Welding can conjure up some dramatic imagery, such as workers clad in leather and dark face shields, producing a shower of sparks from red-hot metal. To those not immersed in the industry, dealing with flames and electric arcs that produce temperatures hot enough to melt steel may seem daunting and hazardous, something best left to the skilled professionals. But welding has become a useful, do-it-yourself task for homeowners, farmers, ranchers, and anyone else with a need to join metal. Knowing how to weld opens up unlimited opportunities for your own repairs and custom fabrication.
Welding comprises a number of different processes for fusing metals. For the home welder, oxyacetylene welding, shielded metal arc welding (also called stick welding), and wire-feed welding processes (metal inert gas welding and flux-core wire welding) are the most popular.
Tools & Materials
- 1 piece of 1/2-by-44-inch rebar, for feeder top bar
- 6 pieces of 1/2-by-24-inch rebar, for vertical spindles (all but center spindle)
- 1 piece of 1/2-by-22-inch rebar, for center vertical spindle
- 1 piece of 3/16-by-1-by-32-inch angle iron, for top mounting plate
- 1 piece of 3/16-by-1-by-12-inch angle iron, for bottom mounting plate
- Chop saw with a metal blade
- Oxyacetylene torch (Note: If you don’t have an oxyacetylene torch, you can use a wire-feed or a shielded metal arc welder for this project. For the cuts, you can use a plasma cutter instead of the torch.)
- Vise or truck hitch to bend rebar
This project uses an oxyacetylene welder. An oxyacetylene torch is inexpensive and portable, and its versatility offers a number of important uses, including cutting, hot bending and forming, forging, brazing, and braze welding. Unlike other welding processes, oxyacetylene welding doesn’t require electrical power. It offers a precisely controlled, high-temperature flame that melts the edges of the base metals to be joined into a common pool. Sometimes additional filler metal is added to the molten pool from a welding rod. When this common pool cools and the metal solidifies, the joined metals are fused together and the weld is complete.
One of the joys of welding is that you’ll discover the ability to make a wide array of farm contraptions to suit your needs. In this case, we built a scaled-down version of a horse hay feeder that’s better suited to goats. We made the openings small enough that the goats wouldn’t get stuck in the bars, but large enough to hold two days of feed. This design can be easily adapted for your particular livestock. But, first, we’ll discuss personal safety while welding.
Basic Welding Safety
Like many chores on the farm or ranch, welding can quickly become dangerous if basic safety precautions are ignored. Be aware of your surroundings, and note where sparks fly and where molten slag lands. Take the time to make your workspace safe. Many shops and barns have burned as a result of embers igniting floorboards or hay. Make sure the welding area is well ventilated to draw away fumes.
Oxyacetylene uses cylinders of compressed oxygen and acetylene. To avoid dangerous accidents, it’s important to be able to tell oxygen cylinders apart from acetylene cylinders. Frequently, oxygen cylinders are painted green or have a green band, but the only sure way to determine the contents of a compressed gas cylinder is to read its adhesive label. Acetylene cylinders also have a notch or groove cut in the middle of the edges of the hexagonal faces of the swivel nut that connects the tank to the regulator.
Use the following equipment for oxyacetylene welding:
- Nonsynthetic (cotton or wool) long-sleeved shirt buttoned to top
- Tinted welding goggles with at minimum No. 5 shade lenses
- Leather gloves
- High-top boots
- Spark igniter for lighting welding torch
- Pliers for moving hot metal
1. Using a chop saw with a metal blade, cut materials to specified lengths.
2. Begin by bending the top bar for the feeder. Mark 10 inches on each side and bend an interior angle of approximately 110 degrees. To make the rebar easier to bend, heat it with a torch and use a vice or truck hitch to make the appropriate angle.
3. Weld the top bar to the angle iron mounting plate. Begin with tack welds, then reinforce each weld, since this will need to withstand heavy use.
Tenacious Tack Welds
Tack welds are small, initial welds made along joints to hold the work pieces in place, so the parts remain in alignment when welded. Tack welds hold work firmly in position, but can be broken with a cold chisel if further adjustment is needed. Beginning welders tend to make them too small. The standard length of a tack weld is 1 inch. A tack should be as strong as the weld itself, as it becomes an integral part of the finished weld. On thicker metals, always bevel the joint before tack welding to achieve proper penetration.
4. Lay out the center and two side spindles and tack weld in place. Weld in additional spindles, spacing them evenly along the base plate.
5. Mark the plates, and use your cutting torch to make mounting holes on the top and bottom of the hay feeder.
Making the Cut
You’ll need to cut mounting holes for this feeder. Pierce the material at the center of the circle, and away from the finished edge. When the cutting action is established, spiral out to cut the circle itself. When cutting small circles, prevent damage to the finished edge by drilling a 1⁄4-inch hole in the center of the circle, and begin to cut through the inside of the hole, then spiral out to the edge. There are also circle-cutting jigs available, or you can find a pipe fitting or similar item of the right size and use it as a guide.
6. Be sure to file off all rough edges to protect livestock before putting your new hay feeder to use.
William Galvery has more than 30 years of industrial welding experience and is a certified welding instructor. This is excerpted from his book, Basic Welding for Farm and Ranch (available in our store), used with permission from Storey Publishing.