at a minimum– clean and efficient!

The construction is basically three 42×18″ rectangular hoops that the tool cabs sit on, held together using end fasteners. The hoops sit on the legs, which are 1030 extrusion (1×3″ cross section), and then the hoops have screws going through them radially, and attach to axially drilled/tapped holes in the legs. The hoops are 1″ extrusion– two of them each– sitting on 3″ extrusion, which leaves 1″ in the middle. This is where the vertical members are joined and covered by the 6-hole joining plate.

Here is the suggested order of assembly:

Build 42×18″ hoops, cut legs, drill/tap legs, and assemble into the base frame.
Install rear (wall facing) uprights with M6 studs protruding.
Level rack to the floor.
Take a leak, so you don’t piss your pants during the next maneuver.
Empty tool cab and lay on the frame using armstrong method.
Slide tool cab onto the M6 studs.
Install front vertical member.
Rinse, repeat.

“The HF tool cabs are very well-made and easily the best value in tool storage,” he said. “When I built the 80/20 framing I cut all members to precise length.  I was afraid there would be some variance in the size of the tool cabs, but they are all EXACTLY the same size, and the hole locations (for the handles) are in the exact same place. That made the job go a lot easier.”

The remarkably talented Blasto9000 came up with the original design while sitting in his car, stuck in Los Angeles traffic.