How to turn a pile of tubes into your own creation

By Carl Heideman
Sep 23, 2023 | DIY, Fabrication, Scratch-Built Solutions | Posted in Shop Work | From the June 2014 issue | Never miss an article

Photography by Carl Heideman

Sooner or later, the time will come for you to scratch-build something with steel. It may be as trick as a chassis or an A-arm, or something as pedestrian as a sawhorse. No matter what you build, the quality of your layout and the fit of your parts will directly affect your outcome. Follow along to make the cut.

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RonB001 GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/1/22 1:50 p.m.

It may seem pedantic, but when measuring diagonals, you get more precision from measuring from or to points rather than flats.

In pictures 9 & 10 above, the tape measure is hooked on the flat, on the angle cut of the rear cross piece.  If the angled pieces that go towards the front are a little bit short or long, and that would be missed by the measurement.  If, instead, the tape measure were hooked on the point of the rear cross piece, it could still miss if the angled pieces were a bit short, but would catch if they were a bit long.

The same way at the front, although from the pictures he might already be doing this.  Pick a specific point of the joint, then use that same point when measuring the opposite diagonal.  This gets a bit more challenging when the welding filet is in the picture.

Coupefan Reader
7/1/22 2:39 p.m.

A dream of mine.  But I don't trust my welding ability.  It's fine for gates and fences and misc projects that I've built but not a chassis or suspension parts.  

Randy_Forbes New Reader
7/6/22 8:35 a.m.

Lotus 7.  I wasn't far off, I thought he was building a go-kart chassis...

Another good article, looking forward to the next one!

My first time building "a frame" was to make a cart/stand for a Snap-On (actually, a Lenco Spot MkII) spot-welder.   With sitting at its original elevation (on the floor), the cables couldn't reach to the insides of the trunks I was reinforcing, so I had to get it up in the air to be useful.

The machine itself was found on ebay for about 1/4th its original cost, and it works perfect!

I took the finished project (and the machine's glaring RED cover panel) to a local powder-coating shop and had them match it the rest of the welders.

More pictures here:  ebay-find SnapOn-Lencospot-II | photo gallery

jerel77494 New Reader
8/30/22 12:18 p.m.

Never, ever, ever use brake cleaner as a prep solvent.

Do not use this product near open flames, welding operations, or excessive heat. Vapors may decompose to harmful or fatal corrosive gases such as hydrogen chloride and possibly phosgene.” This can be debilitating or even deadly to the welder or those around him or her.

Phosgene gas is used in chemical warfare!  One person did this and one tiny drop, which turned into one tiny wisp of smoke, put him in the hospital, almost killed him, and left him with respiratory problems for 6 months.

frenchyd MegaDork
8/31/22 5:12 a.m.

In reply to Carl Heideman :

Do not dismiss square tubing. 
  It's a massively easier to connect together and triangulates 100 times easier. 
      The Jaguar DType that went 183 mph In 1954 carrying a 700 pound engine  for 24 hours of LeMans. Fathered the Jaguar  XKE. The front subframe ( from the firewall forward)  weighed only 22 pounds.  It's been successfully crash tested to the US government Standards.  ( and my former wife's test at 100+ mph accident ).  ( unhurt) 

     That frame is brazed not welded. And used 1 inch square tubing of 22 guage. 

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