Fabricating With Metal is A part of building your own 4x4 that many people consider way over their heads, but it doesn't need to be. some folks would rather drop their truck off at a shop and pick it up when it's done, and that's great because it helps keep the off-road industry moving. But there are also many of you who have more time than money and also the drive to do it yourself. Building 4x4s is as much fun as wheeling them so having shop space to work in and build stuff is as important to me as having trails to go play on.
From my time in the shop i've learned a few tricks that make cutting, forming, welding, and drilling that much easier. These types of tricks can make your project much nicer in the end, as well as save you time, money, and trips to the hospital.
Building multiple identical pieces such as tabs or panels can be tricky. One good method is to tack-weld the pieces together at the edge so they are all aligned, then clamp them down and grind the edges or drill the holes in the same place on each. if you're computer savvy, another option is to do a simple two- dimensional drawing and have the pieces laser-cut at a local shop. Many shops are willing to do small quantities and the parts will all be identical and look professional, not to mention that you can sell the extras.
First Paper Then Metal
The true fabrication prodigies can just grab some steel and start building, but for mere mortals like the rest of us, it's a good idea to lay out your plans on paper first, or on your computer with some design program, especially with the cost of steel these days. Once you have a design in mind, mock it up with cardboard, poster tubes, or even wood. if you take your time, those cardboard mock-ups can become templates for the final metal pieces.
Remove The Razors
One of the first things learned when working in a shop is that every time you cut metal you should grind the edges free of sharp burs. Notice how the box tube on the right still has sharp burs that the one on the left had removed. Use a belt-, disc-, or handgrinder to clean the outer edges and use a small deburring tool to remove burs from inner edges. This will keep fingers intact, even when you forget to wear your gloves.
Cutting Inside-Out Then Hiding Mistakes
Removing material from a panel is easily done with a drill, and if you want an odd shape cut out then the best method is using a mill. But if you don't have a mill then just drill a small hole in each corner and carefully cut out the material between each hole with a cut-off wheel. We made this dash panel to house the welder in our buggy, but the final opening wasn't just right, so we covered it with rubber gasket to make it look professional.
Clamps, Blocks, And Joints
The perfect fabricator would be part man, part octopus, but since most of us only have two arms we have to rely on clamps. Clamps help align parts we want to drill through and hold them tight during welding. start cruising yard sales and pick up all the old Vise-grips and C-clamps you can find; they'll all be handy someday. Thick heavy pieces of metal are good for holding pieces in place during bench-top welding. Before you weld make sure the metal is clean and rust-free and the gap is as tight as possible.