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January 2007 Willies Workbench Portable Welding Assembly

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on January 1, 2007
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One of my first major tool purchases was an oxygen/acetylene welding/cutting setup. Over the last 40-some years, I don't know how I would have ever done all the construction and modifications to the various 4x4s I've owned without it. Not only that, but I'm still using the original torch and regulators. Yes, they have been rebuilt a couple of times, but they still work just as good as the day I bought them.

Naturally, my second major tool purchase was an arc welder, with which much faster welds can be made on heavy material. But for versatility, the oxy-acetylene torch can't be beat. Its uses are only limited by your imagination. Take body work, for instance. Got a raised spot in a sheetmetal panel that you're chasing from a dent back to a high spot? Heat it with the torch and then quickly quench the metal with a wet rag and the metal instantly shrinks back to a flat surface. Need to bend a heavy piece of metal into a special bracket? Heat it bright red and bend away. Install your own mufflers or build a custom set of headers, solder up a leaky radiator, heat-treat the cutting edge on chisels, cut off rusty nuts and bolts, or heat a wheel-bearing locking sleeve to expand it before driving it down the axleshaft. Usage is only limited by one's imagination.

I've often thought that it sure would be nice to have a smaller portable setup that I could carry on my trailer. There has been more than a time or two where a field repair would have prevented me trailering the Jeep and coming home earlier than expected. Sure, I could have dragged the shop setup along, but 25 feet of hose, a heavy-duty torch, and two 5-foot-tall bottles don't make for a lot of portability.

One day, my local auto-parts store (and yes, Jimmy, it's also a feed store) was having a special sale on a name-brand small welding/cutting assembly, with everything I needed except the bottles for less than $100. Well, I always carry a $100 bill tucked away in my wallet for such "emergencies." I had an extra "H" bottle that I traded in at the welding supply shop for two very small and portable 20-cubic-feet bottles. Out of 3/8-inch square tubing I fabricated, naturally with my new welding equipment, an enclosure to hold the bottles upright and protect the regulators.

Now that I have a truly portable setup, I'm finding out just how much more versatile it is to sometimes take the torches to the work area rather than having to take the work inside the shop. And best of all, I had a set of torches that I could take on trips and leave in camp. Combining this with my Premier Power underhood arc welder, I'm ready for just about any field fix necessary.

One thing, though: I never could find a secure place on the trailer to protect the torches from "walking off" or keeping them out of the weather, so I was "forced" to buy an enclosed trailer ... but that's another story.

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