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Old 03-25-2013, 02:49 PM   #1
Daddo07
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Default Lots of learning with this Brutus build!

Thought I would document my build in case anyone else has cold feet. I was (am) a total welding novice. Before starting this project I had never even held a welding gun. Surprising what watching hours and hours of welding instruction videos on YouTube can do for you.

To step back a bit, I received an unexpected bonus from work and decided to use part of it for a brew stand. I had been brewing on the ground, chairs, folding tables, passersby who didn't move quickly enough, etc. Spent a lot of time considering the Blichmann Top Tier but ended up deciding against a vertical setup. A few quick google searches came up with very detailed plans for a single-tier rig. Locally I found a shop willing to build it for $680 using 1.5" sq tube, though estimates ranged from there up to $1200. The commercial stands were just right out of my price range.

Around then I started realizing I had a week's vacation to use before the end of March and no plans for it. I also found a local metal shop charging anywhere from $1/ft for 2" angle to $2.50/ft for 2" square, all for regular steel. Throw in that he would do my entire cut list for $10 and we had a winner!

Found a mint Lincoln SP-100 welder on CL for $120. This was from a local shop that specializes in manufacturing SS machines for food prep. Guess they'd bought the welder years ago and quickly found out it was too small for them. I'm going to say it had had 2-3lbs of wire run through it at the most and then been sitting unused for 5+ years. They ran a test bead for me and the manager (somewhat?) jokingly offered me $150 for it.

So here are a few beginning pics. When I say I had never welded I mean I had NEVER WELDED. Actually always kind of scared me, all those sparks flying around and stuff. First is the welder, then the very first welds I've ever done (including seeing and being surprised by how fast it would burn through), my first try at a butt joint, and the materials pile. All structural pieces are 2" square, the flat stock is for brackets (more on those later), and 1/2" square are for burner stand-offs, and the stainless sheet is for the wind guards.

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Old 03-25-2013, 03:24 PM   #2
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This was by necessity a garage floor build. Bad thing is we don't have the amperage in there so I had to run a 50' 12/3 extension cord outside to the back of the house, through a basement window, and plug into the washer/dryer circuit. The good part of this super cold spring was the extra security that gave me for the cord heating up (which it really never did).

I already had an angle grinder and bought a wire wheel to clean the mill scale. Bad idea. Took freaking FOREVER. Fortunately I had an old metal grinding disc. Threw that on and it was transformative... now had bare metal in seconds. Just have to be careful you don't carve up the project on accident. Later a switched to a flap disc which, while not as fast as the disc, at least gives you a closer to final finish.

Assembly was really pretty straight forward. Spent a hella lot of time making sure everything was square and plumb which really paid off in the long run. Every minute you spend here is going to save you 20 minutes later on. Once the first few pieces are laid and joined you can use the remaining ones as spacers and worry that much less about plumb/square.

Also, thank all that is good for ratchet straps! Crank down on those and your piece won't move from where they're set.

First day welding and you can see the superstructure taking shape. Everyone kept asking if I was making a coffee table (???). In this shot the upper bar is just a spacer and not all the welds are complete.

I should also mention I decided to go with C25 gas shielding. I'd even bought .035 flux core wire and a chipping hammer, but then the temperature dropped (last Tuesday was 2 degrees overnight). The patio where I had planned to weld outside had 8" of snow on it and the wind was whipping. Moving into the garage was my only option and I couldn't effectively and safely deal with flux core fumes in there. Unfortunately this decision added about $250-$300 to the project for a bottle, regulator, and gas fill-ups. I'm thinking I will probably sell this when I'm done and recoup most of those costs but it sure needs to be factored in any decision.

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Old 03-25-2013, 03:31 PM   #3
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Now moving into Day 3. Started having a LOT of problems with the welder not feeding wire through. One issue was backlash on the spool which, while annoying, was easily fixed. The other issue just made no sense...while not welding I could pull the trigger and wire would pay out just fine. As soon as I went to weld it would sputter, pop, and feed nothing out.

I called a local shop and they suggested it could be a kinked liner and gave me tips how to pull it out and check. Took a bit of jiggering but finally got it and discovered...nothing. Liner was fine. So I re-cleaned the nozzle, put on a new tip, cleaned the drive rollers, and reset the tensioner. Seemed to fix it for about 5 minutes and then it would happen again. GAH! Got very little done besides cursing and stomping around. This would plague me for another FOUR DAYS (ooo, foreshadowing!)

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Old 03-25-2013, 03:47 PM   #4
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Oops, sorry, this is actually Day 3 now. Got a lot done including grinding down some welds to see what that was all about. Turns out way back in my mind I remembered something about the welds being much tougher than the base metal. Holy crap is that the truth! Was like eating fresh bread versus 2" thick month old croutons! Definitely need a grinding wheel for that. Also do NOT forget ear and eye protection and a welding dust mask. I ended up wearing at least the mask almost the whole time. Spend the money and get one with a valve in it so you don't fog up your glasses (as badly).

I also had originally found a fixed-shade helmet at HD for $10 on markdown. BIG mistake. First, you can't see squat until you hit the spark. Gotta be a whole lot steadier than I am to set your gun and lower the mask without moving. I would say my welding production at least doubled and probably tripled going to an auto-darkening mask. Second, I felt a bit of burn that night in my retinas. Wasn't terrible but sure wasn't comfortable. I know that has nothing to do with the auto-darkening so maybe this second point is more like, "Spend more than $10 on a welding mask."

