Introduction: Fitting Tubes at Home for Welding

Picture of Fitting Tubes at Home for Welding

You have a project that requires you to weld tubing together at a right angle, but you do not have any commercially made equipment for cutting a nice concave in the end of a tube where it joins another tube. This Instructable will show you how to do a good job in your home workshop.

I do not like welding EMT (conduit). I am using it here solely for the sake of illustration. What this Instructable demonstrates would work well with black pipe.

Step 1: My Setup

Picture of My Setup

I am using a metal cut-off wheel mounted on a radial arm saw. The metal tube rests on a small accessory table I made.

Step 2: Make a Table

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I made an accessory table from scraps of plywood. It is about 4 inches high. The surface is about 6 x 17 inches. I use it for a variety of things, including holding work while I use a drill chuck on the right end of the arbor for special drilling operations. The table has a flat surface on its bottom so I can clamp it to the saw table.

Any horizontal arbor would work if you do not have a radial arm saw. But, there will be some things about this process that will rely more on your eye and less on the guidance provided by the table.

Step 3: Raise or Lower the Saw Arm

Picture of Raise or Lower the Saw Arm

Raise or lower the saw arm so the center of the shaft is at the same level as the center of the tube. When you grind a profile in the top of the tube, the same profile will be produced in the bottom of the tube. That is the key to coping the tube end for the tube to which it will join by welding.

Step 4: Use Masking Tape

Picture of Use Masking Tape

I use masking tape to mark something I want to cut or grind. It makes something very easy to see, despite the bright sparks and (normally) dark metal against a dark stone. Wrap a little masking tape around the end of one tube.

Step 5: The End Goal

Picture of The End Goal

The end goal will be to cut a profile in the end of one tube so it very closely fits the contour of the other tube's side.

Step 6: Mark the Profile

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Use a marker pen to outline the desired profile on the masking tape. Do not worry if you cannot accurately draw the whole profile.

Step 7: Start Grinding

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Start grinding. You are guiding the process by your hand and eye while the tube rests on the accessory table. Go slowly. Try not to roll the tube, but to keep pointing up the same part of the tube that was upmost at the start of the grinding process.

Step 8: Check Your Work

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Stop frequently to check your work, especially as you are nearer to completion of the task. Here you can see quite a gap. More grinding is needed on the two shoulders. Go slowly and check often.

Step 9: Finished

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Here you see the two tubes fitted together ready for welding or brazing. The fit is almost as good as a machine designed for this job might do. Obviously, this is not for the demands of production, but it works well for an occasional project at home. Any small gaps can easily be filled by the welding or brazing process.

With some care, you could use this process to cope tubes that will meet at angles other than 90 degrees. Some extra planning would need to go into your setup.


AdeelR (author)2015-06-15

It's a best instruction and easy tip on round tubing using a welding process which can be easily used by home welders. Weld find some more tips on .square tubing using a MIG welding process (an easy one) and make as many items as you can.

TiggerLube (author)2014-08-25

I have used white vinegar on galvanized metal to make paint stick more efficiently, but never used it to prep for welding. I just open the shop doors and turn on a fan.

I like the idea of doing the double miter cuts as away to make the pipe fit better.

RamboBrite (author)2013-04-10

When it comes to welding EMT conduit, your best solution is to avoid welding it at all costs. However, if you do any projects with welding it, either have a fan handy to get the fumes away from you, or sand down the galvanized coating to bare metal out to about 2"-3" away from where you're working. There will still be smoke coming from the interior coating, so you'll still want plenty of ventilation. Also, invest in a respirator. They're cheap.

moisture (author)2009-02-03

Great tip, thanks. You mention welding conduit: can you give some tips on how to do this without poisoning yourself? If you have the time, an instructable on the subject would be fantastic.

dodgedartgt (author)moisture2010-02-05

A coworker at a previous job was a journeyman welder. I remeber him discussing a a job he did on-site in a factory using all galvanized materials for the structures they were making.
I do not recall him mentioning about grinding off the zinc coating. i DO recall him mentioning that the welding fumes from galvanized were a huge problem. They made every effort to avoid the fumes (masks, etc...) but also he said to drink a lot of milk to absorb and counteract the effects from breathing the fumes.
Mike Bynum

weldor (author)dodgedartgt2012-06-25

Milk SHOULD NOT be used as an antidote for zinc poisoning. This is a dangerous old wives tale! There is nothing in milk that counteracts the effects of the zinc in your system.
Zinc poisoning occurs in two ways -ACUTE from large amounts in a very short period of time and Cummunlative from exposure to relatively low doses over a long period of time.

Also remember that grinding the zing off of the out side of pipe/tubing does not remove the zinc from thet insider of the work piece. For flat work you also have to clean both sides as well.

