A Workshop’s Best Friend

The angle grinder is one of the most versatile tools in any workshop.  Part chop saw, part grinder, and part sander, there are no metal working projects in my shop that do not rely heavily on this tool.  Angle grinders come in a variety of sizes and with numerous power output and rpm ratings.  The most common sizes are 4 1/2 inch, 7 inch, and 9 inch grinders, with the 4 1/2 in being most common,  and these numbers reference the diameter of the disc, or wheel, that can be run safely by them.

Disc types for angle grinders are numerous and although some discs are multipurpose, many times specific discs are designed to perform specific functions or for specific materials, like the metal grinding disc pictured above.  Not only can other discs  be bought to cut, polish, sand, and grind metals, but wood working attachments have become more common for angle grinders as well.  With the introduction of wheels designed specifically for carving and sanding wood, like the carving attachment pictured below, the ever-useful angle grinder has managed to become even handier.

The angle grinder’s usefulness stretches even farther than wood and iron working, there are also discs sold specifically for concrete and masonry applications like the one pictured below.  Whether cutting into a brick wall, concrete slab, or mortar, this tool definitely comes in handy for those DIY stone and masonry jobs.

If anyone knows the value of an angle grinder it would have to be welders.  Primarily used in metal fabrication, the angle grinder is just as important as a welding machine itself in insuring a quality weld.  From material preparation and beveling to grinding down a weld, the angle grinder definitely beats hand filing to accomplish the same task.

For anyone looking to begin welding as a hobby or career I would strongly suggest buying a good angle grinder such as this one and learning how to use it before even buying a welding machine.  I have learned from personal experience that buying a cheaper grinder will only find you on the market for another grinder in the near future.  My DeWalt 4.5 inch angle grinder cost a little more than $80 when I bought it close to a decade ago, and after hundreds of hours of use it is still going strong today.  The cheap $35 grinder that I bought from a well known big box store prior to purchasing my DeWalt did not even make it through its first job.  I would also encourage any beginning welder to check out this article on how to get started without spending a fortune.

Below I have linked to a few useful angle grinder attachments as well as a few sources on angle grinder use and safety.

OSHA Angle Grinder Safety

How To Use an Angle Grinder

Metal Cutting Discs

Paint Stripping Discs

Metal Grinding Discs

Sanding/Flap Disc

Wood Carving Attachment

DeWalt 4.5 inch Angle Grinder

Thank you for reading!  Please be sure to like, comment, follow, and share on social media.

Jake with tool-school.com

Coolest Homemade Hybrid Ladder

Have you ever thought about what makes a tool great?  Chances are descriptions like reliable, consistent, easy to use, and convenient come to mind, but the ability to serve multiple functions across a wide variety of builds and projects is the one thing that can make almost any tool seem great.  Multi-functional tools are great, but tools that have multiple uses that you dream up and create yourself, now those are the best.

I have a large shop across the street from my house that was included in the purchase of our home.  I have always dreamed of having a large shop and truth be told, we more than likely would not have purchased our home and property had the shop not been there.  Eager as I was to begin my numerous projects in my new shop upon moving I had to complete some much needed set-up and maintenance first.  All of the light ballasts that were attached to the 14ft high ceiling were bad and I needed to install a storage platform to get all of my junk out of our new dining room.  So to kill two birds with one stone, I combined the projects and built this…….

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What is this you ask?  Simple, it is a ladder/scaffold/storage platform/lookout tower/elevated stage hybrid……..On casters.  Before I built this bad boy I knew that I would have to figure out a safe way to change the light ballasts so I quickly began to research rolling ladders and quickly realized that I was not able to spend the money for one at the time.  My next bit of research was done on scaffolding and I quickly found out that I would not be getting a scaffold either.  Lastly, I logged on to check out the price of 14 ft A frame ladders and started to sweat as I was running out of options and could not work in the dark.

