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Stuff you can build for your home workshop

From parts storage to a welding fume extractor

by Julian Edgar

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Got a welder and some other tools? Here are some bits of good gear you can build for your home workshop.

Welding trolley

After I bought a plasma cutter, I started running out of floor space - so I decided to make a trolley to stack the plasma cutter above my TIG welder. The trolley had to support a large size argon cylinder for the TIG and be able to be easily moved around.

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I started with an engine stand (the red parts shown here) that I cut and welded into a sturdy rolling chassis. (The engine stand was bought very cheaply at a supermarket that was clearing stock – it was bought just for the parts.)

The rear wheels on the trolley were positioned further apart to give overturning stability by providing a wide track at the end carrying the gas cylinder. The gas cylinder sits on two projections from the rear of the frame (they were already there as part of the engine stand), and another part of the engine stand metalwork was used to provide a strong vertical member that the cylinder could be tied to.

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Above that in 40mm x 1.6mm square tube, is a built-up simple frame with space for the plasma cutter (bottom) and TIG welder (top). Both pieces of equipment just sit on the cross-members – they can’t go anywhere, so don’t need to be tied down.

The verticals extend above the top cross-member far enough to provide convenient points around which the welding cables can be coiled.

The cylinder sits in two curved mounts and is held against the vertical member by a nylon strap.

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In use, the trolley works really well. It rolls easily on its steel castors, and there’s heaps more floor space – not only because of the ‘stacked’ configuration but also because the welding cables aren’t all over the floor.

Shelves

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You can never have two much shelf space in a home workshop. But many shelves sag over time, or cannot support enough weight, or take up floor space with their supports. These shelves use verticals that are supported by the shed’s top-hat shaped wall girts (frame longitudinals), with the verticals being tek-screwed top and bottom to the girts. This allows the structure of the shed to support the shelves, saves on material and works well.

The first step was to cut the 40mm x 1.6mm square steel tube to length. Five uprights and 15 shelf supports were needed.

To speed up this cutting, a friction cut-off saw was used with a stop that provided the right length of material. So a cut was made, the tube slid through the saw until it hit the stop, and then another cut was made. Compared with individually measuring each piece, this speeded-up the process by a factor of about ten!

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Next, a simple welding jig was made from scrap timber. This located the upright and the three shelf supports, placing the shelf supports in the right locations and also ensuring that each was 'square'.

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The use of the ‘production line’ approach meant that all the bracket assemblies were identical, and finished quickly. The spacing between the shelf supports is 260mm and the supports go the full width of the shelves – again 260mm.

The shelves themselves were made from ‘yellow tongue’ particle board flooring. This was bought in sheets 1800 x 900mm with a thickness of 19mm. Don’t confuse normal chipboard with proper structural flooring panels; the flooring material is much more durable (especially if there is moisture in the air) and is also stiffer over the long term.

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Cut-outs were made in the flooring to allow the shelves to be as wide as possible while minimising intrusion into the shed space. These cut-outs prevent the shelfs from moving longitudinally and a single tek screw per bracket for each shelf prevents them sliding forwards.

Multiple drawers

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Holding fasteners is done in most home workshops by using steel drawers. But what if those drawers are too small – and the chest of drawers as a whole cannot carry the required weight? In that case, you might like to do as I have done here. This storage system was made using 36 rigid and strong steel baking dishes and a simple wooden frame.

Step 1 is to find steel baking dishes that are strong, well-sized and cheap. These ones are about 280 x 180 x 60mm. When buying 36 of them, saving even a dollar each quickly adds up, so check lots of stores before spending the money!

Step 2 is to buy the timber. The end-pieces were made from sheets formed from laminated pine, so giving the required 280mm depth. The runners on which the drawers slide were made from 60 x 20mm pine. You need a lot of this timber (something like 24 metres is used here), and don’t forget that its width sets the spacing between the drawers. Then it’s just a case of lots of gluing and screwing. Use a temporary spacer two set the gap between the adjoining runners, then it’s easy to keep the runners parallel.

The non-stick coated pans slide easily on the timber and are protected against corrosion. The assembly as a whole holds a massive amount of easily seen and accessed fasteners.

Hangers…

…for sanding belts

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Here’s a simple one. If you have a belt sander, you’ll have a bunch of belts that need to be stored. Some might be new, some might be of different coarseness or materials (eg Scothbrite). Put them on a shelf and their awkward shape means that they take up lots of room.

But make a T-shaped hanger and you can easily store the belts above your head – out of the way but still easily accessed. This hanger is supported by an adjacent workbench, but it could easily have been bolted to a baseplate on the floor.

..and for welding cables and hoses

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The same approach also works really well for welding cables and oxy acetylene hoses. Just put up a hangar and get them away from the floor (or taking up a lot of bench space).

Welding fume extractor

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Dust collectors, used to collect sawdust from woodworking machines, often come up second-hand at low prices. I bought one on eBay for AUD$150, but then found it was too big to be easily used. As shown here, I deleted one of the two bag / filters to reduce its size, but even then it was taking up a lot of space. When I decided it was easier to just use a broom and dustpan to collect the sawdust, the dust collector was surplus to requirements.

Or was it?

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I decided to turn it into a welding fume extractor. I made a sturdy frame to mount the heavy motor / fan assembly…

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… and then plumbed the exit to the outside using 100mm storm water pipe and fittings.

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The original inlet hose was then suspended from a long cantilevered arm, allowing the mouth of the tube to be placed where needed. This picture shows the tube in its ‘dropped’ position (mouth of tube on welding bench)….

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…while this shows the hose hooked up at of the way. The hose is cable tied to the arm except for the last section that is moveable. A large plastic bellmouth is used to smooth flow into the tube.

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As the load on the pivot is high, the pivot for the arm is made from heavy duty materials. A steel bush was inserted through the RHS and then welded into place. A greased 12mm through-bolt uses doubled lock nuts. By tensioning the bolt correctly, the arm can be moved easily but then hold in any position. This approach was taken as I often weld assemblies on the flat concrete floor adjacent to the welding bench and wanted to be able to position the mouth of the tube directly above this area as well.

The extraction system works well – no more fumes and smoke hanging in the air.

And now for something different…

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If you have a welder that’s easy to use (like a MIG), kids can be quickly taught to be able to weld sufficiently to be able to tack things together. (Obviously, they must be supervised and instruction should cover safety aspects.)

This pic shows a ‘scorpion’ my 11 year old son made from scrap.

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