The gate project – assembly line

I picked up the next three sets of gate components from K&S Railings yesterday afternoon and when I got home it was still early, so I thought I would get started on number 2. I pretty much followed the same process as with the first one and as expected, the second gate went much faster. I spent a bit of time trying to find a good way to put the end caps on and found that working on short sections and giving it some time to cool down seemed to work best. Other than that, the actual welding was pretty much identical to the first one. The first gate took me about 3 1/2 hours to complete, the second about 2 1/2 hours. Not bad.

This morning I got out to the shop around 9:30 and by 12:30 I had the remaining 2 gates welded up with just the end caps and cleanup to do. I took a lunch break and headed back into the shop to get them finished up around 1:30 and by 2:30 was done. Total time for the last 2,  4 hours. Not bad.

The last two gates I took a bit of a different approach and it seemed to work well. I got the frames tacked up on both of the gates, then installed the stiles in both frames,  did the final welds on both units and finally the end caps on the units. I think that’s what cut down the time for the last 2 gates. I was able to just deal with a single task for both units and it kept me in the groove. Thanks Henry Ford!!

#1 completed gate installed. Looks pretty good!!

I do have one more gate to build but it’s an odd bugger (the initial 4 gates were all the same size) so I’ll have to pop out to the lake and see what I need in the way of pieces and how I’ll need to fabricate it.

So what have I learned with all this? 

  1. My little welding bay and work area is waaaayyyyy too small to be fabricating anything large-ish on a regular basis (and the gates were only 30 x 32)
  2. If I am doing anything like this again, definitely decide on the plan first. I kind of winged it this time as I wasn’t exactly sure what would work in the small space.
  3. Give yourself enough time. I set an artificial deadline of today to have the gates completed because I wanted Norm and Beck to be able to take them out to the lake tomorrow. I had no problem getting it done, but I did a little more shop work than I wanted to do today.
  4. Don’t let the internet scare you! There’s lots of threads of horror stories welding aluminum with a spool gun. I blew 1 tip and that was it. Oh yeah, and I had a crappy ground on one piece initially which had me scratching my head for a couple of minutes. Follow the basic rules for welding aluminum and everything will be okay.
  5. Be careful welding thin aluminum. It is easy to blow through (as evidenced by my initial welding of the end caps). I think if I had been able to practice on some 14 Ga. before I started I would have seen it coming 🙂
  6. I’d do it again.

Now on to something else. The rain has cleared up and I’m going for a bike ride tomorrow…




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