Today's cars may seem too sophisticated for tinkering, but the DIY auto movement is thriving, yielding designs and innovations too radical for mass production. Here are four awesome examples of modern garage-guy ingenuity.
Some form of jig is a practical necessity for fabrication in volume, or when dealing with tight tolerances, or both. While it can seem like a lot of extra work, making a jig is within the grasp of the average home builder and can actually save significant time.
Barbecue grills don't typically require eye protection, but then, they're typically not made from a giant TIG welder and an industrial sausage positioner either. That's something these Germans set out to change with the "Electric Grill For Men."
I've been careless at times. We all have. I try to address safety issues in posts about my projects, but it is all too easy to ignore the boring safety lecture and skip ahead to laughing about the gas-powered bumper-car rollovers, or Gocke shooting bottle rockets at my head. (References to some of the TE videos, if you're not familiar).
Every now and then, I come across someone's story in which a glossed-over safety warning had very real consequences. More often than not, they involve things not so unlike what you and I do all the time.
In this particular incident, a welder destroyed his body and nearly killed himself with simple brake cleaner.
Forging steel is significant for several reasons. It's one of the oldest metal-forming operations in existence. Blacksmiths throughout history have (and continue to) forge steel to create things ranging from practical to beautiful and everywhere in between. Industrial processes often involve forging not only for the efficiency with which it forms metal, but also for the way in which it strengthens the part by aligning the grains in the steel along the lines of its shape. Did you know that you could be doing this same time-tested technique at home? Here is how I built my own propane forge.
Building things from metal can seem intimidating—metal just feels so much more permanent than, say, wood, and with the all the sparks and pressurized cylinders, it seems like just a matter of time before you blow up your shop. But once you know your way around a few key tools, you'll be amazed at how simple metalwork can be. Case in point: the plasma cutter. This small, relatively inexpensive machine has one dial, no cumbersome gas tanks, and can zip through any conductive material faster than a jigsaw through pine. It's also basically a sci-fi machine made real (c'mon, it slices through steel with hafnium and air!). And since they're for sale in most big-box home stores, you can even put one on your X-mas list. Master this, and your metal creations can take on just about any shape you want.
MIG welders and plasma cutters might carry more cache, but serious metal cred comes from the mastery of a simple flame. The oxy-acetylene torch setup is one of the most affordable versatile tools in any shop. With it, a competent operator can heat, weld, braze, silver-solder, and cut. We've used it for all of the above, but it's most often used to heat steel for bending and to cut. Cutting with the torch is so incredibly simple and cost-effective compared to plasma cutting— especially for thicker materials—that it cannot be ignored. Fortunately, it's also not that hard to learn. Here's a quick primer to the tool every metal shop should have.
Almost four years ago I swapped out my fancy lad IT job in New York City for a 100 percent DIY lifestyle in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The only problem was that I didn't have any building skills. Fortunately, I came across an advertisement for Smartflix: A DVD-rental service sorta like Netflix except all the videos are how-tos. The library covers everything from how to silkscreen a t-shirt to building energy efficient homes. At only $10 per disc rental (a few are more) and over 6,200 titles this service saved my DIY life. Follow the jump to check out my favorite titles.
My welding hobby started shortly after I got a bid for a steel staircase. As with everything, the money always causes me to do the Carnett calculation:
How much is the equipment?
How much is the material?
How much did that guy say he wanted?
How much can I save?
Then I run off to buy the gear.
This of course leaves out the skill to do any of these things -- but the Carnett calculation includes the discovery phase, where I make all my mistakes, ask just about anyone for help, and somehow come out on the other side a more skilled operator. And 50 percent of the time, I really do save money.