Monday, February 24, 2014

In the shop: Trash Cart - why I don't weld

Burning trash in our part of the country used to be the norm, but for the past few years the drought has resulted in county-wide burn bans. Besides we recycle all the easy to burn paper and cardboard so it just makes sense to pay for trash collection.

Yes, we do have commercial trash collection out here! For a fee they give us one of those big black-plastic 2-wheeled totes and my wife drags it up to the county road and back once a week.  Now, we have a long and somewhat crude two-track gravel drive from the county road down to where our buildings are, and when I say down I mean down; not only do you need to make a long distance phone call from the buildings to the gate, but nothing on our property is flat and the drive is a bit steep in places. So for some time now she has been strapping the tote to the back of the side-by-side and dragging it along behind like a dog that doesn't want to go for a walk.

Now the wheels on these totes may work just fine when going the 30 to 50 feet from the garage to the curb and back on a paved driveway but they don’t get along quite so well on gravel. On our drive the tote doesn’t roll so much as drag and stumble and flop, and it’s pretty noisy, booming and crashing and scraping along loud enough to be heard down at the next ranch!

So the plan here is to build a two-wheeled cart for the tote, a chariot if you will, that the tote can live in during the week and will hitch up properly to the side-by-side for the journey up the drive on some decent wheels. To add a bit of class the cart is designed to mimic the look of the porch rails on my wife’s barn.

I have to admit this is not a new plan; it has been hanging around for – well – a long time now. My excuse is that the frame of the cart is steel and, being a wood man myself, I look at steel with some skepticism – OK, maybe skepticism bordering on fear. But I have been slowly sneaking up on it.

I bought the wheels from Tractor Supply sometime last year and the square steel tubing a month – OK, maybe two months, ago. The wheels have been sitting over along the wall in the shop collecting a nice thick layer of dust and the steel tubing has been sitting in the enclosed utility trailer along with the treated lumber and exterior grade ply, right where I put it the day I bought all that stuff.

But a few days ago I couldn’t put it off any longer. I could say it was because the weather was just right for welding outside, slightly overcast but dry, not too cold but not too warm, but I think the real problem was that I just ran out of excuses.

I had the steel supplier make all the cuts for me so that morning I started by drilling all the necessary holes in the various pieces and cutting a ‘bird-mouth’ in the business end of the piece that will be the drawbar. Much too soon I finished with all that and now all I had to do was weld the bits together in the right order; but there’s something you should know about me and welding.

I suck at it.

Oh I know there’s lots of bad welders out there but really, I suck.

For me welding goes something like this: drag out the gas powered stick welder; get everything set up; start the welder; strike an arc; shut the welder off and take a twenty minute break to get rid of the purple blob blocking my vision because I forgot to turn my auto-darkening helmet on first; discover the batteries in the helmet are low and when I turn it on the shield goes dark and stays that way; start the welder again and get all set up to strike an arc then lower my helmet and blindly stab at the steel in front of me, fusing stick to steel three or four times; lift the helmet and get set up to try again; finally strike a good arc and discover I can’t see a thing behind the shield because I forgot to take my polarized sunglasses off; correct that situation and strike an arc I can see only to find out that somewhere between positioning the stick and lowering the helmet I wandered off to the left about an inch; reposition the stick but now I can’t get an arc started because my aborted attempts have made the steel of the stick retreat way up inside the flux; chip the flux away and get myself set again; try the professional’s trick of flicking the helmet down with a quick nod only to have it bash me in the mouth; finally get an arc going that is in the vicinity of the right place only to have some splatter jump down the gap between my right pant leg and my knee pad; and – well, it just goes on like this.

By now I have one ugly looking tack-weld in place, more by accident than plan, and I have 7 joints to weld up on this thing!!!
Is it any wonder I avoid welding if at all possible???


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