Weld safe or die!

abadfart (author)moisture2010-04-14

i have a breather on my mask 

nedfunnell (author)moisture2009-03-14

Grind off the zinc coating up to an inch beyond the weld and still ventilate well. While welds can be deposited through galvanized coatings, it is not a good idea from a weld integrity standpoint.

gamnoparts (author)nedfunnell2010-03-01

I've done plenty of welding on galvanized material, & we never ground it out, but it does stink & is bad for you, but if you know you're going to be welding it & drink some milk beforehand, it will prevent you from getting sick.  Don't ask me how it works, but it definitely prevented me from tossing my breakfast on more than one occasion. Of course, I do NOT condone, or recommend it. ;)

Phil B (author)moisture2009-02-03

I am only a home hobby welder with no real training. I know the zinc coating on galvanized metals creates problems with the weld as well as making unhealthful fumes. The few times I have done it, I have tried for as much ventilation as possible. It is also a good idea to grind off the coating in the area where you will be welding. It still seemed to be difficult to make the arc behave.

2 stroke (author)2010-07-22

when i weld conduit with my stick welder it smokes a lot and crates a heck of a lot of smoke i wear a swiming snorkel withe the tube away from what i am welding so i dont breathe i extended the tube with some waster drain hose that i bought new why does it smoke a lot

sillywilly (author)2 stroke 2011-11-13

That's the galvanized coating burning away! This smoke is very toxic and should be avoided at all costs. I usually set up a fan to blow smoke and fumes away from where I am working but the snorkel idea is good also. The best and most convenient way to weld it is to have an exhaust fan hood over your welding area in addition to small fan blowing fumes away, towards the hood. I like using EMT for jobs that do not require too much strength. It will burn through when using a buzz box. I prefer brazing it since I have a gas welding setup I've owned most of my adult life. Works good although the acetylene sure has gotten expensive over the years!

2 stroke (author)sillywilly2011-11-18

nah welding it with a buzz boz is easy just tack it insted of running a bead and use 1/16 welding rod and put the welder as low as it can go gas welding is good too but i suck at it i was doing it in metalshop. it seems to be a very slow and boring process. not to mention it warps the steel like crazy stick,and wire for life lol

JamesRPatrick (author)2 stroke 2010-07-24

You should make an Instructable about that one. And work on your punctuation.

Phil B (author)2 stroke 2010-07-22

Good idea.

djohnson42 (author)2011-08-09

Let's not make this difficult! I've used this method for up to 2" dia. carbon steel pipe (schedule 40 and thinner): Insert the pipe you want to "miter" into a vise in either the horizontal or vertical position. Use a "torpedo" level to make sure it is positioned correctly. Heat the end to be mitered with an oxy-acetylene torch until it is almost white-hot. Position the side of a short cool length of the size pipe you want to match to the miter at 90 degrees against the heated end and strike the cool pipe with a 6 lbs. mall. I use a torpedo level to be sure I'm holding the cool pipe at the correct angle. If the angle you want is not 90 degrees, use a magnetic angle finder to position the cool pipe before striking. With a little practice, you'll make a perfect fit every time, and it only takes a minute or so. If you need an angle less than eighty degrees, or so, the cool pipe may slip when struck with the mall. In that case, get as sharp an angle as you can, tack the cool pipe to the hot pipe on the side that doesn't need to be coped more, re-heat the part of the hot pipe that needs more cope -- and strike that part of the cool pipe until you get your correct angle on the hot pipe. This method is frequently used for modifying pipe handrail in the field.

Phil B (author)djohnson422011-08-09

I commend you on a very interesting way to make coped joints on metal tubes. But, there is one problem. Many of us do not have an oxy-acetylene torch, including myself. I was trying for a workable, if imperfect, way someone with a basic arc welder and a simple grinding wheel could do a reasonable job at making a coped joint for welding.

I see you are a quite new member of Instructables. One thing you will learn is that many of us do not have a welder. I am very thankful that I finally do. I try to be cautious about publishing things that require a welder. When I can I suggest ways someone without a welder can complete the project I am describing. Even when I do a project that requires welding, I try to remember many who might read about it will not feel left out. Perhaps you might do an Instructable on your way of making coped joints for metal tubes.

purplewg (author)2010-10-20

You can remove the galvanize by soaking the ends to be welded in Muratic acid. The same stuff they add to pool water. Just use good ventilation outside. Let it soak for about 30 minutes and rinse with water. I use it full strength. I do this on EMT and Galvanized pipe.

Phil B (author)purplewg2010-10-20

Thank you very much for the suggestion. That is helpful.

oakironworker (author)2009-01-10

Some good ideas. Could you also drill the pipe with a bit close to the diameter of the pipe

PS118 (author)oakironworker2009-01-13

Yes. Essentially, that's all The Real Deal is.

(Wow, that's a lot of money for just a hole saw and clamp!)

2 stroke (author)PS1182010-07-22

i hate it when stores write only infront of the biggest price ever

Phil B (author)PS1182009-01-13

If you purchased Harbor Freight's "The Real Deal," you would need a different hole saw for each size of tube you use. I looked at this item very seriously once. I was also concerned that chatter caused by the hole saw would lead inaccuracies. It was about that time that I experimented with what you see in this Instructable. I admit it is not always easy to get a precise fit, unless you gain some practice. But, when you are joining black iron pipe with a welding rod, pretty close works pretty well.