After finding out I would blow my storage platform budget on an A frame ladder to change the ballasts a light bulb went off (my shop remained dark though).  I ran to my computer and googled giant wooden rolling platforms (not my exact search term) and to my surprise, nothing.  A few wooden scaffold builds were found on various sites and YouTube, but I could find no evidence of anyone being dumb enough to try and make an 8x8x10ft tall wooden platform roll.  So with no instruction or guidance from the world wide web of information I headed to the home improvement store to get the materials needed to make my dumb idea a dumb reality.

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A look at the platform structure underneath.

The platform build was a piece of cake, it is just an 8×8 platform framed with 2x6s with joists 16″ on center.  The legs are 4x6x8s and were physically tough to attach to the platform with no help and not being cemented or bolted for stability, but other than having to get creative when bolting the platform to them, it was not exactly brain-busting.

The mental strain came with trying to figure out how I would attach the heavy duty casters to the bottom of each 4×6.  I could not lag screw the casters to the bottom because the bolt pattern on the caster’s steel plate was larger than the bottom area of the 4x6s, not to mention I am certain that all the weight on the lag screws would only strip them out and split the wood quickly.  I needed a way to bolt the casters to something that could support the bottom of the 4×6 and then be bolted through the 4×6 posts.  Below was my solution.

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I went to my scrap metal pile and grabbed some 2×4 rectangle tubing and some 7 inch channel iron and went to work.  I cut the channel iron and welded two pieces of it together so that it fit snuggly around the bottom of each 4×6 then I drilled three bolt holes through each.  I then traced the caster bolt plate pattern onto the 2×4 rectangle tubing and drilled the bolt holes in the tubing.  I welded the channel to the top of the rectangular tubing, bolted the casters to the bottom, and installed my brackets onto each one of the 4x6s.

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I ran out of correct length bolts for the last bracket, that explains the eye bolt haha.

It has been a few years since I completed this build and I have plenty of junk piled up on my ladder/scaffold/platform, but it is holding up great.  I do not roll it around very often but every time I do it works great.  Changing the ballasts and bulbs at 14ft is a piece of cake when you have the comfort of a 64 square foot area to work on.

I am not suggesting that you attempt to recreate this build, but if you do or know someone that does here is some info and advice, I am not responsible or liable for any accidents, brace the crap out of it,  and please send me pictures when the build is complete.

I do suggest however, that if you are building a rolling  work bench, table, or  platform that is much closer to the ground, you check out these casters that I used for this project.  Each caster has its own brake and each individual caster is load rated for 1000lbs.  They have held up great and I consider them to be a steal at under $60 for all four.

For more product information, reviews, pricing, and specs on these casters click here. 

My ladder/scaffold/storage platform has served me very well and saved me money on having to both buy a ladder and build a storage platform in my shop.  I know that it is not beautiful, but it is super multi-functional, and that was the goal I was looking to achieve.  below are a few more pictures of the beast.  Thanks for reading.

Please be sure to like, comment, share on social media, and follow tool-school.com.

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Thanks again for checking out my site!

Jake with tool-school.com

Learn to Weld for Under $100

As a homeowner, handyman, tinkerer, and serial DIY’er I can think of few skills that are as useful as the ability to weld.  Whether it be a want, or a need, the ability to securely join metal together can add greatly to many home projects.   Unfortunately many people, including do-it-yourselfers, lack this skill and are often intimidated by the thought of high flowing electricity and the ever-present sight of sparks and molten metal while welding metals together, not to mention the cost of welding equipment and consumables.  It can be a scary hobby to dive into.

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For those of you unwilling to overcome the trepidation, you are missing out, thanks for reading.  For those of you willing to learn new safety, process, and scientific methods, read on and enjoy.  Although learning to weld safely most definitely requires beginners to learn a wide array of welding safety practices, it can be done by anyone in a very safe manner with little risk to the welder, and good welding safety practices can be learned from a variety of free and readily available sources such as this industry leading company.

