To borrow a line from Forrest Gump, metal and wood working go together “like peas and carrots.”
While the traditionalists may gasp; even their tools are metal, so at some point the incorporation of metal into the wood working skill-set fits nicely. From building your own tools to using metal fastners to going full bore and incorporating metal into the finished product, it just makes sent to learn the trade.
I’ve been researching and saving for a good welder, but much like good woodworking tools the entry price is about $1,000+. Fate intervened when our driveway gate broke and I realized it would be both cheaper and faster to purchase an entry level 90 amp flux core welder from Harbor Freight to make the necessary repair.
$180 USD got me the welder, an auto darkening helmet and a spool of wire. My prior welding experience was a handful of times 15+ years ago using an old stick welder. It was miserable. So it was with a bit a trepidation that I fired this unit up and set about fixing the gate. To my surprise I got it to lay a clean bead and while not pretty, it got good penetration. Success!
With the gate fixed I thought I’d try my hand and making some hair-pin style legs. Despite the fact that I somewhat despise the style; it is popular (and popular sells) and I figured it would be a good opportunity for me to learn. Also I’ve got a slab of redwood that is a difficult shape and would probably look good on a thin pair of metal legs.
With little more than an idea and a bit of confidence, I welded up my first leg
One of my problems with hairpin legs is that they are not adjustable, so if you’ve got an un-even slab, or worse an en-even floor (mexican tile is popular out here) then you can run into level issue. While I am sure this is not a novel approach, I decided to tackle the issue by welding a hex nut to the bottom of my leg which would then allow for a threaded leveling foot to be inserted.
- Insert a smaller sacrifice bolt into the nut – just large enough to block slag from entering the threads
- Tack each leg to the nut
- Build a nice thick bead on all three sides
- Take unit to bench grinder to shape the piece and grind down the sacrifice bolt allowing it to fall out
- Run a tap through the nut to clean any slag that may have snuck in or correct any warp issues.
The base which attaches to the table is something I struggled a bit with. I ended up drilling holes through the metal plate, tacking the leg on, then flipping the entire unit and filling the back-side.
It’s not pretty, but it’s functional. I’ve already noticed an improvement in quality from unit 1 to unit two. I’ve got one more unit to build so hopefully that looks even better. The best part is I’ll have 3 legs for about $15 in material cost, less than the cost of 1 leg from the local fabrication shop.
Well, that’s all for now, thanks for reading.