In today's work I attached all four lower braces and the vertical pump mount. I plan on only using a single pump and if I was redoing this I'd probably skip that piece. My pump is also mounted on a separate stand I built for my Tower of Power. I'd probably also only run a single lower long beam across the middle of the two short ones to save weight. This thing is so vastly overbuilt with 2" square tubing there is just no need for a pair of them.

One of my friends posted on Facebook, "I should have ventured out for a lesson, or at least to look over your shoulder and say, That doesn't look right.'" Freaking cracked me up, but also from then on every time I did something questionable I'd hear Jon's voice in my head, "That doesn't look right." Danmnit, Jon, shut up!

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Old 03-25-2013, 03:55 PM   #5
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Day Four. Lots and lots and lots of welder problems again today. Just won't feed wire while I'm welding. Might happen right at the start or even during a bead. Still can't find that gremlin. Got the top cross supports in place and that was about it.

Also had to run for a second bottle of gas. Man those prices can vary! Closest place was $37 for a trade-in. Place a little farther out is only $24. I'll drive the extra 7 minutes to save $13. Also wondering about my flow rate. A video I'd seen said to go with 25CFH but that was blowing through (ha!) the gas. I eventually dialed it back to 15, though I'm thinking being in a wind-free garage I might even be able to get away with less. I'm having such good, almost completely spatter-free results with C25 I don' want to cheap out and go with straight CO2 but the stuff ain't cheap.

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Old 03-25-2013, 04:15 PM   #6
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Fifth day. Spent the whole day fabricating mounting brackets for the burners. Started with a 2" x 1/8" x 60" flat sheet, clamped it over the brew stand, hammered the curves in, cut it off, and moved on to the next section. Seems to work out decently well, keeps everything pretty far removed from flames. Once I figured out to locate and weld one to the frame, screwed the other three to the burner, screwed the burner onto the welded-on one, and locate the three that way it went quite well.

Big problem today was getting my tacks to stick. I put on at least a dozen over the day which promptly popped off, most while the metal was cooling. Lots of grinding those away. Got a bit disgusted and tired and called it a day. Good stopping point, anyway.

Turns out I had to really preheat the tubing or I was getting NO penetration at all. Never would have figured that out if it wasn't for online tutorials.

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Old 03-25-2013, 04:47 PM   #7
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Day Six. Wasn't even really planning on working on the stand today but had the opportunity. This was probably my most productive day yet. I figured out the wire feed problem...turns out the welder is especially sensitive to the length of the wire tip and how close you hold the nozzle to the work. Gotta maintain the 3/8" or it stops feeding wire. Whoulda thunk. Well, probably somebody who knows what they're doing which automatically excludes me.

Got all the brackets mounted and four of the stand-offs. I will be using a wind shield around each burner and with the pots sitting directly on the frame those stand-offs just seem like a good idea. Plus they will be left bare and the pots scraping against them should spare the frame from at least some abuse. Being out of the direct path of the flame should keep them fairly cool and prevent a lot of heat transferring to the frame.

The plans I found showed the openings as 12" deep x 13" wide. I opened them up to 13" x 13" and am glad I did; there isn't an excess of room between the keggles even with my change.

The brackets need some final tweaks to get the angles right but that should be pretty easy to accomplish. My big question now is I own one Blichmann burner and would like to keep it whole while using it in the stand. I'm thinking of welding in a shelf for it to sit on and be secured to in the third burner opening but am not sure if it would be worth the trouble. The other options are to either get a third BG14 and mount it like the others or get a smaller jet-style burner for my HLT (a big aluminum pot) and go with the two BG14's I have. The last two will let me have the Blichmann to easily travel with though I don't know how much that will happen. Overall for the money I'm not really impressed with that floor burner...seems like the flame is too close to the pot. I used it only one time and got a LOT of soot buildup and discoloration. Also think I burned way more propane than using my Bayou (which has now donated its burner).

Not sure now when I will get to work on the stand except for weekends. Not right to stick SWMBO with the kids after work and school (and she really has been great this last week letting me work on this) and I certainly can't start grinding and cutting at 8:30PM when the kids go to bed. Since I work from home I may have to start sneaking in some "extended lunches".

Also a little proud of my welds now if you look at the closeup of the stand-off. I'll drink to that!

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Old 03-25-2013, 04:53 PM   #8
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That stand looks great! It is pretty satisfying applying some new knowledge and seeing everything come together. I loved building my stand, and now love using it!

I like your burner mounts, and I am curious to see how you will mount the heat-shields.

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Old 03-26-2013, 03:53 PM   #9
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ColoHox, I have three sheets of stainless, 6"x40", 22 guage that I rolled into semi-circles (used the top of my leg as the bending press). I'll drill corresponding holes in the sheet and they will slot between the burners and the mounting brackets to be secured by those bolts. Right now there is about a 4-5 inch overlap which I will probably hold with a couple small stainless bolts.

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Old 03-31-2013, 04:11 PM   #10
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Big day yesterday. Welder was working well though the wire spool was wound poorly and kept binding up on the near side. Got all the burners mounted, installed the rest of the stand-offs, and fixed some welds. Really pushing the limits of my welder with the 1/2" bar stock...LOTS of preheating with the propane torch. Still have some jiggering to do to get the heat shield fit but I like how the one sits.

Smartest thing I did all day was coming up with this clamping arrangement. This let me get the speed square in there and held everything away from the propane heat and tack welds. I'm sure I'm not the inventor of it but the idea just occurred to me.

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And then me looking tough in my welding beanie. Well, "tough" is the word I'm going to use in any case.

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