Womack Report

February 20, 2014

New welder, new project

Filed under: Art,General — Phillip Womack @ 2:26 pm

Been a long time between updates.  It’s always more fun building things than it is writing about building things.

Anyhow, starting a new project.  Last year, I build myself a coffee table.  It’s pretty nice.  Steel frame, granite top.  Cut the granite from a broken slab I got from a granite installer for cheap, rounded the edges on it and polished it up myself.  Welded the frame together with my stick welder.

DIY coffee table.

DIY coffee table.

Learned a lot in the process of building it.  And there are a million flaws with it, some really obvious and some less so, but I see them all.  Still, I’m proud of it.  It’s a nice thing, and I made it.

Now, however, I need some end tables to go with it.  And one thing I learned during the process of building the thing was that I enjoy welding enough to justify spending some money on better welding equipment.

The end tables are going to be built on the same model.  Welded, rectangular base, granite top.


To make this whole project easier, I have new tools.  (Making the project easier is a good justification, at least.  New tools are almost an end in themselves…)


First on the list, a new cutoff saw.  My parents gave my this for Christmas.  I’d previously purchased a cheap cutoff saw with a 6″ cutting wheel, which was in turn an upgrade from my initial metal-cutting technology of a hacksaw and a Dremel tool.

The 6″ saw was a huge improvement over doing things by hand, as you can imagine.  It was good for what it was.  However, those little 6″ cutting wheels wore out very quickly.  Working with 1″ square tubing, I could get maybe 5-6 cuts before the wheel would no longer go through the whole tube in one pass.  Plus, it was very light and a little wobbly, so my precision was less than I liked.  Enter the new hotness:

Steel cutting goodness

DeWalt abrasive cut-off saw

14″ DeWalt abrasive saw.  Much bigger wheel, which lasts for way, way more cuts.  And generally very heavy, solid construction.  I used a triangle to make sure the build-in jig and clamp were square, then set to cutting.  It just whipped right through all my cuts, easy as slicing bread.  Very pleased with the saw.

When discussing tools, it’s only fair to mention an old favorite, too:

Angle Grinder

This is a 4 1/2″ angle grinder I bought at Northern Tool and Equipment for $20, including a bunch of wheels and sanding pads.  It’s not flashy, it’s not brand-name.  But it’s been a solid work-horse.  When you’re not a very good welder, you do a lot of grinding and reworking.  This things had stood up to a LOT of grinding.


The crown jewel, however, is this beauty:



That’s a Miller 211 wire-feed welder.  Hook it up to a gas supply, add a spool gun, and rock and roll.  Some assembly required.  For a welder of my skill and needs, this is a pretty swank machine.  It’s multi-voltage, so I can run it off my dedicated 240v outlet, but I could also haul it somewhere else and run it off a standard house outlet in a pinch.  Maybe even a generator.  That lower your duty cycle, but to 20%, which is still a lot.  On 240, it’s 30%.  It’s also got a feature called “auto-set”, which basically means you dial in the thickness of steel you’re welding, and it adjusts the wire feed rate and voltage for you.  You can override that, but so far it works quite well on the automatic setting.

And what a difference it makes.

Setting it up initially took some time.  Most of that was on my head; I didn’t want damage anything by accident or carelessness, so I was very slow and cautious.  Plus, I forgot to buy a regulator for my gas cylinder, so I had to run out and get one.  I’d never set up a wire-feed welder before, so there was a lot of double- and triple-checking.  It would be very upsetting if I started a fire or sent a loose gas tank rocketing around my garage.  Especially since I would be in the garage when it happened.

So, when I was actually ready to weld, I had about an hour of daylight left to me.  Not enough time to get any real work done, so I just pulled out some leftover bits of steel from other projects and started welding them to each for practice.  And great googly-moogly, was this thing fast.  It was shocking.  Stick welding, you scratch the electrode to get an arc started, and then you do it again because you got too far from the work piece, and then you sort of creep along the joint you’re making, laying down metal and flux.  Then you let it cool.  Then you knock and grind the flux off, and look for problems, and start again.

With this wire feeder, you line up, pull the trigger, and ZAP!, you’re drawing a bead.  And drawing it is; you can move down the seam about as fast as coloring with a crayon.  It’s slick.  There’s no flux, so you can see the bead instantly, and no hammering, minimal grinding.  It’s night and day different.  I ended up switching over to my actual project and assembling a few of the joints after all, because it was just so fast and easy.

So, yes, the welder is excellent.  It has changed my welding for the better.  I’m still learning the ins and outs of it; getting that wire to go where you want it and keeping your distances correct with the welding gun is a very different skill than with a clamp and an electrode, but that’s just a matter of practice and time.

Thanks, Miller.  You make a good machine.


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