Phil B (author)oakironworker2009-01-11

If you have ever watched American Chopper on A & E, the Tuttles have milling bits the same diameter as the outside diameter of the tubing they use in their motorcycle frames. They run in a machine that looks like a large lathe. There is a firm grip for the tubing. The tubing is pushed into the bits from the side. That is essentially what you are suggesting, but what most of us do not have at home.

jeff-o (author)2009-01-10

To prevent the pipe from rolling, tape a piece of wood dowel on either side of the pipe, wedged between the pipe and the table.

2 stroke (author)jeff-o2010-07-22

thanks man that solved my problem

Phil B (author)jeff-o2009-01-11

A piece of wood six to ten inches long would do it. Make a "V" trough in its length and put a clamp or a piece of strapping over the pipe and fasten it down. Even a mark on the masking tape to align with the cutting wheel and indicate "up" would help. A bit of practice also helps a lot. But, if you are working with black pipe and will weld it, a few small gaps are not a big problem. The welder will fill them in and make a good joint.

skunkbait (author)2009-09-10

Great job Phil. My oldest boy and I just started a course at the local community college. We hope to be certified by late November. Welding is just one of those skills that comes in handy way to often. And I certainly can't afford to pay someone else to do it!

Phil B (author)skunkbait2009-09-10

Thanks, Barry. Take a look at the links from dodgedartgt below. He has a simpler solution. I envy your real training in welding. I should probably do something like that. I have read several manuals on welding for beginners. So far, my welds have done quite well.

skunkbait (author)Phil B2009-09-11

I've always been able to "make it stick", but always knew my welds weren't quite right. Class was actually pretty hard, trying to unlearn all the bad habits I've developed over the years. The boy's going into aircraft maintenance, and probably crop dusting. He needs all the certifications he can get! Right now he's helping an elderly gentleman (who started flying in the 40's), put together a Zenith kit-plane.

trf (author)2009-08-23

I find a simple drill press with a bi metal hole saw bit in it with a pipe clamped to the work bench beneathe it to work somewhat well...

dodgedartgt (author)2009-06-26

Hi Phil,

With all due respect, that is a huge amount of preparation and set-up when you are already using a tool, your radial arm saw, that will make a perfect coped joint with only two quick cuts. Here is a link showing how: Everything you need to know is in the first two posts. For other than 90' angles, pay particular attention to the last paragraph of the quote in post #2.

Also, for a more elegant solution, try these two links: and The first link is for the Tube Miter calculator by Giles Puckett or Eric Fahlgren, not sure which, as an aid to crafting bicycle frames. It allows you to print out a full size paper template to wrap around the tube(s) you are coping, then simply cut along the line.
The second link is an updated version which even allows you to offset the center axis of the two tubes from intersecting each other.

I hope this is useful information,
Mikey B.

Phil B (author)dodgedartgt2009-06-27

Thank you for the information. I was feeling pretty good to have developed what I presented. The chop saw method is very interesting. I must say, though, I have not had to cope tubing for several years.

l96470fps (author)2009-05-31

great idea but heres another: make or buy a machine vice with 'v blocks' then buy a holesaw set with a guide drill then mount the holesaw on a drill press and the pipe in the vice how you make it an accurate cut is pretty self explanitory

DAVEDIY (author)2009-05-13

This was an interesting idea. I enjoyed it, but I was just thinking that it was very time consuming and if you don't steady the piece the wheel might grind an awkward shape. seems to me like investing in a cheap Harbor Freight Tube notcher might solve alot of guess work and time no? Plus the cuts are uniform and flush to weld? I don't know but for 50 bucks to get a better cut I think thats the right way to do it. I mean in a pinch this is ok.

Phil B (author)DAVEDIY2009-05-13

The Harbor Freight notcher might work. It looked to me to be subject to chatter, maybe not. It also does one size only, as best I can tell. I could be wrong. The last time I needed to notch something for welding was about eight years ago. I would not have my $50 back in terms of use. I posted this for the person who needs to notch something only once in a while and does not have specialized tools, but wants to do a fairly decent job.

static (author)2009-01-29

If you set the vise on a metal chop saw to the correct angle, you can come up with a pretty decent saddle/ fish mouth. I'm thinking 22.5 degrees, but it has been some some since I did that. The hassle is to get the pipe aligned right so the cuts match. The pipe needs to be kept level and, the two cuts 180 from each other. A pipe wrap can be made from paper gasket material to use to trace out the cut on the pipe. You can draw out the shape using drafting tools or trace it from a saddle that fit's right. The old pros in the oil field can free hand them each and every time. Even tipping the torch so the cut has the correct bevel, so the fit is real snug. Most likely the Caddy of notchers is the shear type that use punches and dies.

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Bio: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying ... More »
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