THE PROBLEM

Since the time I was probably 16 or 17 years old I had wanted to learn to stick weld but had no idea where to turn for my education.  Despite working as a weld quality inspector for several years I did not start my journey in welding until a year or two after I left the industrial inspection field.  A few years after becoming a homeowner and completing many projects and repairs around the house myself, I realized that welding would allow me to be so much more versatile as a do-it-yourselfer and some projects that needed to be done would not be possible for me without being able to weld.  Now that I was insistent on learning to weld I faced two major road blocks in doing so, first, welding equipment is expensive, and second, I did not have anyone to teach me.

THE FIRST SOLUTION

Knowing the cost involved with welding was not low, and not knowing whether I would be any good at it or even like it, I began researching cheap, off-brand welding machines in hopes of finding one with decent reviews in my price range.  After weeks of research and internal debate, I decided on the Goplus 110/220v Arc Welder, a decision that I would not regret.  At a price of just under $100 I figured the financial risk to reward was relatively low considering it had overall pretty good reviews.  The only issue that I ever had with the machine was that it did not work upon arrival.  I opened the metal cover up and quickly discovered that it came to me with the ground wire unattached to the cover due to not being screwed down by the ground wire connection screw.  About a minute and 6 turns of a wrench fixed the issue and this machine was off and running.

THE SECOND SOLUTION

Since I had no one to give me any hands-on training on how to weld metal I did what I considered to be the next best and closest thing to getting private instruction, I searched the internet.  I watched hundreds of videos, read hundreds of blog and website posts, and even bought books on how to weld.  Though I learned from each and every source that I have viewed, to this day my personal favorite are the videos made by YouTuber ChuckE2009.  I do not know this guy, nor have I ever met or spoken to him, but he has taught me more about welding than anyone else on the planet, for free!  He has an extensive collection of video resources on YouTube that demonstrate just about everything from basic welding techniques to project how-to’s.

I do not now, nor have I in the past claimed to be a professional welder, but I can make metal permanently stick using the process.  It all began with a cheap welder and a YouTube subscription to some guy who lives in God only knows where’s channel.  Both have served me well.  I now have a brand name home/shop level welder that is definitely better than the cheap Goplus, but it can not do anything more than the Goplus.  If you are on the fence about jumping into the welding game I would highly recommend testing the waters with the Goplus machine before becoming too heavily invested in a craft that you may not stick to.  I would also suggest checking out ChuckE2009 on YouTube for some great welding education and project ideas as well.

Below are links to product pricing and reviews for several different levels of arc welding machines and welding products for just about any budget.  I have also attached a link to ChuckE2009’s YouTube channel.  Be safe, and enjoy the learning experience!

Hiltex 100 Amp Arc Welder

Goplus 110/220v Arc Welding Machine

Lincoln AC “Tombstone” Arc Welding Machine

Lincoln AC/DC “Tombstone” Arc Welding Machine

Miller Maxstar Welding Machine

ChuckE2009 YouTube Channel

Safety Products

Welding Gloves

Auto-darkening Welding Helmet

Thank you very much for stopping by.  Please be sure to like, comment, follow, and share.  Below I have attached pictures of just a few of many of my home welding projects.

I would love to see your welding creations as well.  If you would like to share them with the world please click the link to tool-school.com’s Facebook group and share your work.  Thanks again!  https://www.facebook.com/groups/419636965149174/

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Welded “Flying Pig” scrap metal art.

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Homemade welded car jack vise.
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Homemade charcoal forge
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DIY Wood Stove
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DIY Basketball goal/backboard
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DIY Post Support for Deck/Dock. Allows you to avoid digging post holes. Just drive into the ground. Holes are drilled into the top plate to allow for a bracket that I made to accept 4×4 posts to be bolted to it. It works very well.
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Welded Homemade fire (or ice) pit