Ok, so it only took me a month to figure out a project to do for my first welding experience. I looked around and just couldn't figure out what I wanted to do. I found a lot of stuff to do, but I wanted to do a welding project that I would actually use, not just build and throw out. Then it dawned on me, well actually Dan came up with the idea. Why not fix my lawnmower deck? After all I just got a new Toro, so if I messed up my old lawnmower who cares. So I loaded my lawnmower on my truck and took off to Dan's house.
When I arrived, he was waiting outside. Not to help me unload the mower as I had to do that myself, but to give me an ear full. If you have ever hung around Dan, you know he can talk. In fact he is the reason I had to upgrade my phone minutes to a new plan. I guess I should give him a break as he did feed me good while I was at his house. He also helped me out a lot. In fact with out him, I would still be trying to figure out how to turn on the welding machine.
So the first thing I had to do was prep the lawn mower. After spending an hour looking around Dan's messy shop, I finally found the tools I needed. I took the engine off the deck and power washed the whole lawnmower. After getting yelled at by Dan because I left grass all over his driveway. The next step was to use the Spectrum® 375 X-TREME™ Plasma cutter to cut out the rusted area. So here is where I received my first lesson from Dan. I figured the word Plasma must mean that it could cut through anything and seeing Dan use it and cut through metal, why wouldn't I think that. Dan told me that before I do any cutting, I would have to grind the paint away from where I will actually be cutting. Apparently Plasma cutters only like to cut through metal, so I took the lawnmower back outside and started grinding away with DeWALT flap discs. Once I got the areas all bare, it was now finally time to start cutting.
I have to say using the Plasma cutter was fun. I couldn't believe how easily it cut through the metal. One good trick I found out was to use one hand as a brace for the other hand that was doing the cutting. This way the cut was a little more straight. I also found out that you don't want the cutter actually resting on the metal when you make a cut. On the other hand if your too far away, the flame will go out. It really didn't take to long to get the hand of this, but it was all new to me. Here is a good video with some tips that I watched before I started.
After I made my cuts, I took the lawnmower back out to do some more grinding. I wanted to make the bottom of the deck smooth where I made the cuts and also a little larger area for when I weld. Again I learned that when you weld, you want a nice metal to metal surface. I probably shouldn't have been surprised by this since you pretty much do that with anything you bond together.
Ok here came the tricky part. Taking a flat piece of metal and cutting it just right so I had enough material to cover the whole. Since this was a lawnmower deck, I was replacing part of the top and the side, so it curved. For a while I was going to make the piece actually fit into the whole, but since this was my first welding project, I didn't want to do the impossible. After making all the cuts and getting it pretty close, it was now time to bend the metal into place. I really didn't have any tools to do this, so it wasn't the easiest. I used a small hammer to help shape a piece of sheet metal and get it pretty close. After being satisfied that the shape and size were correct, it was now time to weld for the first time.
Here is another big thing I learned. Instead of trying to just weld right away, I did tac welding where I placed a couple small beads around the top of the deck to hold the metal in place. I could then shape the metal even more around the deck and place a couple more tac welds in place so everything was the way I wanted it. The Millermatic® 211 Auto-Set™ with MVP™ is a great machine and is so simple to set up as it automatically sets wire speed and voltage. After practicing with scrap metal, I learned that I had to dial it down since I am a little slower in welding. I figured since the machine was easy to use, welding would be easy. I see people on TV doing it all the time and they rock at it. All right, now was the moment of truth. I started my first bead and bam, I went right through the metal and put a hole in the deck. This happened for two reasons. First I was going to slow and second I didn't prepare the surface correctly. When I was preparing where I was going to cut out the deck, I didn't cut enough of the deck away and get it to good metal. Some of the metal I left behind was weak and should have been removed.
As you can see by the pictures and videos, I did finish the welding. I can't say it was the prettiest, but again it was my first time with a welder. So after a little grinding and a little primer and paint, it should be good enough to put back into service. Just as long as I can find the bolts to put the motor back on.
I have to say welding is really cool. I think the biggest things I learned was not only is welding a science, but it is an art. I have to give it to these guys who can make welding look like second nature to them. Dan taught me a lot of different techniques with welding, such as how to get a straight cut with the Plasma cutter and more. So I would like to thank my good buddy Dan. For everyone else, if you have a chance to weld or use a Plasma cutter, you have to give it a shot. It is a lot of fun. Check out MillerWelds.com for all the info you need to get started in welding.