How To Build A Welding Table - Uncle Freddy's Fab Farm
A Fabulous Story About Fabbing A Fabulous Fab Table
The 4x4 Scene Has Always had guys looking to modify their trucks, but in the past 10 years home fab shops have doubled. Every other wheeler I know is learning to fabricate, weld, and build their rigs into something unique. The 4x4 off-road buggies are huge these days and they aren't assembled by just bolting on a suspension and bigger tires the way 4x4s used to be built. Luckily the market has been supporting those who build their own stuff, and I figured a recurring department showing tricks, projects, and tools for fabrication would be helpful for anyone looking to become the next fabricator extraordinaire.
I'm not a professional welder, but I have been welding since I installed that first rebar rollcage on my Tonka truck back on the farm with a buzzing stick welder. Over the years I have laid countless yards of beads on everything from rusty Toyotas to custom Jeep frames (yes, I have a trick buggy project I'm building, but I leave those welds up to the professionals), and now I have become proficient at what I call gorilla welds: big, strong, and ugly. Luckily I have visited a fair number of shops, and I try to pick up any tricks for making stuff.
One of the most important things to have in your shop is a good surface to work on. There are many great welding tables for sale, and searching auctions and classifieds can reward you with an awesome used work bench, but building one is an excellent first project. It's relatively easy, doesn't require any specialized tools other than a welder and chop saw, and it will be something you can pass on to your kids some day. More importantly this project is not life threatening like building a cage or custom suspension, so it is a great venture for a rookie welder.
The first step in building your fab table is coming up with a plan, and this requires asking yourself how much table do you want, need, and have room for. I wanted something big so I could put heavy truck parts on it, I have enough space in the shop for a 4x8-foot table, and I wanted the top to be the same height as my old used table at roughly 37 inches to the floor. Here is a rough drawing of what I envisioned, and though it turned out great, it definitely wasn't cheap. The 4x8 sheet of 1/2-inch plate I used as the top cost me around $400 and when you add in the three 20-foot pieces of 2x2-inch square tube, the small caster plates, the casters, the perforated metal, and the hardware to hold it all together, I'm in the hole around $700. Remember to ask your steel yard if they have any remnants or drops before you buy. You may end up changing your design if you can get a smaller or longer plate for less money, but I wouldn't go under 1/4 inch thick for the top.
To assemble the legs and lower long spans we used multiple squares and always tack-welded everything first. Then we measured again, added more pieces, and tack-welded them again. No final welding is done until the whole assembly is tacked and assured to be square. If you measure diagonally across a square or rectangle and you get the exact same length from opposite corners then you have a perfectly square frame. I found the frame work to be within an eighth of an inch diagonally, good enough for a table that will get beaten on over the next 50 years, so I proceeded to burn in the weld joints. However, to keep the welds from pulling the frame out of whack, I jumped around, doing a little on each junction at a time until every seam was welded.