Session 4 – Metal and Wood Coffee Table

Session 4 - Title Image

Hooray, this is Session 4 – Project WEST and I am feeling amazing! We are rolling and have found our groove not only with the project itself but also with working together. I guess that comes with working through some tough stuff (see Session 3 for all that!) Isn’t that usually the way? Our strongest relationships are the ones that have taken some work.

Follow the build so far: Project WEST – Weld Experience Support Training

Below is a sketch of where we got to at the end of Session 3. As you can see, we have 2 rectangles tacked together. These are the front and back of the table base. And we have 4 pieces cut for the sides of the table base.

Shapes fabricated in Session 3 -Metal and wood coffee table - rectangles and sides
Result of Session 3 – 2 Fabricated rectangles and 4 side pieces.

Session 4 – Metal and Wood Coffee Table

Plumb the base side pieces.

The way we assembled the table base seems a bit awkward but let me explain. It’s all about the corner pieces. Jen Woodhouse’s plan has the tubing oriented so the open ends are all hidden and we are not capping any open ends. Smart.

Metal and wood coffee table - Metal base rendered drawing
Smart material positioning.

These open ends of the tubing will either be hidden by the floor or the wood top. Design details like this are what direct how the piece is constructed. Since the corners have the side and front/back pieces radiating out from them, we have to make the biggest complete shape we can in two dimensions before we make it a 3-dimensional object.

Corner Pieces open top and bottom - Metal and Wood Coffee Table

First, we leveled a previously built rectangle using zip or cut-off discs as shims. They are handy and I usually have lots of them in different thicknesses. Since we are working on an uneven cement floor, we spent some extra time doing it. Once we were both happy and agreed it was level, we started to plumb each leg.

A smaller ‘spirit’ or ‘torpedo’ level indicated plumb when checking that each leg (‘Z’ axis) is plumb along both the ‘X’ axis and ‘Y’ axis. That, and being very picky, is how we attached each side piece in the awkward vertical position.

Here’s a sketch of what I mean:

Square along x axis
Square along y axis

There’s always one easy leg and one leg you have to try a few times. Why that is, I don’t know.

So I have to admit I was a bit mean here, but, hear me out, for good reason. I know an easier way of plumbing legs when fabricating this way. (Thank you, Trevor) Turnbuckles.

Squaring legs with turnbuckles

Tacking 2 turnbuckles perpendicular to each other on a leg allows a welder/fabricator to tack a perfectly plumb leg AND not have it move with cooling forces. They eliminate worrying about any uneven or imperfectly square material cuts by lifting the piece away from the attaching surface while also maintaining position.

Welder’s magnets can be handy but I actually prefer the turnbuckles because they are tack welded with that solid attachment while also allowing fine adjustments. Whereas magnets can pull a little and, when relied on, can be disappointing.

I really wanted to make sure Ryan understands and takes his time getting plumb right, so I didn’t tell him that little gem.

Metal and Wood Coffee Table - Plumb side pieces left
At the end of the day, we sat the other rectangle on top, and what do you know? It’s level!!

I also want him to get used to working with someone. From experience, installing handrail uprights (a task that can be similar to plumbing legs) is just so much easier if you have another set of hands. These are some of the things a welding course alone doesn’t teach. Most trades do have a bit of crossover. Sometimes Machinists do a bit of Welding. Mechanics do a bit of Electrical. Etc. And I just hope that a little experience with the ‘how-to’s’ of Fabricating will complement his new welding skills.

Metal and Wood Coffee Table - Plumb side pieces right

Session 4 – Metal and Wood Coffee Table

Ryan’s question: “What is the difference between a stick machine and a wire welding machine?”

Answering Ryan’s question today has turned into a post of its own. The quick answer is: A machine able to produce Constant Current or Constant Voltage output power.

But to understand, it’s gonna take a bit more explanation than that – so I made an infographic! And connected it with some amazing videos.

Stay awesome,

Stick vs. Wire Welding Machines Infographic


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