Whether you're a weekend hobbyist or a professional daily welder, a solid welding table is a must have for any job. A great welding table has several important traits. It will be able to stand up to long term abuse. The work surface will be made of thick metal that won't warp or deform under heat, loads, or small accidental cutting. It will be at an appropriate height for the given fabricator to use in a comfortable position. Simplicity is key! Make something easy that will get the job done in the long run. The beauty of welding is that you can always add on more later.
All things considered, there are many potential hazards associated with performing this task. Always double check to make sure all safety equipment is in place and that you are properly protected with gloves, safety glasses, and helmets.
Step 1: Laying Out the Pieces
The first step in preparing this table is acquiring the necessary equipment. While there may be alternatives to the equipment I have used, this equipment will guarantee a time efficient process while maintaining quality work. From left to right moving across the top of the picture we have:
- Bench grinder (with a wire brush wheel) mounted to a stand
- Oxy acetylene cutting torch
- Tape measure
- Striker to ignite the cutting torch
- Permanent marker
- Regular safety glasses
- Darkened safety glasses for use with the brightness of the cutting torch
- Leather gloves
- Welding helmet
- TIG filler material
- TIG welder.
Directly in the middle of the table are the unclean pieces that will be used for fabrication. For my design, there are 11 frame members and three heavy duty steel plates.
*Note: This project requires, at minimum, an introductory knowledge of the shop equipment listed above in order to complete fabrication*
Step 2: Making Your First Cuts
The first step in this process is cutting all of the pieces to their appropriate size. The picture shown above is meant to illustrate what a solid cut from the cutting torch should look like once you are finished. The dimensions you use are completely subjective as there is no wrong way to build your own fabrication/welding table. For reference purposes however, I will list the dimensions I used to fabricate this table.
- 4 legs, cut from 1 inch square tube, each at 30 inches long
- 7 remaining frame pieces, cut from 1 inch square tube, each at 32 inches long
- 3 heavy duty steel plates each at 36 inches long, 12 inches wide, and .75 inches thick
To remain economic, all of the steel I used in this project is recycled from other structures that were no longer needed. This can make the project more difficult as you might end up with lots of pieces of different size, but the cutting torch will make quick work of all the pieces and you will end up saving a lot of money.
Step 3: Cleaning the Recycled Material
In the image above, I am working with the bench grinder that was mentioned in the equipment list. When it comes to welding, few things are more integral than having clean metal to work with. If you wish, you may clean the material before cutting as instructed in the last step. This often produces much cleaner cuts. However, you should re-clean the material after that is finished if you have chosen to clean and then cut.
If you don't want the metal to rust again over time, I would suggest coating it with something. A relatively cheap solution would be a RustOleum product. However, you should not coat the plates that will sit on top of the table. Those need to be exposed metal so that you can properly ground working pieces through the table to the welder.
Notice the use of gloves when using fabrication equipment.
Step 4: Your First Welds
As far as ranking what is most important to the success of this project or any other fabrication, welding is most often the most crucial component. Do not be discouraged if your welding seems lacking at first. A clean and well penetrating weld takes practice to obtain. You can often gain experience through various contacts or friends. The qualities you should look for are:
- consistent welding beads
- consistent patterns within the weld
- consistent penetration to the inside of the tube
- aesthetically pleasing finished products
The following video from youtube user thuth67 illustrates the time it takes to accomplish even small welds with TIG. It also demonstrates what to strive for as a final product in terms of the aesthetics of the weld.
Step 5: The Top of the Frame
The first step I completed was the complete welding of the top section of the frame. This section will aid in both keeping the legs together and giving the heavy duty plates a place to sit evenly. Since your welding surface will sit directly on top of this, it is important to make sure this is as flat as possible. Make sure you don't apply too much heat while welding as this can cause the metal to warp. Likewise, you want to make sure you're at least starting with straight pieces so you have less to worry about when putting everything together.
Step 6: The Back of the Frame
Next up is welding together the back of the frame. For this, I chose to weld the two back legs to the cross member. The cross member will aid in keeping the legs from bending out. It also gives the welder a place to put his feet up if he desires. One could even weld a basket or something similar on to any one of the lower cross members to make scrap metal more readily accessible later on. The cross member on this section is 7 inches from the ground.
Step 7: Both Sides of the Frame
Here, you can see the left and right sides of the frame. The members seen running from left to right across the picture are the cross members that will be welded on to the back legs. For my purposes, I have once again placed these members 7 inches from the ground. Welding these members to the back of the frame will complete the lower portion.
Step 8: The Completed Frame
Here, we see the first glimpse of what the final product will become. All of the frame pieces have been welded together and the frame is now ready for anything that can be thrown at it. By ensuring that all of my welds penetrated the metal and bound everything together I can be assured that the shear weight of the steel plates on top won't cause the structure to fail. This is an extremely important piece of the whole project. The success or failure as well as the potential for injury all rests on the integrity of this structure.
The lack of a cross member on the bottom side of the frame with regards to the picture is intentional. This table was designed to facilitate welding while sitting down and being heavily involved for long periods of time. If you wish to have a table for standing I would recommend fairly different dimensions and the addition of other pieces.
Step 9: Loading the Final Phase
Here we're moving on to the last step. Each of the three of these steel plates needs to be sufficiently welded onto the completed frame. Full welds are not essential and will waste filler material. Instead, the fabricator of this table should strategically place welds incrementally along the base of the plates to hold them in place without using an excess of filler. Having an inch long weld every 3 inches should be more than enough.
Additionally, I should note that the plates hang 2 inches over each side of the frame. This was done in an attempt to make it easier to place the ground for the TIG welder. The ability to conveniently place the ground on the table as opposed to the work piece will save time and make working on the piece easier. You avoid having to move the ground as you move the piece, and you don't have to worry about it, or the cord connecting it to the machine, getting in your way.
Step 10: Congratulations on the Completed Table!
At this point the only thing left to do is set up the welder, sit down in the chair, and get to fabricating. You have finished with your first welding table! In addition to TIG welding, this table can be used for:
- hand grinding of other pieces
- stick, MIG, and oxy acetylene welding
- plan sheets
- and many other tasks
As long as you have used quality materials and sufficiently fabricated everything, this table will be one to last a lifetime!