Homestead Welding

Learn the basics of homestead welding for small projects, such as creating a ball-peen hammer, to large projects, such as fixing farm equipment.

| January/February 1975

Of all the skills used on a modern homestead, welding is always one of the most in demand. It's also far too much of an “art” to teach anyone in a few pages of one issue of this or any other magazine. The following two articles, then, should be considered only as introductions to welding ... a valuable skill which — once mastered — can go a long way toward paying for that “little dream place out in the country” and putting bread — even today's expensive bread! — on the table.

My career as a metalworker began a few years ago, when I was looking for a job out in Arizona. A friend of mine — a welder and the foreman of a shop in Tucson — offered to teach me his trade so I could apply for work with the same outfit. I accepted his offer . . . and that skill turned out to be one of the best I could have learned.

One obvious benefit is that I now make my living as a welder and have supported my family that way for several years. But that's not all! Life on our homestead has become a heck of a lot easier since I've mastered this craft. I've added all kinds of low-cost improvements, from scrap-steel ash shovels, pokers and other tools for our wood stove through a whole range of other repair and construction projects.

Take hammers, for example. Every homestead needs a few decent ones, both nail and ball-peen . . . but if I bought them from the hardware store I'd end up spending at least five bucks apiece. As a welder, though, I can scrounge an old auto axle and cut it to the desired size for the tool's head. Axle steel is about the hardest to be found anywhere, and just right for that purpose. Of course I may have to temper the metal some, but I simply put a little blacksmithing knowledge to work and end up with a fine implement (free, if I choose to make my own handle). Many other tools can also be made by hand . . . the homesteader's own needs will determine which ones he tackles.

In addition, we've saved hundreds of dollars by repairing and/or rebuilding rusted-out auto and truck bodies. Several years ago, for instance, I bought a 1960 Ford pickup for $100. Its bed was so badly eaten away that I had reservations about hauling around my spare tire back there for fear I'd lose it out the holes. My solution was to tear off the original Detroit sheet metal bed and build a very efficient wooden stake body using homemade hardware formed from scrap steel. All I really needed to buy were a few half-inch bolts.

As a bonus from my truck repair project, the old rusted bed has been recycled into various other jobs which required small pieces of auto-body sheet steel. Such scrap is very useful for thousands of homestead needs . . . and it's free. Virtually every old farm up here in Maine has, on the average, at least half a dozen junked cars, trucks and tractors.

Building is another field where skill as a welder can pay off. Large domes — both for housing and for work space — have been constructed entirely from recycled free junk metal. In many instances, steel structures can be erected, by selective salvaging and scavenging, at a fraction of the cost of their wood counterparts.

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